Tesla Reliability: Consumer Reports, You’re Wrong!

In the span of a couple of weeks, Consumer Reports produced two seemingly contradictory articles:

Consumer Reports is Wrong! (about the second item!)

Let’s look at the most unbiased data available regarding reliability – NHTSA recalls and manufacturer communications/bulletins – NHTSA is the “National Highway Traffic Safety Administration”. NHTSA maintains the latest list of Manufacturer Recalls, as well as Manufacturer Communications – the later are explicit communications from the Manufacturer about known issues with the car (that do not rise to the level of a recall).

Across cars most highly regarded for quality – Honda Accord, Toyota Camry, as well as the cars most closely aligned with the Model 3 class – the BMW Model 3 and the Audi A4 – are recalls (there has yet to be a Model 3 recall), and most have a multiple of the number of Manufacturer Communications! All of these cars (with the exception of the BMW) are recommended by Consumer Reports!

Consumer Reports own detailed reliability data indicates the Model 3 is highly reliable!

As noted above, the Audi, Camry and Accord are all “Recommended” by Consumer reports – but each of these cars has nearly identical reliability reporting from Consumer Reports (thank you to Alex from Twitter who initially highlighted the high individual scores the Model 3 receives from Twitter – https://twitter.com/alex_avoigt/status/1099246379954814976

So why can I be so confident that Consumer Reports got it wrong:

  • Just look at the NHTSA data and the Consumer Reports data above!!!

  • Consumer Reports reliability data is old and stale – specifically, the data comes from a survey released in April – yes, April 2018!!! In April, the Model 3 had been available in very small volume as Tesla was admittedly working through the kinks!!! Tesla, unlike other auto manufacturers within a model year, makes numerous changes and enhancements! One well known case was when Consumer Reports reported last May higher than expected braking distances – and Tesla within ~10 days released an over the air update that immediately resolved the issue (to Consumer Reports satisfaction!). Additional improvements have been made to make manufacturing more efficient, reduce cost, and others to address issues they’ve seen with the original cars. You can even find youtube videos comparing the early Model 3s with the latest ones (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fhlbyus6Sss)! Data on reliability dating back to last April is simply no longer relevant!

  • Consumer Reports data accuracy is dependent on which subscribers submit responses and is highly subject to bias based on the people that choose to submit surveys … which leads to …

  • There is routine and material “stuffing” of critical comments about Tesla in various forums, Twitter, etc. For example, there has been routine filing of customer complaints with the NHTSA that have been found to be fake (I personally read all of the customer complaints for the Model 3 on the NHTSA website, and they are ripe with duplication and complete ridiculous claims!!!) – here is a good article on an example of this: https://electrek.co/2016/06/13/tesla-fale-complaints-suspension-nhtsa-keef-wivaneff/

Here are my final thoughts:

I have owned two Model 3s – one bought in April that was a very early car (VIN in the 8,000s) – which I then sold to buy the AWD version (with a VIN in the 96,000) – almost 100,000 cars made between them. Both cars have/had a solid feel and drive – most similar to the BMWs I have owned. They feel well built, with quality materials, and quality workmanship.

In terms of issues I have had – the first car was awesome, while I no hardware issues I had one minor software issue – it would sometimes take 2-3 seconds for the rear camera view to display when shifting in reverse – this issue has since been corrected with an over the air software update. With the current Model 3 (which is also awesome!), I have had one hardware glitch with the passenger window. By chance, today I had a Tesla Service ranger at my home at 7:15AM, did a diagnostic, will order a new part/install it next week – this took 15 minutes of my time!!! THAT IS SERVICE!!!

Should you be concerned about quality/reliability? Here is the answer I gave a colleague last week before the Consumer Reports announcement – the Tesla Model 3 is an incredibly well-built car, but it is made by a very new car company, and the car model itself is very new – so there will be possible unexpected issues. If you’re not OK with this, then it might not be the right car for you. Quite honestly, it’s incredibly impressive with how much innovation is in the car, that it has achieved a level of quality that in my opinion is on par with an Audi or BMW – and this is amongst the reasons it is rated by its owners as the most satisfying car of any car sold today!