The latest Consumer Reports reliability ratings are out and they have ignited a fire storm of criticism from Tesla. CR still rates the Model X as one of the worst cars in its class for reliability and predicts reliability for the all new Model 3 will be no better than average. How can the Rajahs of Reliability even think about issuing a reliability rating for a car that they haven’t driven yet? Come to think of it, there are only a few hundred of them in existence. (Note: Tesla has recently registered another 1.000 Model 3 VIN numbers with the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, suggesting that production is increasing, if only a little.)
“Our Predicted Reliability Score is set on a 0-to-100 point scale, with the average rating falling between 41 and 60 points. Better-than-average ratings or worse-than-average ratings fall on either side of that range,” says Consumer Reports.
The prediction about Model 3 reliability has stung Tesla and it is firing back at Consumer Reports, claiming its tests and surveys “lack basic scientific integrity.” The company maintains that CR has published inaccurate or misleading reports three times since July of 2016. “We have urged them multiple times to correct this, and they’ve refused,” Tesla said. “We believe this refusal is rooted in the fact that their coverage of Tesla generates significant attention for the publication.”
Tesla claims Consumer Reports gets a lot of mileage out of bashing its products and may be doing so deliberately to raise its own profile. And it has a point. In all fairness, any story about Tesla generates a huge number of page views on the internet. We would be less than honest if we said the Tesla effect hasn’t created torrents of clicks on our website on many occasions. Do we seek to fill our pages with Tesla news to boost our search profile? No. Do we make it a policy to cover any Tesla story we think is actually news that our readers will find interesting? You betcha.
The controversy over Tesla reliability has certainly done Consumer Reports no harm either. The organization that spends most of its time measuring how efficiently a clothes dryer removes moisture from bath towels or the effectiveness of pesticides on aphids in the garden has definitely benefited from the Musk effect.
Elon is a master as whipping up enthusiasm. Live by the sword; die by the sword. The flood of favorable press Tesla has received over the past 6 years far outweighs the negative attention it has received. Among attorneys, when your opponent scores a few points in court, it is best not to repeat the bad news so the jury gets to hear it twice. Besides, any car buyer with a pulse knows not to buy a brand new model during the first year of production. Every manufacturer has quality control issues at the beginning of a production run. Consumer Report’s position makes sense, based on past history in the auto business.
Musk is quick to accept credit but also quick to assign blame whenever someone dares question one of his companies. Tesla is delighted when Consumer Reports rates one of its cars as a top safety picks or winner in a customer satisfaction survey. Over the years, every manufacturer has had issues with Consumer Reports. Deal with it, Elon.
As for the Model 3, Jake Fisher, the head of Consumer Reports auto team says, “We are going to be purchasing one of these cars, we will be testing it and if it tests ok it may be a vehicle that could be recommended.” At the current pace of production, it could be a good long time before Consumer Reports gets their hands on an actual Model 3 for testing.
Just to prove that we don’t prostrate ourselves at the Temple of Elon, there is a story floating around today about a Tesla Model S battery fire on a highway in Austria. We could have done a story about that. but that would smack of sensationalism. However, we have linked to it, in case you want to check it out yourself.