Tesla Model S Slips In Annual Reliability Survey, Audi Gains

October 20, 2015

The Tesla Motors [NSDQ:TSLA] Model S has dropped to below-average reliability levels and thus lost the organization's Recommended rating, according to the latest Consumer Reports Annual Reliability Survey results, released today.

To some who’ve followed the headlines for the Model S, that may seem like a turnaround for the organization, as it earned quite the kudos from Consumer Reports earlier this year—with the Model S P85D then earning what CR declared its highest-ever test rating.

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Yet it’s no change of tack. CR did note that its test rating doesn’t include reliability, which was a question for the Tesla Model S all along. Earlier in the year that reliability was amounting to an average rating; now it’s dipped to below-average levels. And that means that the Model S loses CR's Recommended rating, at least until it can buoy reliability back up to average.

The CR reliability survey covers more than 740,000 vehicles in all, and it has a total of 1,400 survey responses from owners of the Model S, with issues for the all-electric luxury sedan including the rattles and leaks for the body and sunroof; the center-console interface; and the drivetrain, power equipment, and charging equipment categories.

Newer Model S cars faring worse

Although some have speculated that more recent cars likely will have improved reliability over the earlier ones, Tesla has actully scored worse in the reliability survey in climate control, steering, and suspension categories for 2015, versus the 2014 model. CR also noted increasing complaints about the drive system as the 2013 model have aged.

2015 Porsche Macan

2015 Porsche Macan

Tesla wasn’t the only brand to slip downward in the reliability rankings. CR pointed to Porsche as a brand dropping from ninth to 14th place overall due to faltering reliability of the Cayman and “a below-average debut for the Macan.” And while all the Fiat-Chrysler brands continued to rank near the bottom, the company’s minivans managed an average reliability score.

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Lexus was solidly in first place, with all seven of its vehicle lines earning top reliability scores. Toyota, Audi, Mazda, and Subaru rounded out the top five spots, on a brand basis, while Buick was the only domestic brans in the top ten.

CR gave a special nod to Audi in third place overall, as the organization noted that it was “once synonymous with service problems.”

Infotainment, transmissions the cause of many service woes

Automakers continued to have issues with infotainment systems. For instance, it noted that Infiniti was continuing its downward trajectory in reliability, mainly because of issues with its InTouch connectivity system.

New transmission technology, whether for the introduction of dual-clutch, continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT), or eight- and nine-speed units, has also become a center for reliability issues requiring repair and replacement.

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