For Tesla, 2019 was supposed to be a lot easier than in 2018. Instead, things seem to continue in the exact same direction as they were heading before - another round with the SEC, high-level execs leaving the company in protest, a stock price that's sinking, analysts wondering how the company will keep its head above water and Elon Musk still tweeting. So far, it's the exact same chaos we've come to expect from Tesla, except this time, that wasn't what we expected.
This was supposed to be the year Tesla grew up and used its financial success from the end of 2018 to change its destiny and DNA. It should start to behave like the "real car company" CEO Elon Musk has talked about so often.
Instead, things are pretty much the same as before - at least company wise. Certain outside factors have changed though. More manufacturers are now launching their own electric cars, and while some are offering the traditional electric city cars, there are those who've had enough of Tesla's dominance and are now fighting back with their own long-distance capable, high-powered EVs. Game on!
It's time for both Tesla and Elon to put up or shut up. If they can't sort out their quality problems, financial issues, and childish tweets, then perhaps they will soon fade away into obscurity.
This list focuses on 20 glaringly obvious problems with Teslas, but keep in mind that this is just about the cars, we're not even mentioning the economic issues Tesla has to deal with. So in reality, things could be worse than they seem.
The Autopilot does have a misleading name, seeing as it's not really an autopilot, at least not the way most people think of an autopilot. The language Tesla uses on its website, videos the company has produced, press releases it has published, and comments made by Musk has deceived and misled consumers into believing that the Autopilot feature of its vehicles is safer and more capable than it actually is.
Consumer Watchdog and the Center for Auto Safety agrees and sent a letter to the Federal Trade Commission asking the agency to investigate the strategies Tesla has used to sell Autopilot. The letter says the company has led customers to overestimate Autopilot's safety and the amount of driving it can control.
19 High Maintenance Costs
With Tesla dealerships being so sparse, those who live outside populated areas might have to plan their trips to the service center much more thoroughly than the average car owner would. Seeing as Teslas can sometimes be uncharted territory for mechanics, it can take several days, sometimes even weeks, before owners get to see their cars again - and many technical issues aren’t resolved during the first visit.
Even though Teslas don’t need the same servicing as a fossil fueled car, Tesla recommends that owners should invest in the maintenance plans they offer. Prices vary between year and model of the car, as well as which specific plan the driver chooses. Standalone inspections usually range from $475 to $750 - repairs not included. A four-year maintenance plan is around $2,500.
18 Over-Promise, Under-Deliver
Elon Musk is a phenomenal salesman and has worked hard to convince shareholders, media, and, most-importantly, car buyers that Tesla is the most incredible thing ever!
Sources close to Musk has said; "It’s all about the narrative for Elon." In his mind, it's 'real', even if the products are far from finished by the time they go on sale. Musk’s supporters might ask "What’s wrong with being an optimist when you are trying to save the world?" Well, a skeptic might consider this "optimism" to be fraud, an attempt to mislead investors in order to avoid going broke, massive personal financial losses, and a giant reputational hit. Tesla has already been sued for not delivering the product they said it would be.
17 Cosmetic Issues
When you finally decide to treat yourself and buy a nice luxury car, you'd think it would actually look nice?! Not so. Every Tesla model has suffered from various cosmetic issues.
Panel gap is the most common one and has been a problem on all models.
But there's more. Paint blemishes are common complaints, this problem turns up even in the most die-hard Tesla owner’s posts on the forums. Then there are brand new cars that are delivered with rust-spots. That's something you'd expect on some obscure car made in a small country with no access to decent materials, but not on a brand new luxury car made in the U.S.
16 Insurance Can Be Costly
There are a few reasons why insurance on a Tesla can be more expensive than what you'd expect to pay for a large luxury saloon car. First of all, Teslas are fairly expensive to repair if and when something goes wrong, the reason for this is as simple as hi-tech parts don't come cheap.
Second, the more powerful Teslas can match any supercar when it comes to power and acceleration, and we all know insurance companies aren't big fans of speed and power.
Then there's the matter of all the autopilot-related accidents and battery-packs that are impossible to put out if they start to burn - which is really bad news if you happen to run an insurance company.
15 The Competition Is Heating Up
When Tesla first hit the market, there was nothing like it. They had a monopoly when it came to high-end electric cars - all other EVs were obscure city cars that would have people rolling around in the streets, dying from laughter. These days, things are a little different.
Pretty much every self-respecting car manufacturer has an electric car now, or they will have one in a very short time. Some, such as VW, will offer cars in the same class as the Model 3, but at a much lower price. Porsche, Aston Martin, Jaguar, and other performance car manufacturers will soon be going head to head against the Model S and X. If Tesla can't get their quality problems fixed, they might be in serious trouble.
14 Cold Weather Woes
Cold conditions are a drain on battery range. No matter the car brand, when it's cold, batteries on an EV drain overnight and lose more juice than it normally would while driving. But other predicaments are particular to Tesla during the winter.
What’s specific to Tesla is the quality of manufacturing. Tesla made a poor design decision that is turning into a headache for some buyers. The Model 3 handles are flush with the exterior of the car and require customers to push on one side, then pull on the other to open them. Ice is making that maneuver difficult for drivers who’ve posted pictures online of their frozen handles.
13 Not As Environmentally Friendly As We Are Lead To Believe
According to ADAC, Tesla must be driven more than 380,000 miles before it will be more environmentally friendly than a diesel-powered car of the same size. Compared to a same-size gasoline-powered car, Tesla would have to drive 72,000 miles in order to be a better choice for the environment.
The reasons for this are the sources for the electric power - which more often than not doesn't come from 100% renewable sources - in combination with the battery production - which accounts for the largest part of an EV's CO2 emissions. For smaller vehicles, the emissions from the EVs are much more favorable, but ADAC also fears those vehicles will see less use and are more likely to be a second car.
12 Accident? What Accident?
Have you ever read an article about a Tesla being involved in an accident? Of course, you have, we all have! Right after the accident, Elon or some other Tesla official will claim their investigation shows it was caused by the driver, not the car or autopilot.
Musk has also made claims saying a Tesla is approximately four times safer than any other car. Here's the thing; Elon Musk is either very misinformed, or he's lying. End of story! The real Tesla fatality rate is quadruple the rate of Audi and BMW, more than triple the rate of all luxury cars combined, and at least 37% higher than the average car.
11 Fire Hazard
This doesn't apply only to Tesla as every electric vehicle suffers from the same issue.
It's not that EVs are at greater risk of catching fire than traditional gas guzzlers, it is what happens when they actually do catch fire.
Research that included a series of tests on vehicles with lithium-ion batteries came to the conclusion that in each full-scale burn test, firefighters at the test site found that they needed to flow large amounts of water on the batteries because fire kept flaring up even after it appeared to be extinguished. In one test, a battery fire reignited 22 hours after it was thought to be extinguished - even when looking at the battery through a thermal imager it didn't reveal it would reignite.
10 No Tesla Cars Are Recommended By Consumer Reports
Due to reliability issues, Consumer Reports no longer recommends any of the models in Tesla's lineup. What's interesting is that Consumer Reports also say Tesla buyers are more likely to be satisfied with their car than customers of any other brand.
There are too many problems across the Tesla lineup, including loose body trim, glass defects, rattling noises, leaks... the list goes on. The Model S actually received the best review score ever by Consumer Reports when they first tested it; scoring 103 points on a scale only designed to go to 100. Shortly after, it lost its "recommended" status as one problem after the other came to the surface.
9 Touchscreen issues
It doesn't matter how cool and awesome the 17-inch center console is - it's not worth much when it freezes. This is a major malfunction because the screen controls pretty much everything, including things typically handled by knobs and buttons.
The issue has been around since the first Model S cars hit the showrooms, and Tesla typically responds by helping reboot the software. In some cases, that means a trip to the nearest service center. Then the bug started showing up in the Model X’s, too. Tesla said it’s dealing with this bug as it comes up and also uses over-the-air software updates to issue preventative fixes for various problems. Excellent... except now Model 3 owners are experiencing touchscreen problems as well.
8 Build Quality Of A Car From The '90s
Those who are old enough to remember Kia and Hyundai from the '90s will probably not have any nice things to say about the foreign brands. Before the brands became what they are today, they had a reputation as cheap imports known for several build defects, flaws, and failures. No brand would ever want to be compared to foreign cars from the '90s.
When a Michigan-based consulting agency dismantled a Model 3, that is exactly how the owner described the brand new EV. Likening it to a “Kia in the ’90s,” the technician criticized the car’s gaps and generally lackluster quality. Green Car Reports wrote that Model 3 “build quality was the worst we have seen on any new car from any maker over the last 10 years.”
7 Shutdowns While Driving
A few months back, a Tesla Model 3 owner posted a video of her car shutting down while she was driving. All of a sudden, “Car Shutting Down — PULL OVER SAFELY” appeared on the screen. She did so, rebooted, then got the same shutdown warning and loss of power.
Later, when Tesla techs looked at it, they diagnosed the problem as “failure in the high voltage controller.” Commenting on the shutdown, a Model X owner said it had happened to him in the past - meaning this wasn't an isolated incident, and it can happen to any Tesla, not just the Model 3.
6 Cool, But Useless Rear Doors
The double-hinged falcon wing rear doors on the Model X are amazingly awesome. Unfortunately, there are a few issues, such as them not always working the way they were designed to do - one Model X owner posted a photo of his falcon door, which uses a sophisticated system of sensors and software to sense, and avoid, obstacles after it whacked a concrete overhang.
The sensors aren't the only problems with the falcon doors, however. Water leaks have been reported by numerous owners, and even such poor alignment that the doors fail to close properly. And of course, there are the rattling and squeaking noises Tesla owners have become so familiar with by now that most of them are actually more worried when it is quiet.
5 Locked Doors And Closed Windows
Ever managed to lock yourself out of your car? With a Tesla, the car will take care of that for you! There are stories of owners unable to unlock the car with the electronic key card or the iPhone app. There is no metal key, which means a Tesla technician has to come and fix it. Then there are the door handles that are supposed to pop out, except sometimes they don't.
The windows are known to have caused some trouble, according to a number of threads floating around the Tesla Motors Club forum. Some say their windows won't close all the way, others say their windows won't open. Not what you want to happen to your overpriced high-tech car.
4 Third Row Seat Weakness
Perhaps one of the most dangerous flaws in any Tesla is how the third-row seats in the Model X might fold forward in the event of a crash. Luckily this was discovered after the seats failed a strength test, so no one has actually been injured by this severe design flaw.
Once again it goes to show that Tesla's quality control doesn't seem to be working properly. At least the company promptly recalled all 2,666 SUVs it had delivered - "out of an abundance of caution." Tesla promised to replace all the potentially faulty seat backs and return the Model X vehicles to their owners. Wouldn't it be nice if they could manage to actually deliver one product that didn't have faults?
3 Squeaks, Rattles, And Leaks
Sure, some rattling and squeaky noises probably won't do any damage to the car. But considering it's a brand new luxury vehicle, it will be beyond annoying to listen to these "sound effects" from what's supposed to be a really quiet electric car.
Teslas having some rattling and squeaking seems to be the norm - some owners have taken their cars to service centers numerous times to get these issues sorted out, but there seems to be a lot of cars where they just can't figure it out. Some of the worst examples include a few people who've received their cars from the service center only to discover that not only is the original noise still there, it is now accompanied by a new sound.
2 Steering And Suspension
There was a problem with the Tesla Model S that caused its suspension to fail, and it blew up after literally hundreds of media outlets, from Reuters to the NY Times, picked up the story. The actual suspension problem was only part of the story and what prompted NHTSA to probe the situation - Tesla attempted to cover up the problems by making owners sign a non-disclosure agreement.
Even if tech and software issues are the most common problems with Teslas, the suspension wasn't the only potentially dangerous mechanical problem. 123,000 Teslas were recalled due to an issue with the power steering. In an email to customers, the electric automaker explained that it has seen “excessive corrosion” in the power steering bolts of the affected vehicles.
1 Potential Drop In Secondhand Value
You've just read about some of the problems of Tesla ownership, and how trustworthy sources say the lack of quality control is the worst they've seen in any car brand in at least a decade. Couple this with Tesla's decision to not have the usual dealerships, the cost of ownership, the competition that is taking chunks out of Tesla's monopoly every single day, the lies and cover-ups, and you'll see why they might not be considered very attractive on the used car market.
This could potentially be the straw that breaks the camel's back. Once a product's perceived value goes down the drain, the rest of the company will usually follow shortly.
Sources: Cheatsheet, Electrek, Green Car Reports, Consumer Reports & Business Insider