2015 Tesla Model S P85D - 'Chiseled by man and nature' [photo: George Parrott]Enlarge Photo
Every honeymoon comes to an end sooner or later, and so it was with Consumer Reports and its former paramour, the Tesla Model S electric car.
As part of its yearly reliability report on cars sold in the U.S. market, the respected consumer magazine said it could no longer recommend the Model S because the car's predicted reliability is below average.
Specifically, CR said, "The main problem areas involved the drivetrain, power equipment, charging equipment, giant iPad-like center console, and body and sunroof squeaks, rattles, and leaks."
DON'T MISS: Tesla Model S P85D Lauded By Consumer Reports, 'Breaks' Rating System (Aug 2015)
In its article, bluntly titled, Tesla Reliability Doesn’t Match Its High Performance, the magazine noted that it had previously given the Model S high marks for driving dynamics, livability, and energy efficiency.
In fact, this past August, CR deemed the Tesla Model S P85D the best-performing car it had ever tested.
But what a car is like to drive can differ considerably from its predicted reliability.
2015 Tesla Model S P85D door handle, captured from Consumer Reports video, May 2015Enlarge Photo
The magazine included about 1,400 Model S owners as part of its Annual Reliability Survey. The results, it said, predicted a worse-than-average overall problem rate--lower than last year's prediction of "average".
This year, climate control, steering, and suspension systems all appeared to have more problems than they did during the 2014 model year. And complaints about the drive system from owners of older 2013 cars have risen as well, CR said.
The most common problems involve replacement of the electric motors, warped brake rotors, door handles that fail to slide out as a driver approaches, and numerous squeaks and rattles, which may be more apparent given the very quiet nature of electric propulsion.
ALSO SEE: Consumer Reports: Tesla Model S 'Best Overall' Again In 2015 (Feb 2015)
Other problem areas cited by Tesla owners are leaking cooling pumps for the battery pack, dead windshield wipers, persistent alignment issues with the wheels, and misaligned latches for the front trunklid and the rear liftgate.
Thus far, all such problems have been handled under Tesla's four-year/50,000-mile warranty (it's eight years and unlimited mileage on the powertrain)--and owners appear to be pleased with the level of attentiveness and customer service they have received.
But Consumer Reports notes that once the car is out of warranty, such problems could become expensive for owners of older Teslas to fix.
Tesla Model S at Volta Industries charging stationEnlarge Photo
Green Car Reports asked Tesla Motors for its reaction to yesterday's news; a company spokesperson provided a statement, parts of which echo wording also given to CR:
Consumer Reports also found that customers rate Tesla service and loyalty as the best in the world. Close communication with our customers enables Tesla to receive input, proactively address issues, and quickly fix problems. Over-the-air software updates allow Tesla to diagnose and fix most bugs without the need to come in for service. In instances when hardware needs to be fixed, we strive to make it painless.
The company also highlighted the following quotation from the article:
Despite the problems, our data show that Tesla owner satisfaction is still very high: Ninety-seven percent of owners said they would definitely buy their car again. It appears that Tesla has been responsive to replacing faulty motors, differentials, brakes, and infotainment systems, all with a minimum of fuss to owners.
And Tesla¹s attention to customer service has been effective. Almost every survey respondent made note of Tesla’s rapid response and repair time, despite the lack of a traditional dealer service network. For its early adopters, Tesla has made a practice of overdelivering on service problems under the factory warranty.
LAPD Tesla Model S P85DEnlarge Photo
Often the significant difference between the superb safety ratings and new car test scores earned by the Model S and predictions of its reliability aren't appreciated.
And other outlets have noted that another enterprise that looks at new-car reliability, TrueDelta, had data telling a similar story.
Consumer Reports being the gold standard, however, it's only now that the broader public is likely to pay attention.