Tesla Model 3 quality is terrible, but will it matter to buyers?
So we've finally had the chance to spend time with a 2018 Tesla Model 3, courtesy of a generous and devoted Green Car Reports reader.
We'll have our first-drive report and a full review of the car within a day or two—but that's not what this article is about.
The build quality of the early Model 3 we tested in late February was, in a word, appalling.
Before we were even able to visit the owner, the car had to go back to the Tesla service center to have the central touchscreen replaced.
You know, the one required to control virtually any aspect of the car except for turn signals, headlights, and wipers?...
As the owner wrote to us:
We took delivery of our Model 3 today. It looked like everything was working OK until we got within about 10 miles of the house. That was when the touchscreen started to malfunction....Nothing like paying $50,000 to be a beta tester...I have found the car twice in the garage, locked, with the stereo blasting at full volume for who knows how long...
In the end, Tesla replaced the screen and the new unit seemed to function properly. We scheduled our test drive for a couple of weeks later.
During the test itself, two things became clear: The Model 3 works largely as intended, and the build quality was the worst we have seen on any new car from any maker over the last 10 years.
The flaws and defects broke down into two categories: those that affected the functioning of the car or the owner's driving experience, and those that didn't.
The first group included:
The defective touchscreen and all the follow-on effects (above)
Persistent creaks and groans from the console or dash
An intermittent loud buzz from the upper right-hand center door pillar at highway speeds on some road surfaces
A steering vibration (in a car with just 1,000 miles)...
The longer list of assembly defects on our car that early owners seem likely to overlook are a remarkable number of fit and finish issues:
Misaligned body panels
Widely varying gaps between panel edges
Headlights protruding above panels in some places, sunken below them in others, varying side to side
Glovebox door that didn't sit square in its opening
Badly fitted chrome door trim that didn't align from piece to piece
Note that the cheapest Chevy, Honda, Hyundai, or Toyota wouldn’t make it out of the factory with any one of those observable problems, let alone the whole list of them...