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Trading  | July 9, 2018

For a brief few hours last weekend, Elon Musk and his shareholders celebrated…

…as he proclaimed (albeit late for his self-imposed deadline) that thousands of Model 3’s are now supposedly moving off of Tesla’s production lines – whether they are being cranked out of the Fremont factory or whether they’re part of the “lucky” 20% of vehicles being made in the company’s super-futuristic tent, located outside of the factory.

But now a second layer of the onion has peeled back and serious questions are starting to be raised not only about the quality of these Model 3s, but how adept Tesla is in being able to service them in a quick and efficient manner for its customers.

Today, we want to take a look at the issue of Model 3 breakdowns. The reports of these breakdowns and poor quality issues seem to be accelerating, judging by Tesla forums online and complaints on Twitter. What also seems to be evident is Tesla’s poor response time and overall poor ability to address these issues.

Much of the last couple of weeks for Tesla has been focused around hitting its 5,000 Model 3 per week production target. The stock and its corresponding movement has also been news. Most notably, the fact that the stock tanked from over $360 per share to near $310 per share on news of the company reaching its production target has been pointed out in the media and has caused some analysts to raise questions about whether or not a larger sentiment shift at Tesla is brewing.

On top of that, after the stock melted down to start the week last week, CEO Elon Musk himself also had a meltdown, once again lashing out at members of the media who have written even the slightest bit of critical press about his company. It has led some analysts to ask, “What the F*ck is Elon Musk Doing?” 

This isn’t new, either. We have seen Musk lash out at the media over the last couple of months – blaming everybody from the Economist to Consumer Reports for being in a conspiracy to defame the company.

This latest round of attacks on journalists goes after Linette Lopez at Business Insider, who was one of the first to break the story that Tesla may have been suspending certain of its Model 3 brake tests in order to help move vehicles off the line more efficiently.

Musk’s behavior even caused normally left leaning media outlets like Slate to publish articles like this one called, “Elon Musk Needs to Stop Tweeting Things He Can’t Prove (And Grow Up)”.

And regardless, Tesla came out and admitted that it had suspended the test in question. They also commented that it didn’t have an overall effect on the quality of the vehicles that were rolling off the line.

With that aside, and giving Tesla the benefit of the doubt, that doesn’t help explain many of the other Model 3 issues that Tesla owners seem to be having. We noticed on Saturday of this weekend while reviewing Tesla owners forums what appears to be a repeating pattern in customer dissatisfaction with the Model 3.

First, we were able to find this story, where a Model 3 with 61 miles on it broke down. The user wrote on Tesla’s forum:

Drove a total of 61 miles during the day to reach 69 on the same day. Parked vehicle, would not start. Error codes “Cannot Maintain Vehicle Power, Car may stop driving or shut down” “Car needs service, car may not restart”.

The owner wrote that the vehicle was manufactured in March 2018 and delivered July 3. This prompted several responses guessing about why there was so much time between manufacture and delivery:

  1. “That’s a long time between manufacture and delivery. I wonder if this one failed in testing and was “fixed.””

  2. “Yeah, a big spread from manufacture month to delivery. Thought about that when I received VIN #. Perhaps part of the holdback as to not exceed 200k deliveries in Q2?”

  3. “Interesting. My 3 is showing up next week, and is a 21xxx VIN, also quite strange for a June delivery considering they’re up to 49xxx now.” 

Other Model 3 owners have been complaining about quality issues, such as this customer who claims the service person at Tesla actually damaged her vehicle and that nobody is picking up the phones to help her with service.

Others have complained on Reddit about a “Car needs service. Car may no restart.” warning they incurred just hours from picking up their Model 3. From there, troubleshooting and service was a disaster.

Owners have also complained about insane flaws – like their Model 3 seatbelts not even being bolted into the bottom of the seat. So much for safety.

Internet sleuths on Tesla Facebook forums found even more Model 3 complaints, such as “grease smears, a gap in one area, ruffled window trim and a gap in the roof seal”. Congrats on your new vehicle purchase!

Here’s video from early February of one customer’s “broke” Model 3 “shutting down by itself”.

All of these complaints have left prospective owners literally wishing for good luck that they “get a build with no issues”.

Some owners are watching hundreds of miles of battery range in their Model 3 simply evaporate while the car is parked.

Other “proud owners” are upset that repairs for their Model 3 bumpers have cost as much as $9000 and – to make matters worse – they have had to wait 5 weeks for repairs.

Some are simply cancelling their reservations because the $35,000 model isn’t there, as it was promised.

We have also seen a litany of Tweets about additional Tesla QC issues.

The Twitter account My Tesla is Broken is doing a great job of documenting other customers with similar issues. 

Similarly, YouTube is littered with Model 3 production problems and is worth exploring for even more horror stories.

The idea of Tesla solving one problem (production rate) and creating others (quality issues, bottlenecking production elsewhere) has been brought up a couple of times in the media. There was a Reuters article out last week claiming that while reaching the company‘s production goal, it created problems in other places at the Fremont facility, as such as on the Model S and X line, as well as the paint shop.

But if the pattern of these Model 3 customer complaints continues, we may actually be bearing witness to a whole new set of problems that could be on their way for Tesla in the relatively near future. As we have pointed out, Tesla seems to be understaffed and under-prepared to deal with this many service requests and the rush to get these vehicles off the line may ultimately not wind up solving the company’s problems, but rather pushing it further into “production hell”.

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