By on October 22, 2017

Tesla Model 3, Image: Tesla

Tesla Motors and Consumer Reports have enjoyed a fairly contentious relationship with each other over the last few years. The nonprofit consumer advocacy organization had previously slighted the Model S for being unreliable and unsafe, but upgraded that analysis as Tesla continued improving the model. In this year’s consumer survey, the model received higher marks —receiving “above-average reliability for the first time ever.”

However, the Model X suffered a dismal showing and Tesla was outraged that CR gave the Model 3 a predictive average reliability score without even having driven it. The publication was quick to respond, however, and suggested the manufacturer may have misunderstood what was a fairly positive rating for an unproven platform.

While the exchanges seem somewhat trivial and maybe a little petty, this is the kind of automotive drama that’s simply too fun to ignore. For whatever reason, Tesla seems unwilling to remain silent whenever some bad publicity heads its way. While it’s far from the only automaker to do this, its relationship with Consumer Reports has been filled with very specific ups and downs.

The Model S P85D had previously been called “the best car ever” by the outlet, garnering praise from both customer surveys and road tests in 2015. But its recommendation was later rescinded, after the vehicle showcased glaring quality issues and renewed safety concerns. CR eventually restored the Model S to an “average” reliability rating but continued being exceptionally hard on the Model X.

With the Model 3 now in production, albeit at an exceptionally low volume, Consumer Reports included it as part of its annual vehicle survey. However, with so few examples to draw data from, it gave the unit a predictive reliability score. Tesla responded immediately, claiming the outlet’s reporting was “consistently inaccurate and misleading to consumers” while specifying that it was “important to note that Consumer Reports has not yet driven a Model 3, let alone do they know anything substantial about how the Model 3 was designed and engineered.”

The following day, Consumer Reports issued a response to Tesla’s complaints in self-defense. “Tesla does garner an outsized level of attention, scrutiny and discussion by the media,” read the statement. “While we appreciate Tesla’s efforts to typically embrace and navigate, if not directly steer, this attention, we would like to offer some clarity on the examples they cite.”

“Tesla appears unhappy that CR expects the new-to-market Tesla Model 3 to be of average reliability, which is generally a positive projection for any first model year of a car. This expectation is based on CR’s 2017 Annual Reliability Survey, measuring the dependability as opposed to the satisfaction, of more than 300 car models, model year 2000 to 2017, using the responses of individual owners of more than 640,000 vehicles.”

While the majority of the posting discussed the company’s objective analysis of all models and its the methodology behind them, it did save a little venom for when it poked at Tesla’s painfully slow progress on the Model 3’s production: “As with all the cars we review, you can rest assured that we will thoroughly test and evaluate the Model 3 with the same care and scrutiny we apply to all the cars we test just as soon as we can get one — we’re waiting patiently along with other consumers.”

[Image: Tesla Motors]

 

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

Recommended

58 Comments on “Consumer Reports and Tesla Feud Continues Over Model 3...”


  • avatar
    Lorenzo

    I can only assume the vehement attacks by Tesla on any criticism is coming from Elon Musk. It’s not easy being a visionary unless the press clippings are uniformly positive. Maybe he should stop reading them and hire people who know how to run a volume auto assembly line?

    • 0 avatar
      redrum

      Yeah, I follow Musk on Twitter and while he seems overall like an OK guy, he is a bit Trump-esque when it comes to aggressively defending his brands over any perceived criticisms (though he has never resorted to name calling or absolute fabrications to defend himself as far as I can tell).

      • 0 avatar
        TrailerTrash

        “he is a bit Trump-esque”
        just to irritating to ignore.
        I guess this must be some left irritation at getting hit back at not normally experienced coming from the Stupid Party.
        I guess Trump should be so much more easy going…like Hillary.
        Or let the handlers make the attacks.
        This urban lore or popular bashing grinds on me.
        Along with posters “Taurus and MKS interiors are cramped or Baleen whale from grill look of the Lincolns.
        Cool but completely subjective opinions lazily copied and repeated.

  • avatar
    arthurk45

    Maybe Tesla can inform us how driving a car around for a week will provide a reliability rating.

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      Getting the cook’s tour of the car from an engineer would help make the case that the car is so simple there’s nothing to break.

      Putting it up on the lift and taking notes/pictures would be just as helpful, and wouldn’t require help from Tesla.

      Both would be best.

      Just driving the car wouldn’t help much in and of itself, though.

      • 0 avatar
        JimZ

        “Getting the cook’s tour of the car from an engineer would help make the case that the car is so simple there’s nothing to break….”

        only a fool would even think about buying in to that.

  • avatar
    JohnTaurus

    Typical CR double talk:

    “This expectation [of the Model 3] is based on CR’s 2017 Annual Reliability Survey, measuring the dependability as opposed to the satisfaction, of more than 300 car models, model year 2000 to 2017, using the responses of individual owners of more than 640,000 vehicles.”

    So, were any of those 640,000 vehicles Model 3s? Why would its reliability be based on 300 other vehicles? If it’s based on the Model S and X, that’s one thing (although still highly suspect, as a given manufacturer can have some reliable models and some unreliable ones), but that isn’t what they said.

    In other words: “we pulled a rating for the Model 3 out of our @$$, but we *did* gather ratings for other cars! Just TRUST us, pay no attention to our glaring inconsistencies, because we know exactly what we’re talking about even if nobody else can decipher our gobbledygook. If you disagree with us, that’s just us being smarter than you, you’re too stupid to understand why we’re right.”

    • 0 avatar
      Nick_515

      It’s pretty straightforward. Given there’s zero way of knowing the future for sure, we’re extrapolating based on the past, and we’re actually telling you this is an extrapolation, not actual reliability. You may not find that helpful, but inability to decipher this much is on you, not on them.

    • 0 avatar
      ScarecrowRepair

      You must not be very familiar with CR’s ratings. They do similar things for other first-year models. All they can do is tally up other reliability ratings from the same manufacturer, especially first year models. Given Tesla only has two prior first-year offerings, and one was abysmal while the otehr was just average, Tesla got off pretty easy.

      CR has their biases, but nothing like yours.

    • 0 avatar
      la834

      CR’s methodology isn’t without legitimacy. I have no specific data on which to base reliability expectations of an all-new-for-2018 Toyota or an all-new-for-2018 Fiat, but I know which one I’d be more likely to trust based on those respective companies’ history of getting things right the first time.

    • 0 avatar
      anomaly149

      I still don’t understand how people think that electrification will make non-powertrain bits of a car more reliable. OK, sure, maybe electric motors and batteries will behave differently from IC powerplants, but a window reg is a window reg. And since I think most customer issues these days stem from electric features (smart windows, the glass dash, etc.) and/or from squeak/rattle problems, I’d put a lot of faith on data taken from normal cars in predicting the behavior of the Model 3.

      • 0 avatar
        JimZ

        try explaining that to Tesla fans. Even though engine failures are rare (and transmission failures, while more common, are still pretty rare) they’ve convinced themselves that EVs are like a million times simpler than ICE vehicles because reasons.

        nevermind the problems which led to Tesla’s poor-to-mediocre reliability have been mostly everything but the drivetrain.

        y’know, just like pretty much every car on the market.

      • 0 avatar
        brandloyalty

        I estimate my Escape has 20 small electric motors. They are contained in vac blend door actuators, seat controls, power windows and locks, 2 tailgate latches, power sunroof etc. These things break too frequently for my liking. After replacing them I take them apart. Besides the too-common plastic bushings instead of decent bearings, what I find is little Chinese electric motors.

        I believe the previous Japanese-made small suv’s I’ve owned, and much older American cars, didn’t suffer these mechanism failures because they used non-Chinese electric motors and durable components.

        • 0 avatar
          JimZ

          “I believe the previous Japanese-made small suv’s I’ve owned, and much older American cars, didn’t suffer these mechanism failures because they used non-Chinese electric motors and durable components.”

          or didn’t have them at all.

    • 0 avatar

      Their called predicted reliability for a reason it’s based on how well prior models have done. That started promoting the predicted in the name about 10 years ago when they had a few cars the performed well under the predicted value. (2007 Tundra comes to mind)

  • avatar
    jalop1991

    “For whatever reason, Tesla seems unwilling to remain silent whenever some bad publicity heads its way.”

    I don’t care what your politics, but that sounds just like someone else we all know.

    • 0 avatar
      WheelMcCoy

      LOL. Some here would argue CR is fake news.

      • 0 avatar
        Nick_515

        Paging TW5…

        • 0 avatar
          TW5

          Don’t stick you neck out for CR. There are too many people willing to pull the lever on the guillotine.

          CR is taking fire for a reliability forecast they pulled directly from their behind. The manufacturer they offended is known for its rabid plutocrat investors and consumers who protect Tesla with religious fervor, and some of them work in the California government and federal government.

          CR has the geopolitical savvy of Gavrilo Princip.

          • 0 avatar
            JimZ

            there shouldn’t be any need for “geopolitical savvy” at all, dipstick. CR is treating Tesla the same as they do every other automaker, and Tesla is having none of that because they’re “different” and “special” and deserve their own set of rules for everything.

          • 0 avatar
            nrcote

            TW5 > Don’t stick you neck out for CR. There are too many people willing to pull the lever on the guillotine.

            It is so cringe-worthy when an amateurish attempt at humour falls utterly flat.

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            “CR is treating Tesla the same as they do every other automaker, and Tesla is having none of that ***because that approach is bulls**t to begin with.***”

            Fixed it for you.

            They shouldn’t be doing this with any manufacturer, whether it’s Toyota or Tesla.

          • 0 avatar
            TW5

            It was a warning, not a joke.

            CR has many detractors, and CR’s subscriber base is a fraction of what it once was. If you make ad hominem attacks from a pro-CR angle, you’ll find more potential enemies than friends.

            Though Nick put his neck in the guillotine, and dared me to pull the lever, I decided to criticize CR, instead. I’ve done the same regarding you and JimZ.

            You should be thankful for my professionalism.

          • 0 avatar
            JimZ

            sounds like somebody thinks he’s important.

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            Whether he’s important or not, he’s right.

            CR is wrong to do this, and I don’t care if it’s Tesla or Toyota. They made their reputation based on impartial analysis of data. If they’re not analyzing actual data, then they’re just editorializing. That doesn’t fit with their stated mission.

          • 0 avatar
            brandloyalty

            CR did this with the all-new 2006 Suzuki Grand Vitara. The equivalent Rav4 was later to market so CR gave the GV an iffy score and the yet-to-be-seen Rav4 the usual excellent Toyota score. Trouble is that the GV turned out to be exceptionally reliable. And the CR score surely hurt sales of a vehicle that deserved to do better than it did.

            Not to mention railing about the GV’s external spare and right-opening tailgate while having no great problem with the same arrangement on the Rav4.

  • avatar
    ronald

    The butthurt is so very strong with Tesla.

    Seriously, they could have just said something along the lines of, “We look forward to exceeding the expectations of customers and reviewers everywhere . . ..”

    Instead, the have to go 0 to petulant-tantrum-press-release with ‘ludicrous’ speed.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      Hmmmm…OK. Let’s go with the “it’s OK to predict how good a product is without any data on it” approach being perfectly OK, and relate it to YOU.

      Let’s say YOUR employer is introducing a new product that is a make-or-break deal for the company, and CR throws shade on it without any actually shady data.

      Oh, and yeah…your 401k is tied up in company stock.

      You’re OK with that…correct?

      Yeah, I didn’t think so.

  • avatar
    YeOldeMobile

    I’m not a Tesla fanboy, but I do think it’s odd to “predict” the reliability of a totally new model without testing it. How can you trust a movie review which is based solely off a director or studio’s previous work, as opposed to the actual movie itself?

    • 0 avatar
      deanst

      CR does not “test” cars to assess their reliability – they depend on feedback from subscribers who actually own the cars. Thus the reliability of a new car will not be known until customers have had a chance to use the vehicle for awhile. For new models, they look at prior models offered by the manufacturer to create an educated guess for reliability – the predictive reliability score.

      • 0 avatar
        The Ryan

        This is one of the issues I have with CR’s reliability ranking. They’re collecting data from their readers and I have no idea how impartial or reliable that data is.

    • 0 avatar
      JimZ

      I do think it’s odd how some of you think this is something new. CR has done this forever, for everyone.

    • 0 avatar
      M1EK

      Are you kidding me?

      Two movies come out this weekend. One has George Clooney in the lead; the other one Pauly Shore. Knowing nothing else about the movies, you don’t have any suspicion about quality? None whatsoever?

      • 0 avatar
        jalop1991

        “Two movies come out this weekend. One has George Clooney in the lead; the other one Pauly Shore. Knowing nothing else about the movies, you don’t have any suspicion about quality?”

        I’m going to steal that. Superb.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        You don’t think George Clooney can make a bad movie?

        ahem…Batman and Robin…cough…cough

        And if Adam Sandler can get Oscar buzz (check the reviews for “The Meyerowitz Stories”), anyone can.

        • 0 avatar
          carlisimo

          Predictions with a rational basis are never perfect, and there will always be surprises like Batman and Robin or a surprisingly reliable Suzuki (or an unreliable Miata, which happened this year due to manual transmission problems). It’s a prediction, and CR says so. You’d be foolish to give it as much weight as actual data.

          It looks like they’re predicting a 4/5 score for the new Accord. It’s had seven years of nearly perfect scores, but the new model has a CVT and 10-speed automatic that have CR a little worried. Fair enough, imo.

      • 0 avatar
        WheelMcCoy

        Yup. I’ll add that Pixar, under Steve Jobs, used to produce one animated movie every 2 years. Each one was a hit. After selling to Disney, Pixar had to produce 2 animated movies a year. I predict a lower score for future movies.

  • avatar
    EBFlex

    This is yet another sign of how big a house of cards Tesla really is. The only thing they are good at is issuing press releases that read like a tantrum when they are called out for their low quality appliances.

    Tesla would be wise to stop with the tantrums and maybe hire people who know howw to run an automotive company—AT A PROFIT.

  • avatar
    210delray

    Par for the course with Musk. Tesla had similar petulant remarks about IIHS when the Model S didn’t score top crash test marks: “IIHS and dozens of other private industry groups around the world have methods and motivations that suit their own subjective purposes,” a Tesla spokesperson said.

    “The most objective and accurate independent testing of vehicle safety is currently done by the U.S. Government which found Model S and Model X to be the two cars with the lowest probability of injury of any cars that it has ever tested, making them the safest cars in history.”

    Bottom line: Only count the scores that come out the best, ignore all the rest.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Consumer Reports is exactly right in how they reported this.

    Tesla would do well to lay off the paranoia sauce, lift the NDAs on it existing Model 3 customers, and get busy working out the bugs in its cars.

    Tesla *could* have simply said “We expect the Model 3 to exceed Consumer Reports’ predicted reliability of merely ‘average’.”

    • 0 avatar
      Cactuar

      There’s an NDA for Model 3 customers!?

      • 0 avatar
        SCE to AUX

        There seems to be.

        Hundreds of Model 3s have been delivered – one of the most anticipated cars ever – and how many road test reviews and personal accounts are there?

        Almost zero, and none from actual owners. Tesla is trying to control the message, something inconceivable to me on a ‘production’ vehicle.

        There isn’t a single instrumented review of the vehicle, because Tesla won’t provide one to any publications. Even the greenies are wondering what’s going on.

        It’s obviously still a car that’s in beta testing, not real production.

        • 0 avatar
          JimZ

          “Almost zero, and none from actual owners. Tesla is trying to control the message, something inconceivable to me on a ‘production’ vehicle.”

          and that’s the most odious garbage. I really hate how they’re trying to force the “software/subscription” model into this.

          Once I buy a physical good from you, it’s mine. I will do whatever I want with it (including letting other people use it and talk about it) and it’s none of your godd**n business what I do.

        • 0 avatar
          jkross22

          SCE, Tesla NEEDS people like you to help… Fans of the cars, but not to the point where you’ll deny reality about them.

          The whole company is coming across very Trumpian and is absolutely hurting the image they want to portray.

          • 0 avatar
            SCE to AUX

            Both Tesla and Trump are turning out to be less mature than I had hoped.

            Tesla may find that the reservation money I gave them ends up in Chevy’s hands, and Trump may find that I vote “D” for President next time around. Both are inadvertently making their competitors look better.

        • 0 avatar
          FreedMike

          “There seems to be.

          Hundreds of Model 3s have been delivered – one of the most anticipated cars ever – and how many road test reviews and personal accounts are there?

          Almost zero, and none from actual owners. Tesla is trying to control the message, something inconceivable to me on a ‘production’ vehicle.

          There isn’t a single instrumented review of the vehicle, because Tesla won’t provide one to any publications. Even the greenies are wondering what’s going on.

          It’s obviously still a car that’s in beta testing, not real production.”

          …which all makes sense, SCE. This may all be true.

          But it doesn’t change the fact that CR came to conclusions that were not based on any hard data, and that’s wrong.

        • 0 avatar
          Luke42

          “Almost zero, and none from actual owners. Tesla is trying to control the message, something inconceivable to me on a ‘production’ vehicle”

          Despite the hype, it’s important to realize that what they’re really doing at this point is what every other car company would call the captive test fleet stage.

          It’s really the same process, but with a different hype, in order to make the timeline seem more aggressive. There might be some bureaucratic differences (who holds the title for the vehicle? does the driver get to keep their car after the program ends?), but selling the car exclusively to company insiders this way really does make it a captive test fleet for all practical purposes.

          P.S. I’m a card-carrying Tesla Model 3 reservation holder, and I’m excited about when we’ll get our M3. But, I follow Tesla news closely enough that I can see through the hype here, and they’re doing things a little less aggressively than a quick read of their rollout plan implies.

          • 0 avatar
            JimZ

            “Despite the hype, it’s important to realize that what they’re really doing at this point is what every other car company would call the captive test fleet stage.”

            except every other car company keeps their captive test fleet internal, owns the vehicles, and disposes of them after they’re done testing. They sure as hell don’t crow about how they’re delivering “production” vehicles.

            ” But, I follow Tesla news closely enough that I can see through the hype here, ”

            your previous two paragraphs are evidence that no, you really can’t.

  • avatar
    Flipper35

    I would trust CR as much as I would a career politician {news channel of your choice}.

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      CR aspires to be objective, which is more than I can say for a certain popular “fair and balanced” news channel.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        This depends on your definition of “objectivity,” though.

        CR’s definition of objectivity boils down to this: we make recommendations based on hard data. Basically, they’re being scientific about it. Therefore, if they make a recommendation based on nonexistent data, then *by their own standards* they’re not being even remotely objective.

        If they made a statement like “we haven’t tested the Model 3, and don’t have enough data to determine empirically whether it’s reliable or not, but based on the brand’s other two products, we might have some concerns,” I’d argue that’s a fair, impartial conclusion to reach.

        But “it will have average reliability based on no reliability data whatsoever”? Nope. Not objective…not even remotely objective.

  • avatar
    danio3834

    “Predicted Reliability” has always been a stick in my craw from CR since they often have to walk it back. Especially with the Model 3, they really don’t know what to expect. It could be horrible as some of the recent production reports might suggest, or it could be great. Without data, perhaps they should abstain from the guesswork and not potentially mislead consumers and end up with egg on their face.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    The magazine should have commented that there wasn’t enough data to make a reliability determination and left it at that.

    Tesla has every right to be upset about what CR did.

    This kind of garbage is why I don’t buy into CR all that much.

  • avatar
    JRobUSC

    CR makes it very clear that it’s a “predicted” rating, based on historical reliability from the brand. We use “predicted” measures for everything we do. Want to hire a roofer? A babysitter? You’re going to look at historical data and “predict” behavior.

    If Tesla wants to complain about the car being given a less than stellar predictive score, then they should make their other cars more reliable. Didn’t CR predict the 3 would be “average”? Frankly that’s a gift — instead of stirring the pot they should be thanking their lucky stars CR predicted “average”, seeing as how the 3 is produced in the same factory, by the same people, with many of the same parts, as their Model S and X, which are two of the least reliable vehicles in history. The likelihood of the Model 3 being magically bulletproof despite all the issues the S and X have had is, in fact, pretty slim. But there we go “predicting” again.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      You’ve explained it well. On one hand, we can hope the 3 is quite reliable because Tesla has learned from past mistakes. On the other hand, it could be a reliability lemon due to the hasty development and rollout schedule.

      So CR accounted for all that and went with ‘average’.

      One story has Tesla already replacing seats and headlights on Model 3s, so that’s an ignoble start.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    Confirmational bias is amazing.

    When CR was crushing the American brands and saying the Prius was the best vehicle you could buy, and Toyota “predicted reliability,” was consistently above average automatically, it was the gospel truth.

    Now that the darling Tesla is being held to an unchanged standard, CR is part of the vast conspiracy to destroy the electric car – predicted reliability de damned.

    Delicious popcorn.


Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Recent Comments

  • Ce he sin: Turbo twin? Fiat have been making the Twinair for several years and yes, it’s a turbo twin.
  • Gardiner Westbound: Talk is cheap. If GM is really confident in the carbon fiber bed’s durability it will put a...
  • sgeffe: There was a discussion something like this on VTEC.net earlier this week. A 5th-Gen (1992-1995) Civic EX...
  • Ce he sin: You seem to have re invented the Nissan e-Power system which works just as you’ve described. The...
  • PrincipalDan: https://www.thetruthaboutcars. com/2011/08/when-gm-couldnt-th ink-outside-the-box-rememberin g-pro-tec/...

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Staff

  • Contributors

  • Timothy Cain, Canada
  • Matthew Guy, Canada
  • Ronnie Schreiber, United States
  • Bozi Tatarevic, United States
  • Chris Tonn, United States
  • Corey Lewis, United States
  • Mark Baruth, United States
  • Moderators

  • Adam Tonge, United States
  • Corey Lewis, United States