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Consumer Reports finds something at which the Tesla Model S is only average

The results of the latest annual reliability survey are in at Consumer Reports, and the Tesla Model S scored a rating of “average.” However, it is no cause for undue concern.

The Tesla Model S is sort of like that person you knew in high school that just seemed to be good at everything. It’s like the ideal combination of jock, nerd, and badass. Consumer Reports has at last found a category in which Model S does not excel, but it comes with a caveat.

Consumer Reports conducts a comprehensive annual reliability survey by obtaining questionnaire data from owners of every vehicle model. The 2014 survey collected 1.1 million responses.

It asks owners questions about any problems they have had with their vehicle over the last 12 months, and obtains data from each vehicle as it ages. CR then compiles the results into a “predicted reliability” score for each new model, which projects how well a new vehicle will perform based on the past three years of owner reliability data.

The results are highly respected, and a positive reliability rating from the publication can be important to a vehicle’s success and reputation. A car with too many reliability issues cannot be considered “Recommended” by the magazine, no matter how good the road test score.

Model S: average

The Tesla Model S has had its share of minor problems, which is not unexpected from a young automaker producing its first mass-production vehicle. Of note, Edmunds experienced drive unit problems that turned out to be alarmingly common among early-production models.

The Consumer Reports test vehicle also spent a good deal of time in the shop to correct glitches like malfunctioning door handles, a blank touchscreen, squeaks and rattles, a bad trunk lid release, and a broken charging adapter.

It seems as though no small number of owners have had similar issues. Consumer Reports uses a rating system of five circles, representing a spectrum from “much better than average” to “much worse than average.” The 2013 reliability survey found Model S to have an “average” predicted reliability rating based on problems experienced by owners of both the 2012 and 2013 model year vehicles.

Would the rating change with these cars aging another year, and with the 2014 model year Models S taken into consideration?

Evidently not. The 2014 Consumer Reports reliability survey sampled data from 1,353 Model S owners and again gave the car an “average” predicted reliability rating compared to all other cars its age, which means the publication can continue to recommend the car based on its fantastic road test score.

Not impressive, but not bad

Consumer Reports observed that for a teething automaker, an average score is not terrible in the grand scheme of things. The publication also noted that Tesla proactively dealt with the drive unit issues – the company has been very good about service so far, and believes it has fixed the underlying problem that led to the drive unit replacements.

Tesla also upped its powertrain warranty to 8 years and 125,000 miles for the 60-kWh version of Model S and 8 years and infinite miles for the 85-kWh model in response to the bad press over the drive unit debacle.

But given the variety of other minor issues experienced by Model S, we shudder to think how many owners will have problems with those falcon wing doors on Model X. Maybe that’s why it’s taking so long...


Weapon (not verified)    October 30, 2014 - 12:54PM

Edmunds had drivetrain replacements. I don't think Consumer Reports did unless this was like this month or something.