Although some might prefer to see this posted privately, I would want to know the following story if I were thinking about buying a Model S.
First, we are happy Model S owners (s/n 4061, S85, pearl white, gray, pano, tech, air sound) and would not give back our car for anything. However, we are beginning to wonder if the Model S was really ready for prime time. Based on what we see in the forums, and our own experience, I suspect that TM's warranty service costs are going to be higher than expected.
TM has already spent over 1/3 of the purchase price in repairs to our car since it was delivered on Feb 3. This hasn't inconvenienced us much, and the ownership experience has been fine. Our car has been serviced only three times, and so far, experienced a total of about 10 days downtime (and counting).
Our car is currently being serviced at the Rockville Service Center. It went in last Wednesday for the 12-volt battery replacement, defroster vent upgrade, pano roof noise over 70 mph (new urethane seal?), right rear door handle inoperable, bumper misaligned (was removed previously for bolt inspection), axle nuts service bulletin, ground antennae, rear door window regulator service bulletin, add “85” insignia to rear, upgrade rear footwell cover, tire rotation, motor noise on acceleration, upgrade rear seatbelts, updated HPWC fuses for our two charging units.
Our prior service experience included one visit to Rockville when the car was a couple weeks old for a full inspection after I found loose rear bumper nuts while installing the Torklift hitch (see http://www.teslamotors.com/forum/forums/check-your-nuts-found-assembly-e...). During that three-day visit TM removed the front and back bumpers and the underbody panels to inspect all nuts and bolts. They also replaced a malfunctioning door handle and did some other minor things like upgrading the carpets and replaced our charging cord.
A couple months later TM sent a ranger to our house to apply the pano roof creaking upgrades (shims) and replace another inoperable door handle.
A couple weeks ago we had a third handle failure, and needed a tire rotation, so scheduled all of the above items, along with ensuring that we would get a Model S loaner (we are currently driving red P85). Then, one day before it was scheduled to go in, our car threw four "Service needed - car may not restart" messages during a 200-mile trip. We had no problem completing the trip and added this to the list for the next day's service visit.
Today, after six days in service, a service advisor called to say they found error codes immediately upon taking the car in, indicating "anomalies" in the main high voltage battery. They replaced the main battery and the 12-volt battery and are now getting started on the rest of the list. He said they will get back to us in the next day or two with another update.
Again, I am a happy owner. We love our car and believe that Tesla is being responsive to our service needs. We have never been stranded and the car is stunning in both appearance and performance. However, our experience is worrisome. Yes, there's some early-adopter stuff in our service record. However, except for the bumper bolts being loose on delivery, all of what we have experienced seems to be a recurring theme with these cars - many other owners are having these exact same issues.
When I add up what TM has spent so far, it is way more than the car's gross profit, and is about 1/3 of what we spent to buy the car originally - and this assumes that TM does not have to replace our motor or inverter to eliminate the increasingly loud motor hum. Bottom line: TM is already in a loss position on our car, apparently due to assembly and design-related issues. The car is only six months old (and it sat for two months while we were away) and we still have years of warranty coverage yet to go on TM's dime. Perhaps we are an extreme example, but TM can't survive if it has to spend 1/3 of the car purchase price on warranty.
I expect to be a long term Tesla owner and will definitely upgrade to a new model at some point - if their warranty costs don't eat them alive first. Great car, but was it really ready for release if it has this many issues? We aren't particularly demanding or unique customers.
Consumer Reports withheld their recommendation for the Models S because, even though it was the highest-ever car test score, it did not have enough service history. I am not looking forward to answering the Consumer Reports annual car survey, which has a lot of specific questions about repair experience. I want to see TM sales grow and the company become increasingly profitable and viable. Reliability is the last element after design excellence and superior safety, both now proven. Reliability not so much. I once told a boss that we were losing money on every sale. His response, "we'll make it up in volume" was funny, but preceded failure.
Above text is verbatim as posted in 2013, including that CR had withheld a recommendation at the time...
I had forgotten writing this post but came across it in another search. I was amazed to remember that I had predicted problems with the CR survey. This post was apparently more prescient than I knew saying, "I am not looking forward to answering the Consumer Reports annual car survey, which has a lot of specific questions about repair experience. I want to see TM sales grow and the company become increasingly profitable and viable. Reliability is the last element after design excellence and superior safety, both now proven. Reliability not so much."
I knew that my personal MS had lots of problems, but was pooh-poohed around here as an anomaly - and anecdotal example of one. In hindsight, I was correct.
Subsequent to this post, we had numerous other repairs on this car, including two Drive unit replacements, another 12-volt battery, and the bumpers were entirely replaced because Tesla could never get the originals to align. All items were repaired, fixed or replaced to our satisfaction, and we drove the car for a total of 32,000 miles. In late 2014 we sold the car to a forum member and upgraded to a new P85D. The P85D had been far more reliable, although has had to go in a few times for things like replacement half shafts, failed main screen, rattles, and several error codes. The P85D is a far better assembled car in my opinion, and I plan to be a Tesla customer for life. However, they do still need to work on quality.