Is Tesla Model S Chronically Unreliable?

Mechanic with a wrench

According to Tesla, the Model S “sets the new standard for premium performance.” At its debut in 2012, the Model S received an unprecedented 99 out of 100 rating from the auto-testing and watchdog organization, Consumer Reports. Test-drivers raved about the EV’s instantaneous acceleration, efficiency, luggage capacity, assembly quality and more.

The Model S even managed to secure Consumer Report’s coveted “recommended” rating, which means it performed with distinction on road tests, crash-tests, and demonstrated at least average reliability. Both the 2012 and 2013 versions scored high in all areas.

But over the last year or so, the Model S has begun to show chinks in its presumably impervious armour. Despite the stellar Consumer Report rating, evidence is stacking up detailing instances of unreliability. Here’s what auto experts and Model S owners are saying about the EV’s chronic need for repairs:

Bugs and Quirks

Anyone with auto mechanic training knows that any number of rattles and shakes can bring a car into the shop. While some problems require in-depth maintenance, others end up being mostly superficial – and ultimately easy to fix. According to repair reports, Model S owners are often plagued by clicking in the steering system, squeaky moonroofs, and non-responsive electric door handles. In fact, reliability-tracker, polled owners and discovered that the Model S requires three times as much service as typical vehicles. Not for serious operational issues, it’s true – but more trips to the auto mechanic than one would expect from a $90,000-plus car.

More Serious Issues

When, another vehicle review site, purchased a Model S for testing they encountered more serious reliability issues. Edmunds sent staff members out on road trips in the Tesla, and although they make clear that the drivers unanimously loved the ride, the EV had some potentially troublesome issues along the way. Among these was a creak in the A pillar – the beam that holds the windshield and roof in place. The car’s 17-inch display screen also stopped functioning, the car’s charger adapter broke and there were problems with the retractable door handle and the front trunk, or “fronk.” The car died road-side on several occasions, and there were a host of more minor problems – but on the upside, Tesla went the extra mile with regard to repairs, replacing items that weren’t even broken and making the experience as good as it could be.

The Verdict?

Consumer Reports says it’s not ready to knock down the Model S’s “average” reliability rating just yet. Tesla CEO Elon Musk admits that that EV definitely has some quality issues, but assures consumers that engineers are dedicated to working those out – and ultimately, to producing a car that never needs an auto technician.

Considering the reliability issues, do you think the Model S is worth the investment?

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