Autos

Consumer Reports puts Tesla back on recommended list as reliability improves

Key Points
  • Tesla was pulled from the Consumer Reports reliability survey last year.
  • Improved reports from owners of the Model 3 and Model S were enough to convince Consumer Reports to once again recommend both vehicles.
  • Tesla jumped four spots in the latest Consumer Reports Reliability Survey, based on reviews from owners of more than 400,000 vehicles.
Carl Medlock's Tesla repair shop

Tesla, which has been accused of sacrificing quality as it ramps up production of the Model 3, is cranking out more reliable vehicles, according to a new survey from Consumer Reports.

"What we've seen with the Model 3 is that they had a lot of problems initially with paint, some body panel issues and a lot of windows that cracked, but over the few years that they've been building that vehicle they've worked those problems out," said Jon Linkov, deputy auto editor at Consumer Reports.

Improved reliability reports from owners of the Model 3 and the Model S were enough to convince Consumer Reports to once again recommend both vehicles as reliable, a designation the organization pulled last year.

Overall, the Tesla brand jumped four spots in the latest Consumer Reports reliability survey, which is based on the reviews from owners of more than 400,000 vehicles. This year, Lexus was rated as the top brand for reliability, followed by Mazda and Toyota.

Tesla still ranks in the bottom third of the 30 auto brands rated by Consumer Reports, which said the Tesla Model X is among the least reliable models in the survey.

The quality of Tesla's vehicles has come under scrutiny as the automaker ramped up production of the Model 3 over the last two years, even adding an assembly line under a permanent tent right outside the company's plant in Fremont, California.

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Consumer Reports returns Tesla Model 3 and Model S to 'recommended' list

In April 2018, Musk admitted that production delays with the Model 3 were due, in part, to relying on too many robots when building the vehicle. "Yes, excessive automation at Tesla was a mistake. To be precise, my mistake. Humans are underrated," Musk tweeted at the time. As the automaker increased production, some of those working at Tesla painted a picture of an automaker struggling with manufacturing.

For 2019, Tesla said it expects to hit its guidance of delivering between 360,000 and 400,000 vehicles. Linkov said Tesla still has plenty of room to improve the quality of Models S, X and 3, but is clearly improving.

"They've worked through the problems, they're much better than many other vehicles," he said.

Among those ranking below Tesla are some major brands that have historically done better in Consumer Report's reliability survey, including Chevrolet, Acura and Cadillac, which ranked dead last .

"Cadillac has had a lot of various infotainment and electrical issues going on," said Linkov. CNBC has reached out to Cadillac for a comment on this year's results.

Here are the rankings: