by Neal E. Boudette: When Consumer Reports reviewed Tesla’s first mass-market electric car, the Model 3…
it concluded that it couldn’t recommend the car to its readers because of “big flaws,” including long stopping distances when braking at high speed.
Within days, Tesla beamed a wireless software update to the Model 3s on the road that improved their braking, and the impact was swift. After testing the car again, Consumer Reports reversed the verdict on Wednesday, only nine days after its original report was published, and gave the car a “recommended” rating.
“To see something updated that quickly is quite remarkable,” said Jake Fisher, the magazine’s director of auto testing. Other manufacturers have made software fixes to correct issues that Consumer Reports has identified, but owners then have to take their cars to dealers to have the update installed.
Tesla’s ability to update its cars in much the same way that Apple issues software updates for iPhones is a competitive advantage, Mr. Fisher said. “We’ve never seen a manufacturer do this in the course of a week,” he added.
Tesla issued no official statement about the reversed judgment, but its chief executive, Elon Musk, took to Twitter to declare, “Really appreciate the high quality critical feedback from @ConsumerReports.” He said other flaws identified in the original review were also being addressed. The company’s shares gained almost 3 percent on Wednesday.
The reversal gave a bit of good news to Tesla, which is under intense scrutiny as it scrambles to accelerate Model 3 production. It was making about 2,000 a week earlier this month, but Mr. Musk has said he hopes to reach 5,000 a week by midyear — a level that he says is necessary for Tesla to end its persistent quarterly losses and become profitable in the second half of the year.
A succession of accidents involving Tesla vehicles have also drawn attention, including one on Tuesday in Laguna Beach, Calif., in which a Model S sedan hit a parked police vehicle while its Autopilot driver-assistance system was engaged. No injuries were reported.
The accident was the third to come to light this year in which Autopilot apparently failed to detect an obstacle. A crash on a California highway in March killed the driver; another, in Utah this month, totaled the car but left the driver with only a broken ankle.
Consumer Reports’ original verdict on the Model 3 seemed like another mark against Tesla. The company said its own tests showed the brakes performed well when the car was traveling at high speed. After the article appeared, Mr. Fisher said, he had an extended phone call with Mr. Musk to explain how Consumer Reports conducted its review. Tesla confirmed that Mr. Musk had spoken to the magazine.
Mr. Fisher said Tesla replicated the magazine’s results and decided to modify the software that controls how the car’s anti-lock brakes respond. After downloading the update, Consumer Reports retested its Model 3 and found that the car came to a stop more quickly than before.
“I drove it extensively last night,” Mr. Fisher said. “It’s fun to drive.”