The latest rhetorical question in the press goes something like this: “Will Model III customers revolt if reliability proves only so-so, or will they accept flaws because they really, really love Tesla?”
TeslaMondo foresees the following:
- The order book for the III will surpass anything we’re imagining. Remember how Tesla Energy triggered a mudslide of pre-orders? Something like that. Why? Because the primary Model III demographic, as with other EVs, will be youngish. And the younger the better for Tesla. Millennials in particular see Musk as a hero. So the stage is set for too many orders.
- Model III reliability will likely mimic Model S, which means CR will report average to below average for a few years. That’s due to the newness of the platform and the pressure on Tesla to fill orders. Lots of ’em. Tesla bought plenty of extra time with the Model X, but it won’t have that breathing room this time.
- The Model III will punch above its weight class. In other words, it will attract people who could easily afford much more expensive cars but simply don’t want to spend the dough. They will support the “movement” without digging too deep. Think Prius effect. Model III will get plenty of endorsement from influential people, as with the Prius. However, Tesla won’t build a geekmobile. So think Prius with pecs.
So putting this together, we’ll have a young-ish, wealthy-ish, super-psyched customer base ordering aspirational, high-performance, high-visibility vehicles that have middling reliability stats, at least initially, yet can’t be built nearly fast enough. So back to the question: Will we see a revolt? No. We’ll see a level of forgiveness that reeks of unfairness to other brands, especially Japanese ones. Black dots from Consumer Reports won’t matter much. Besides the reasons listed above, here are a couple more reasons:
First, the average CR subscriber is 60 years old. The magazine has become a field guide for retirees. Granted, CR’s findings generate headlines for everyone, even non-subscribers, to read. But not necessarily heed. CR’s advice is becoming parental, even grandparental. In short, both Consumer Reports and its followers are losing their teeth.
Second, having a Model III will mean participation in something big and exciting. The car will transcend CR, for better or worse. It’s recommended by CR? Yay. Dad will be happy. It’s not recommended? Dad will be unhappy. How does any of this affect your decision? It probably doesn’t. So Model III might prove to be a fateful moment when CR’s surveys become demonstrably irrelevant to the car business, as in, “Dude, Consumer Reports doesn’t recommend Tesla. What does that say about Consumer Reports?”
Also, let’s not forget that cars are pretty reliable nowadays, so “average” in 2020 is tantamount to super-duper in 1990. And below average isn’t terrible. All the Model III needs to succeed is a “not terrible” in the reliability department, because every other aspect of the Model III experience will be “much better than average,” to use CR terminology.
Is this prediction of immunity just a heap of rah-rah nonsense from a pro-Tesla blog? Maybe, but then again, we’ve already seen plenty of forgiveness with the Roadster and Model S. Tesla customers don’t leave due to mere product flaws. They’re thrilled that the product even exists. They love the brand, and the CEO’s attitude, and the negation of big auto, big oil, the local car dealer and local gas station. Model III will take all of this and crank it up to 11 for a younger crowd. You think the Model X unveiling resembled a rock concert? Wait ’till the Model III kickoff.