Consumer Reports Suffered Notorious Tesla Model S Door Handle Failure — But Repair Was Quick, Painless

Since its first publication in 1936, U.S. consumer advice group Consumer Reports has become known for its fair and impartial consumer advice on everything from household consumables through to appliances, gadgets and even cars.

Is the Model S honeymoon over for Consumer Reports?

Is the Model S honeymoon over for Consumer Reports?

Indeed, earning Consumer Reports’ praise is something of a gold standard for any firm looking to market its products at discerning buyers. Consequently, it takes a lot of hard work to earn Consumer Reports’ praise, and even more to keep it.

That’s something Californian automaker Tesla Motors knows well, having earned consistent praise from Consumer Reports for nearly two years for everything from its overall best vehicle award to its service and aftersales support and its reliability. During that time, Tesla’s Model S luxury electric sedan has even managed to attain the highest ratings of any automobile tested by the consumer group to date.

[Our] $127,000 Tesla Model S P85 D, with the fancy retractable door handles refused to let us in, effectively rendering the car undriveable.Consumer Reports

But last week, Tesla’s outstanding reputation with Consumer Reports hit a bit of a bump when Consumer Report’s latest Model S test car — a recently-purchased Tesla Model S P85D — suffered an embarrassing problem which meant the Consumer Reports team were unable to drive it.

The automatically retracting door handles — one of the many high-tech trademark features of the Tesla Model S — refused to work.

A faulty door handle caused a temporary cessation to Model S fun.

A faulty door handle caused a temporary cessation to Model S fun.

“A new car shouldn’t have problems when you’ve owned it for less than a month,” wrote Consumer Reports last week. “Yet Consumer Reports’ brand-new $127,000 Tesla Model S P85D, with the fancy retractable door handles refused to let us in, effectively rendering the car undriveable.”

According to the publication, the car had just over 2,300 miles on the clock and was just 27 days old when it developed this particularly annoying bug. While the problem is well-documented among Tesla Model S owners as one of the key points of failure for the luxury electric sedan, it appears the Consumer Reports test car only developed a problem with its driver-side front door. While that meant nobody could access the car from the driver’s’ side, the open design of the Model S cockpit made it possible for a quick-footed staffer to jump behind the steering wheel from the passenger side, allowing them to at least get in the car.

Interestingly — or annoyingly for the Consumer Reports team — the Tesla Model S in question was aware of the malfunctioning door handle and thus put itself into a self-protecting mode that prevented itself from being driven normally. Instead, it would allow the Consumer Reports team to initiate an emergency session of keyless driving from an iPhone for just two minutes at a time: just enough to get the car parked in a safe space to await an engineer.

Getting our Tesla fixed could hardly have been more convenient,Consumer Reports

To its credit, Tesla was able to diagnose the problem remotely thanks to its over-the-air software update system and fully remote telematics. Rather than send out an engineer, Tesla was able to query the car’s on-board system to figure out the problem and order a replacement part. The next day, a Tesla service engineer attached to the company’s fleet of roving repair vans arrived at Consumer Reports’ test centre to replace the broken part.

Consumer reports noted that the problem was verified, diagnosed and repaired by the engineer in around two hours, something that it praised Tesla for.

Tesla's repair was quick and painless.

Tesla’s repair was quick and painless.

“Getting our Tesla fixed could hardly have been more convenient,” enthused the publication.

Looking at Consumer Reports’ reliability survey for the Model S, it seems those famous retracting doors are a common problem for Model S owners. Yet while we’re sure those who have suffered them would rather not have the problem in the first place, it seems Tesla’s quick, painless, and dealer-free repair makes up for any inconvenience along the way — as we’re sure many who have been forced to endure dealer-based warranty repairs from other car brands will relive with horror.


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