Hatin’ On The Tesla Model S Seems To Be An Edmunds Pastime

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Update: Based on some comments, I figured it was worth adding some extra notes:

1) Not every Tesla article on Edmunds is negative. I didn’t say that, of course. I was simply shocked (as were others) at how many articles are negative. The article below is my representation of the things that stood out to me as I scrolled through the top & bottom of Edmunds’ long-term Tesla Model S review.

2) Of course, it also seems that Edmunds got dealt some rather abnormal and unfortunate problems with its car (which I don’t discuss at all below). But I don’t think that has any relation to the most recent articles, and it certainly doesn’t have any relation to the first articles in the long-term review. And objective technical problems don’t really relate to subjective dislikes, which is what many of the articles seem to be focused on. That’s a different matter completely.

3) Notably, several different writers wrote the articles of which I took screenshots (of titles and excerpts) and shared below. I don’t assume there’s any kind of conspiracy at Edmunds — I’m not a conspiracy theorist. I’m just very surprised at how much the Edmunds crew doesn’t like its Tesla Model S.

On to the original article…

tesla model s

I’m completely aware that people can have their own preferences and opinions, but one of my friends (and a regular CleanTechnica reader) recently noticed that the crew at Edmunds has quite the negative opinion of the Tesla Model S… despite the car being pretty widely considered the best mass-manufactured car in the world. Of course, some auto journalists think their job is just to nitpick and give “surprisingly critical” views on cars. But it’s hard not to think that some people at Edmunds are on the wrong side of Tesla stock.

If you jump over to the Edmunds long-term Tesla Model S road test, the most recent posts are all very obviously negative. Here are titles and excerpts for the three most recent:

March-11 Title

March 11 intro

March-10 Title

March 10 introMarch-3 Title

March 3


And this one is a bit funny: apparently, the writer had run down a list of things missing from the Model S and accidentally included the Homelink universal garage door opener. So, to fix the matter, the writer followed up with an article about how the Homelink is too complicated.

Tesla-Model-S-Homelink Title

Tesla Model S Homelink


Now, I really didn’t want to assume the worst, so I thought, “Well, they probably covered all the awesome stuff right at the beginning, and now they’re just covering surprising problems they find in order to get people’s attention and have something new to say.” So, I scrolled down to the first articles in the “long-term road test” archives. Surprisingly, they were also very negative. Just look at the titles:

June 19

June 20

June 21

Well, that’s one way to start a long-term review of the Tesla Model S.

Frankly, I’m not accusing anyone of anything, but it’s sort of odd that the car with the highest customers satisfaction rating according to Consumer Reports, and also the highest rating ever given by the Consumer Reports staff, seems to be such a pain in the butt to Edmunds staff.

Via Mr Energy Czar

Top image via Tesla Motors. All other images are screenshots of Edmunds.com pages.

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Zach is tryin' to help society help itself one word at a time. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director, chief editor, and CEO. Zach is recognized globally as an electric vehicle, solar energy, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, Canada, and Curaçao. Zach has long-term investments in Tesla [TSLA], NIO [NIO], Xpeng [XPEV], Ford [F], ChargePoint [CHPT], Amazon [AMZN], Piedmont Lithium [PLL], Lithium Americas [LAC], Albemarle Corporation [ALB], Nouveau Monde Graphite [NMGRF], Talon Metals [TLOFF], Arclight Clean Transition Corp [ACTC], and Starbucks [SBUX]. But he does not offer (explicitly or implicitly) investment advice of any sort.

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69 thoughts on “Hatin’ On The Tesla Model S Seems To Be An Edmunds Pastime

    • You’ve made a good and important point.

    • i agree 100%, consumer reports is the only true real word on cars. These guys are 100% sell outs to the auto industry.

      • But Consumer Reports rates the reliability of the 2013 Model S as “Below Average”, per a subscriber survey: http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/tesla/model-s/reliability.htm. Please note that they detail areas where the car has problems.

        Seems that Consumer Reports reliability rating of the car reflects Edmunds’ experience with the car…..

        • URLs seems to be shortened in comments on this site: append /cro/tesla/model-s/reliability.htm to http://www.consumerreports.org to see the Consumer Reports reliability rating of the car.

  • “so devoid of passion”

    Huh? There is hardly a car manufacturer in the world that feels so passionate about their product than Tesla. That passion shines through in the product. But probably they mistake “noise and smoke” for ‘passion’ or ‘soul’.

    The more praise Tesla gets, the more cars it sells, the more so-called skeptics need to dump their negativity. It’s part of their genes, they can’t help it. Iconoclasts.

    • Yeah, that one bewildered me, cracked me up, and made me drop my head all at the same time.

      • Makes sense to me, the lack of engine noise is a legitimate complaint for those who love it.

        • The fun thing was, he wasn’t actually complaining. He just… Well, sort of felt guilty — for ‘cheating on’ his beloved internal combustion engine vehicles. With a wide, Tesla Smile.

    • This was one of the tongue-in-cheek articles. Read it to see what I mean.

  • So the biggest complaints they can muster are nitpicks about interior design choices and minor problems in nonessential systems? I don’t think Tesla has too much to worry about here.

    • Yeah. Pretty much. Once Tesla Motors does what I’m sure we all expect they will do: greatly improve the car — all the nitpicks will vanish into the ether.

      – If a 240 KWh battery becomes standard, for the same price — what then?

      – If the car gets map pockets, storage bins galore, hefty armrests, and the prerequisite 3.5 cupholders for every passenger — what then?

      – If you can get a Full Charge from under 25% to 90% in five minutes or less — what then?

      – If you get a Cruising Range of 450-to-600+ miles per charge — what then?

      – When the reliability of the Tesla Model S, and Tesla vehicles as a whole, reaches a point where it is sustainably proficient on all levels – what then?

      Well, some guys will still complain about how much they miss the growl of a throaty V8 — right through the Tesla Smiles on their lips. That’s what will happen then.

    • Edmunds, in the grand majority of their articles, loved the Tesla Model S as well. They knew they were nitpicking, and slapped themselves on the hand for that numerous times. But they did have some really bad experiences as well. Which is unfortunate for all involved.

      • Thanks for that. I didn’t go through all the articles, just the recent ones and the beginning ones — guess the middle ones are where all the good stuff is?

    • And Consumer Reports rates the reliability of the 2013 Model S as “Below Average”, per their subscriber survey: http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/tesla/model-s/reliability.htm. Please note that they detail areas where the car has problems.
      Seems that Consumer Reports reliability rating of the car reflects Edmunds’ experience with the car…..

      • URL was shortened in the above comment: append /cro/tesla/model-s/reliability.htm to http://www.consumerreports.org to see the Consumer Reports reliability rating of the car.

  • Zachary, what a dishonest article! You are risking having Edmunds sue cleantechnica.com.

    You skip Edmunds’ praises of the Tesla Model S and their worst findings, one of which happens to be adjacent to a report you list — the one where the drive unit is replaced the second time and the large battery is replaced for the first time, after leaving the driver and his son stranded next to a highway entrance ramp in the dark while the Tesla cannot be moved off the roadway and its flashers dying. Put yourself in the driver’s place: would you ever want to drive the Tesla again?

    And Edmunds’ more minor criticisms are on-par with criticisms of other non-electric cars. Besides the Dodge Dart, none of the other cars are having the major problems which the Tesla is having.

    I and Edmunds are enthusiastic about the possibilities with electric cars. Ignoring the many shortcomings of the Tesla Model S will not make it a better car. Maybe it will help those long on its stock in the short term, but even that will not help you if Edmunds sues!

    (Btw, I have not shorted the stock and generally considering shorting a bad investment since most companies work hard to succeed, which ends up hurting shorts. And, frankly, I hope Tesla does succeed).

    • Btw, while Consumer Reports rated the car very, very high, its overall reliability rating of the car is the non-stellar “Average” and the 2013 Model S’s reliability rating is “Below Average” — reflecting Edmunds’ experience.

      • I’m fairly certain that Consumer Reports also noted those rankings of ‘Average’ and ‘Below Average’ were specifically because of the fact it was the first vehicle built from the ground up by Tesla Motors. They felt it would not be fair to give the Tesla Model S their ‘Recommended Buy’ status, because there was no history to base that upon. So in the case of this vehicle ‘Average’ means it meets expectations on the day of delivery. And ‘Below Average’ means they can’t reasonably expect the same reliability as other, established brands. It did not mean, as you intimate, they were predicting the Tesla Model S was a verifiable hunk of junk.

        • My point is that Edmunds and Consumer Reports both seem to love the car and both have found reliability issues with the car. I was not intimating anything else.
          You misrepresented Consumer Report’s “Below Average” reliability rating of the 2013 Tesla Model S. http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/tesla/model-s/reliability.htm clearly shows areas of the car where responders to their subscriber survey rated the car’s reliability as “Worse”: “Squeaks & Rattles” and “Body Hardware”.
          Frankly, I love the basic ideas behind the Tesla Model S, and I would have bought one by now, if I had not seen the problems reported at Edmunds and Tesla forums and backed by Consumer Reports reliability rating. I once bought a beautiful, fast sports car 15 years ago ignoring reported reliability issues; I loved the car when it ran well, but it was a nightmare when it didn’t. Never again!

          • Alas, URL was shortened in the above comment: append /cro/tesla/model-s/reliability.htm to http://www.consumerreports.org to see the Consumer Reports reliability rating of the car.

          • The link was shortened but it remained functional.

          • Gotcha.

    • Sue?

      I wrote the article about my impressions of the coverage. Should I have chosen different impressions?

      As I noted, I even figured that the more recent articles were just a result of having covered all the good stuff, which is why I jumped down to the bottom to see the first posts.

      Sorry, if I wasn’t shocked by the negative focus, I wouldn’t have thought it was anything abnormal worth covering.

    • Btw, i did see that one about the Tesla breakdown. I didn’t include it since I didn’t think it fit this story. This story was about subjective the nitpicks, not objective issues like the car breaking down.

      I also noticed one or two positive-looking ones. I didn’t really see the point in adding that initially. (If every single article was negative, that would be super sketchy, and how could there not be some positive articles about this car?) However, since it seems you thought I deceived people by not including that (even though it’s very easy for them to just click over and see the full range of articles), I included an update at the top of the article. My intention was not to deceive anyone, of course. That would be sort of ridiculous.

    • Wrong. Edmunds is clearly biased against Tesla.
      Their breakdown article sounded fishy and low on details.
      Similar to the NYT.

      The Tesla received the highest customer satisfaction rating in the history of Consumer Reports which involved hundreds and hundreds of Teslas making Edmunds claims that much more suspicious. They’re other long term tests don’t seem nearly as negative.

      They are very financially entangled with gas car makers and dealers so it is really no surprise.

      Try and catch up.

      • Looks like we have the “Try and catch up.” guy here. You don’t even have to remember his username, because you can tell who he is just reading his rhetoric.

        • There is a big difference between rhetoric and facts.

          You should get someone to explain it to you.

          Try and catch up.

          • Most of what you say is just rhetoric, and your slogan is getting old, so you should pick a new one.

            BTW, I’m a fan of Tesla.

          • Glad you are a fan of Tesla but you are a liar.

            Show us all where I post more rhetoric than facts.

          • More mellow, please.

    • I wonder how many Fords or Chevys broken down in the middles of train tracks.

        • I think he is referring to the tried and true trope that is overused in movies and television, where a vehicle always seems to break down on a train track, just before a freight train comes through. Not actually likely to happen. Just as exploding battery packs, burned down garages, and electrocuted Tesla Motor S owners are nil and none between.

    • Um, you shouldn’t try to intimidate the writer with threats of lawsuits, especially when that thought is utter nonsense. And of course, he didn’t just fall off the turnip truck yesterday — no one is going to spend a dime on a lawsuit about nothing. Try again.

  • NBC/MSNBC.com were likewise full of negative articles, but those seem to have gone away…at least for now.
    Of course, Tesla doesn’t use TV advertisements, either….

  • I say they are nitpicking for they have to write about something on a weekly basis. I have followed their other long term reviews and it’s not much worse, though they do seem to forget this is the first car Tesla has made from the ground up. They should do long term tests on Ford’s model T or the BMW 3/15, they are very unforgiving and seem to forget that this is totally new ground that Tesla is covering and as such there will be growing pains. I remember when Cadillac SRX engines were blowing their pistons through the hood if you didn’t fill up with premium. Cadillac ATS manual has problems stalling on people mid corner. All cars have problems, at least this one tells you when it’s about to go down.

    • Thanks for the note. Appreciate the comparison and perspective. I haven’t looked at their other long-term reviews. Don’t follow gasmobile news, so never really venture over there.

      • You hadn’t read any of their other long term reviews, yet decided that it is appropriate to write a whole article about Edmunds specifically hating on the Model S? *shaking my head*

        • So the point of their long-term reviews is just to nitpick? That seems like a rather unbalanced way to write.

          • If you read a few of them, you’d probably figure out the purpose pretty quickly.

          • They aren’t so much a ‘review’ as perhaps a journal, or diary, when it comes to the Long Term Reports. Some are better than others. Some are downright resourceful and informative. Others are chock full of nitpicks. Again, taken in their entirety, they are largely positive. Some of the Tesla Motors detractors, who post messages on each article, have accused them of taking it ‘too easy’ on the Tesla Model S, multiple times.

    • Or every time Tesla catches fire, their stocks fall, I don’t see Chevy or Ford having that problem. Tesla is making history. People are scared of change

      • Tesla stock prices are in the ‘very speculative’ range. That makes them much more volatile.

  • Of course, if the reviewer had read the owner’s manual, he would have known the volume knob is right there on the left side of the steering wheel. The digital volume control in the photo is for the passenger.

    • The funny thing is that the volume knob is featured (visibly, at least) in a complaint about the steering wheel’s controls.

    • Yeah. He almost parenthetically mentioned that he doesn’t like the left thumb wheel. Basically, he wants to use a knob, because he’s always used a knob. Now, where’s that 1957 Tesla Model S…? Perhaps he’d be happier with that version.

      • Hey, Tesla has a steering-wheel-mounted shifter, just like many 1950s cars!

        • Yup. Right at your fingertips. I guess it’s better than being mounted in the center of the 17″ display, right? 😉 I don’t know about you, but when Honda starting mounting their sticks up there, I was like… What?

  • I believe Zachary is being completely fair.

    I’ve always found Edmunds to be biased against Tesla and often make comments that prove their extreme ignorance of the car and how to use it.

    Here is some evidence that actually shows great dishonesty on Edmunds part:

    John O’Dell a senior green car editor at Edmunds wrote:

    “Today, progressive dealerships around the country representing every automaker are creating experiences that make car buying easier and deliver a high level of customer satisfaction.”

    Here are the actual facts: The Consumer Federation of America reported in 2013 that misrepresentation in advertising or sales of new and used cars, lemons, faulty repairs, leasing and towing disputes” was the top source of consumer complaints to state officials, as it had been in previous years.

    A 2000 report by a Goldman Sachs analyst estimated that direct sales would save consumers $2,225 per new car, assuming an average vehicle price of $26,000 – and that was 14 years ago!

    It shows that Edmunds is a huge believer in the status quo, no matter how unfair it is to consumers. It make sense that Edmunds would try to put down disruptive tech and selling methods in favor of the old.

  • Consérvatives living in the Fox News bubble.

  • Earlier today I finished reading the logs at Edmunds.com, covering their long term test of the Tesla Model S. I read several months of them, starting around May or June 2013, through the most recent post. I also made sure to read the comments by readers on each of those articles.

    Initially, I felt the same as the author here. It seemed that Edmunds was being unusually harsh on the Tesla Model S. Then I realized they weren’t really. The actual tone of most of the articles was lighthearted, or tongue-in-cheek. The writers were in fact rather giddy about the car. But somehow, that left them feeling a bit too like schoolboys/schoolgirls in the playground. They didn’t feel sufficiently professional. So the more they tried to find something, anything, to criticize about the car, the more ridiculous it got. Throughout, they admitted that they were nitpicking. And more often than not, they ended on a high note, saying how much they really, really liked the car a lot.

    Now they did have mechanical problems. Some of them were really, truly, very bad. Undoubtedly in the ‘lemon’ category — though it was all fixed at no cost under warranty. Ultimately I think, even for the Edmunds staff, when the Tesla Model S works just right… It’s the most spectacular thing in the world — even after the problems they had.

    Apparently they usually sell their long term test cars when done with them. I would suggest that they actually keep this one, for a full three-to-five years. They installed the High Power Wall Charger at their facility at considerable expense. The car might as well stay there to take full advantage of it. If it were my car, I’d drive it until the wheels came off. Then I’d put more wheels on it, and keep driving. Maybe they should do the same?

    • They did drive it “until the wheels came off”…and that happened at less then 10K miles due to the rear tire alignment issue. I want to love this car…but if I had to replace the battery and drive unit…I’d be somewhat upset. I thank Edmunds for the test.

      • Yup! They did it — twice — and are still driving. Just as I would be. That’s why I mentioned it. It was overall a great test, with an excellent, thorough, and fair series of reports. 😉

    • Thanks for that. Very useful. I think I read 8-10. Regarding para #2, I guess I had the opposite feeling about the same thing. I felt like many of them said a few nice things because, well, how couldn’t they? But mostly focused on negatives. It almost seemed to be like, “I’m not biased, really, it’s a pretty decent car, but……..”

      • I used to review videogames, years ago. I was always harder on the games I liked the most. I would look, very hard, to find the flaws, so that I could bring them to the attention of people who might find that a deal breaker. On the other hand, if I didn’t like a game, I went out of my way to find anything at all that might be a virtue within it. I suspect that automobile journalists are much the same in that regard, if they are honest.

        Online, I tell people that all my posts are ‘Closed Captioned for the Humour Impaired’. That is to say, if something I write seems as if it could be either: 1) Cold-hearted, cruel, and mean; or instead 2) Light-hearted, kind, and helpful; you may trust that my intention is the latter. I rather hope that a lot of other writers share that position.

  • I don’t think Edmunds is alone in this negative slant. I noticed similar wording on TorqueNews. I wonder if this is just that most traditional auto sites have people who like traditional cars and have suspicions of EVs. Here are a couple of examples of articles on TorqueNews.

    A couple of titles under Tesla “Another fire involving a Tesla Model S comes just days before earnings report” and “Fix in sight regarding Tesla Model S charging fire recall” In regards to the first, it is almost not due to the Tesla where it is mentioned by the fire department that the fire started in the “engine area” and they are looking at the frunk. In the second, software fix was done a long time ago, and I haven’t heard of a fire with a Tesla charging (which surely would have made the news if there was one) since the software update. In contrast, here are a couple of articles regarding GM recalls on the same site “Chevrolet Cobalt Ignition/Airbag Recall Isn’t as Deadly as Some Suggest” and “GM recalls 1.3 million SUVs because consumers don’t pay attention to warning lights”. Now we clearly see that the ignition/airbag problem is quite serious with some suggesting that over 300 fatalities may be attributed to the problem. The tone of the second puts the blame for the problem squarely on the owners. If that is the case, there would not be a need for a recall.

    • I spent the last couple of days reading several months of Edmunds’ logs for their long term test of the Tesla Model S. The overall tone is not actually negative. It is instead so positive, that they often spend so much time talking about what they do at the places they go in the car, that they hardly mention the vehicle at all.

      Yes, I know this is pure speculation, but: I think they sort of feel guilty for liking it so much. I think they feel bad, knowing that considering the problems they have had, some readers will expect them to write off the car entirely. I think they know they aren’t going to do that.

      The car is just too much of a joy to drive.

      • You are right. I should have read more of Edmund’s long term test drive. I don’t think they are as biased as Torque News.

    • Wow, that’s interesting stuff.

      And, yes, that first point crossed my mind several times. These guys & gals love cars, gasmobiles. They spend 99.9% of their work time about gasmobiles. How many of them are really eager to drop all that for EVs.

      Frankly, I was thinking of writing another article about this titled, “Will Gearheads Be The Last To Go Electric?”

      A lot of the EV lovers say they “were never car guys.” It’s a different tech in so many ways.

      Of course, there are also the folks like Bob Lutz, Elon Musk, Carlos Ghosn, our friends over at Gas2.org, etc who love cars but love the electric revolution we’re headed into.

      • Oh, I’m definitely a ‘car guy’. Not necessarily the same as others, but I am. The biggest difference really is in what makes me happy about cars, as opposed to what those other guys want.

        See, I really like to drive.

        The other guys really want to operate a machine. That’s why they hate automatic transmissions. They are positive that no matter what the engineers who designed a vehicle think, they can decide for themselves what gear is best to use when taking a turn and ‘exploring the limits’ of a car.

        They enjoy ‘taming’ the machine that is at their fingertips. That’s why they want a car to be comfortable, but not ~*too*~ cushy. They want it to be controllable, but willing to go out of control at a moment’s notice. They want to spend time ‘under the hood’, tinkering, wrenching, adjusting, tuning… ‘improving’ a car, because it couldn’t possibly be ‘good enough’ from the factory. They are seeking a challenge, of themselves, if not the car.

        I just want to drive.

        So, the Tesla Model S, which makes the whole process so simply, unabashedly, almost absurdly… ~*simple*~ to go fast, and do so well, perplexes them. I recognize that fact, because they felt the same, exact way about the Acura NS-X twenty-five years ago. They couldn’t believe that the car was that good. So in comparison tests, even when the Acura NS-X beat the utter living bejeezus out of their beloved favorites in every single instrumented test — they would still reward the Porsche 911 as victor. Every time.

        Yes, they said it was because of ‘passion’ and ‘confidence’ then too.

        Me? I like to drive. I want the vehicle to be transparent, so I can have a relationship with the road. I want to negotiate that road in the cleanest, fastest, most efficient manner possible. To me, the car is just a speed delivery device. You know, the same way that spaghetti gets me my marinara sauce. I don’t care if I ever hold a wrench or see the innards of an engine bay ever again.

        I want to drive.

        Over and over again, multiple professional journalists that cover the automotive field have registered the same observation, if not actually a complaint, about the Tesla Model S. “It looks like it was designed by Silicon Valley programmers…” I just laugh. They don’t mention that the most popular vehicle designs for the past 25 years, whether for Japanese, European, or American car companies — were designed on CAD systems in California.

        Those poor, old guys. I can’t help it that there was no 1932, 1957, or 1978 Tesla Motors vehicle around for them to ‘get used to’ or ‘grow fond of’ over the years. There probably should have been, but you know — Nikola Tesla was railroaded sixty ways to Sunday.

        I really like to drive.

        • FWIW, the tinkerers are going to have a field day when they crack the software.

          • I suspect that somewhere, out there, dedicated Tuner/Hackers are working their way through the firmware of the Tesla Model S as we speak. 😉

            If you think about it, the car was basically tuned for ‘Econo-Sport’ operation from the factory. So it is balanced to allow a certain minimum amount of thrills, that are tied to a certain maximum level of range. Or vice-versa, dependent upon your point of view.

            With an 85 KWh battery, they potentially could have tuned it as strictly economy. Maxing the top speed at like, 80… Limiting 0-60 to only 8 seconds or so… Extending the range with much less aggressive gearing to something like 400+ miles. That would have made the car very practical. And extremely boring.

            They also could have gone the other way… It’s top speed is limited to 130 mph – the same as the BMW 3-Series
            cars. With a claimed coefficient of drag at 0.24, it should be able to
            reach a higher top speed if they wanted it to. What if that were boosted so that it could reach 180 mph instead? Of course, the battery would likely last — exactly one hour at that rate. Just enough juice to reach another Supercharger. 😉 So they’d have a luxury electric supercar with no efficient operational parameters whatsoever. You’d spend more time on the charger than you did driving anywhere.

            I hope that tuners keep these extremes in mind, once they ‘crack the code’ of the Tesla Model S. Sure, it would be great to see a tuned version on the Long Beach Grand Prix street circuit, set up to use all the power in a 30 minute timed race, blowing the doors off of a modified 12-cylinder BMW M5 and lapping the Nissan GT-R… with four passengers along for the ride. But in the real world, that sort of power discharge would be ridiculous.

  • Worth noting: the model S DOES have a volume knob. (Left scroll wheel on the steering wheel.) Geez!

  • Sourcing consumer reports removes all credibility in this article. They are the kings of bias and payola.

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