There may be only a few hundred Tesla Model 3s on the street, but Consumer Reports already has an opinion on the new car's dependability.
"We are predicting that the Model 3 should have about average reliability," said Jake Fisher, director of auto testing for Consumer Reports.
Average may irritate Tesla fans and the nearly 500,000 people who have reserved a Model 3, but Fisher believes people should understand what Consumer Reports expects from the new car.
"We don't go around recommending that people buy cars that are below average, so if it is average or better, that is not a bad thing at all," said Fisher. "But let's be very clear, we are not giving it super high marks. We are saying it is basically par for the course."
Consumer Reports has yet to buy a Model 3 and put it through a battery of tests, as the magazine does for dozens of vehicles. In addition, so few Model 3 cars have been delivered that Fisher and his team have yet to get a sense of how owners feel about their new Tesla.
So how can Consumer Reports predict the cars reliability?
"What we have is a lot of data from the Tesla Model S," said Fisher. "That gives us a little more confidence in the Tesla Model 3."
In addition, Fisher expects the simplicity of the Model 3 compared with Tesla's other vehicles means the car should have fewer problems.
Tesla said the prediction by Fisher and his team is wrong and another example of Consumer Reports targeting Tesla with misleading reports.
"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," said a Tesla spokesperson. "Time and time again, our own data shows that Consumer Reports' automotive reporting is consistently inaccurate and misleading to consumers."
Consumer Reports' prediction about the Model 3 comes as Tesla wrestles with production issues while trying to ramp up deliveries. In the third quarter, Tesla delivered 260 Model 3s, well below what many analysts forecasted. Tesla CEO Elon Musk blamed production bottlenecks for the slow pace of deliveries.
Fisher knows Tesla may be hammering out production issues, but he says it's unclear how much impact that will have on Model 3 dependability. Still, he expects the new car should be about average compared to other vehicles.
"It should be the least complicated vehicle that Tesla really has ever produced," he said.