Tesla extends warranty to cover Model S problems

8-year, 'infinite' mile warranty adds motor coverage, but it won't help our car

Published: August 18, 2014 02:30 PM

In light of reliability problems beginning to appear in its otherwise-impressive Tesla Model S electric cars, the California-based automaker has extended the powertrain warranty on all Model S’s ever built to eight years and unlimited miles. That’s the same warranty the Model S battery has always had.

“If we truly believe that electric motors are fundamentally more reliable than gasoline engines, with far fewer moving parts and no oily residue or combustion byproducts to gum up the works, then our warranty policy should reflect that,” wrote Tesla's founder, Elon Musk, in a blog post on Tesla’s website over the weekend. “In hindsight, this should have been our policy from the beginning of the Model S program.”

The warranty extension comes after reports by Consumer Reports and other media outlets that have experienced problems with the Model S during long-term tests. but most of the problems that have surfaced on our Model S didn’t involve the powertrain nor would have been covered by this warranty.

Our Model S had problems with the door handles, for example, which retract into the doors when not needed, but they didn’t always reappear when we wanted to open the door. We also had difficulty with the center screen blanking out. With the giant screen controlling so many functions on the Model S, that issue prevented us from operating the headlights and sunroof, and opening the charge port and front trunk. Plus, one of the seat-belt buckles in our third-row seat failed.

All these problems were repaired under Tesla’s original four-year/50,000 mile bumper-to-bumper warranty. Better yet, we never had to find a way to get to the shop, as Tesla could send software fixes over the Internet. And for problems that required hands-on repair, Tesla sent a flatbed to our offices to pick up the car and later return it from its service center. So while the problems were inconvenient, the repairs couldn’t have been easier. Bear in mind that the experiences with our test cars are purely anecdotal and never factor into our reliability ratings. After all, it's a sample size of one.

The Tesla Model S was our Top Pick for 2014, based on its impressive performance in our tests, along with early data showing the car had average reliability. But considering that Tesla is brand new to building cars, it’s not altogether surprising to find some bugs in its cars—even if the powertrains have many fewer parts to break than internal combustion engines. We are currently analyzing our latest car reliability data collected from subscribers, and we look forward to seeing what experience owners have had when the analysis is completed in the weeks ahead.

Eric Evarts

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