Consumer Reports thinks the Tesla Model S is reliable enough to recommend, though the brand as a whole needs to make some improvements.
But Jake Fisher, Consumer Reports' director of automotive testing, says that there's good reason to think that the Model 3 could end up being Tesla's most reliable vehicle.
The answer is simple. The problem Tesla has had in Consumer Reports' reliability tests is the abundance of electronic features that complicate an otherwise simple machine.
"When we have looked at pure electric vehicles, they are very reliable, which makes sense: they are very, very simple," Fisher said, adding that electric cars "at their best" basically need only a battery, an electric motor, and a single-speed gear ratio.
"What seems to hurt Tesla is just this obsession with adding these surprise and delight features," Fisher said, such as the complex falcon-wing doors, and power front doors, on the Model X.
"So what will be interesting, I think, is the Model 3, because in a year or so we will see how this Model 3 does, and because of the price point, there is a good chance they will have to forego many of the complex mechanisms and gadgets and gizmos," Fisher said.
"When you get down to the basics of it — the electric motor, the lithium ion battery, these things that Tesla will have some time to perfect — there is a good chance that the Model 3 will be a reliable vehicle," he said.