Tesla Model S loses perfect track record as reliability deemed 'worse than average'

Tesla Model S

The Tesla Model S was dealt a major blow by a well-regarded review organization for having poor reliability.

Consumer Reports, which scored the Model S 103 out of 100 in its own road test, pulled its recommended designation for the Model S after receiving 1,400 survey responses that detailed a number of problem areas for the electric vehicle.

Reported issues included the drivetrain, power equipment and charging equipment. Owners also called out leaks, squeaks and rattles on the body of the car and sunroof, noises that may not be bothersome in a gas-powered vehicle but are ... annoying ... on the notoriously silent Model S.

The car's center console, a huge 17-inch touchscreen, also got dinged. Overall, the 2015 Model S scored worse than the 2014 version in climate control, steering and suspension systems. Drive system complaints also rose as the Model S got older.

For these numerous reasons, Consumer Reports had to take the Tesla down from its "average" prediction for reliability to worse than average, a slide that means it can't recommend it, either.

How the mighty have fallen: Consumer Reports literally broke its Ratings system when it rated the Model S, scoring it better for driving performance than any car it ever had before. Now, it can't even recommend the vehicle.

Testy Teslas

According to Consumer Reports, most complaints had to do with squeaks and rattles. Other problems though included door handles that don't pop out when a driver walked up to their car, warped brake rotors, wipers that didn't work and leaky battery cooling pumps. There was also a noticeable number of electric motor replacements for the vehicles.

It didn't stop there: The organization got reports of unaligned truck and hatchback latches and wheel-alignment ailments that wouldn't go away.

Consumer Reports asked what anyone would think: is Tesla's "newfangled electric-vehicle technology" the root of the Model S's reliability woes? It concluded that Tesla makes a new type of high-tech, high-performance, high-mileage electric vehicle, one that's made with ever-evolving and complex assembly line updates. Therefore it isn't too surprising to see problems like this arise with some frequency. This isn't your grandfather's Buick, after all.

S-ilver lining

There is some good news for current and future Model S owners: it's very likely that Model Ses on the road are still covered by Tesla's four-year/50,000 mile bumper-to-bumper warranty as well as its eight-year/unlimited mileage battery and drivetrain warranty.

Despite the issues, owner satisfaction hasn't suffered, and 97% of current Model S owners said they'd get another one, according to Consumer Reports. The high satisfaction is due in no small part to Tesla's responsiveness to customer complaints and speed in replacing problem parts.

Tesla may have high marks from car owners, but investors aren't happy with the lost rating. The company's stock plunged today after CR pulled its recommendation. Tesla CEO Elon Musk has stayed quiet, though we're keeping an eye on his Twitter account for any response to Consumer Reports action.

Michelle Fitzsimmons

Michelle was previously a news editor at TechRadar, leading consumer tech news and reviews. Michelle is now a Content Strategist at Facebook.  A versatile, highly effective content writer and skilled editor with a keen eye for detail, Michelle is a collaborative problem solver and covered everything from smartwatches and microprocessors to VR and self-driving cars.