Consumer Reports cuts Tesla ratings over automatic emergency braking

2016 Tesla Model S P100D

Consumer Reports lowered its ratings for the Tesla Model S and Model X because autonomous emergency braking was not available in newer cars. The feature had been available in older cars, and Tesla announced it was rolling out a software update to add it back almost immediately after Consumer Reports confirmed the ratings downgrade.

Tesla told media outlets that it was rolling out the update yesterday. Consumer Reports awards two points on its rating scale for cars that have autonomous emergency braking standard, as it feels the technology is an important safety feature. The magazine said it would reevaluate the Tesla ratings once it confirmed that all customer cars had been updated, and that the feature was available on new cars.

The issue is related to Tesla’s decision to switch to a new sensor suite for its Autopilot and other driver-assist systems. All cars built since October 2016 have the new “Hardware 2” setup, and weren’t available with autonomous emergency braking when they were delivered to customers. Tesla had indicated the feature would be added back relatively soon, but Consumer Reports said it kept customers waiting too long.

“Hardware 2” includes a greater array of sensors than the previous “Hardware 1” setup, to the extent that Tesla CEO Elon Musk believes it could enable fully autonomous driving. But the software is less comprehensive: besides autonomous emergency braking, the “Hardware 2” cars shipped without some of the Autopilot features that were available on “Hardware 1” cars. Tesla launched a software update in December for a small number of cars to add those features back, and announced a larger-scale rollout last month.

Consumer Reports reduced the Model S’ score from 87 points to 85 points, knocking it out of the top spot in the “ultra luxury category.” The Model S is now in third place, behind the BMW 7 Series and Lexus LS. The Model X’s score was lowered from 58 points to 56 points, putting the SUV close to the bottom in its category.

Consumer Reports initially had a favorable view of Tesla, but things have gone downhill since then. It called the Model S P85D the best car it had ever tested, but was less keen on the Model X. The Model S also hasn’t scored well in the magazine’s reliability rankings, admittedly not unusual for complex luxury cars. Consumer Reports has also taken issue with Tesla’s Autopilot system, viewing it as “too much autonomy, too soon.” Still, Tesla topped its 2016 customer satisfaction rankings.