DETROIT -- Tesla Inc. may be behind on internal production targets for the new Model 3, but that doesn't mean Consumer Reports hasn't predicted its reliability.
In its 2017 Auto Reliability Survey released Thursday, Consumer Reports predicted that the Model 3 will have an average reliability score, despite the fact that the compact Tesla is still in the early stages of production.
Jake Fisher, Consumer Reports' director of automotive testing, explained the shopping guide's scoring process during an Automotive Press Association luncheon in Detroit on Thursday by pointing to the records of the larger Tesla Model S and Model X.
"We have over 1,500 owners of Tesla models right now," Fisher said. "We have had data on the Tesla Model S going back about four years."
The 2017 survey marked the first year that Model S reliability was above average.
"Out of the gate, the car was average," Fisher said, referring to the Model S. "It's had some growing pains, but now it's above average."
When Consumer Reports went about predicting how the Model 3 is going to fare, Fisher said, the magazine looked at shared components between the Model S and Model X that will be found in the Model 3.
"Much of the technology from the Tesla Model 3 is not new," Fisher said, referring to motors and batteries. "It's actually been proven in the Tesla Model S and the X."
While gains made by the Model S helped boost the brand four spots to No. 21 overall in this year's study of 27 brands, various issues with the Model X did not help Tesla's ranking, and that gave Consumer Reports pause, Fisher added.
"The Tesla Model X is one of the worst vehicles in our survey, actually tying the lowest-rated [vehicle] in terms of reliability," Fisher said.
However, Fisher noted that many of the problematic features that have plagued the Model X are unique to the nameplate.
"It wasn't the technology," Fisher said. "It wasn't the electric drivetrain. It wasn't the pieces that are going to be in the Tesla Model 3. It was the falcon wing doors. It was the complicated seat mechanisms."
Fisher also pointed out that the Model 3 promises to be the most simple Tesla to date.
"It should be less complicated than the other two models, which would bode well in terms of reliability," Fisher said of the Model 3.
Tesla, in a statement Thursday, criticized Consumer Reports because the magazine previously declared the Model S "to be the best car ever and then revoked the rating after being questioned by Tesla skeptics." Tesla said, "It's important to note that Consumer Reports has not yet driven a Model 3, let alone do they know anything substantial about how the Model 3 was designed and engineered."
In its third-quarter sales report, Tesla said it built 260 Model 3s, a tally "less than anticipated due to production bottlenecks." The automaker targeted output of 1,500 Model 3s in the third quarter, with production of 20,000 vehicles per month by December. By sometime next year, Tesla expects to be building 10,000 Model 3s a week.
Tesla reported 455,000 deposits for the Model 3 in August.
"Let me be frank, we don't have data on this vehicle," Fisher said, "but our prediction is it should be average if you look at the components that are in it."