We generally don't report on other outlets' long-term model tests, but Edmunds just completed a 17-month ownership experience with a 2013 Tesla Model S. It's just too interesting not to share.

The site bought a 2013 Model S Performance model for the added range of its 85-kilowatt-hour battery and tossed on a good variety of options for a total price of $105,005, including a wall charger. In terms of driving the electric hatchback, the folks there seemed to love it. There were a few minor gripes, but for the most part it offered sufficient driving range, plenty of space and generally good quality.

However, the ownership experience was hardly flawless. The journalists there were never quite able to hit the Model S' promised range of 265 miles, with a best real-world result of 230.4 miles during their ownership. Also, while they had it, the Model S had a rash of unscheduled trips for service – seven times – and their Tesla left them stranded by the side of the road once.

These weren't just some minor quibbles, either. The drive unit was replaced three times and the main battery once. That massive center info screen had to be manually reset nine times and was completely replaced once, as well. Edmunds writers forgave some of the faults, though. Their Tesla was an early production model, and some of the fixes were a result of technical service bulletins. They never had to pay for any of it, other than buying a new set of tires.

While this is all anecdotal evidence based on just a single Model S, it doesn't make the Model S sound like an easy car to live with all the time. You can get the full skinny on the love/loathe affair directly from Edmunds by clicking here.


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  • 97 Comments
      loganandbutters
      • 4 Months Ago
      Wow that is a huge list of items to go wrong within the first 30,000 miles. Critical items too like the drive motor and batteries...that's like the equivalent of replacing the engine and transmissions in a normal car...three times in 30,000 miles.
        RyanC
        • 4 Months Ago
        @loganandbutters
        My parents have a Model S that had 12k miles put on it over a time span of six months last year. While in storage through the cold and salty Michigan winter, the 12v (yep, it has one) died. The next day Tesla was out to swap out the battery, and put in shims for the sunroof if need be -- which there was no issue with to begin with so they left it as is. Other than that? Complete perfection.
        Koenigsegg
        • 4 Months Ago
        @loganandbutters
        It happens. My friend has 32k miles on his Tesla and has not had 1 problem.
      Joeviocoe
      • 4 Months Ago
      Tesla Motors, Inc. Second Quarter 2014 Financial Results Q&A Conference Call Thursday, July 31, 2014, 5:30 pm EDT

      @50:22

      Elon Musk (CEO): Definitely some genuine issues with the Edmund's car. They had one of our early production units. Most of the problems encountered are not present in current cars. It ended being counterproductive since the service team was ultra proactive. They were doing their best to make Edmund's happy... Unfortunately that resulted in changing things out "on the off chance something might go wrong". Drive unit was replaced twice even though it wasn't a drive unit problem ['just in case']. It was an unfortunate case, that is broadly not correct [not the corrective procedure]. Definitely not correct for any Model S made in the past year.

      JB Straubel (CTO): The drive unit is very complex assembly of many different components. The components that did fail internal to the Edmund's drive unit were relative inexpensive. They were being replaced for "expedience" just to get the Edmund's car back on the road But going forward, we're looking for ways to repair [on site] rather than replace, in the same amount of time.

      Elon Musk (CEO): Optimization is customer happiness to get customers back their cars right away.

      Deepak Ahuja (CFO): The overall impact of these service calls on warranty reserves is NOT significant. ---------------------------

      Listening to earlier in the conference call, Elon talked about specific examples of how a single cable harness can become loose and cause noise/vibration... and how the whole drive unit would be replaced if time is a bigger concern.

      A Tesla Drive Unit is orders of magnitude easier, quicker and cheaper to replace than an internal combustion engine and transmission... so right now, rather than spending days/weeks in the shop, a few hours could get the customer back on the road... and the service techs can sent the faulty unit to be disassembled and repaired without the customer waiting for it.

      Bottom line... the fact that many Drive Units are replaced say NOTHING about the true reliability of the car, since the car is so modular, a "replacement" is often cheaper than taking the whole thing apart to replace a single $3 shim while the customer waits for weeks.
      Jay
      • 4 Months Ago
      The repair history on Edmunds car is not unusual, even for more recent builds. My co-worker has a 85kw model that was purchased about 7 months ago and I would say Telsa has had the car for 50% of that time. Now they are great about bringing out a loaner and picking up his car but still it's a problem. These kind of reports always get buried under the Tesla marketing machine on the internet. I do applaud them for what they have accomplished in a short time, but spending $100k on a car that has left you stranded multiple times, has had drive units replaced, controllers for the center display replaced multiple times, battery pack replaced, etc. is not a good sign. Not to mention the center display still constantly locks up. Very annoying.
        Bernard
        • 4 Months Ago
        @Jay
        What marketing machine? They can't even sell cars in New Jersey?
        jimmy_james44
        • 4 Months Ago
        @Jay
        Consumer Reports, with a far larger statistical sample, disagrees.
      billj
      • 4 Months Ago
      Wow what a big suprise, its a beta car that has awesome potential.
      delsolo1
      • 4 Months Ago
      I will wait for a unbias review from Consumer Reports
      ferps
      • 4 Months Ago
      As Tesla retools their plant for the forthcoming Model X, my guess is that a lot of the bugs in the Model S will be addressed as well.
      CruzControl
      • 4 Months Ago
      Tell it to the shares I bought at $77.
        danfred311
        • 4 Months Ago
        @CruzControl
        maybe sell now
          CruzControl
          • 4 Months Ago
          @danfred311
          I'm thinking long term my friend. Only a fool will short sell Tesla stock. When the model 3 is released, I'll pay for it with my shares :)
        Bernard
        • 4 Months Ago
        @CruzControl
        I bought at $242 :-( I still have hope though.
      merlot066
      • 4 Months Ago
      I've been increasingly curious about the actual reliability of the Model S. It is unquestionably a wonderful performing car, but while everyone is busy gushing over its performance and putting Elon Musk on a golden throne, I've barely heard anything about build quality or reliability. This one car alone can't speak for all of them but it sounds like the Fisker Karma all over again but without an engine to catch on fire.
        ElectricAvenue
        • 4 Months Ago
        @merlot066
        Well, for what it's worth, I just drove over 10,000 miles within a month (testing out the cross-continent ability!) and had no problems at all aside from a slow air leak in one tire due to running over a nail. When I got the car the glove compartment failed to close; they sent someone out and replaced the glove compartment with the car parked in front of my house. Total mileage currently: 17000 miles.
        Koenigsegg
        • 4 Months Ago
        @merlot066
        No.
      thecommentator2013
      • 4 Months Ago
      As much as I like this car, we do have to wait for reports on long term reliability. You know, because companies like GM, Ford etc. do know something about cars and how to build them...
        FX2fowheel
        • 4 Months Ago
        @thecommentator2013
        Yeah, they do, but their knowledge (especially GM's) doesn't seem to make as big a difference as it should. How many millions of cars has GM recently recalled?
          Thipps
          • 4 Months Ago
          @FX2fowheel
          with the reported problems dont you think Tesla could have many...many recalls themselves? Its fixing a issue it should not be used as a dirty word
      Tstag
      • 4 Months Ago
      Petrol/ Diesel cars are very reliable these days so this perhaps comes as a surprise to people. But when people moan about a Fiat or a Land Rover they forget that the odd issue they may encounter is nothing compared to where we were and where we may be going....
      bluepongo1
      • 4 Months Ago
      The sabotage check must have bounced.... because why else would you take a car you claimed to be unreliable, on a record breaking cross-country road trip .... without incident. Were you lying before edmunds.com or are you lying now ? BTW anyone else get spam after clicking on edmunds.com ?
      Jonathan Ippolito Ga
      • 4 Months Ago
      Why does Edmond frequently seem to test preproduction models of cars instead of the production model ?
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