2013 Tesla Model S Long-Term Road Test

Edmunds.comEdmunds.com Member, Administrator, Moderator Posts: 10,135
edited September 2014 in Tesla

image2013 Tesla Model S Long-Term Road Test

When we last left our 2013 Tesla Model S, it was on the back of a flat-bed tow truck, here's what went wrong with it.

Read the full story here



  • kirkhilles_kirkhilles_ Member Posts: 151
    Yeah, I'm not sure I'd make analogies to a $250 gaming system versus a $80k+ car as well as having it die on your way to work versus not being able to play a game.

    That being said, it doesn't concern me that much IF Tesla is active in addressing problems and improving Quality Control. Hopefully the Tesla's of 2020 will be near bulletproof.

    If not, we're going to have issues when the more affordable versions come out and people start driving these well past warranty periods. Its not going to be acceptable if an Average Joe purchases a 60k used Tesla for $25k with large monthly payments and then has to pay $5k+ for unexpected repairs.
  • zimtheinvaderzimtheinvader Member Posts: 580
    so, just how expensive would this be if you were outside the warranty? The battery warranty is quite long at 8 years 125,000 miles but the drive unit would likely only be under the 4 year 50,000 mile warranty

    But good points on the early adopters and tech point of view. I'd be livid if my current car was on its 3rd engine but you are right things like that are more acceptable when they are tech. "Just don't hold your phone like that and it will work fine" type of things.
  • duck87duck87 Member Posts: 649
    Brutal. On its third motor in less than 20k miles, replacement of possibly the single largest component in the car (the entire under-chassis battery) and more tire wear! I was joking the first time the drivetrain needed to be replaced when I said that they should add "10,000 miles- replace motor" as a maintenance schedule item, but it's turning out to be the case?

    Seriously, why don't they just give you a new car and be done with it? The LCA washers and the rear camber adjust bolts at least make it clear that Tesla is well aware of the tire wear issues (and hopefully, it will no longer be an issue).

    Ron, I don't understand how you can an apologist for this company, especially as a consumer advice editor. I especially don't get how you can compare this to the Xbox fiasco when you're talking about a $100K car. Startup "beta" testers or not, nobody should have to go through the experience of 3 engine replacements in such a low number of miles, in a region of the US which is typically very gentle on vehicles. If I were an owner I'd be looking at using lemon laws at this point.
  • ams124ams124 Member Posts: 2
    I get giving them a break on the battery that's new in automotive but electric machines are not. There have been electric machines in EVs and Hybrids for well over a decade. The size may change between a hybrid and what is in the Tesla has but the technology is very mature.
  • gslippygslippy Member Posts: 514
    Holy mackerel! That repair didn't cost Tesla $5000; it was probably more like $30-40k. The battery pack is very expensive. We've accused Edmunds of being hard on cars, but there is clearly a car problem here (drivetrain and suspension) that leaves me very worried about the fleet of Model Ss in the field.
  • random_shotsrandom_shots Member Posts: 14
    If I was an owner I would be looking at having Tesla buy the car back from me at this point.
  • cjasiscjasis Member Posts: 274
    Sorry, but that's just crazy. And early adopter or not, I'd be fuming if I was an owner at this point.
  • reminderreminder Member Posts: 383
    Based on their experiences, I wouldn't pay $0.10 for that thing. Expensive & unreliable is a nonstarter for me.
  • mercedesfanmercedesfan Member Posts: 365
    As a Tesla owner, I actually do not agree with your assessment of early beta testers. If my Model S was having the issues that yours is I would be enraged and would dump that thing as quickly as I could. As it stands, based on your experience and owner forums I already plan on selling the car before the warranty expires. I really do love the car in a lot of ways, but I am terrified about post-warranty reliability. On an ironic side note, my Model S has only left me stranded once. It ended up being a really minor battery connection fault, but I had to laugh at myself when I was forced to drive my 1971 Benz into work that day because it ran no problem and my brand new luxury car did not.
  • fordson1fordson1 Unconfirmed Posts: 1,512
    "Obviously the costs are different" That's just a stupid comparison - no way around it. And I absolutely agree with duck87's point about a consumer advice editor becoming an apologist for the manufacturer. Elon Musk was asked last year specifically if the Model S owner body was not a beta test site, and he specifically said no, it was not. And now we have Edmunds excusing these repeated failures on that very basis, so now Edmunds is more of an apologist that the manufacturer. And yes, that $5k repair guess was a total joke of a lowball estimate. If I could be allowed a similar off-the-cuff remark, I would say that the total of parts and labor done to this car since they took delivery is probably approaching half of its MSRP. There are constant arguments here and elsewhere, one camp saying that as a piece of engineering, the S is brilliant, and the other camp saying that as a $100k luxury car, the S is a POS. Relax - no reason it can't be both...and it IS both. And finally, cue the "Jeopardy" music while we wait to see if there will be any explanation from Tesla of this latest failure.
  • nbrennan777nbrennan777 Member Posts: 2
    Loyalty is when people are willing to suffer some inconvenience or pay a premium to do business with you. The Model S is so much more than a transportation appliance. It's a symbol of a belief in the electrified future, which makes it something that people who believe in a same future gravitate towards, are willing to pay for and willing to evolve with.
  • markinnaples_markinnaples_ Member Posts: 251
    What did Tesla say, if anything, about the dangers of not being able to move the car off the road after it died?

    That was an extemely dangerous situation, especially since the flashers died as well. If my wife and child were in this when that happened, I'd looking for heads to roll.

    This car reminds me of Second City as it appears to be a not-ready-for-prime-time player.
  • se_riouslyse_riously Member Posts: 94
    If this were a true long-term test, the owner would have filed a lemon law claim (easily justified by 3 drivetrain units). This would bode poorly for the brand in its infancy, so Tesla would probably purchase the vehicle back.

    But of course, this isn't a true long-term test is it? What are the chances that this vehicle, with 3 drivetrains, will be sold to a private party instead of Carmax or Tesla? I say unlikely.
  • noburgersnoburgers Member Posts: 500
    The value in Edmunds' long term test is to show the ownership experience. So far, we have learned that the 'S' is experiencing many serious failures, that the dealership experience has been responsive to repairing the vehicle quickly under warranty (and unable to provide much explanation of the cause of the failures), and that with some planning you can travel great distances, recharging for free. I would stay away until reliability improves.
  • handbrakehandbrake Member Posts: 99
    As a Model S owner, I hope that Tesla will revise its warranty policy to reflect the motor problems. The 4 year warranty on the motor is not sufficient given what we're seeing here and at the very least the motor warranty should match the battery warranty.

    I like our Tesla but these problems are beyond "beta tester" expectations. If we are actually doing the durability testing as well then we should either get an appropriate warranty for the motor (i.e., either match the battery warranty or make it for the entire duration of ownership).

    I don't want to have to replace a motor every year for 4 years and find out in the fifth year that it's at my expense...
  • duck87duck87 Member Posts: 649
    @nbrennan777: Cool. So can you point out one instance in which a Nissan Leaf did this to its owner?
  • stovt001_stovt001_ Member Posts: 799
    Funny how a certain one-track-mind commentator doesn't touch this post, even though this car experienced two massive drivetrain failures, just because it didn't come from a certain city. When the evidence doesn't fit your very, very, very, very narrow view, just ignore it...
  • subytrojan_2subytrojan_2 Member Posts: 79
    se_riously, this would not qualify for the lemon law. http://www.dmv.org/ca-california/automotive-law/lemon-law.php Under California lemon law, there are a few qualifications:
    • The car must still be under warranty
    • The owner must have taken the car in for repair of the same problem four or more times through an authorized dealer
    • The car must have been inoperable for a total of 30 days (not necessarily consecutive)
  • subytrojan_2subytrojan_2 Member Posts: 79
    se_riously, this car can't be considered a lemon yet. http://www.dmv.org/ca-california/automotive-law/lemon-law.php Under California lemon law, there are a few qualifications: • The car must still be under warranty • The owner must have taken the car in for repair of the same problem four or more times through an authorized dealer • The car must have been inoperable for a total of 30 days (not necessarily consecutive)
  • subytrojan_2subytrojan_2 Member Posts: 79
    Sorry for the duplicate comment. I was getting a 400 Bad request error and didn't know the first one was successful.
  • donnaderosadonnaderosa Member Posts: 5
    Correction made to text in paragraph 6. -- Donna
  • desmoliciousdesmolicious Member Posts: 671
    "...but I have to think this repair cost Tesla at least the $5,000. Big 85KwH batteries and electric drive units don't come cheap."

    You are the consumer advice advocate and yet you do not do the research to find out how much it would cost?
    Aren't you just a little bit curious, as a journalist, to find out the facts?
  • allthingshondaallthingshonda Member Posts: 878
    Tesla has made a remarkable car, truly revolutionary but this shows that they are still amateurs. The failure rate of such a major component would not happen at a traditional automaker. Replacing an engine or transmission under warranty happens but not twice in 20,000 miles. Chevy Volts are all new with a revolutionary drive system but they are very reliable. Tesla doesn't have the resources and experience to test components and vehicles like the traditional automakers. Tesla is on top of this not only for customer concerns but I see a safety recall in their future. Not only does it lose power suddenly while driving but it also causes the car to aggressively decelerate. Also losing electrical power causes all exterior lights to fail. All of this can cause an accident.
  • se_riouslyse_riously Member Posts: 94
    @ subytrojan. Thanks for the info, but you're wrong. Here's a link to the CA Attorney General's website. https://oag.ca.gov/consumers/general/lemon What you quoted is merely a guide, but a judge or arbitrator can rule that the vehicle is a lemon even
  • marmotkingmarmotking Member Posts: 42
    I was unaware of the potential for swollen lug nuts. On a car, anyway.
  • cx7lovercx7lover Member Posts: 90
    Heat makes metal expand. Something from the drivetrain perhaps causing too much heat to pass through to the lugs?

    I have to agree with everyone here. This many severe problems so early on is unacceptable. I don't care what "first" of a car it is and most of the people who pay this much for a car are already feel entitled to trouble free ownership.
  • cx7lovercx7lover Member Posts: 90
    God I hate the commenting system here and have for years. This is the one site that has only gotten progressively worse and removed more features.
  • c5thunderc5thunder Member Posts: 0
    Its difficult to make a direct comparison between electric and ICE cars but I'll try anyway.

    I'd argue this car has had 1 'engine' swap + 3 transmission and/or differential failures. The battery is the engine. It stores the energy needed to propel the car + provides the HP rating (larger batteries = more HP per Tesla's specs). The drive unit is the trans + diff. Clearly that's still an issue but it sounds slightly better when you look at it this way.

    As of now this car has had a near-complete drivetrain swap. I suspect we wont hear about additional drive unit failures unless this is a recurring issue with other Model S owners.
  • martini7martini7 Member Posts: 1
    I think the strong reactions to the repairs seen in the comments reflects thinking from the internal combustion world that is not completely relevant to an electric car. This car has a modular design and the parts involved were replaced in a single day with no impact on the quality of the car after the fact. The fact that they are major drive components is important only inasmuch as their failure immobilized the car. Replacing the headliner is probably a more difficult and time consuming task for the service center. So is this a less serious repair than a headliner? In some ways, yes.

    The owner shouldn't really care what it costs the manufacturer to provide warranty service, just whether that service is satisfactory to them or not. That said, the parts removed from this car will likely be refurbished and reused, so the total cost to Tesla is hard to determine.
  • duck87duck87 Member Posts: 649
    @martini7: No. They dropped the rear subframe (i.e. a major chunk of the car was disassembled), which also necessitated a rear alignment. They also had to take out the battery, which essentially spans the entire underside of the car. These are probably th
  • fordson1fordson1 Unconfirmed Posts: 1,512
    Wow - some world-class rationalizations. The fact that with higher-capacity batteries Tesla allows the motor to produce more power doesn't change the fact that the battery is the energy source and the motor is the component that changes that energy into motion...just like an ICE car. It's on its third powertrain. And the possibility that replacing a headliner is more time-consuming than replacing the drivetrain in this car is not the issue...if you had one of these out of warranty, would you rather pay to replace the headliner every 10,000 miles, or the powertrain? Also, the idea that if the warranty service is satisfactory then poor reliability is OK...nobody thinks like that. You need to have a reliable car. When a car is repaired often, you start getting fasteners that are cross-threaded or not torqued correctly, electrical connections that are not consistent, grease smears on upholstery, broken and missing trim pieces and clips, paint scratches, curbed wheels, corrosion-resistant finishes knocked off, particularly at lift points, etc. Many of the fasteners on cars are designed to be undone and done up over and over again; many are not (you would think lug nuts would fall into the former category...apparently not on a Tesla S...). Pull the aerodynamic belly panels off of any car, ICE or EV, 10 or 12 times and tell me how well they go back in place again. I'm not a particular fan of Nissan Leafs, Chevy Volts or Toyota Priuses, but I must say these mainstream manufacturers have done a much better job of designing in reliability than has Tesla.
  • vvkvvk Member Posts: 196
    This sounds more like $50,000, not $5000. I think most of this car's cost is in its high voltage battery.
  • misterfusionmisterfusion Member Posts: 471
    Two things: (1) The Model S uses an AC induction motor, which is unique among mainstream cars. It is NOT the same engine tech (permanent magnet) as used in the Leaf, Volt or Prius, so one should not assume that the time-tested reliability of one will apply to the other. (2) As a consumer, knowing "why" something failed is irrelevant to me, assuming the failure did not occur as a result of my actions. The only thing I want to know is, "Will this happen again?" ... I suppose I understand wanting to know for the sake of curiosity, but it is likely that the information will not help me in any way.
  • dunning15dunning15 Member Posts: 0
    I've got 8 months and 13,000 miles on my 85 and haven't had a single problem. Of course my VIN is around 10,000 later than this Edmund's vehicle.

    Such are the perils of early adopters.
  • hybrishybris Member Posts: 365
    This a beta car no matter Mulsk says we the people are the genie pigs here. That said I want to car work but I won't trust it as a primary means of transport at least 10 or 20 years or until there is a major leap frog in the technology.
  • dunning15dunning15 Member Posts: 0
    Good Lord, Hybris! Is English your fourth language?

    Mulsk better get his genie pigs in order!
  • subytrojan_2subytrojan_2 Member Posts: 79
    se_riously, I may be wrong, but I worked in a BMW service department that dealt with buybacks of E65/E66/E60/E61/E63/E64 in the mid-2000s. How familiar are you with the Lemon Law in California?
  • mercedesfanmercedesfan Member Posts: 365
    @dunning15, I believe my VIN is actually BEFORE Edmund's car (I took delivery before them, at least) and I have had no problems like this. In fact, my only "mechanical" problem so far was a bad battery connection that prevented the car from star
  • fordson1fordson1 Unconfirmed Posts: 1,512
    misterfusion, I think those of us here with a mechanical bent are kinda thinking that if we know why something failed, that will give us some insight as to the likelihood of it happening again. We don't share your belief that "the information will not help...in any way." There is a more than coincidental relationship between these two concepts, right? Dunning15, this car (and its powertrain, which failed), was placed into service 12 months ago. Your car was placed into service 8 months ago. This car's second powertrain (which has just failed) was placed into service 4 months ago. I would hazard a guess that this four-month-old, 9,000-mile-old powertrain was manufactured (or remanufactured...that's another head-scratcher...) to a newer-spec rev than yours. Just sayin'. And that's another reason I would want to know the failure mode - if this much newer unit failed in the same way the original did, that's a real problem and would be an explosive revelation, whether because the newer engineering-rev spec DID NOT fix the problem, or because Tesla performed a warranty repair by putting a remanufactured powertrain into an eight-month-old, $100,000 luxury car with less than 10,000 miles on it. In fact, even if the root cause was different, but this was a reman unit, that's poison. There is no silver lining here for Tesla or Tesla owners.
  • duck87duck87 Member Posts: 649
    @misterfusion: The Leaf is using a AC synchronous motor, but it's not like AC induction motors haven't been used before, and it's especially not like they haven't been placed in more strenuous, industrial applications. This time, the car also had a <20
  • darthbimmerdarthbimmer Member Posts: 606
    I would not tolerate this level of trouble with any automobile, not even a novel one like Tesla. The risks are NOT similar to being an early adopter of consumer electronics. If my game machine dies it doesn't leave me stranded on the side of the road, possibly hundreds of miles from home, and having to figure out Plan B for daily transportation. In addition, the costs are in two entirely different leagues. If a $400 toy turns into a brick outside of warranty, I'd be pissed about it but I wouldn't suffer much financially. If an $80,000 car turns into a brick outside of warranty it'd be a tremendous financial setback to my family. I initiated the Lemon Law process once before for a less catastrophic problem than this, and I would do so now without further hesitation.
  • badshot101badshot101 Member Posts: 2
    It's pretty clear that Tesla still has a lot more testing to do in order to have a car with acceptable reliability. If Tesla is serious about defusing the issue they need to do something bold like issue a lifetime warranty on model S powertrain and batteries - at least for original owners. That way the early adopters who believed in them are not punished for their support. If some of the early buyers are so well off that they are just viewing this as crowdfunding of Tesla then great, but real people with real jobs should not have to suffer.
  • dagmar3dagmar3 Member Posts: 8
    Is there another new car being sold today which requires more frequent use of a flatbed truck? The inability to limp home with a mechanical failure is disturbing.

    Obviously a Tesla is infinitely more complex than a computer; but can't it ever be re-booted without calling in flatbeds?
  • d_wd_w Member Posts: 2
    Wow, it would seem if buying the S that the guaranteed buyback from Tesla is a must have option.
  • duaneyduaney Member Posts: 1
    I would think that having to replace the drive unit for the 3rd time before 20K miles/ 1 year would run afoul of the Lemon Law, wouldn't it?
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