Tesla and Consumers Reports Are Fighting Again

Jason Siu
by Jason Siu

Tesla isn’t very happy that Consumer Reports gave the Model 3 a Predicted Reliability rating without even testing the car.

Consumer Reports recently released its Annual Reliability Survey and it predicted the Model 3 will have average reliability based on the amount of technology it shares with the Model S. The publication’s subscribers rated the Model S above average for the first time in the annual survey, but the Model X continues to struggle and is actually the least reliable car in this year’s study. Speaking to Bloomberg, Jake Fisher, the magazine’s director of auto testing said, “They realize that it’s important to get this car right. We would’ve not predicted average for the Model 3 unless we saw above-average data for the Model S. If the Model S was still just average, we would’ve not made that prediction.”

Not surprising, a Tesla spokeswoman released a statement on Consumer Reports‘ predicted reliability rating: “Consumer Reports has not yet driven a Model 3, let alone do they know anything substantial about how the Model 3 was designed and engineered. Time and time again, our own data shows that Consumer Reports‘ automotive reporting is consistently inaccurate and misleading to consumers.”

Consumer Reports has since fired back, releasing a lengthy statement of its own. The publication clarified the reliability expectation is based on its 2017 Annual Reliability Survey, which measures the dependability of a vehicle as opposed to the satisfaction, of more than 300 car models, using the responses of individual owners of more than 640,000 vehicles. To make the prediction, Consumer Reports uses survey data it receives from those car owners to predict the expected reliability of new cars being introduced to the market by looking at the automaker’s historic results, separate from hands-on road tests it uses for its overall score.

To arrive at a predicted reliability for the Model 3, the publication looked at over 2,000 consumer survey responses about Tesla models. It reiterated that the Model S has above average reliability for the first time ever and the Model S is currently the magazine’s top rated car, period. But like all those that have pre-ordered the Model 3, Consumer Reports is still waiting for its car since the publication purchases the vehicles it tests.

“Thanks to technological advances such as product changes delivered by an over-the-air software update and thereby adding or subtracting features, we reevaluate products to inform consumers about what to expect after any update,” said Consumer Reports in a statement. “These changes are then reflected in our ratings. Tesla frequently updates its software in just this way, which is relatively unique in the automotive market, often resulting in material changes to its products and therefore our ratings — both positively and negatively. It also happens to drive more frequent press coverage given the need to communicate product changes to consumers.”

“While our reliability survey data feeds into the overall score we give any product, that is just one input,” the publication added. “As with all the cars we review, you can rest assured that we will thoroughly test and evaluate the Model 3 with the same care and scrutiny we apply to all the cars we test just as soon as we can get one — we’re waiting patiently along with other consumers.”

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Jason Siu
Jason Siu

Jason Siu began his career in automotive journalism in 2003 with Modified Magazine, a property previously held by VerticalScope. As the West Coast Editor, he played a pivotal role while also extending his expertise to Modified Luxury & Exotics and Modified Mustangs. Beyond his editorial work, Jason authored two notable Cartech books. His tenure at AutoGuide.com saw him immersed in the daily news cycle, yet his passion for hands-on evaluation led him to focus on testing and product reviews, offering well-rounded recommendations to AutoGuide readers. Currently, as the Content Director for VerticalScope, Jason spearheads the content strategy for an array of online publications, a role that has him at the helm of ensuring quality and consistency across the board.

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