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Consumer Reports bumps the Tesla Model 3 off of its list of recommended models

Tesla Model 3
Miles Branman/Digital Trends

The Tesla Model 3 figures on the list of cars stripped of their coveted Recommended rating by Consumer Reports. The publication polled Model 3 owners across the United States and cited declining reliability as the main factor behind its decision.

Consumer Reports doesn’t focus exclusively on Tesla. It sent thousands of new car buyers a survey in 2018 to gain insight on which models are the most reliable, and which ones are the most problematic. Motorists were asked about the problems they encountered with their car, and how often it has been in the shop since they bought it. The 500 Model 3 owners it polled weren’t thrilled with their purchase. They notably reported finding loose body trim and discovering glass defects.

The problems that plagued early examples of the Model 3 were well documented online. Owners reported paint blemishes, the trim problems cited by Consumer Reports, and touchscreen failures, among other issues. Engineering consultancy firm Munro and Associates went as far as comparing the Model 3’s build quality to Kia’s during the 1990s; anyone that has driven a Sephia will tell you that is hardly a ringing endorsement.

Many analysts and owners agreed Tesla improved the 3’s build quality considerably in late 2018 as it increased production in its Fremont, California, factory so the electric sedan may fare better in 2019. Until then, Tesla lost 11 spots in Consumer Reports’ car brand rankings.

“We’ve been in touch with Tesla. They’ve told us that they’ve been addressing these specific issues and they won’t affect new buyers. If that turns out to be true, it’s possible it will be reflected in our future surveys, but it’s also possible that other problems will arise,” Consumer Reports told Digital Trends. We reached out to Tesla and received a similar reply.

“We’re setting an extremely high bar for Model 3. We have already made significant improvements to correct any issues that Model 3 customers may have experienced that are referenced in this report, and our return policy allows any customer who is unhappy with their car to return it for a full refund. This new data from Consumer Reports comes from their annual Owner Satisfaction survey, which runs from July through September, so the vast majority of these issues have already been corrected through design and manufacturing improvements, and we are already seeing a significant improvement in our field data,” a spokesperson told Digital Trends via email.

The Model 3 isn’t the only car that got bumped off the Recommended list. Consumer Reports also downgraded the Chrysler 300 after owners complained about problems with the in-car electronics and the eight-speed automatic transmission. Chrysler dropped by 11 spots, too, and the firm is also confident its rating will go back up in the not-too-distant future.

“We address all issues we see in our quality indicators, and the issues referenced by Consumer Reports have already been identified and resolved. The 2019 Chrysler 300 and Dodge Charger represents the best iteration of the vehicles ever,” a spokesperson said in a statement sent to Digital Trends. “With the improvements we’ve made, we’re confident 300 and Charger will both regain their recommended status in the future,” the company added.

The Acura RDX, the BMW 5 Series, the Volkswagen Tiguan, and the cop-friendly Dodge Charger (which rides on the same basic platform as the 300) also lost their Recommended rating due to reliability concerns.

Consumer Reports isn’t solely the bearer of bad news. The industry watchdog elevated the BMW X3, the Genesis G90, and the Lincoln Nautilus (which replaces the MKX) to Recommended status after feedback from real-world owners revealed they have become more reliable.

Updated 2-21-2019: Added statement from Tesla.

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Ronan Glon
Ronan Glon is an American automotive and tech journalist based in southern France. As a long-time contributor to Digital…
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