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Consumer Reports reverses itself again, no longer recommends Tesla Model 3

Consumer Reports reverses itself again, no longer recommends Tesla Model 3



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Consumer Reports has announced that it is removing its coveted “recommended” rating for the Tesla Model 3 based on “declining reliability.” The publication said new “reliability data” on the Model 3 prompted the change.

Consumer Reports sends its members a survey each spring to gather this information; the results from that survey come out in October. Today’s finding comes after a second survey, which was sent in the summer of 2018 to people who didn’t respond to the first one. In these two surveys, Tesla Model 3 owners told Consumer Reports that problem areas included “loose body trim and glass defects.” Based on these findings, the nonprofit says it can no longer recommend the Model 3 to consumers.

It’s a remarkable twist, given the fact that just last January, CR ranked the Model 3 at the top of its “consumer satisfaction” list compiled based on survey data from the owners of over 500,000 vehicles.

In its updated review, CR wrote:

Model 3 owners in our spring survey sample reported some body hardware and in-car electronics problems, such as the screen freezing, which we have seen with other Tesla models. The latest survey data also shows complaints about paint and trim issues. In addition, some members reported that the Model 3’s sole display screen acted strangely.

“The touch screen would intermittently begin acting as if someone was touching it rapidly at many different points,” one member wrote in. “This fault would cause music to play, volume to increase to maximum, and would rescale and pan the map in the navigation system.”

Some owners also complained about glass defects, including cracks in the rear window, in their survey responses.

CR says it is also removing its recommended rating for the Chrysler 300, Dodge Charger, Acura RDX, BMW 5 Series, and Volkswagen Tiguan. “Consumers expect their cars to last—and not be in the repair shop. That’s why reliability is so important,” Jake Fisher, senior director of automotive testing at CR, said in a statement. 

Tesla has long been criticized for the fit and finish of its vehicles, with the main culprits typically being poorly fitting trim and panels, as well as paint blemishes. Auto experts on YouTube have gone to great lengths to highlight some of these faults, but it’s unclear whether anyone beyond the most Tesla-obsessed really cares about these issues. Tesla has said it is committed to fixing any issues with quality.

“We’re setting an extremely high bar for Model 3”

In response, Tesla said that it reached out to CR for specifics on the issues cited by its members, but was told there was no additional information. (CR provided emails showing it addressed many of Tesla’s questions.)

“Not only are our cars the safest and best performing vehicles available today, but we take feedback from our customers very seriously and quickly implement improvements any time we hear about issues,” a Tesla spokesperson said in a statement. “That’s just one of the reasons why, in this very same survey from Consumer Reports, Model 3 was rated as the #1 most satisfying car, and why Tesla vehicles have topped Consumer Reports’ Owner Satisfaction survey every year since 2013 – the first year Tesla was included in it.”

The spokesperson continued, “We’re setting an extremely high bar for Model 3. We have already made significant improvements to correct any issues that Model 3 customers may have experienced that are referenced in this report, and our return policy allows any customer who is unhappy with their car to return it for a full refund. This new data from Consumer Reports comes from their annual Owner Satisfaction survey, which runs from July through September, so the vast majority of these issues have already been corrected through design and manufacturing improvements, and we are already seeing a significant improvement in our field data.”

This isn’t the first time CR has reversed its recommendation of the Model 3. Back in May 2018, the organization said it could not recommend the electric car due to a shockingly long stopping distance during emergency braking tests.

At first, Tesla CEO Elon Musk seemed content to attack CR’s methods and leave it there. But not long after, Tesla shipped an over-the-air update that improved the vehicle’s braking distance by nearly 20 feet. The update mollified CR, which went back to recommending the Model 3.

The Tesla-Consumer Reports relationship is a veritable roller-coaster ride. Back in 2015, the publication broke its own rating system in its effusive praise of the Model S P85D. But that love affair started going south almost immediately when it surveyed about 1,400 Tesla owners and used that data to project a “worse-than-average overall problem rate” for new buyers over the lifespan of the vehicle. As a result, it pulled its coveted “recommended” rating for the Model S.

Updated February 21st, 1:06pm ET, to include a statement from a Tesla spokesperson.