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Tesla has a serious quality problem, and it needs fixing

May 20th, 2016 at 5:47 PM
Tesla Model X Quality Control

There’s no denying that Tesla is an incredibly forward-thinking and innovative company that’s made some big changes to the status quo. In what seems like the blink of an eye, Tesla not only managed to normalize the concept of electric vehicles, but it also changed the way we think about the driving experience altogether.

As a direct result, Tesla is a beloved company with an adoring and exceedingly passionate fan base. But there’s only so much crap even the most passionate fans will tolerate, and with Tesla anticipating rapid growth into a much cheaper market, its quality control issues need to be sorted out — fast.

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While the Model S experienced a few well-publicized growing pains related to quality control issues, Elon Musk a few months ago tried to alleviate concerns by saying that many of the reported problems brought to light by Consumer Reports only affected early production models.

Fair enough, but now the iconic electric automaker is experiencing a new onslaught of problems with the recently released Model X. Indeed, it seems like we can’t even go a week without a new story about problematic Model X issues emerging, and that’s without even mentioning the Model X recall Tesla announced just last month.

Most recently, Sue Callaway of Fortune published an in-depth review of the Model X, and while she found much to like with Tesla’s crossover SUV, Fortune also had a number of serious concerns pertaining to quality control.

One of the more troubling observations about the Model X centered on placing a baby seat in the middle rows.

Tesla promised me that the Model X’s second-row seats move in such a way as to allow a baby seat to be in place and yet still move to access the third row. I borrowed a friend’s three-month-old baby—yes, really—and her Uppababy Mesa babyseat and discovered very quickly that the system moved the rear-facing seat far enough forward to hit the back of the driver’s seat. Worse, it started to tip the second-row seats, squeezing the car seat’s frame with the baby in it. Definitely not okay.

And pushing things into the realm of the bizarre, Callaway subsequently adds:

When I asked a Tesla product specialist about the issue, he said that Tesla meant that a car seat could be in place, but not with a baby in it. That’s too important a hair to split. If that is a true limitation of the movable second-row seats, there should be warnings clearly posted inside the vehicle. (There were not.)

Unfortunately, Callaway also had a few gripes about the fit and finish of the car. While such gripes are admittedly minor, there’s a certain level of quality that one comes to expect when forking over six figures for a car. Specifically, Callaway found issues with the Model X’s weather stripping while also observing: “[the] carpeting in spots was poorly glued and fraying on the edges, exposing some wires in the rear cargo area.”

If this was the only tale of woe surrounding the Model X you could write it off to bad luck, but it’s just the latest in a collection. Last month, for instance, we highlighted a story involving a man whose Model X experienced a number of glitches, including a door that wouldn’t fully shut, forcing the owner to drive to work while manually keeping the door closed with his left hand.

While Tesla apologists (and admittedly, perhaps I am one of them) will be quick to say that Tesla has a strong record of identifying and assessing production problems and fixing them on the assembly line as quickly as possible, the company won’t be afforded the same benefit of the doubt when it releases the Model 3 in late 2017. In fact, with Tesla now accelerating the rollout of the Model 3, some are reasonably concerned that the number of quality control issues affecting Tesla cars will only increase in the years ahead.

A life long Mac user and Apple enthusiast, Yoni Heisler has been writing about Apple and the tech industry at large for over 6 years. His writing has appeared in Edible Apple, Network World, MacLife, Macworld UK, and most recently, TUAW. When not writing about and analyzing the latest happenings with Apple, Yoni enjoys catching Improv shows in Chicago, playing soccer, and cultivating new TV show addictions, the most recent examples being The Walking Dead and Broad City.

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