Critics have slammed Tesla for Model 3 quality issues for years. And now CEO Elon Musk is admitting even his harshest critic was right.
In early 2018 engineering consultant Sandy Munro, who tears apart and reverse-engineers cars to assess quality, issued a brutal appraisal of the Model 3 citing “flaws that we would see on a Kia in the ’90s.” He noted inconsistencies such as uneven gaps between exterior panels and paint job issues, telling Autoline, “I can’t imagine how they released this.”
Surprisingly Musk, who has often bristled at criticism, agrees.
In the interview Musk also admitted that it might not be a good idea to buy a Tesla during a new model’s ramp-up period. Munro’s “Kia” critique came when Tesla was still struggling to meet early production targets for the Model 3.
Musk’s admission is quite a warning considering that the company is getting ready to start production of the Cybertruck pickup late this year, and is set to open new plants outside of Austin, Texas, and Berlin, Germany.
“Friends ask, ‘When should I buy a Tesla?’” Musk said. “Well, either buy it right at the beginning or when production reaches steady state. During that production ramp, it’s super hard to be in vertical climb mode and get everything right on the details.”
Munro also questioned Musk about quality control problems more recently. He bought a 2021 Model 3 late last year, and compared it to a Model 3 someone else purchased a month later – and saw significant improvement.
“At the end of the day, this guy’s car was fabulous … as good as anybody could possibly do,” Munro said. “I just don’t understand. Mine was built this month, his was built a month later. Mine had problems. His was perfect.”
Musk said Tesla continued to make progress even as recently as December of last year, noting that the company is finding issues more quickly as the pace of production continues to speed up.
“When you go faster, you just discover these things,” he said. “If we knew them in advance, we’d fix them in advance.”
Musk also discussed some other challenges that the company has previously experienced. After Munro praised the seats in the Model 3 as the most comfortable he has ever experienced in a car, Musk volunteered that he used to refer to the seat in the early Model S, one of the company’s first vehicles, as a “stone toadstool.”
“The early Model S’s probably had the worst seat of any car I ever sat in,” Musk said.
Munro isn’t the only one to highlight quality control problems at Tesla. Consumer Reports, which has praised the design of many Tesla models, said poor quality control – including hair embedded in paint jobs – meant it could not recommend its newest vehicle, the Model Y SUV. Of the four vehicles Tesla currently sells, only the Model 3 has the coveted “recommended” rating from Consumer Reports, although it briefly lost that designation in early 2019.