Consumer Reports: Tesla Model 3 Handles Great, But Poor Ride Quality

Tesla Model 3 (Justin Pritchard / Associated Press)
Justin Pritchard / Associated Press
Newport Beach, CA

The first Consumer Reports review of a Tesla Model 3 found the all-electric sedan for the middle class has great handling, but that the ride quality is very poor.

By putting a $1,000 deposit down in April 1, 2016, Consumer Reports (CR) was able to receive one of the first Tesla Model 3 commercial deliveries in mid-February 2018. Only deluxe vehicles with $23,000 in options were available, but CR was able to test the vehicle to determine the performance of a high-volume $35,000 standard unit.

CR’s testers reported they were “impressed by our car’s glued-to-the-road handling, with steering that is quick and precise, much like a well-tuned sports car.” But regarding ride quality, CR found that the “car is overly stiff, struggling to absorb bumps with the dignity expected from a luxury car. There’s also considerable wind noise at highway speeds.”

The main reason Tesla has been able to lose money for 15 years and not go bankrupt is receipt of $1.6 billion in U.S. federal and state electric vehicle tax credits on the sale of 160,000 luxury cars it produced and sold in the U.S. at a $90,000 average price. But according to the Tesla Owner’s Forum, the $7,500 federal credit will fall to $3,750 by June 30, 2018; $1,750 by December 31, 2018; and $0.00 by June 30, 2019.

Tesla just reported that the company lost $665 million in the last three months of 2017, and about $1.9 billion for the year. About 80 percent of those losses were due to the ramp-up of the Model 3, which is a year behind schedule. More concerning, Tesla is predicted to lose $855 million in the first three months of 2018, and over $2 billion for the year.

Tesla is financially betting the viability of the company on the ability to quickly produce and sell at least 125,000 Model 3 as all-electric mid-sized luxury cars per year at an un-subsidized starting price of $35,000.

Tesla does not offer monthly sales figures, but the “insideevs.com” market intelligence estimates that Tesla last month sold 2,485 Model 3 units; 1,125 Model S sedans; and 875 Model X SUVs. But with 1,882,848 U.S. personal vehicle sales in February, Tesla held a 0.2 percent market share with just 4,482 units.

Several years ago, Tesla was the only electric-vehicle on U.S. roads. But there are now 38 models to choose from, and most car manufacturers plan to produce several electric-vehicle models by 2019.

Tesla’s Model S lost its position as the top-selling electric vehicle in its California home market to General Motors’ Chevrolet Bolt. According to the California New Car Dealers Association’s Auto Outlook, GM sold or leased 13,487 Bolts versus 11,813 Tesla Model S sedans. The San Francisco Chronicle blamed the loss of leadership on the fact that Tesla’s Model S starts at $74,500 — over twice Bolt’s $36,620 starting price.

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