Tesla's latest vehicle, the Model Y, has started going out to buyers, but many of them are refusing to take the vehicles or returning them to Tesla because of manufacturing defects. In this case, it's particularly damning as hardcore pro-Tesla sources like Electrek and well-known subreddits like Tesla Model Y and Tesla Motors are all speaking up about quality issues, and Tesla is even proactively delaying delivery of some vehicles.
Reddit communities that have previously showered praise on Tesla's electric vehicles are now full of reports of nervous Model Y buyers who are waiting to see if their $50,000+ purchases are going to arrive with any of the widely reported problems, including problems with the exterior paint, misaligned doors, dirty interiors, and in some instances, loose rear seats.
A bigger version of an old problem — As Elecktrek points out, it's not unheard of for early production models to have some kinks while the manufacturer works out the bugs in the production line and addresses quality control failings. It's not even the first time this has happened to Tesla. But what's worrying here is both the scale of the problem and the fact that Tesla's continued to try and deliver cars that look increasingly likely to have problems.
Tesla knows something's wrong — Tesla CEO, Elon Musk, recently emailed staff about Model Y. In the email, Musk said that there was a need to limit "rectifications," that is, vehicles that come off the production line but need a problem — or problems — rectified. Specifically, he wrote:
It is extremely important for us to ramp up Model Y production and minimize rectification needs. I want you to know that it really makes a difference to Tesla right now.
With the end of the financial year looming and Tesla eager to make up for the nearly month-long shutdown of its Fremont, California production facility, it's in a difficult position. It's eager to hit delivery targets, but if reports of quality issues continue to roll in, the reputational harm could be more costly than choosing to delay deliveries.
Will this tank Tesla's popularity? — In all likelihood, no. This particular fan base is known for its unwavering fealty to Musk. But it's still negative press. And a lot of it. Early reviews of the Model Y are far from flattering, and the range of reported problems is huge. It's not just one problem, it's a slew of them, and that's naturally going to unsettle would-be early adopters.
Nonetheless, you can bet Tesla's hard at work trying to solve the problem and that, as it's done previously, it'll eventually sort out these issues. The question is how much goodwill it chooses to risk in the interim.