Tesla Model S no longer ‘recommended’ by Consumer Reports

Brand new Tesla Model S cars sit on front of a Tesla showroom on August 2, 2017 in Corte Madera, California. Tesla will report second-quarter earnings today after the closing bell.

Justin Sullivan | Getty Images

Tesla’s Model S sedan is no longer “recommended” by Consumer Reports due to a decline in its reliability, the influential rating organization announced Thursday.

The electric car’s rating dropped in the annual Auto Reliability Survey as a result of problems in its air suspension and main computer and touchscreen controls, according to Jake Fisher, senior director of auto testing at Consumer Reports.

“We see a variety of problems on that car,” he told CNBC. “It’s wavered throughout its life cycle” as Tesla has consistently updated the car, which was first introduced in 2012. Consumer reports ranked the Model S as its top-rated vehicle ever in 2015.

Typically older models fair better in reliability as companies tend to address problems as the vehicles age, but Tesla has continued to update the cars without much change to their exteriors, including over-the-air, or remote, updates — an emerging trend in the auto industry led by Tesla.

The Model 3 is now the only Tesla vehicle Consumer Reports recommends for consumers. Overall, Tesla ranked second to last in the reliability study. It was down two spots from a year ago due to the Model S as well as the Model Y, which went on sale earlier this year and has “well below average reliability,” the publication said. Problems with the Model Y included quality issues with body hardware and paint, according to Consumer Reports.

Tesla Model S dual motor all electric sedan on display at Brussels Expo on January 9, 2020 in Brussels, Belgium.

Sjoerd van der Wal | Getty Images

Many of the problems identified by Consumer Reports have been ongoing for Tesla. The company on Monday notified owners of older Model S and Model X that the company will refund them for repairs if they previously had to pay out of pocket to fix a problem in their main computers. The problem manifested as a blank touchscreen or other glitches in the system and was related to memory-device failures in the computer that stores data from the vehicle.

Of the 26 brands ranked in the survey, Japanese automakers fared the best. For the first time, the Japanese brand Mazda ranked at the top of the nonprofit organization’s reliability list. Historically, that top spot has been held by Toyota and Lexus, which ranked second and third, respectively. Buick, Honda and Hyundai followed as being “more reliable” than most other brands. Ford Motor’s Lincoln brand, down 11 spots from a year ago, ranked last in the study, behind Tesla.

The survey, which covers the 2000-2020 model years, is based on data collected from owners of more than 300,000 vehicles. The nonprofit then assigns a predicted new-vehicle reliability score to various nameplates based on their amount of reported problems and other measures.

The reliability rating is a key element to Consumer Reports’ overall score of a vehicle and whether or not it’s “recommended” for consumers. The overall score also includes road-test performance, owner satisfaction survey results, whether a vehicle comes with key safety systems, and results from crash tests, if applicable.

Here are the ratings:

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