"If I could turn back the clock, I'd have second thoughts about becoming a Tesla owner," says Auckland lawyer Eva Ho, the principal at Focus Law.
Her Tesla Model X electric vehicle has been hit by a litany of problems, including issues with the X's doors, a glitch that caused the car to turn on and off by itself and a malfunctioning reversing camera.
"I admire the product, but I feel it is an invention-in-the-making," Ho says.
One of her friends, who did not want to be named, bought the same model and had to have the sunroof window replaced after cracks appeared.
Ho placed an order for a Tesla Model X SUV in November 2018. It cost her $154,000 and was delivered in March this year.
The flagship Model X currently costs $159,900 and $212,000, depending on battery, seating and software specs. A software upgrade that allows full self-driving capability, for example, is a $9600 add-on.
Ho's comments came the same day that the influential US magazine Consumer Reports released its annual list of the most and least-reliable cars, based on data collected on 420,000 vehicles.
The giant survey, published yesterday, has good and bad news for Tesla.
Its flagship Model X is once again named on the 10 least-reliable models (see full list below), with a worse rating than last year.
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And Tesla itself is ranked 26th of 30 brands for reliability.
But that's better than last year, when it placed 29th, and its Model S and Model 3 got back onto Consumer Reports' "recommended" list after being given "do not buy" ratings earlier this year.
Ho says just three weeks into owning her Model X, the driver's side door would not close.
"I took the vehicle in and they said there is a defective part and that I am not the only customer with the complaint," Ho says.
"It turned out that it was a defective part that affected a whole batch of the Model X vehicles in the market."
Tesla's Australia-New Zealand corporate office, in Sydney, acknowledged a request for comment from the Herald but did not have any immediate statement.
Low marks in US survey
Consumer Report's latest survey gives the Model X a 15 out of 100 reliability score and notes, "reliability concerns regarding falcon-wing doors".
It says, "Model X owners reported numerous problems, ranging from its balky falcon-wing doors [that open vertically] to noises and leaks, and it has worse-than-average reliability."
Three months into her new ownership, Ho had another problem. "The car was on and off all night in my garage," she says. (Consumer Reports says several of its subscribers have been hit by a "random rebooting" problem).
She took the Model X into Tesla's central Auckland showroom the next day and both key fobs were replaced.
Then eight months into her ownership, the passenger-side door wouldn't close automatically (it can still be closed manually). Ho has yet to schedule a time to get it repaired.
And she says she has two recurring issues that happen every two to three weeks: the reversing camera not coming on and the radio coming on. Both problems can be solved by resetting the car's computers - a process that can take three minutes or more.
"I had always been a Mercedes driver and I must commend them on their customer care," How says.
"Tesla, on the other hand, provides no customer service after the car is sold. I'm not the only one complaining."
In its new reliability survey, Consumer Reports raises questions about Tesla's overall approach.
"With its lineup of electric vehicles, Tesla is an unconventional company that thrives on throwing normality out the window. And while breaking the mold can benefit consumers, the benefit is questionable if it goes too far," the magazine says.
"And that, pretty much, sums up the Model X SUV. Filled with enough gee-whiz gizmos to give William Gibson a thrill, the X seemingly sacrifices practicality and pragmatism for the purpose of showboating."
Model S, Model 3 improve
While the Model X remains on Consumer Reports not recommended list, the publication gives Tesla dibs for improved reliability over the past year with its mid-price Model S and lower-cost Model 3 (which has proved something of a hit with NZ buyers, selling 501 units by the end of October, making it easily the best-selling pure-electric EV).
In its latest survey, for the Model 3 there were "fewer reports of stuck latches or malfunctioning doors" while the Model S had "fewer problems with paint and trim quality – issues that have plagued it in the past".
Owners also reported fewer problems with power equipment, such as cruise control, cameras, and warning lights, Consumer Reports said.
Too spare with spare tyres?
Earlier, the Herald fielded a complaint about the time it takes for Tesla to supply a spare tyre (the design of the company's cars does not allow for a spare on-board - not unusual for high-end vehicles).
A Tesla Australia-New Zealand spokeswoman said a tyre would be brought to the driver.
"There's 24/7 roadside assistance. It's provided for four years or 80,000km at no cost."
How long does it take to get a spare tyre to a driver?
"It depends where the owner lives, but generally should only take up to a couple of days, if that, for a tyre replacement," the spokeswoman said.
Consumer Reports' 10 most-reliable models 2020
1. Mazda MX-5 Miata (Reliability Score: 95/100)
2. Toyota Prius Prime (94)
3. Toyota Prius (92)
4. Lexus GX (91)
5. Hyundai Kona (90)
6. Mazda CX-3 (89)
7. Lexus NX (89)
8. Toyota 4-Runner (87)
9. Mazda CX-9 (87)
10. Lexus GS (87)
Consumer Reports' 10 least-reliable models 2020
1. Chevrolet Colorado/GMC Canyon (4/100)
2. Chevrolet Camaro (5)
3. Jeep Wrangler (12)
4. Alfa Romeo Giulia (13)
5. Volkswagen Atlas (13)
6. Volkswagen Tiguan (15)
7. Acura MDX (15)
8. Tesla Model X (15)
9. Chrysler Pacifica (16)
10. Chevrolet Traverse (18)
Consumer Reports' top brands by reliability 2020
29. Alfa Romeo