Model 3 Build Quality?

Model 3 Build Quality?

Recent AutoExpress survey reported that Model S ranked number one overall among cars--pretty amazing for Tesla. The only downside was that Model S ranked 33rd for build quality.

I'm curious if current Tesla owners can comment on this. Has Tesla build quality been improving over the years? And to speculate, do you expect Model 3 to have better build quality than current Teslas?

I've always appreciated nice fit/finish, quality materials, etc. I will be coming from a Lexus, so hopefully the build quality is not huge step down. Thoughts?

krimzon | 02. Mai 2016

I would like to see where Tesla fell to 33rd. Were there any specific details? I was unable to find any.

dd.micsol | 02. Mai 2016

Not notch. Nothing less. My worry about quality is none.

dd.micsol | 02. Mai 2016

errr top notch LOL

krimzon | 02. Mai 2016

I've never owned a Tesla, but I'm sure they're built very well.
I work in the automotive industry. Building a few thousand $135,000.00 cars is entirely different than mass producing half a million a year.
Hopefully they can contain any quality concerns during the model 3 production. I know they have an ambitious goal of making about 400,000 vehicles per year.

jordanrichard | 02. Mai 2016

I wouldn't pay attention to any survey about reliability/glitches on any car. "Reliability" is relative to what one is used to, which leads to what one might report. For example, take a Honda and a VW, having a suspension issue . The Honda owner doesn't mention it because all they care about is that it gets them from point A to B. The VW owner who is more in tune with how their car drives/rides, reports the issue. In this instance the VW would be ranked less reliable.

The build quality and gap tolerances have been steadily improving for the MS. From the stories/reports I have read about the MX, the initial quality is much better than the initial MS's. With the M≡ being designed to be much simpler to build, and Tesla having more manufacturing experience under their belt, the car will be very well put together.

dachuyn | 02. Mai 2016

If Tesla offers great warranty and customer service, safety will be the only concern ...

kristiannobs | 02. Mai 2016

I'm sure from what current users are reporting, that tesla will take care of their customers - more so then any other maker.

Chargedmr2 | 02. Mai 2016

I double checked the survey and couldn't find a definition of "build quality," but the 33rd ranking was out of 150 vehicles, so it was nowhere near the bottom of the list. Apparently about 50,000 people participated in the survey, but it's not clear if the findings are generalizable, from what I could find. The Model S did rank very well for reliability: 5 out of 150.

Musk provided a link to this report on his Twitter account on 4/20, btw.

Hopefully build quality continues to improve by the time Model 3 arrives, but I'm committed to owning one even if it doesn't top the list.

Haggy | 02. Mai 2016

As a Model S owner, I can say that I've had more things go wrong than on other cars, but they weren't the types of things that kept the car from doing anything, with the exception of a door handle problem that required me to reach across to open the passenger door until it was fixed. Tesla's support is so great and the process is so painless that I'd rather have several visits to a Tesla service center than one to a typical dealership.

Despite problems, it's harder to say whether I had more visits than I would have had had I had any other car. If you eliminate the visits where I had some other work done such as a complementary upgrade or a tire rotation or alignment because I bumped a curb, that still leaves five visits the first year and none the second year.

Two of those visits were for a streaking wiper blade. They fixed it but it came back. They replaced the blades on the next visit with the Bosch blades that became standard, and readjusted the pressure on the wiper arm. I went once to have my wheels rebalanced because the ride quality diminished. It's possible that something else caused part of the problem, such as something that had gotten lodged in a tire, and most of the problem went away by the time I went in for service, but they did rebalance the wheels and the ride got much better. I had a door handle problem as I mentioned, and I had another visit for a chatter when I opened my roof. For that one, they replaced a "Side Applique," which is essentially a piece of plastic that was misaligned.

In most of those cases, they had somebody drive the car back to my house and retrieve the loaner car, so it wasn't a big inconvenience. It's not like with a dealership where you line up and tell somebody the same story you gave over the phone. With Tesla, you show up, somebody greets you by name, you sit at the desk of a service advisor, and they go over any concerns.

This doesn't tell the whole story because there were other things I had fixed while I had my car in for visits for other things. On one visit, I complained about some messages I had seen on the display. They told me that they knew about them and had planned to fix things while they had my car there. The car sends them plenty of data so they know about many problems before you do. They changed the charger and recalibrated the camera for autopilot. I have no way of knowing whether the charger had a major problem or a loose bolt or bad solder joint. Tesla will swap entire units to get you back on the road as fast as possible, send the parts to engineering, and figure out how to improve things. I also had a button on the steering wheel that stuck on occasion, and had that replaced when I was in for something else. So the list does include changing out a major component, but not necessarily a major component failure. They also swapped out my brake booster for free at one point. There was nothing wrong with the old one, but the new one had better technology and they gave me a free upgrade. It wasn't a failure or even a required update.

On the other hand, I would have needed four oil changes in the same interim, and I saved a few trips to the car wash, so in terms of time lost, it wasn't much.

I think that with any other car that needed that much work, I'd probably be complaining about how bad things were, especially considering the process to get things fixed at most dealerships. But with Tesla, I got the best quality service. I don't want to excuse things away and say that it's perfectly fine that so many little things went wrong. But on the other hand, I have a great car, and I never need to go to a gas station. So the overall convenience factor is well in my favor, as is the cost of ownership.

If you look at the list, they weren't major things that made me take it in for service, and honestly with any other vehicle I wouldn't have gone in for the wipers and probably would have been told that it's a consumable and not covered. If you look at it simply as a raw list of problems, you can see why Consumer Reports would take a list like this and say the car is of less than average reliability, and in a sense they are correct. But you could also see how it doesn't tell the whole story.

The result of all this, as well as the experience of other drivers who had problems before or after I did is that now everybody gets the Bosch wiper blades. Chances are they improved the quality of the charger. Owners of older vehicles had drive trains swapped out, often because of bearing noise, and Tesla has since made the drive trains the most reliable on the market. Tesla does so much to improve things over time that I expect the Model 3 build quality to be better off the bat, but being an existing owner in the Fremont area, I'll probably be among the first to find out what might go wrong. My car was made before most and the ones that came later have fewer problems. I'm among the 97% who would definitely buy the car again.

Red Sage ca us | 02. Mai 2016


Another one.


david.jones24 | 02. Mai 2016

@ Haggy

Thank you for your honesty. I really appreciate posts that aren't all sunshine and rainbows. I like the truth, and the truth is generally most new models that hit the market have some issues. I know there's a lot of people new to EVs, like me, that have their reservations sometimes on what's reported by some outlets.

It helps knowing that there's feedback on the forums from straight shooters.

Chargedmr2 | 02. Mai 2016

Thanks for your comments.

@Red Sage
Have I offended you?

Red Sage ca us | 02. Mai 2016

Stop by and do a search for 'quality fit finish materials' and see what comes up...

Red Sage ca us | 02. Mai 2016

Where the Model S Fails
Getting Amped Again on July 22, 2012

Build Quality/Interior Quality Update Plans?
richardthomas on May 31, 2014

Built Like a Jet
Mark K on June 1, 2014

Chargedmr2 | 02. Mai 2016

Got it. Never heard of and was under the impression these forums couldn't be searched. I'm new here (obviously!).

Red Sage ca us | 02. Mai 2016

You can also use Google, with this format in the search box... 'quality fit finish materials'

Chargedmr2 | 02. Mai 2016

Thanks for sharing. I'm used to forums with built in searches, so this is helpful. I, too, despise duplicate threads, so I will do my part now that I have newfound search capability!

mos6507 | 02. Mai 2016

It's not how people react to warranty issues, it's how much cost it incurs to Tesla's bottom line to have to field them.

From Google News:

"During the Q1 earnings call in February, Elon Musk told investors that Tesla Motors would earn a profit during 2016. Getting a handle on the cost of warranty claims will be an essential part of accomplishing that goal."

So car buyers can remain 100% satisfied with their purchase and yet the build quality can drag down Tesla's financials. They have to reduce these issues between now and Model 3 launch. If there's something that would cause me to bail on Tesla it's this. It's their Achilles' Heel.

Red Sage ca us | 02. Mai 2016

Unless someone just happens upon one of the lottery winner pick of a worst case lemon, there are no truly bad cars on the market today. Designations of 'quality' are almost entirely personal preference. You have to go back around 25 years or so to find truly crappy cars. Many were American brands, a few were Korean, others were Eastern European. But even the worst new car today is well above the average norm of yesteryear. Fit and finish is pretty much laser precise with the widespread use of computerized robotic assembly. It really just comes down to materials used and aesthetic design. Different people find different things pleasing to the eye, or to the touch. To someone who has been driving one of those 25+ year old vehicles, maybe a Chevrolet Cavalier, today's Ford Mustang is built to a level of excellence they couldn't have dreamed of owning. And for someone with a brand spanking new Mercedes-Benz AMG SL65 the Mustang will seem like a rather pitiful toy in comparison. Perception of quality largely depends upon the end of the telescope you are viewing a product from.

Haggy | 03. Mai 2016

If you look at page 59 of the 10K, it goes over accrued warranty and warranty costs incurred. You need to keep in mind that the typical driver will have a general warranty for 3 years 4 months before mileage limits hit, that the drive train and battery warranties are far longer, and that not many people will need replacements on the latter two. Plus, Tesla rebuilds the ones that have been replaced. Consumer Reports rates drive train reliability as very high for the past two years. If you do want to look at the warranty costs incurred as a percentage of the term of the warranty, also keep in mind that the warranty accrued at the beginning of the period doesn't include money accrued during the year for new sales, while the warranty costs do include new vehicles and thus you'd have to factor in new sales during the year compared to estimated vehicles still under warranty.

I don't have enough data to make any definitive statements, but it doesn't seem as if Tesla is hemorrhaging money, and the growth in expenses is explained by growth in sales but is going down with respect to the total number of cars that have been built. Of course without knowing what percentage of old vehicles are falling off warranty, it's hard to get a complete picture. If more cars fall off warranty earlier, it means the expenses are divided among a smaller pool and each individual car is getting a larger proportion of the expense, but at the same time it means fewer cars that Tesla is obligated to fix at its expense.

I hope that clarifies a few things. I assume everybody reading this looked at the 10K.

Red Sage ca us | 03. Mai 2016

Haggy: +21! That was an exceptional observation. Especially so in light of the knowledge most who get a Tesla Motors product end up driving more often than usual and gain mileage sooner. Thank you.

krimzon | 05. Mai 2016

Some truly good information in here.
I will say that fit and finish on a finalized vehicle is a skill that auto industry employees master over time.
In the facility I work there are a team of people that manage fit and finish on every single vehicle that comes off our line. We produce over 1000 vehicles per day. Robots do a good job in many facets, but fit and finish is a skill that people get better at as they learn the vehicle they are producing.