• Tesla Model 3

News: Consumer Reports Flips Tesla Model 3 Rating

Over-the-air Update for Brakes Wins Magazine’s Approval

In the automotive equivalent of pulling a rabbit out of a hat, Tesla has magically transformed its rating from the powerful product testing magazine, Consumer Reports, from a “not recommended” to a “recommended buy.” The trick was accomplished through an over-the-air update done just over a week after the magazine’s negative review was released.

Tesla Model 3

The Consumer Reports Model 3

In fairness, the initial review of the Model 3 was generally positive, but the excessive stopping distance pushed the car over to the “not recommended” column. The magazine said that in repeated tests, including additional models to the one they had purchased, the stopping distance was longer than any comparable model they had tested. They also registered concerns about wind noise, a stiff ride and touch-screen controls that could distract a driver.

Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, responded quickly in a Tweet that the company would get to the root of the problem, though he noted that Consumer Reports had purchased an early production model. He didn’t note that Tesla has had numerous problems with the launch of its “affordable” electric car and remains far behind its planned production targets.

Musk’s engineers did send out the brake upgrade electronically, a process that most other automakers have yet to embrace, and it appeared to have fixed the car to the magazine’s satisfaction. He also noted that the company was addressing or had addressed the other issues the magazine testers noted.

On the quick update, consumer Reports director of automotive testing, said: “I’ve been at CR for 19 years and tested more than 1,000 cars, and I’ve never seen a car that could improve its track performance with an over-the-air update.”

A New Paradigm

The incident points out two new paradigms in the Tesla-era of automotive history. The first amplifies the adage about buying a first year of a new (or newly redesigned) vehicle. Historically, In Tesla’s case, by Musk’s own admission (they had an “early production vehicle”), the Model 3 early adopters appeared to be beta testers for the new model.  The second shift, though, is the quick response shown by Tesla to a clear safety issue with the car. Bravo to them for that, but could they have uncovered the issue through more thorough testing prior to releasing the car to the public (which happened under pressure to deliver on Musk’s promises to launch the car at a given time, which in turn had an impact on the company’s volatile stock price.) Also, one wonders how many other “early production” owners might be experiencing the same issue, but because they weren’t a national magazine may not have generated the same response.

We’re entering a new age, one with great technological promise. Let’s hope we harness it for the creation of better, safer cars and companies that listen to their customers.

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About Author: Michael Coates

is editor and publisher at Clean Fleet Report and an internationally recognized expert in the field of automotive environmental issues. He has been an automotive editor and writer for more than three decades. His media experience includes Petersen Publishing (now part of The Enthusiast Network), Green Car Journal, trade magazines, newspaper and television news reporting. He currently serves on the Board of the Western Automotive Journalists.

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