Tesla Model S has 'more than its share of problems,' Consumer Reports says

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Consumer Reports, which last year gave top marks to electric carmaker Tesla Motors Inc.'s Model S sedan, now says the car it owns has had "more than its share of problems."

While the car has impressed staff at the influential U.S. consumer magazine with its "smoothness, effortless glide and clever, elegant simplicity," there have been many quirks that might dampen consumers' experiences, Consumer Reports said in a statement on Monday.

Consumer Reports, which anonymously buys the vehicles it tests from auto dealerships, said Monday the Model S it owns now has traveled nearly 16,000 miles. Its 2013 Model S was purchased for $89,650 in January of that year.

"Just before the car went in for its annual service, at a little over 12,000 miles, the center screen went blank, eliminating access to just about every function of the car," the magazine said in its statement.

Tesla fixed the issues on the magazine's Model S under warranty. The repairs included a "hard reset" to restore the car's functions after its center screen went blank and problems with the automatic retracting door handles, which were occasionally reluctant to emerge.

In an auto reliability survey last year, Consumer Reports gave the Model S a score of average, based on feedback from 637 owners of 2012 and 2013 models, Consumer Reports said on its Web site Monday.

“Given the number of bits and pieces Tesla has replaced on our car, it might be tempting to guess that its reliability score will go down,” the magazine said. “The reality is, it might -- depending on the frequency and severity of problems reported by our subscribers and whether they show that reliability is below average.”

Last November, Consumer Reports ranked the Model S best among all cars on the market in its annual survey of vehicles on U.S. roads. And in May 2013, the magazine awarded the Tesla sedan 99 out of a possible 100, one of the best ratings it has ever given an automobile.

The base version of the Model S starts at around $70,000.

The issues highlighted by Consumer Reports follow a report by Edmunds.com, an automotive data and pricing company in Santa Monica, Calif.

It reported problems last month with its Model S that included replacing the main battery pack after incidents in which the car stalled; a frozen touchscreen; a creaky steering wheel and difficulties opening the car’s sunroof.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk said last month the company continues to review customer reports to ensure all known flaws with the car are fixed.

“We definitely had some quality issues in the beginning for the early serial number cars, because we were just basically figuring out how to make the Model S. I think we’ve addressed almost all of those for current production cars,” Musk told analysts on a July 31 conference call. “Every week I have a product excellence meeting which is a cross-functional group, so we’ve got engineering, service and production and we go over all the issues that customers are reporting with the car and the action items that have to be addressed to get the car ultimately to the platonic ideal of the perfect car."

Tesla said in statement that it considers service a top priority.

"We err on the side of being proactive to ensure the best driving experience possible," it said. "That means we are particularly attentive in addressing potential issues, even if those issues appear to be very minor or have a low likelihood of causing any future problems.

"We take these actions with the customer's convenience and satisfaction top of mind and strive to go above and beyond the expected level of service.

"In addition, we are constantly upgrading the functionality, features and quality of every Model S through the free over the air updates we provide to every owner," it said.

Tesla has been one of the hottest U.S. stocks this year, more than doubling its value. The company's shares closed on Monday at $259.32 per share, up 4.5 percent.

Tesla's only production model is the Model S, but next spring it plans to introduce a crossover electric car, the Model X.

Reuters and Bloomberg contributed to this report.

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