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Consumer Reports answers Tesla: 'They seem to misunderstand what we do'

  • After being bashed by Tesla for predicting the new Model 3 will have average reliability, Consumer Reports says the automaker may not understand what the magazine does.
  • "Tesla seems to misunderstand or is conflating some of what we fundamentally do," the company says in a statement.
  • Tesla questions how Consumer Reports can make the claim since CR's auto team has yet to drive the car.
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk speaks at the International Astronautical Congress on September 29, 2017 in Adelaide, Australia. Musk detailed the long-term technical challenges that need to be solved in order to support the creation of a permanent, self-sustaining human presence on Mars.
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SpaceX CEO Elon Musk speaks at the International Astronautical Congress on September 29, 2017 in Adelaide, Australia. Musk detailed the long-term technical challenges that need to be solved in order to support the creation of a permanent, self-sustaining human presence on Mars.

After being bashed by Tesla for predicting the new Model 3 will have average reliability, Consumer Reports says the automaker may not understand what the magazine does.

"Tesla seems to misunderstand or is conflating some of what we fundamentally do — our Annual Reliability Survey report and the related predictions versus our car reviews and tests," the company said in a prepared statement.

At issue is whether Consumer Reports should have predicted the reliability of the Model 3 and how it reached that conclusion.

Tesla questions how Consumer Reports can make that claim since CR's auto team has yet to drive the car and has not had any Model 3 owners answer surveys about what works or doesn't work in the new vehicle.

In addition, the automaker slammed Consumer Reports for running tests and surveys that lack scientific integrity.

"Time and time again, our own data shows that Consumer Reports' automotive reporting is consistently inaccurate and misleading to consumers," the company said in a statement.

It's a stinging accusation, but Consumer Reports says Tesla is wrong. The company added, "We at CR are confident in our data, methods, and reporting."

Consumer Reports says it based its prediction for Model 3's reliability on two factors: First, it analyzed more than 2,000 reliability surveys from the Tesla Model X and Tesla Model S. Second, since the Model 3 has less complex engineering than the Model X, it should, in theory, not have as many glitches.

"This is going to be a much simpler vehicle. In fact it should be the least complicated vehicle that Tesla really has ever produced," said Jake Fisher, head of the CR Auto Team.

While Fisher and his team have yet to drive the Model 3, they make it clear that their reliability prediction is not a review based on driving impressions or measuring how the car performs on a test track.

Ultimately, this is about whether Consumer Reports should have even predicted the reliability of the Model 3, or if it should have waited for next year's survey when it will hear from Model 3 owners. Despite Tesla's complaints, Consumer Reports is not changing its approach.

"We will continue to report on and test Tesla's products in the same fair-minded, consumer-focused way we do with all manufacturers," the magazine said.

Questions? Comments? BehindTheWheel@cnbc.com.