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Defective windshield wipers, leaky battery cooling pumps, misaligned latches, and general squeaks and rattles. All these and more plague the latest Tesla Model S, prompting Consumer Reports to withdraw its recommendation of the all-electric luxury car, but drivers still love it.
For a fully loaded Model S, $127,000 will still get you “the best performing car we’ve ever tested,” the magazine said in its Oct. 20 article that announced it was dropping its recommendation. It said its decision was based on 1,400 responses to a survey of Model S owners who described the problems they encountered with the cars.
As a result, Consumer Reports concluded, “[O]wning that Tesla is likely to involve a worse-than-average overall problem rate. That’s a step down from last year’s ‘average’ prediction for the Model S. It also means the Model S does not receive Consumer Reports’ recommended designation.”
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This is bad news for the 12-year-old Tesla Motors, which so far has drawn nearly universal admiration for its style and performance, and devotion from those who can afford its products. As soon as the news broke, the company’s stock began to fall, losing up to 10 percent at one point and closing the day down $15.07 from $213.03 per share, a loss of 6.6 percent.
Investors were concerned about manufacturing problems at Tesla, according to Emmanuel Rosner, the automotive analyst at the investment firm CLSA Americas. “We have already seen consistent product delays, and now there are quality issues,” he said.
In the long term, though, the problems cited by Consumer Reports’ recommendation may be easily remedied. And owners of the cars appear forgiving of the car’s questionable reliability. Previous reviews of the Model S in the magazine note that it is “explosively quick,” with acceleration so responsive it can go from 0 to 60 miles per hour in 3.5 seconds.
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“On our test track, the car is second to none,” Jake Fisher, the director of the magazine’s auto testing, told The New York Times. “But when we talk about reliability, we are talking about things that break. This is a new vehicle, with a new platform, and they are experiencing growing pains. Hopefully, they will learn from them.”
Or as the Consumer Reports article said, “[I]t’s not surprising to see problems continue to crop up.”
And, it noted, owners of Teslas give it high ratings for fixing problems, and that they agree with a company statement saying its policy is to make repairs “painless.”
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That’s backed up by Consumer Reports, which said, “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.”
The magazine quoted one owner as saying “A minor amount of play developed in the differential gears. Tesla replaced the entire drive system. Remarkable service!” A second raved, “Had a creaking ball joint in the driver[-side] front lower control arm. Tesla replaced it the following day after they were notified.”
Nevertheless, Consumer Reports will withhold its recommendation until Tesla improves its cars’ reliability. “The rating we gave was based on how the car performed in testing, and that still stands,” Fisher told USA Today. “It’s not the first time we’ve seen something like that.” He was referring to the Chevrolet Corvette sports, which also performed well on performance but badly on reliability.
By Andy Tully of Oilprice.com
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Andy Tully is a veteran news reporter who is now the news editor for Oilprice.com