Consumer Reports and Tesla Feud Continues Over Model 3

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
i consumer reports i and tesla feud continues over model 3

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 But its recommendation was later rescinded, after the vehicle showcased glaring quality issues and renewed safety concerns.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]

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  • JRobUSC JRobUSC on Oct 23, 2017

    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.

    • SCE to AUX SCE to AUX on Oct 23, 2017

      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.

  • APaGttH APaGttH on Oct 23, 2017

    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.

  • Kcflyer on one hand it at least wont have dirty intake valves like Honda's entire lineup of direct injection ice vehicles. on the other hand a CRV offers more room, more range, faster fueling and lower price, hmm
  • Tassos BTW I thought this silly thing was always called the "Wienermobile".
  • Tassos I have a first cousin with same first and last name as my own, 17 years my junior even tho he is the son of my father's older brother, who has a summer home in the same country I do, and has bought a local A3 5-door hatch kinds thing, quite old by now.Last year he told me the thing broke down and he had to do major major repairs, replace the whole engine and other stuff, and had to rent a car for two weeks in a touristy location, and amazingly he paid more for the rental ( Euro1,500, or $1,650-$1,700) than for all the repairs, which of course were not done at the dealer (I doubt there was a dealer there anyway)
  • Tassos VW's EV program losses have already been horrific, and with (guess, Caveman!) the Berlin-Brandenburg Gigafactory growing by leaps and bounds, the future was already quite grim for VW and the VW Group.THis shutdown will not be so temporary.The German Government may have to reach in its deep pockets, no matter how much it hates to spend $, and bail it out."too big to fail"?
  • Billccm I had a 1980 TC3 Horizon and that car was as reliable as the sun. Underappreciated for sure.