Consumer Reports Disses Tesla Reliability — Again


The latest Consumer Reports reliability ratings are out and they have ignited a fire storm of criticism from Tesla. CR still rates the Model X as one of the worst cars in its class for reliability and predicts reliability for the all new Model 3 will be no better than average. How can the Rajahs of Reliability even think about issuing a reliability rating for a car that they haven’t driven yet? Come to think of it, there are only a few hundred of them in existence. (Note: Tesla has recently registered another 1.000 Model 3 VIN numbers with the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, suggesting that production is increasing, if only a little.)Tesla reliability ratings 2017

“Our Predicted Reliability Score is set on a 0-to-100 point scale, with the average rating falling between 41 and 60 points. Better-than-average ratings or worse-than-average ratings fall on either side of that range,” says Consumer Reports.

The prediction about Model 3 reliability has stung Tesla and it is firing back at Consumer Reports, claiming its tests and surveys “lack basic scientific integrity.” The company maintains that CR has published inaccurate or misleading reports three times since July of 2016. “We have urged them multiple times to correct this, and they’ve refused,” Tesla said. “We believe this refusal is rooted in the fact that their coverage of Tesla generates significant attention for the publication.”

Tesla claims Consumer Reports gets a lot of mileage out of bashing its products and may be doing so deliberately to raise its own profile. And it has a point. In all fairness, any story about Tesla generates a huge number of page views on the internet. We would be less than honest if we said the Tesla effect hasn’t created torrents of clicks on our website on many occasions. Do we seek to fill our pages with Tesla news to boost our search profile? No. Do we make it a policy to cover any Tesla story we think is actually news that our readers will find interesting? You betcha.

The controversy over Tesla reliability has certainly done Consumer Reports no harm either. The organization that spends most of its time measuring how efficiently a clothes dryer removes moisture from bath towels or the effectiveness of pesticides on aphids in the garden has definitely benefited from the Musk effect.

Elon is a master as whipping up enthusiasm. Live by the sword; die by the sword. The flood of favorable press Tesla has received over the past 6 years far outweighs the negative attention it has received. Among attorneys, when your opponent scores a few points in court, it is best not to repeat the bad news so the jury gets to hear it twice. Besides, any car buyer with a pulse knows not to buy a brand new model during the first year of production. Every manufacturer has quality control issues at the beginning of a production run. Consumer Report’s position makes sense, based on past history in the auto business.

Musk is quick to accept credit but also quick to assign blame whenever someone dares question one of his companies. Tesla is delighted when Consumer Reports rates one of its cars as a top safety picks or winner in a customer satisfaction survey. Over the years, every manufacturer has had issues with Consumer Reports. Deal with it, Elon.

As for the Model 3, Jake Fisher, the head of Consumer Reports auto team says, “We are going to be purchasing one of these cars, we will be testing it and if it tests ok it may be a vehicle that could be recommended.” At the current pace of production, it could be a good long time before Consumer Reports gets their hands on an actual Model 3 for testing.

Just to prove that we don’t prostrate ourselves at the Temple of  Elon, there is a story floating around today about a Tesla Model S battery fire on a highway in Austria. We could have done a story about that. but that would smack of sensationalism. However, we have linked to it, in case you want to check it out yourself.

Source: CNBC




About the Author

I have been a car nut since the days when Rob Walker and Henry N. Manney, III graced the pages of Road & Track. Today, I use my trusty Miata for TSD rallies and occasional track days at Lime Rock and Watkins Glen. If it moves on wheels, I’m interested in it. Please follow me on Google + and Twitter.

  • Ed

    Agreed. Tesla is moving so fast that it does not have the inherent advantage that long preparation times and long production runs brings to product reliability. But, do we want them to slow down…or do we want them to continue to drive the automotive industry to change?

    in the 1990s, I ran a company that supplied custom sensors to GM. In one case, a we were required to set up the fully-tooled production line and and build production parts for customer validation one full year ahead of vehicle production start. We then had to put covers on the equipment insitu and redeploy the workforce. One year later, the covers came off and the same employees returned to the line. That approach seems extreme, but it is also a means of assured vehicle line starts and end-product reliability.

  • Joe Viocoe

    Regarding the Tesla fire in Australia:
    The Sun’s article it’s completely off base. They implied that firefighters trying for several hours to put out a battery fire is prompting safety concerns over electric vehicles.

    The 19 year old driver escapes without any injury from the fire. The article did not focus on that part.

    You can’t have it both ways.
    If a fuel can burn out quickly, it is so much more likely to kill the driver and other occupants, and injure anyone nearby before they can escape.
    If you want a more stable fuel that takes much longer to ignite and will not simply explode upon impact… then yes, of course, the fire will burn for much longer.

    • bioburner

      If you compare electric car to ICE then what you say is true. It should be noted that Tesla uses the most reactive chemistry available. Fires in Nissan and GM cars are much rarer as the chemistry they use is less energy dense. So yes Tesla battery fires will be more difficult to put out.

      • Joe Viocoe

        Even in the Tesla P100, it really contains the equivalent of 3 gallons of gasoline. Which, in a gasmobile, would still be enough to explode the car and kill instantly.
        The slow burn of a battery is far more preferred for safety.

        • bioburner

          Most cars catch on fire few EXPLODE. your response had nothing to do with my comment.

          • Joe Viocoe

            Yeah, you did agree. I agree with you too.

  • Jonny_K

    Does reliability by brand instead of by model make any sense especially when you consider some cars are really re-branded from some other manufacturer or might at least have the entire drive train from somebody else? Isn’t a Fiat 124 basically a Mazda but a Fiat 500 really a Fiat? Does the unreliability of the doors on a Tesla X have much to say about the reliability of the Model S or the Model 3 ?

  • WebUserAtLarge

    What does it mean, actually? The reliability rating. Does it mean that, say, for every hundred times you try to drive your car, your car will only start (power up) a certain percentage of times and will need a mechanic to work on it? Or does this mean that once in a while the CD player or the door handle breaks down or some such. How do the EVs and ICE vehicles relate and compare as far as the reliability ratings go? It’s hard to believe that an EV, with what it looks like an order of magnitude fewer moving parts, would have poorer reliability then the ICE car.

    • Jum Boyle

      They actually consider wind noise as a factor in the ratings

    • Steve Hanley

      Good questions. In fact, most of the reliability issues relate to what most people would consider minor stuff — trim that falls off, door handles that fail to function, a touchscreen failure. Few if any relate to the ability of the car to stop, start, and go without leaving passengers stranded oh the side of the road.

  • Kieran Delaney

    As my politically-correct Geordie father would say:

    “Fuck ’em.”