Tesla Model III Won’t Need Consumer Reports Recommendation

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Originally published on TeslaMondo.

The latest rhetorical question in the press goes something like this: “Will Model III customers revolt if reliability proves only so-so, or will they accept flaws because they really, really love Tesla?”

Tesla youth: “Red dots? We don’t need no stinkin’ red dots.”
Tesla youth: “Red dots? We don’t need no stinkin’ red dots.”

TeslaMondo foresees the following:

  1. The order book for the III will surpass anything we’re imagining. Remember how Tesla Energy triggered a mudslide of pre-orders? Something like that. Why? Because the primary Model III demographic, as with other EVs, will be youngish. And the younger the better for Tesla. Millennials in particular see Musk as a hero.
  2. Model III reliability will likely mimic Model S, which means CR will report average to below average for a few years. That’s due to the newness of the platform and the pressure on Tesla to fill orders. Lots of ’em.
  3. The Model III will punch above its weight class. In other words, it will attract people who could easily afford much more expensive cars but simply don’t want to spend the dough. They will support the “movement” without digging too deep. Think Prius effect. Model III will get plenty of endorsement from influential people, as with the Prius. However, Tesla won’t build a geekmobile. So think Prius with pecs.

So putting this together, we’ll have a young-ish, wealthy-ish, super-psyched customer base ordering aspirational, high-performance, high-visibility vehicles that have middling reliability stats, at least initially. So back to the question: Will we see a revolt? No. We’ll see a level of forgiveness that reeks of unfairness to other brands, especially Japanese ones. Red dots from Consumer Reports won’t matter much, for a couple of reasons.

First, the average CR subscriber is 60 years old. The magazine has become a field guide for retirees. Its pre-paywall web presence barely exists. Hear that clock ticking?

Second, having a Model III will mean participation in something big and exciting. The car will transcend CR. It has kinks? All part of the experience. It’s something to tweet about.

Let’s not forget that cars are pretty reliable nowadays, so “average” in 2020 is tantamount to super-duper in 1990. And below average isn’t terrible. All the Model III needs to succeed is a “not terrible” in the reliability department, because every other aspect of ownership will be “much better than average,” to use CR terminology.

Is this prediction of immunity just a heap of rah-rah nonsense from a pro-Tesla blog? Maybe, but then again, we’ve already seen plenty of forgiveness with the Roadster and Model S. Tesla customers don’t leave due to mere product flaws. They’re thrilled that the product even exists. They love the brand, and the CEO’s attitude, and the negation of big auto, big oil, the local car dealer and local gas station. Model III will take all of this and crank it up to 11 for a younger crowd. You think the Model X unveiling resembled a rock concert? Wait ’till the Model III kickoff.

Reprinted with permission.

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69 thoughts on “Tesla Model III Won’t Need Consumer Reports Recommendation

  • Consumer Reports subscriber base may be older, but so are most new car buyers.

    “The average new car buyer is now 51.7 years old and earns about $80,000 per year, while the average age of the population is 36.8 years old and the median income is roughly $50,000”


    Most people only buy a car every 3-6 years and when they do a *LOT* of them head on over to the library or pick up annual the “car issue”. There is no other reason for Honda and Toyota to be outselling all other medium and compact brands.

    • I have never picked up CR for anything let alone cars. I can get input from millions online without having to put my pants on. Toyota is king of reliability (for now) and have a great reputation for being green because of the prius. that’s why they’re king.

      Bought my last car online without ever seeing it in person. Might as well have been on Amazon…actually, I would have preferred that as they typically have tons of reviews (and most of them aren’t fake).

      Check out (from the library) the book “The Toyota Way” that companies have been eating up over the last 10 years in an attempt to mimic their manufacturing best practices to deliver comparable reliability and quality.

      • Heck, I met my wife online 13 years ago.

      • I rely on Consumer Reports for many other things. The main reason is they are the most objective because they take no advertising. Therefore they are beholden to no one…

        • What’s neat about this particular site is that we get to write about whatever we think you will find interesting, from any angle, any time. I feel very unbiased though I will admit, I’m not a fan of climate deniers, diesel drivers and lazy people…so there’s that. …and I’m beholden to my wife and kids. Just don’t ask me to write something back about the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and I think we’re good 🙂

    • You see the way the Fan-Boys work, now Consumer Reports is the enemy.
      They are the “bad guys.”

      • That’s true for most fan boys for any brand and certainly applies here.
        that said, I do think the article makes some very good point. 97% of model S owners are extremely happy as per a recent survey. It just goes on to say that the product offered by Tesla is really far ahead (although not without glitches) of competitors and as of now is backed up with really good service.
        If the Model X can rack up 30,000 pre orders with down payment, do you really doubt it for Model 3?

        • It’s laughable. Just exactly what are the ‘reliability’ problems. From something I read a few days ago, they said some electric motors had to be replaced. Other than that, which requires clarification (because the latest brushless motors have only one moving part, the armature) and some door handles not hiding themselves, what else? The CR story lacks specifics, it’s just making allegations for negative effect.
          And the neg effect is bouncing right off anyone who owns a Tesla. Polls show that 100% of Tesla owners would buy another electric car and 93% would only buy another Tesla.
          What other company can make such claims? Nothing even close. Line ups to buy cars that aren’t built yet, the other companies must start each day with the same mantra, ” figure out how they do it or die trying”.

      • Consumer Reports have Bad Mouthed all hybrids from day one.
        I own a Honda Insight, for example, this car has has Zero Problems, and No handling problems.

        You’d think this car was a disaster from CU’s perspective.
        Yet it returns money like a HOT INVESTMENT to it’s owners and is fun to drive.

        CU statistics have two problems:
        Bashing Hybrids = Non-Selection Bias. Hybrid buyers don’t participate in CU statistics.
        Self-Selection Bias: Users with bad cars overreport issues.

        Only a True Random Sample will give you accurate statistics.
        IF Tesla was as bad as CU says, they’d be out of business.

        • Let’s see. Consumer reports does recommend the Prius and said the Model S broke their performance ratings scale. If you compare the Model S to other high end sedans it doesn’t do poorly on reliability. More bells and whistles usually means more problems. It seems the anti-hybrid bias is true amongst almost all traditional print auto reviewers. I believe it is because they are only living with any car for a short amount of time so are enamored by what happens on a test drive on drivers roads not the daily slog of commuting. I would base my purchase on customer satisfaction, my own test drive, and a quick check to make sure the long term reliability is not awful.

      • I agree with this. They were hero and wow, they showed everyone else how great King Tesla is…then they tuned it down a bit and now they don’t matter. I wouldnt call it fanboy or anything…they truly are great. On the same token, they truly aren’t perfect.

  • This. Exactly this. I’m just wondering if they’re going to pass the 200,000 vehicle mark (where federal tax credits stop) with preorders or a few weeks after.

    “They’re thrilled that the product even exists. They love the brand, and the CEO’s attitude, and the negation of big auto, big oil, the local car dealer and local gas station.”

    • Since the idea of the 220k mark was to get each manufacturer moving. Maybe the correct thing to do would be to say, sell all you can by end of 2016. Then take all that is left and spread them out to the the people making pure EVs in the USA then. If you are not going to help bring the price of EVs down, why should you get to join the party later and still get the EV price break.

      • I feel like an individual manufacture pool was a horrible mistake. Their is no competition and it benefits the manufactures who are late to the game. They should have used a collective pool instead.

        I hope they extend the credit. Preferably with a million car collective pool. Then every time Tesla, Nissan or chevy sells a car, the others will all know their is one less car in the pool.

        • There’s an election next year. If concerned people turn out in large enough numbers we could adjust the subsidy program.

          • Im confident we will get a pro green president in 2016 (and maybe, just maybe a pro green Senate) but house will be red at least through 2024. On the bright side by then we won’t need a subsidy.

            If you live in a swing state, VOTE!

          • If you live in a swinging state like Texas vote and get a lot of other people to vote. Drive states like Texas blue sooner than later.

          • Sorry, Texas is not a swing state. Still way too red. Just look, Texas is the state that sent Ted Cruz to Washington. Gerrymandering will keep the far right in power unless more people from California move here. There are too many rural areas with too many people that believe global warming and Obamacare are a Democrat scam. Oil and Gas still rule here despite the large wind farms in the west part of the state and progress being made in Austin and San Antonio on the solar front.

          • Texas has an emerging Hispanic majority (38.6%) . Add in a significant black population (12.4%) and the portion of whites (43.5%) who are liberal.

            If blacks and Hispanics wanted to they could make Texas blue today. But for some reason there hasn’t been the sort of organization needed to get them to exercise their political power.

          • Yes, Hispanics make up such a large portion of the population that there is actually a majority-minority of whites. Blacks and Hispanics voted in large numbers in 2008 and 2012, but the state still went red, by large margins. In 2014, nut jobs like Cruz got elected. With Republicans gerrymandering the districts and things like voter id laws to restrict access, it will be a long while before the state turns red. I wish it were not so, but Republicans control everything here.

          • The very existence of “swing states” tells me the voting system is crappy. Without proportional voting, there is no real democracy. But I really really count on a green movement awakening as the threat of climate changes grows to catastrophic results year on year..

        • Maybe after the Paris environment conference… One can dream…

    • I’d like to see an actual survey to back up the assertion that Tesla owners are mostly in it to get off of oil. From the impression I get reading the teslamotors.com/forum it seems like more are in it for the luxury, trendiness, horsepower, autonomous driving, etc. Almost everyone talks about getting a new car every 2-3 years, cycling through Porsche, Mercedes, Jaguar, or simply adding a Tesla to an existing collection of luxury cars. It’s never even hinted that anyone is buying Tesla to get off oil. Maybe that’s an undercurrent motivation, but I’m not so sure.

      On the other hand, the kind of people who can’t afford Model S
      but can afford Model 3 might be more in it for getting off oil… We’ll
      have to see.

      One thing that worries me is that it’s frequently mentioned that Tesla customer service is incredible and nothing like any other car they’ve owned, and I think that’s what keeps up customer satisfaction despite reliability problems. The problem is that I don’t know if Tesla can afford to keep giving such incredible service to buyers of a lower price model 3 with lower margins. Some people say they aren’t really even making money on Model S because they blow so much on service. One story I was reading had a Tesla “Ranger” (roaming service person) driving 480 miles and spending 7 hours fixing an error with keyfobs. He couldn’t fully fix it and had to drive out again later. This was all covered by the warranty but things like that have to be really expensive for Tesla to eat the cost of.

      • That’s some smart advertising spending. Spend to earn a reputation and your reputation will sell better than some ad space on the tubes.

      • Here’s a start at what you’re looking for. It would also be fantastic to see it by country. I would guess that the US would be in the “I bought it because my friends thought it was cool” crowd whereas europe is more conscious of the green aspects of the car. http://my.teslamotors.com/nl_BE/forum/forums/why-did-you-buy-tesla

    • The prices companies are hanging on their EV’s doesn’t seem to relate directly to the cost of making the cars. There is so much R&D, special manufacturing (aluminum bodies for example) and latent battery related overhead that prices reflect the accounting departments’ attempts to stay on the business plan schedule, more than the actual cost of production.
      I say this because my Chevy Spark EV costs $28k (I think) and an identical gas version costs about $13k. Anyone who has opened a hood can see that the gas car is wildly more complicated, has many more parts, and requires much more development and maintenance. The electric has fewer driveline parts than my vacuum cleaner.

      • I think you can see why EVs are on route to becoming cheaper to manufacture and cheaper to purchase than ICEVs. Certainly cheaper to keep running.

        Those hundreds/thousands of different pieces are going to be replaced with a lot of identical batteries.

  • Secondly, CU has lost the BIG PICTURE here.

    We’re in the midst of our own Self-Extinction Event.
    And Hybrids and EV’s are pretty much one of the few ways you can rapidly go Carbon Zero.

    For CU to bash these cars with bad statistics is damaging to Society.
    Who do they server? Oil or America.
    You cannot have two masters.

    • 40% of 5.1% of the population is about 2% of the people. 20 -24 year olds have a 9.1% unemployment rate for sure, but how many of them are going to school part time? 25 – 34 year olds have a 5.2% unemployment rate, so some college or even a degree plus some experience goes a long way.


  • The millennial millionaires are the market for Model S and not the Model III. There are 5 million millennial millionaires.


    As to the rest of them, on the average, they are saddled with $30,000 student debt that they won’t afford a Model III.


    And the median of the Millennial’s Retirement plan is $0, zilch, nada, zip!

    • 5 million millennial millionaires.

      That must mean many, many more millions of millennials making good salaries but not yet millionaires. Big Mod3 market. ;o)

  • I don’t get the argument that a new model necessarily starts with lower reliability. Well-run manufacturers like Toyota and VW produce reliable vehicles from the word go. I’ve got a first-year VW Touran and it’s been very reliable. It’s much more a matter of creating a Deming quality culture, with systems reinforcing training. Tesla have had to learn this, but they do seem to be good at learning. Unless they are making serious design mistakes, I would expect the new models to be about as reliable as the old ones.

    • I agree with your position. The learnings from ModS create a culture of quality that then percolates through to the ModX where we should expect 50-80% less defects and another cycle of improvement with Mod3 resulting in almost no defects.

      • Except that Tesla has never produced low defect cars. They don’t have the experience yet.
        Toyota has a culture of quality. Tesla has Musk talking, and a whole lot of employees figuring out production.

        • They will have several years of experience when Mod3 comes out.

    • Yes. However, the comparison is wrong. This is not just a new model of an existing type of car. Its a new kind of car. We should probably compare with the Leaf.

  • Hit the nail on the head!
    The model 3 will be a very nice, practical and reliable car. And who wouldn’t want the Tesla customer experience where they obviously love them. All the people i see driving them are smiling. By now the pent up interest for a nice affordable stylish EV is very high. Thats why some of the other manufacturers are going to also get in the game now. Because as Volvo put it, it is time.

    • My only debate is whether I should get a used ModS (or X) or a new Mod3 in 2 years…

    • “The model 3 will be a very nice, practical and reliable car.” I hope this turns out to be a true statement. We’ll know in Mar. 2016. With any luck, those horrible falcon wing doors won’t make it to the model 3.

      • I am sure the falcon wing doors are pretty cool. But definitely too high end for the two versions of the model 3. So no worries. Crossover or sedan? The crossover sounds interesting.

        • I would prefer a CUV or crossover with all wheel drive for snow. I’ll buy the sedan if the CUV is going to be a year later. Either way, “a very nice, practical and reliable car” from Tesla is what I’ve been waiting for since 2010.

          • We can only hope that Tesla uses what they have learned and does a fantastic car.

  • I disagree. The reliability expectations will be higher for the Model III as it is less exotic than the S and X. The Model III will be expected to perform as the only car in many households. It must be reliable to fulfill this role. If only the wealthy with multiple cars can afford it, then it has failed as a mass market vehicle.

    I’m not expecting it to beat Toyota, but should be on par with VW. The falcon wing doors and trick door knobs are not needed. It just needs to go from A to B with minimal drama. It needs to be a Leaf with better range and looks.

    • I’ve lost track of the ModS ‘flaws’.

      Problems with automatic door handles. Not likely to be a Mod3 feature.

      Drivetrain problems. Were they more than a squeaking sound that was remedied by inserting a shim? IIRC people had their drivetrains replaced because it was quicker to pull the noisy unit, stick in an upgraded unit, and send the one using a shim in for repair.

      Body noises. Seems like that could be a problem for any EV as they lack the masking noise of engines. Seems like those noises could be engineered out. Tesla may have to drive a few prototypes very fast over very rough ground for lots of miles in order to figure out what might make noise after years of normal driving.

      What other problems have been reported?

      • I understand this. Most of these issues have already been fixed, and the one’s that haven’t are being fixed. I don’t know how reliable the door handles are, but I do worry about the Model X’s doors, and I hope that the Model III doesn’t get saddled with any other high risk gimmicks. I fear Elon Musk thinks too much like a silicon valley entrepreneur, valuing fancy features over reliability. Tesla has an excellent product however, I need them to succeed. Those shares are part of my retirement.

      • Tesla replaced a few battery packs under warranty early on. Don’t hear much like that now. I hear of no motor issues. That’s why the raw data would be useful. We don’t know how events should be weighted.
        Reading about the drive train issue, I find 2013 units have a failure mode. It sounds like the reduction gear. Teslas electric motors have so much torque, I suspect they are giving gears a hard time. Reports say the motor still makes whirring. Then it’s the gears. Musk increased the warranty .

  • Electric car not reliable becaause not enough range or not enough charging point this can make sense but because the drive train or dor handles thats unbelievable

    • And omar brings the FUD.

    • Whaaaat?

      • I suspect the guy playing omar is attempting to play the fool.

        • Not quite – I read omar’s comment as:-
          “Saying that electric cars are not reliable because there aren’t enough charging points or the car doesn’t have enough range is understandable, but saying that they are not reliable just because the cars have a few dodgy drive trains and/or door handles is just unbelievable”

          • This is exactly what i want to say. Some times i see that i need to blow out my idea even with bad expression but i know i will have the chance to adjust it until to be understandable, but looks like some people here ride there first understanding and start there comments engine based on it!

          • Then either type slower and re-read what you wrote 5 times before you hit ‘Post as omar’ or live with the consequences.. I did understand your post in the same way as Bob.

          • I you are really struggling with English then you might try writing your comment in your ‘first’ language and using Google Translate to turn it into English. Then take a close look at how it translates. That might be a good way to improve your English. At least a good way to be understood.

  • I would also mention fleets of taxis, governments agencies, companies who will switch to Tesla to save money on gasoline!!! This will be huge, Tesla will not be able to meet the demand for years to come, and I am so excited about it, it’s time for the dirty and polluting cars to go away once and forever.With regards to CR, am I sure Musk will score again with model 3!!

    • Going to be interesting to see if the long range, ~$35k GM Bolts, Nissan Leafs or Tesla Mod3s will turn out the be the best taxi.

      I’ve got a feeling that if one of the companies released a slightly stretched version that had sweet rear passenger space they could take the market.

      Bump the roof up a bit in the rear to allow for very easy entrance/exit?

    • Fleets that put lots of miles on a Model S will have to replace the battery packs more often.

      • Once every 200,000 miles unless you’re thinking always using Superchargers which may or may not shorten battery life.

        Musk has said that he thinks drivers can expect 200k out of their batteries. We’ll have to wait and see, obviously.

        • And by the time most drivers need to replace a battery, they will be, say, 8-10 years down the road. At that time a new battery will be maybe half the price and double the mileage? I suspect that there will be a lot of potential new car buyers deciding to simply keep their old EV and enjoy the new battery. And they can take the old battery and use it for storage at home.

          • Yesterday I read a claim of 2,000 full discharge cycles for the Tesla battery before it degrades to 80%.

            2,000 cycles with a 250 mile batteries is 500,000 miles.

            If that’s true there will likely be no Tesla S battery replacements. After 200,000 miles the bodies and interiors will be tired. The cars will likely be driven by those who have the least to spend on a car.

          • A Tesla taxi on three shifts for 8 years could have 300,000 miles. The 8 year warranty covers failure, NOT range degradation. They are luck to have 70% range, so over 200 miles is now less than 140 miles and a new pack is $20,000.

          • Well, you could be right. A Tesla used as a taxi could pile up a lot of miles over 8 years.

            I don’t how you got from there to the word salad in your last sentence. And I certainly do not know how you would know the price of a new pack 8 years from now. At $100/kWh for cells rebuilding a 85 kWh pack would cost under $10k for parts.

  • I used to have this attitude toward our Focus Electric & Fusion Energi. I don’t feel that way now. The reason? Poor customer service by Ford. I think the key to Tesla maintaining their attraction is keeping up their excellent customer service. I’m not sure if they’ll be able to do that at Model III volumes. That might be a big challenge.

  • I would think Tesla’s increasing experience with automated production lines should translate into a very well built, reliable Model 3.
    I too have long been down on CR for not weighting climate change and environmental issues produced by tested vehicles far more heavily.
    I’d also like, but have never seen, a clear statement of just how they weight each item to come up with a score – would allow me to adjust ratings to suit my requirements.

    • Tesla seems to have made some design mistakes, which isn’t fixed in production. Hopefully they learn.
      All automakers have very similar production lines because they all buy equipment from the same companies. Tesla adding in a few more robots doesn’t mean much, except for PR.

  • I’ll say this, I’m 21 and have a decent income where I can afford a new car, but have held off for years for this car. As long as the thing is RWD and around $30,000, I’m going to buy one.

    • Why RWD?

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