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Consumer Reports reliability of Model S - worse than average

Oil4AsphaultOnly

Active Member
Supporting Member
Mar 14, 2015
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Arcadia, CA
Someone is going to have to explain to me how it can have an overall poor rating with out even one category rated poor.

The year column is the model year of the vehicle, and the rating for each category is the aggregate rate of all those who were surveyed. So you would always expect newer cars to have fewer problems than older ones - unless there was a new model revision, in which case sometimes the newest model is more poorly rated and a previous year one. The mark of "reliable" cars like Honda and Toyotas have generally consistent ratings year after year (little to no uptick in the number of issues found). CR's surveys aren't open ended questions either, but they have specific questions asking for the number of instances a particular problem occurs and the severity of it; so the aggregate rating is pretty objective.

If you read the "best of" compilation book they send at the beginning of each year, they explain their methodology in detail.
 
I was troubled as many of us by the CR rating of Model S. So I dug deep into the methodology of CR. This is what I found:

1. They collect the data from some 4 million subscribers which result in a huge 'n' which is essential for any statistical analysis. Out of the ~ 750000 responses 1400 were from Tesla owners. It is not a great but good enough.

2. CR employ qualified statisticians to crunch the numbers and so I assume their methods are scientific.

3. They divide the questions into 17 categories like fuel system, engine major (engine rebuild or replacement), engine minor (oil leak), climate control etc.

4. Engine-major, cooling system, transmission-major, and driveline are weighted more heavily because they are more expensive and the car is more likely to be out of service. This is one of the main reason why model S performed badly in CR rating.
Changing the engine in a ICE car is a different ball game than changing it in Model S which Tesla does seamlessly and painlessly with a loaner car. This is not taken into account by CR in their rating but explains the high customer satisfaction. It will be interesting to see if Tesla can maintain that level of service with increasing fleet.

4. The most puzzling of the report was the predicted reliability. Model S reliability was rated good in previous 3 years but suddenly crashed to below average in 2016 - which grabbed all the headlines.
Predicted reliability is based on the previous 3 years data. To quote from CR website - "The Predicted Reliability, also called New Car Prediction, forecasts how well a new model likely to hold up based on its recent history" "For this Rating, we average a model's Used Car Verdict for the newest three years" "Over the years, we have found that several years of data are a better predictor than the most recent model year alone". "One or two years of data may be used if the model was redesigned within that three-year time frame"
I am not sure this even applies to Model S. CR doesn't take it to account continuous changes Tesla makes like the dual motor and constant updates. The "below average" rating was based on earlier years data. I am guessing we have to wait couple of years to see the effects of the current model S reliability in the CR rating. I am not sure Tesla will even redesign model S in few years as they are constantly updating it - unlike other ICE car manufacturers do - which I think is nothing but a sales gimmick. May be this is another new paradigm change Elon wants to make to auto industry.

5. I haven't seen the data on engine replacement for current dual motor model S compared to earlier cars and it will be interesting to see those numbers even in a informal setting like this forum in a separate thread.

6. Many of the CR's 17 categories like exhaust, fuel systems and emissions doesn't even apply to cars like Model S. I am wondering if CR have to design a separate questionnaire for electric cars.

7. CR claims "In order to earn a CR Recommendation, a model needs to meet three criteria:

  • The model needs to do well in our road tests.
  • The model must have at least average Predicted Reliability.
  • If the model was crash-tested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) or the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), it must perform at least adequately. In addition, pickups and SUVs must not have tipped up in the government's rollover test."

Model S was outstanding (out of the world, really) in 2 of the 3.
To another question "How can a car be recommended one year but not the next?
Our subscribers tell us about their experiences each year. In each Annual Questionnaire, we ask subscribers to ConsumerReports.org and Consumer Reports magazine about problems that they had experienced in the preceding 12 months. As their reports change from one year to the next, our Predicted Reliability scores sometimes change as well."
This is in contradiction to their earlier claim about predicted reliability that it is based on data from newest 3years.

8. Tesla should have more accurate data on the improvement in reliability especially of the engine. They should publish those and take CR head on. That's of course if the problems were fixed.

In conclusion I wouldn't put too much weight on CR rating. But Tesla needs to turn this CR rating around before the model 3 release as many of the target customers will be CR believers.
 
The whole DU issue puzzles me as it seems sort of on-going and one would expect/hope that Tesla had nailed it by now. We don't even know if it has been resolved or just improved with 2015 cars as it may rear its ugly head at a later date/higher mileage.

But as the DU is warranted for 8 years then surely even 2012/13 cars will eventually have 'million mile' replacement DUs (maybe the 3rd or 20th replacement). So although that may be an on-going reliability issue, it is self-rectifying and should fade away eventually. In the meantime it seems that Tesla keep the owners happy by pro-actively sorting out any DU issues with minimal inconvenience. Sadly it does leave a lingering 'smell' in the public's perception.

Presumably software issues will improve in older cars too over time and as cars are attended to at SC with newer parts, some/most of the problems should reduce.

Squeaks/rattles/panos/poor assembly quality may be more difficult to rectify in older cars but seems from reports to be improving in newer cars.

Ever onward and upward...?!

Do owners with older cars feel their cars are 'improving' or 'getting old'?
 

Ugliest1

S85: "Sparky"
Supporting Member
Aug 19, 2013
1,401
1,661
Victoria BC Canada
Do owners with older cars feel their cars are 'improving' or 'getting old'?

Overall, improving a little. The rate of improvement has dropped because from FW 6.0 on they're catching up with stuff (e.g., rear camera lines, hill assist, 7.0 makes some improvements and "meh" on others, etc) so there's less and less they can improve via firmware. The car certainly performs as it always has, and about every two weeks someone thinks it's a brand-new car (those Tesla Moments) and they're very surprised to find out it's been on the road almost two years.

The only time I see it "getting old" is when I am reminded of AP etc in the newer cars; however, that's exactly the same when I play basketball now and I see how the little sh-- 20-year-olds are far quicker than I am. :crying:
 
Read through some of the first few pages, but not all. So my comment to prospective owners may be redundant. You are purchasing a new technology. As such, consider yourself an "early adopter" of this new technology. Everyone knows the positives related to owning something in an early adoption phase. The negatives are the ones listed. This held true when the first flat panel TV's came out at over 10 grand a piece.

If you're going to purchase something that literally has 3 years of history on the road, you should expect some things to go wrong. My 2014 MS has 28k miles on it. The trunk did flood in a torrential downpour one night in Orlando. SC took every square inch of carpet out of the back of the car, every square inch of padding out of the car, dried it all out, and took care of me at no charge. My car does now have some of those squeaks people complain about. I attribute it to the fact the car sounds so quiet you can hear literally everything going on. I'd bet my old BMW squeaked but I couldn't hear it over the ICE. Sure I'll get it fixed the next time I have to go in. Not a big deal.

My experience owning luxury brands has always been hit or miss. Bought a brand new Audi that went to the shop 21 times in 18 months for not-so-trivial stuff like: dead starter in 1st week, dead turbo, dead cruise control, no interior lights, dead headlights, etc. Never buying Audi again, nor will I contribute to any child of mine who wishes to purchase one. My BMW, on the other hand, was bulletproof until the power steering went out at like 78k miles.

I will purchase an extended warranty on my MS when it needs it. It's an early adopter product and frankly I feel lucky I have the opportunity to purchase one. You don't always get that chance on something new.

Should CR do what it did? If the survey data confirms, sure. But I do believe they should caveat their recommendation with the fact that the newest technology often has issues to work out. Buyers should prepare themselves for this.
 
Read through some of the first few pages, but not all. So my comment to prospective owners may be redundant. You are purchasing a new technology. As such, consider yourself an "early adopter" of this new technology. Everyone knows the positives related to owning something in an early adoption phase. The negatives are the ones listed. This held true when the first flat panel TV's came out at over 10 grand a piece.

If you're going to purchase something that literally has 3 years of history on the road, you should expect some things to go wrong. My 2014 MS has 28k miles on it. The trunk did flood in a torrential downpour one night in Orlando. SC took every square inch of carpet out of the back of the car, every square inch of padding out of the car, dried it all out, and took care of me at no charge. My car does now have some of those squeaks people complain about. I attribute it to the fact the car sounds so quiet you can hear literally everything going on. I'd bet my old BMW squeaked but I couldn't hear it over the ICE. Sure I'll get it fixed the next time I have to go in. Not a big deal.

My experience owning luxury brands has always been hit or miss. Bought a brand new Audi that went to the shop 21 times in 18 months for not-so-trivial stuff like: dead starter in 1st week, dead turbo, dead cruise control, no interior lights, dead headlights, etc. Never buying Audi again, nor will I contribute to any child of mine who wishes to purchase one. My BMW, on the other hand, was bulletproof until the power steering went out at like 78k miles.

I will purchase an extended warranty on my MS when it needs it. It's an early adopter product and frankly I feel lucky I have the opportunity to purchase one. You don't always get that chance on something new.

Should CR do what it did? If the survey data confirms, sure. But I do believe they should caveat their recommendation with the fact that the newest technology often has issues to work out. Buyers should prepare themselves for this.

Oh man, I wonder what the bill on that turbo replacement would be if not covered under warranty. I had a buddy who worked for BMW. Had a N63 5 series come in with a blown engine (injector failed under full throttle). The parts alone were $20K and with labor it was an almost $30k job. Warranty covered, but still.
 

wdolson

Well-Known Member
Jul 24, 2015
8,837
16,978
Clark Co, WA
Read through some of the first few pages, but not all. So my comment to prospective owners may be redundant. You are purchasing a new technology. As such, consider yourself an "early adopter" of this new technology. Everyone knows the positives related to owning something in an early adoption phase. The negatives are the ones listed. This held true when the first flat panel TV's came out at over 10 grand a piece.

If you're going to purchase something that literally has 3 years of history on the road, you should expect some things to go wrong. My 2014 MS has 28k miles on it. The trunk did flood in a torrential downpour one night in Orlando. SC took every square inch of carpet out of the back of the car, every square inch of padding out of the car, dried it all out, and took care of me at no charge. My car does now have some of those squeaks people complain about. I attribute it to the fact the car sounds so quiet you can hear literally everything going on. I'd bet my old BMW squeaked but I couldn't hear it over the ICE. Sure I'll get it fixed the next time I have to go in. Not a big deal.

My experience owning luxury brands has always been hit or miss. Bought a brand new Audi that went to the shop 21 times in 18 months for not-so-trivial stuff like: dead starter in 1st week, dead turbo, dead cruise control, no interior lights, dead headlights, etc. Never buying Audi again, nor will I contribute to any child of mine who wishes to purchase one. My BMW, on the other hand, was bulletproof until the power steering went out at like 78k miles.

I will purchase an extended warranty on my MS when it needs it. It's an early adopter product and frankly I feel lucky I have the opportunity to purchase one. You don't always get that chance on something new.

Should CR do what it did? If the survey data confirms, sure. But I do believe they should caveat their recommendation with the fact that the newest technology often has issues to work out. Buyers should prepare themselves for this.

I was running errands with my almost 24 year old Buick today. I specifically listened for rattles and squeaks. For an ICE my car is pretty quiet, but I heard a lot of noises I hadn't noticed before. Engine noise creates a noise floor in which a lot of random noises can hide unless you pay careful attention.

If you watch the CR Car Talk video that was released the same day as the reliability results, they do mention how new technology reduces reliability. CR is attempting to be fair and report accurately and I commend them for that. They applied the same criteria to every car and reported the results. When the Model S topped their features and performance tests, it got top marks. When the reliability results came back with downsides they reported that too.

I would like to know how they come up with the overall reliability rating. I noticed the overall rating for the 2015 Model S was solid black, even though that year's car didn't get a single solid black in any category. If that comes directly from the owners reports, there may be a bit of subjective bias on the part of owners there and we don't know what the sample size was for each of the model years. The 2015 sample probably was smaller than the 2013 and 2014 samples.
 
I have an early 2014 and had a number of issues. The unlimited battery and drive train warranty is huge for me. I would love it if Tesla extended that to the rest of the car or made the ESA lower cost with no deductible. That would make me feel better. If Tesla made everything unlimited and 8 years that would put CR in it's place, but I don't know what type of write off they would need to do for that from a cost perspective. With that all being said, wouldn't want any other car, just scared for after warranty....

https://twitter.com/russwong/status/657203610569216000
 

anticitizen13.7

Not posting at TMC after 9/17/2018
Dec 22, 2012
3,638
5,870
United States
I'm not worried about this at all. Actually, I'm surprised this didn't happen sooner, because Model S was pretty rough around the edges for the first full year of production, based on what I've read here.

Tesla iterates very quickly, and I remember Elon saying that it was common for 20 components to undergo revisions in a month (or some other relatively short time span). In the long haul, this should result in more reliable products as time goes on and the company matures.

I don't think early adopters bought Tesla cars with the expectation of Toyota or Honda reliability. However, that level of reliability will be important in the 2020's, when Tesla moves more into the mainstream. The average (non-enthusiast) car buyer wants a product that just works.
 

AWDtsla

Active Member
Mar 3, 2013
4,287
4,260
NE
I'm sorry but I just can't buy the "early teslas were rough" thing. I have an early car, a 2012 non sig. It has been exemplary. Drivetrain once for milling, which I don't consider major. That's only non-trivial item. Much better than any other car I've owned re maintenance.

That's good, but sample size of 1 is not good enough. If you have a serious issue that's one out of a thousand, and you sell 50,000 cars, there's 50 people that are not happy at all, and a never ending thread on the intarwebs about how every car is doomed. People are really really bad at probability and risk.
 
If you have a serious issue that's one out of a thousand, and you sell 50,000 cars, there's 50 people that are not happy at all, and a never ending thread on the intarwebs about how every car is doomed. People are really really bad at probability and risk.
Yes, and if it's 5% of drive units (which would get you into CR's black mark rating), that's 2,500 cars. So no surprise that's consuming a lot of internet bandwidth.

And I agree MaadP's analysis is excellent.
 
I read through the first few pages of this and some of the later summaries, and I must say that it has been both eye-opening and a bit disheartening. I am a LEAF 'owner' (lessee) and to my knowledge, Nissan hasn't had nearly as many issues with it as Tesla has with the S -- despite the LEAF being comparably "new technology". (Someone pls correct me quickly if I'm wrong about the LEAF's reliability #s.) Sure, the Model S is higher performance, possibly driven harder, and has more sophisticated electronics, etc., but the higher-end LEAF models aren't exactly bicycles, and I haven't come across (in the LEAF forum) nearly the range of issues enumerated here.

So... as a prospective Model 3 buyer (and de facto Tesla "cheerleader" if not fanboi), I truly hope that Tesla addresses this head-on and gets their act together (quickly). Because all these things (problems, complaints, wait times at Service Centers, bad reviews/negative press, etc.) will only and quickly get much worse if they don't.


Note too, that this is really the "second shoe to drop", in my mind, with the first being the wording and mistake in mailing-list recipients of the "local Supercharger abuse" letter. As far as I know, they never acknowledged, explained/rephrased or apologized for the mistakes that were made in that mini-fiasco, but this shoe is bigger (if you will), so I hope they take it that much more seriously... and really/quickly improve their quality control.
 
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I read through the first few pages of this and some of the later summaries, and I must say that it has been both eye-opening and a bit disheartening. I am a LEAF 'owner' (lessee) and to my knowledge, Nissan hasn't had nearly as many issues with it as Tesla has with the S -- despite the LEAF being comparably "new technology". (Someone pls correct me quickly if I'm wrong about the LEAF's reliability #s.) Sure, the Model S is higher performance, possibly driven harder, and has more sophisticated electronics, etc., but the higher-end LEAF models aren't exactly bicycles, and I haven't come across (in the LEAF forum) nearly the range of issues enumerated here.
That's the point I've made a bunch of times here and elsewhere. Same goes w/some BMW i3 forums (where the i3 REx seems to be pretty unreliable).

There are far more Leafs on the road and an order of magnitude even more Priuses, and yet we don't see this magnitude of problems (some serious) on similarly aged Leafs. Ditto for Priuses, even ones much older w/much higher mileage.
 
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wdolson

Well-Known Member
Jul 24, 2015
8,837
16,978
Clark Co, WA
Here's a conspiracy theory...
Consumer Reports downgrade Tesla Model S recommendation right when the Toyota Mirai is hitting the market... Suspicious coincidence.

I strongly doubt that. CR is being consistent within their system. They give a "recommended" to cars with high marks in their tests that have average or better reliability ratings. Until the most recent ratings, the Model S was rated as average in reliability, so it was on their recommended list. When the Model S was dropped to Fair, they had to drop the Recommended rating.

No need for a conspiracy if you know their rules and how they implement them.
 
I strongly doubt that. CR is being consistent within their system. They give a "recommended" to cars with high marks in their tests that have average or better reliability ratings. Until the most recent ratings, the Model S was rated as average in reliability, so it was on their recommended list. When the Model S was dropped to Fair, they had to drop the Recommended rating.

No need for a conspiracy if you know their rules and how they implement them.
Agreed. Highly doubtful it's a conspiracy that has ANYTHING to do w/Mirai. In the US right now, Mirai's only available in limited parts of California and in very limited numbers.

Notice these dates:
Oct 25, 2011: Consumer Reports' 2011 Annual Car Reliability Survey: Ford drops, Chrysler rises, Scion leads
Oct 29, 2012: Consumer Reports Auto Reliability Survey: Ford Continues Fall While Seven Japanese Brands Top List: Consumer Reports http://pressroom.consumerreports.org/pressroom/
Oct 29, 2013: Tesla Model S Recommended | Car Reliability - Consumer Reports News
Oct 28, 2014: Tesla Model S Has Average Reliability - Consumer Reports News
Oct 20, 2015: Tesla Reliability Doesn’t Match Its High Performance - Consumer Reports

Toyota picked Oct 21, 2015 Toyota goes Back to the Future with Tacoma and Mirai aka Back to the Future Day ('Back to the Future' Day is finally here - CNN.com) for their marketing push.
 
I read through the first few pages of this and some of the later summaries, and I must say that it has been both eye-opening and a bit disheartening. I am a LEAF 'owner' (lessee) and to my knowledge, Nissan hasn't had nearly as many issues with it as Tesla has with the S -- despite the LEAF being comparably "new technology". (Someone pls correct me quickly if I'm wrong about the LEAF's reliability #s.) Sure, the Model S is higher performance, possibly driven harder, and has more sophisticated electronics, etc., but the higher-end LEAF models aren't exactly bicycles, and I haven't come across (in the LEAF forum) nearly the range of issues enumerated here.

I would be surprised if it were otherwise. People forever underestimate the difficulty of building a truly new design. The Leaf may be battery powered but the drive-train is a comparatively small part of an electric vehicle. Most of the vehicle draws parts/technologies/manufacturing processes/suppliers/people from other Nissan models & lines. So Nissan has a dramatically smaller hill to climb.

Further, in producing a high power/high performance vehicle Tesla has made their job much tougher yet. So many things get more difficult when you're looking to put 500+ HP to 4 wheels instead of 120 to 2. And the challenges are exponential, not linear.

As I've said numerous times... the shocker is not that Tesla has had problems. It's that there have been so comparatively few. And Tesla has dealt with the issues admirably well so far.
 

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