In the automotive world, a history of reliability problems and low customer satisfaction scores usually go hand in hand. After all, the more problems an owner has with a car, the less they tend to like said car. But that hasn't been the case with Tesla owners, or at least those who respond to surveys sent out by Consumer Reports.
According to the magazine's annual vehicle reliability survey, owners of more than 500 Tesla Model 3s have reported "a relatively high number of reliability complaints." The most frequently reported trouble spots include issues with body hardware, paint and trim, and headaches with the vehicle's in-car infotainment and electronics package that can "cause music to play, volume to increase to maximum, and [maps that] rescale and pan ... in the navigation system."
Consumer Reports bought a Tesla Model 3 of its own for testing purposes, and their car suffered a mysteriously broken rear window after some particularly cold weather. Other owners reported similar problems with the car's glass. These issues are widespread enough that the magazine has rescinded its Recommended rating for the Model 3.
This isn't the first time CR has pulled the Model 3's Recommended tag. In May 2018, the magazine cited inconsistent braking performance as the main culprit behind the demotion, leading Tesla to issue an over-the-air update to fix the problem. CR retested an updated Model 3 and saw stopping distances drop from 152 feet to 130 feet, which was good enough to reapply a Recommended rating.
It's not clear if the infotainment issues experienced by some owners can be rectified with an over-the-air update. Broken rear windows, though, would certainly necessitate hands-on service.
Tesla is apparently aware of owner complaints like those reported to CR. "The vast majority of these issues have already been corrected through design and manufacturing improvements, and we are already seeing a significant improvement in our field data," the automaker said in a statement. "We take feedback from our customers very seriously and quickly implement improvements any time we hear about issues."
Interestingly, despite such reliability woes, Tesla drivers give the brand top marks in CR's annual owner satisfaction survey. Says Jake Fisher, senior director of auto testing at Consumer Reports, "When a vehicle has an enthusiastic following, like with Tesla, owners may overlook some issues."
On the positive side, CR says its readers have "reported few problems with Tesla's unique electric powertrains." Still, just how long Tesla owners are willing to overlook irritating reliability issues remains to be seen. If you're currently in the market for a new car and are considering a Tesla, we'd suggest you continue to monitor real-world reports closely.