Tesla has done amazing work pioneering electric vehicles and forcing positive change toward EVs within the broader industry. But the company will risk its progress and investor enthusiasm if it’s first “mass market” vehicle — the new Model 3 — is unreliable.
And so far, the news is not good. Green Car Reports just reviewed the Model 3 and had this to report:
During the test itself, two things became clear: The Model 3 works largely as intended, and the build quality was the worst we have seen on any new car from any maker over the last 10 years.
The company was reviewing a car that had just been delivered in January, as production was ramped up at Tesla’s Fremont factory. The owner was not pleased with the vehicle:
We took delivery of our Model 3 today. It looked like everything was working OK until we got within about 10 miles of the house. That was when the touchscreen started to malfunction.
It is getting random touches along the right side of the screen. The worst part is that the stereo will go to full volume without notice. It also makes the map and navigation mostly useless. I called Tesla and they had me try rebooting the screen several times.
Unfortunately it didn’t resolve the issue. They said they would call me back [within 24 hours] to attempt a software update or to schedule a service call. Nothing like paying $50,000 to be a beta tester. Again.
I hope this is just a stroke of really bad luck for Tesla. But the higher-end Models S and X have also had these quality problems, although with an upper-income clientele that is more forgiving and able to weather having to bring their car to the shop. But the Model 3 is supposed to be an every day car for middle class buyers. So a reputation for unreliability could undermine that claim.
Tesla is relying on its brand as an innovative 21st century high-tech company with a luxury good. And certainly any new model car can have its growing pains, as we’ve seen for example with the otherwise high-quality Chevy Bolt EV. But if more stories about the cars falling apart surface, Tesla’s very survival could eventually be at stake.