Changing the game is not easy. We’ve seen the old-school automakers show up with knives in hand whenever Tesla has seemed vulnerable in aspects of its operation, be it production volume, delivery dates, or design flaws. The one thing Tesla has always had on its side is the customer: No matter how many blips the early adopters encountered, they usually said they’d live with them and noted they’d do it all again if given the chance. But Tesla Model X problems are becoming worrisome.
If you need a sign of how bad the situation is, we present the case of the Model X owner suing for a refund of his $161,970 under California’s “Lemon Law.” Lemons should not cost the price of a home in most zip codes, even if they are among the first batch coming from the factory. Worst of all, the man said he wants his money back because Tesla has been unable to fix things like front doors slamming with minds of their own. That’s scary, dangerous stuff.
These problems are not part of an isolated incident or the result of a single disgruntled customer. There are many stories dealing with issues found in the pricey, all-electric SUV and a safety recall to boot. Here are the three problems that have recurred since the Model X debut.
1. The falcon-wing doors
In terms of razzle-dazzle, Tesla delivered more than its share when it promised falcon-wing doors offering access to the second and third rows of seating. However, this aspect of the vehicle was one of the things reportedly behind the Model X’s delayed arrival, and customers have repeatedly expressed frustration over their functionality.
A Consumer Reports blog on one Model X buyer’s problems told the story of the rear doors being unable to sense an overhang before banging into it. While you do have to expect issues arising in an all-new car with so many features, the responsibility falls squarely on the shoulders of the automaker’s officials, some of whom departed from Tesla in early May.
2. Rear seating
Tesla Model X problems with the rear seats were widespread enough to prompt a voluntary recall of 2,700 models by the automaker in April. According to the automaker, the third row of seats could fail in a crash, which prompted Tesla to call back every SUV made before March 26. Supplier Futuris was responsible for the problem that caused the recall.
Another issue with the rear seats popped up during a test drive by a Fortune reviewer. While the report on Model X was largely positive, a major problem came up when a baby seat was placed between the driver’s seat and the second row of seating. As seen in the video from the review, the system automatically moved the baby seat into the back of the driver’s seat, actually squeezing it and tipping it upward.
3. Fit and finish
While issues with falcon-wing doors and Autopilot systems seem to be matters of design hubris, the fit and finish complaints are standard in brand new vehicles. The Fortune review noted weatherstripping that peeled off the back doors and torn carpeting in the trunk. Consumer Reports relayed a problem its test-case owner had with chrome details on the windows.
Then there are the myriad complaints posted on the Tesla Motors Club forum. One member posted a list of issues he had with the car’s finish along with high-res closeup photos (PDF). You can see problems with the alignment in multiple areas of the vehicle, including gaps in windows and wheels. You’ll also see discolorations inside and outside the Model X.
Are these issues enough to give pause to Model 3 reservation holders? It’s impossible to know whether Tesla will learn lessons from this experience, but the simpler design of the company’s first mainstream car should help. We’ll just have to wait and see. In the meantime, whatever few customers Tesla has lost, we’re sure they’ve gained many more for life since the release of Model X.