By on March 21, 2017

tesla model x

Despite garnering below-average reliability ratings, Tesla is probably the one car brand with the most fervent disciples. While not all Tesla fans are blindly loyal, most are willing to cut the company much more slack than you would Ford the next time your Focus’ bum transmission acts up. Granted, Tesla’s automobiles do possess elements that most Fords do not — namely prestige and a highly unique driving experience.

An elegantly fashionable car will, of course, be more easily forgiven for its missteps than some plain-Jane model. However, the Model S and X have suffered more than just the occasional mechanical error. The Model X is infamous for its malfunctioning electronic doors and wonky electronic interface, while the Model S has suffered from quality control issues since day one. Still, every time an owner voices a concern about reliability or the company’s lackluster ability to service its vehicles, their complaint usually comes with an addendum specifying that they still adore their purchase. 

The Motley Fool published an article this month where the author called the repair of his damaged Model S “an utter nightmare” before admitting to missing the car because he loved it so much. Last year, Consumer Reports discovered that 91 percent of Tesla owners agreed that they would “definitely” purchase their specific vehicle again if forced to make the decision a second time — placing the EV company at the top of the publication’s customer satisfaction survey by a wide margin.

With that in mind, J.D. Power and Associates will soon release a report called “Tesla: Beyond the Hype.” According to the marketing and information services company, the piece offers a detailed examination of the brand’s quality issues, insight from focus groups of Tesla owners, and an evaluation of the electric manufacturer’s vehicles against its closest competition.

However, you don’t need a study to understand that most Tesla loyalists like being part of a special club, tend to be tech obsessed, are owners of a second vehicle, and make enough money to afford the setbacks associated with a sometimes persnickety car. These people have a genuine tenderness for their EV because its fits into their lifestyle and they identify with what the brand represents to them.

“Tesla owners see themselves as pioneers who enjoy being early adopters of new technology,” said Kathleen Rizk, director of global automotive consulting at J.D. Power. “Spending $100,000 or more on a vehicle that has so many problems usually would have a dramatically negative effect on sales and brand perception. Right now, though, Tesla seems immune from such disenchanted customers.”

Much of that is likely to change once the Model 3 goes on sale to less-enthusiastic shoppers, though.

“When consumers buy a mass-market car priced around $35,000 that will be their primary mode of transportation, the degree of expectation will increase immensely,” Rizk said. “We’ve seen that with other well-liked brands, whether or not it involves an electric vehicle.”

[Image: Tesla Motors]

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58 Comments on “Tesla Owners Maintain a Deep Affection for Their Cars, Despite Quality Issues...”


  • avatar
    CarnotCycle

    I alluded to this phenomenon in the Model 3 post; and I think the higher pain tolerance of Tesla kids for their Tesla cars has figured into their ‘beta’ Model 3 scheme.

  • avatar

    I LOVE THIS!
    The Tesla fan boys regularly rip me a new one because I am critical of the brand.
    My recent Model X video was incredible. Apparently some Tesla fans also think that women shouldn’t drive. Yikes!
    https://www.youtube.com/edit?o=U&video_id=IIMUNtph2iA

  • avatar
    OldManPants

    Cult dynamics.

  • avatar
    Corey Lewis

    There are several brands for which people’s desire trumps reliability concerns and/or logic.

    Tesla
    Alfa Romeo
    Fiat
    Saab
    Volvo
    Volkswagen

    Often, owners will defend these vehicles because of their “special” innate characteristics, and downplay reliability aspects entirely (confirmation bias). To them, having the “driving and ownership experience” is far more important than the number of times they are late to work or have to drink service department coffee.

  • avatar
    JimZ

    “Tesla owners see themselves as pioneers who enjoy being early adopters of new technology,”

    we know. they won’t stop talking about it.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      Nissan Leaf owners enjoyed adopting new technology, too, but EV detractors always employ class envy to point out Tesla owners.

      • 0 avatar
        JimZ

        yeah, it’s “class envy” to bristle at people who can’t stop talking about their Model 3 reservations or about the Model 3 they’re going to get.

        • 0 avatar
          SCE to AUX

          Hmm – guilty. But I’ve discussed my Kias much more; does that bother you, too?

          This *is* a car forum.

          • 0 avatar
            JimZ

            my experience is based on places other than TTAC.

            non-car-oriented tech sites are the worst. There might be a handful of car people on there, and anytime there’s an article or discussion about cars you’ll inevitably get threadsh!tters come in with stuff like “WTF there’s no tech in these stone-age horseless carriages.” a lot of these people didn’t care *one whit* about cars until Tesla showed up, and all they do is prattle on constantly about “Tesla Tesla Tesla SpaceX Elon Tesla SpaceX Elon Tweeted Tesla Did I mention my Model 3 reservation Tesla SpaceX Elon Elon Elon by the way I reserved a Model 3 SpaceX Elon Tesla.

            …. Did I mention Tesla?”

            then they strut around like they’ve become industry experts overnight and have already picked the winner (Tesla, naturally. It’s interesting to me that a Venn diagram of “Tesla fans” and “SpaceX fans” is a single circle. Just admit it’s Elon Musk you’re a fan of. He’s the “Tom Brady” of geeks.)

  • avatar
    indi500fan

    The Model 3 (especially after the $7500 tax credit lapses) will be a good indicator if Tesla love can be spread to the masses.

  • avatar
    Asdf

    Tesla Model 3 will be the first EV purchased by a significant number of people. And the last.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Of course Tesla owners are willing to overlook their cars’ flaws – if you want a great looking, luxurious, high-performance electric car, where else are you gonna go?

    Now, let’s say you could buy a Lexus luxury electric sedan that performs like a Tesla but has better quality. Something tells me Tesla owners wouldn’t be as quick to blow off their cars’ quality problems if there was a real alternative out there.

    • 0 avatar
      indi500fan

      Is it possible that Toyota hasn’t done a Lexus high line ev because there’s no reasonable expectation of making money on it? Just speculating.

      • 0 avatar
        SCE to AUX

        Yes, it’s possible, but Toyota and Honda inexplicably pursue fuel cell technology in the Mirai and Clarity. Those are real money pits.

        But to FreedMike’s point, having choices in the EV market – or any market – only improves the breed. The Model S is about to face competition in its performance space (but not on price) from the likes of Porsche and Aston Martin.

      • 0 avatar
        hgrunt

        Probably a lot of reasons, but it’s hard to put a finger on one particular thing for sure.

        I don’t think any of the companies, except maybe BMW and GM, makes money on their EVs since most are compliance cars and simply electric motors dropped into existing cars.

        Marketwise, it’s still very tiny and maybe there isn’t enough of a global market for them to make a case for it. Supply chain reason can include not having an established chain for key components. Regulatory environment in Japan favors fuel cell development over pure battery, so they’re focusing there instead.

  • avatar
    zoomzoomfan

    If I paid that much for a car, I’d tell myself I loved it even if I didn’t. Of course, paying that much isn’t as big a deal to some people. But, as it stands now, a loaded up Model S or Model X costs about as much as I paid for my house.

  • avatar
    Zykotec

    Freedmike really said the same that I was going to say. Once Elon starts selling batteries, Tesla as a ‘Luxury’ brand will have to improve a lot.

  • avatar
    Carlson Fan

    Tesla is the Apple of electric cars. They’ll continue to sell due to brand recognition and the social statement they make more than anything else. I like the fact that Tesla exists and I wish them success. When it comes to emptying my wallet I’m not convinced they really know how to engineer & manufacture a good car that can go the distance. We’ll see how the ones that are used like a regular/real cars are holding up after they’ve spent a decade or more on the roads.

    • 0 avatar
      stuki

      Tesla’s position is much more precarious than Apple’s. They’ve enjoyed one heck of a ride largely free of competition. Apple has faced staunch competition for over a decade, and remains either tops, or close to it.

      The big downside to Tesla, is that they become “Priusized,” in a way analogous to what they once did to the Prius. If most of your brand cachet relies solely on being the special-snowflakest, you’re going to have some serious downside once the Germans get into the mix for real.

      A Porsche with more power, better handling, faster charging, nicer interior, that is the latest new-new, and comes with some weird Swiss or Dutch lab certification that it was made without hurting a single Gaja molecule anywhere, and costs $20K more; is going to change the signal you’re sending your neighbor from “I’m the greenest, techiest and, like, innovationiest”, to “I’m the guy who couldn’t afford another $20K for a car the ‘experts’ say is better…”

      Then, just like the mere existence of the Tesla as a special-snowflakier option killed of a significant share of the Prius market, despite 90% of the Prius intenders never being in the market for a $100K car to begin with; the existence of even special-snowflakier halos from other brands, risks doing a similar job on Tesla desirability and hence sales.

      This doesn’t necessarily mean Tesla will sell nothing. Prius still sells a lot, as for a lot of people it’s just a very pragmatic buy, never mind signalling. But Tesla sells to a different, much more socially anxious market segment. And I’m not sure if Tesla is as well equipped to compete on purely pragmatic virtues, as Toyota is with the Prius.

    • 0 avatar
      Driver123

      It has Apple attitude (we know better what you need) but does not have Apple quality.

  • avatar
    JMII

    Right now Telsa’s main problem is also one of it core strengths: the direct sales model. With no local dealer to provide fixes you pretty much have to learn to live with the idea that a broken Telsa is a long term possibility. People who buy Telsa’s fully understand the risk / reward of their purchase. I doubt it is any different than other high-end car brands with limited dealerships without much parts inventory. I bet Ferrari owners feel the same way: they LOVE their cars… even when broken.

    I even doubt the Model 3 will change this much due to the likely limited availability at first. While the car’s price puts in the normal buyers range you still have to order one and wait for it to be built. By its very nature that means it must a 2nd or 3rd vehicle. Now when Telas’s reach mass market to the point where I can buy one off the lot from several different stores all within a dozen miles then that is when they need to be bullet proof.

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    I personally question how much of that negative reputation is truly deserved today; the 2016/17 Model S has the benefit over four years of OTR experience to work out the bugs in the driveline and overall control while the Model X is reportedly much improved over the first few, again due to real-world experience on the issues.

    • 0 avatar
      Driver123

      Check forums -years and versions from 5 to 8 and people are still reporting same issues.

      • 0 avatar
        Vulpine

        How many, Driver? From what I’ve seen, the number of complaints have fallen drastically and owners are highly impressed with the service they receive when they do have an issue.

        • 0 avatar
          Driver123

          https://teslamotorsclub.com/tmc/threads/preventing-audio-auto-play.46858/page-4

          https://teslamotorsclub.com/tmc/threads/album-art-in-model-s.76845/

          Just couple. Reported back in 2013. There is more. Tesla does nicely services mechanical issues but absolutely no software.

          Besides, with reliable cars you simple never have to know customer service.

  • avatar
    zerofoo

    I’m willing to cut new technology some slack.

    I’m not as forgiving of ICE technology. It’s been around for 150+ years. Manufacturers have had plenty of time to get it right – yet every year we still have stupid design issues with ICE powered cars.

    Just take a gander at /r/justrolledintotheshop – German cars are almost universally panned there for their complexity and reliability issues.

    I’m hoping, over time, that the less complicated arrangement of electric motors and batteries results in less maintenance and more reliability than traditional ICE powered cars.

  • avatar

    So here’s a concrete story from my own Tesla, probably to be written up in more detail later as a TTAC article:

    The other night, we parked in a neighborhood shopping center, went into the shop, and came out to find our Tesla reporting a completely dead battery. I called the roadside support. Within 20 minutes, we had a tow truck for our car and an Uber for us. No charge.

    Turns out, something internal to the battery pack went bad, so they installed a “loaner” battery pack and gave the car back to us, sending our battery off to California for who-knows-what (teardown? replacement?). Oh, and we were traveling when the car was ready to come home a few days later, so they drove it to our house, opened our garage door (programmed into the car), pulled in, plugged the car into the wall, and left. We got home and we’ve been driving it happily since then.

    So, yes, it’s uncool for a major drivetrain component to fail in a 3.5 year old car. But Tesla’s handling of the issue was superlative. I’m trying to imagine what the equivalent would be for a European luxury car. Imagine your Mercedes/BMW/Audi check-engine light comes on and the car refuses to go. Would they drop your engine, install a loaner, and send yours back to Germany for analysis? And have you up and running in a few days?

    • 0 avatar
      indi500fan

      That’s impressive customer service.
      I think the question becomes will they be able to sustain this on a nationwide basis at mass market volumes?

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      That’s a good story. As indi alluded to, the Model 3 will need to be *perfect* – or nearly so – in order for Tesla not to drown while dispatching tow trucks and Uber for hundreds of thousands of customers.

      Just imagine Toyota offering that kind of service for the Camry.

      • 0 avatar
        JW9000

        *Perfect*, you say? [Shakes 8-Ball] “Outlook not so good.”

        Elon’s so strapped for cash, that they’re skipping production testing and going straight to “release candidates,” AKA, dog-fooding the car with employees for a couple months. They’re rushing the Model 3 out the door.

        But, if you think about it, Elon knows he has a bunch of cachet seeking, Kool-Aid swilling chumps for customers with more money than sense, so where’s the risk? They will forgive Glorious Leader this time, too.

        http://seekingalpha.com/article/4056331-tesla-bankruptcy-chances-increased-exponentially-capital-raise

    • 0 avatar
      Driver123

      And what would happen after warranty expired?

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    Lets not forget the DLC/crippleware of certain models, how long until Tesla charges us $500 to unlock extra cup holders?

  • avatar
    fred

    I want to like electric cars, in spite of their limitations. Unfortunately, the manufacturers (Tesla in particular), the owners, and the fanboys make it really, really difficult. Fanaticism, virtue-signalling, narcissism, self-importance, global-warming environmentalism (I’m just repeating myself), etc from the lock-stepping faithful tends to drive away the more rational, thoughtful prospective consumer.

    At this point, the only EV’s that seem to make any sense are off-lease compliance cars. The faithful resent the cars and the manufacturers for making them, and their pricing fairly accurately represents their true (non-subsidized) value. It is possible to pick up a ~3 year old compliance EV with under 30k miles for under $10k / 30 cents on the MSRP dollar.

    If a person can live with the limited range, there is a good chance that these red-headed childern of the EV world could actually be economically viable.

    • 0 avatar
      Vulpine

      You’re letting the anti-EV and specifically anti-Tesla zealots get to you, fred. The best thing I can suggest is research the vehicles for yourself and choose the one that best meets your potential needs; it’s why I haven’t, yet, purchased an EV for myself.

      For my specific needs, Tesla comes closest simply due to the fact that they offer the longest unrecharged range (over 300 miles) and have the most extensive recharging network for long-distance travel–a task my primary vehicle needs no less than six times a year. BUT… they don’t offer the specific types of vehicles I want, of which the Model X comes closest as a crossover-type vehicle but is grossly overpriced for my particular budget.

      The Bolt comes in second for now, though it’s a very distant second. As a commuter and all-’round-town type of car it comes in better than the compliance cars due to its range of 200+ miles. But again, it falls short on road trip capability which destroys its value for me, along with all the other sub-200-mile range EVs.

      My opinions are based on my specific needs which, for me, embrace the practicality of the vehicle far more than any adherence to any one brand. Again, the only reason I support Tesla as strongly as I do is the simple fact that it is the most practical of all EVs–lacking only the specific body styles I want. I’d love to see a good mid-sized, extended-cab pickup from them.

      • 0 avatar
        fred

        Thanks for your thoughtful comments. You are mistaken about one (two?) thing(s)… It’s not the anti-EV / anti-Tesla zealots that are getting to me. It’s just the opposite. The pro-EV / pro-Tesla zealots are the ones making me question getting an EV.

        Anti-EV people may laugh at EV’s and their drivers, and they object to the government subsidies, but I don’t see or hear anger or radicalism in them.

        The pro-EV people are scary is their hatred of fossil fuels, which have been the fuel (intentional) driving the advance of modern civilization.

        Early car builders didn’t hate horses, they just offered a better way. If/when EV’s really are a better way, they will find widespread acceptance.

        For both of us, there are EV’s that “almost” make sense for us. Though our reasons are different, current EV limitations keep us from purchasing.

        • 0 avatar
          Vulpine

          I’m pro-EV, fred, and I don’t feed that kind of drek. Most don’t. Yes, some do but I would suspect that much of the supposedly pro-EV commentary you’ve seen is intentionally exaggerated arguments designed to invalidate the more realistic comments. I do understand the advantage of EVs that goes far, far beyond the anti-petroleum, anti-coal air pollution noise. Yes, that may be the general purpose of going EV but it’s not the one that fully appeals to me outside of the fact that we have empirical proof that pollution control is effective. Rather, the economics of going BEV over gasoline/diesel are why I’m interested. Having a BEV that could go 200+ miles on a $7 charge of electricity over a four-year period driving more than 120 miles per day commuting would have saved me somewhere in the vicinity of $14K-$16K in fuel costs at a time when gasoline was just below $2/gallon. That savings would have paid for the car I was driving at the time.

          BUT… BEVs weren’t available then and until the Model 3 the first Teslas were far, far outside of my budget. I continued to buy what best met my needs and even now don’t own a BEV because most simply cannot meet my range needs or offer the kind of carrying capacity I want.

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