Tesla leads the world in electric vehicle sales but has garnered a bad reputation lately. The EV maker isn’t exactly reputed for the cars’ build quality.
It’s almost a meme at this point. From leaky seals to panel gaps and everything in between – Tesla appears to not care. But has the situation improved? Build quality has definitely improved – but not by much. This article takes a deep dive into the quality control problems of Tesla EVs.
Most Tesla models have had problems with build quality in the past years. The Tesla Model 3 is reputed to have the worst build quality of the lot.
The build quality is mainly related to finish and fit. However, these issues seem to have been resolved. Owners of Model 3 are no longer complaining about them.
The Tesla Model Y is another electric car in California that had quality issues. It never received a rating higher than 1/5 from Consumer Reports.
This rating is indicative of the EV’s poor build quality.
The Model X also had its fair share of build quality issues. However, the Model X seems to have been the most properly manufactured by Tesla.
It has had the least number of build issues. Most build quality issues include misaligned panels, paint defects, and uneven gaps.
Model Y has reported more severe problems that are concerning. Some of these problems include:
- Water leakage
- Roof flying off
- Sun visor popping out
- Loose trim on the interior b pillar
- Loose trim on the seat belt adjuster
- Foglight becomes loose and sinks into the front bumper
- Cabin rattles as the car goes over bumps
- The driver’s window regulator rattles as the car goes over bumps
- Improperly fastened seat belts
The Model Y (2020) has had 13 recalls by the NHSFA. Before buying any Tesla EV, check it for these defects.
Tesla is only concerned about range, top speed, and acceleration. Everything else, including build quality, seems like an afterthought to their engineers.
This section will take a detailed look at Model Y 2020. The mid-size SUV has made significant improvements – but it is heavily flawed.
For the most part, the car’s doors, body panels, and liftgate look good. However, you might find blemishes in critical areas, where the door hits the vehicle.
You can schedule a service appointment to correct the paint defect. The paint correction should take care of the problem. However, given the price you’re paying, it shouldn’t exist in the first place.
The taillight in Model Y seems to have condensation. Tesla claims that this happens due to changes in atmospheric conditions.
The EV maker insists that condensation in the taillights is normal. The condensation should clear up after some time.
It should clear up when the lights are in high-temperature environments. If the problem persists, take your Model Y out of a drive.
Factors such as humidity and temperature can affect condensation. This is because less heat is emitted from the LEDs used on Model Y.
Moreover, Model Y uses clear outer lenses. This can result in more condensation being visible than the red lens in other cars.
Most drivers may not be happy with the unsightly appearance of the condensation.
The driver’s window doesn’t close properly. They should reach into the upper groove, like standard windows. However, the window stops to a lower position.
Tesla claims that this is normal. Their representative might give you instructions on how to calibrate the windows.
The reason why this occurs is because the car uses frameless windows. They close into the body of the car.
For perspective, framed doors surround the window. The assembly moves as a single unit when you open or close the door.
In the winter, the EV’s windows accumulate ice. This may prevent you from lowering the window and allowing the door to open.
Some drivers complained that the 15-inch touchscreen in the Model Y doesn’t start. It remains black for minutes while the EV is driving.
This is a problem because the speedometer and climate control only exist in the screen. A quick solution is to restart the screen, like a smartphone.
However, the screen is very likely to go black when driving. If this happens too often, we recommend getting a diagnostic check.
The cameras are prone to collecting condensation inside the enclosure. This can trigger the warning “camera blocked or blinded.”
The condensation can be a safety problem with Tesla. It can limit Model Y’s Autopilot features.
Tesla recognizes that its camera will form condensation. This will happen if the car is parked in wet or cold conditions.
The touchscreen will alert the driver stating that the camera is blocked. It will also restrict Autopilot features until the condensation clears up.
You can clear the condensation by preconditioning the cabin to a warm temperature.
All Tesla models have faced quality issues. However, the Model S seems to have the least number of problems reported by consumers.
This means that the Model S may be the most reliable Tesla. It seems to have superior body design and construction.
This is followed up by the Model X. This electric car in California has had fewer build issues. The Model S also has had fewer design issues.
Together, the two EVs have received at least a 4/5 rating from consumer reports. This is a good indication of their quality.
The fit and finish of the Model S do appear somewhat inferior. Most of their EV rivals have superior interiors with the cabin made using high-quality materials.
Sandy Munro, a manufacturing expert, holds nothing back when holding Tesla cars accountable. He likened the Model 3’s build quality to that of a Kia in 1990.
Munro’s teardown of the car revealed all kinds of flaws that reminded him of Kias. You can watch his breakdown of the Model 3 on YouTube.
But if you want the long and short of the video, reach this section.
There are unsightly problems with the car. For example, the panels have these huge gaps that scream of poor quality control.
You can see these gaps ‘from Mars’ – in the words of Sandy Munro. He was particularly surprised by a piece of fabric that appeared to have been glued.
The fabric was glued to the front doors to seal them better. According to Munro, these are flaws you would see in a 90s Kia. It’s an amateurish thing to do.
However, Munro does not have an anti-Tesla agenda. He bought another Model 3 and found nothing but praise for it.
He supported Tesla’s decisions to remove fasteners and change suspension components. This was done to save money.
Munro also admired the build quality of the suspension system. This indicates that Tesla took notes from Munro’s criticism and made some tweaks
It is worth noting that Munro has bought Tesla stock. So there is an apparent conflict of interest in his newfound admiration for Tesla.
Tesla should continue to improve their production process until the build quality improves.
Tesla has its priorities: more range and acceleration. It has completely upended the automotive industry.
Being a new player often means that Tesla has less experience than its rivals. It has prompted other car makers, like Jaguar and Ford, to go all-electric.
Even Porsche released their all-electric car called Taycan. This shows that Tesla has changed the world of electric vehicles.
Many of the manufacturing defects can be chalked up to Tesla’s inexperience. Even Elon Musk has advised customers to avoid Tesla cars released earlier.
So why has quality control been such an issue for Tesla?
The answer boils down to the tech. Tesla has superior battery technology by all accounts. All Tesla Models have an outstanding range that dwarfs its rivals.
The range is an essential metric in the world of electric cars. Tesla knows this and capitalizes on this fact.
Tesla’s worth as an EV maker lies in its use of battery technology. Tesla EVs have a superior range than their rivals within their price category.
The Model 3 at 278 miles is more than the similarly priced Chevy Bolt EV. The Bolt EV has a range of about 260 miles.
Jaguar’s I-Pace has a massive range of 292 miles. The Model X completely overshadows this with a range of 360 miles.
The upcoming Model S Plaid + will have a whopping 512 miles of range. The similarly priced Taycan Turbo has a range of 280 miles.
There is no comparison between Tesla and other EVs when it comes to range. And Tesla customers understand that. In the world of electric cars, EV makers have to make tradeoffs.
The range is significant if your area doesn’t have an expansive charging network. Even with Tesla’s supercharger network, it takes a long time to charge EVs.
Compare this with gas cars where you can refuel in minutes. A supercharger can bring Teslas up to 80% in just 25 minutes.
But have you ever waited 25 minutes to refuel gas-powered cars? The fact that Tesla dwarfs the competition when it comes to range.
This dominance might compensate for the lackluster build quality.
Besides, what is the alternative for motorists? A higher quality EV but shorter range? Tesla dominates as long as it maintains its network of chargers and superior battery technology.
Let’s talk about the build quality issues.
Most of them are relatively non-serious. Let’s look at the list of build quality issues:
- Condensation on the tailgate (occasional)
- Paint problems
- Poorly aligned windows
- Loose visor
- Condensation in the cameras
Most of these problems are relatively minor and don’t detract from the driving experience. Tesla EVs have had these issues since they began mass manufacturing them.
Despite this, Tesla continues to increase its production capacity every few years. This indicates that Tesla customers are not too bothered.
You could attribute this to Tesla’s marketing team and Elon’s celebrity status. Not many companies can get people to put down a deposit for a non-existent product.
But Tesla managed to get deposits for Cybertruck that had no actual delivery date. Half a million people lined up to make deposits for the Cybertruck.
Tesla also demanded a deposit for $4000 for the Roadster. This model doesn’t have any tangible delivery date either.
But people continue to drop money on anything with the Tesla logo. For most Tesla fans, the range of the EV is all they care about.
No other car maker can get away with these problems, but Tesla remains unaffected. The superior battery technology and network of chargers win the day.
Tesla is undoubtedly aware of this issue. This doesn’t mean they are sitting ducks and allowing problems to creep in. Tesla has made significant improvements to their product lineup.
Tesla has ironed out the lazy fit and finish problems with their cars. They have also built a more efficient unibody structure.
But we believe that Tesla’s lackadaisical attitude will catch up with them eventually. Other EV makers iron out the supply chain issues with lithium-ion batteries.
They will also build a viable charging network to rival Tesla’s Superchargers. When this happens,, the ‘cool factor’ associated with Tesla will evaporate.
Tesla should improve build quality while they are in the good graces of their customers.
The bottom line is that Tesla is improving its build quality over time. Things aren’t as bad as they were in 2013. Tesla has managed to eliminate most quality problems.
By far, the biggest problem with the Teals is with their paint job. Fortunately, this isn’t a significant problem. You can bring your Tesla to the nearest service center for a quick touchup.
Let us know if minor build qualities with Tesla are a problem for you. If not, where would you draw the line?
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My name is Matthew, staying in Seattle, Washington. Electric Vehicles (Electric Cars & Electric bikes) caught my attention for the last few years and my love for electric cars and bikes is everlasting. I spend many of my weekends traveling to various places all over various cities with my electric vehicle (e-bike and electric car). Here I am sharing my expertise, experience, and invaluable information about electric cars and electric bikes. Check out more.