Tesla Reliability, Take Two: Are Newer Owners Less Tolerant?


2014 Tesla Model S

2014 Tesla Model S

Enlarge Photo

Tesla's stellar reputation was somewhat tarnished earlier this week with the news that Consumer Reports is withdrawing its recommendation for the Model S.

The magazine said the electric car showed too many reliability issues in its latest owner survey.

But another organization has its own take on the situation.

DON'T MISS: Tesla Model S: Too Many Problems To Recommend, Consumer Reports Says

TrueDelta reported on Model S reliability issues before Consumer Reports, and now believes the changing nature of Tesla buyers may have had a significant impact on the magazine's results.

"I think what has shifted is owner expectations, not the number of flaws," TrueDelta's Michael Karesh said in a recent interview on Model S reliability with the Los Angeles Times.

He said the Consumer Reports methodology--which involves asking owners to report problems they consider serious--may be the reason for the recent increase in complaints.

Tesla Model S P85D, 2015 Detroit Auto Show

Tesla Model S P85D, 2015 Detroit Auto Show

Enlarge Photo

Owners who are very enthusiastic about their cars, or the service they receive, are less likely to report a problem on the survey, Karesh said.

And the percentage of those enthusiastic owners may be falling compared to the early days, he suggests. The first wave of Tesla customers tended to be early adopters, who were willing to tolerate some glitches, he said.

But as the customer base expands, it brings customers who are less forgiving of reliability issues into the fold.

MORE: Tesla Model S Tops Consumer Reports Customer Satisfaction Index, Again (Dec 2014)

These customers may also be less invested in the Tesla brand itself, and thus take a less romantic view of Model S ownership.

TrueDelta's analysis is based on owners reporting specific problems with their cars that they had fixed. However, its survey population is much smaller.

TrueDelta has data from about 100 Model S owners, while Consumer Reports received 1,400 responses to its survey.

Tesla Model S 85D, 2015 Detroit Auto Show

Tesla Model S 85D, 2015 Detroit Auto Show

Enlarge Photo

Tesla CEO Elon Musk has already made a few public comments about the CR survey on--where else?--Twitter.

"Tesla gets top rating of any company in service," Musk tweeted Wednesday, referring to another CR survey on dealer service.

"Most important, CR says 97% of owners expect their next car to be a Tesla (the acid test)," he added.

Tesla has indeed topped CR's customer-satisfaction rankings for the past two years.

For these rankings, owners of vehicles one to three years old are asked whether they would buy their cars again.

Musk also said that the CR reliability included many older cars, and that many of the issues have already been addressed in newer vehicles.

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