A Few Flaws in the Craftsmanship - 2013 Tesla Model S Long-Term Road Test

2013 Tesla Model S Long-Term Road Test

  • Full Review
  • Pricing & Specs
  • Road Tests
  • Comparison
  • Long-Term (6)

2013 Tesla Model S: A Few Flaws in the Craftsmanship

March 19, 2013

2013 Tesla Model S

As polished as our new Tesla Model S looks on the road, closer inspection reveals that it has some flaws in the craftsmanship. I noticed this the first time I adjusted the driver's side mirror.

As it panned across the side of the car, it looked like the driver's door was cracked open. I opened and shut it again to secure it tight and it didn't help. After a closer look, I could see that the door trim was not secured firmly so the edge was starting to fray at the end.

In another instance, I was walking up to the car and it looked like the rear hatch wasn't closed all the way. I slammed it shut, but it still didn't fit quite right. Not sure whether this is the way it's supposed to fit or not, but it looks misaligned to me. I checked a few more body panels and there were other signs of less than perfect fit, too.

There are two ways to look at this. On one hand, this is an all-new car from an all-new plant, so minor imperfections like this are hardly surprising. On the other hand, this is a $100,000 luxury car. It should be flawless. If I saw an Audi A8 or a Mercedes-Benz S-Class with these kinds of fit and finish problems, I would never drive it off the lot.

2013 Tesla Model S

2013 Tesla Model S

Ed Hellwig, Executive Editor @ 915 miles


  • meng_mao meng_mao Posts:

    I saw one in the wild a couple months ago, and it has similar sigh-inducing fitment. The hatch panel gap is atrocious: http://i.imgur.com/1S9kn.jpg It also had the typical prolapsed door handle: http://i.imgur.com/gVAoW.jpg

  • There was some Mercedes top of the line car on Top Gear and you could see in every front end shot that the hood sat closer to the front section on one side compared to the other. There was another 'super' car on the same show with a squeaky center console and some wind noise window problem on another. The larger production run cars like the regular S class or A8 don't tend to have the issues but things like these aren't unique among the more exclusive cars.

  • check out a detailing forum and see what the paint looks like up close on a few Astons.

  • dvanos dvanos Posts:

    I can only imagine what this car would be really like if BMW or Mercedes bought out the company and produced them at their plants in Germany.

  • kcai_ kcai_ Posts:

    Typical issues with American Car.

  • zhangrenhou zhangrenhou Posts:

    "It should be flawless." No car is flawless.

  • A little annoying to be sure. But its early on for this car. I dont think you can say "typical issues with American Car" just yet. Either way, if i had the money to buy one, id still be all for it.

  • legacygt legacygt Posts:

    It is accurate to say that this is early in the run for a new car from a new car company. That may explain these flaws but it doesn't necessarily excuse them. That said, I don't think it will matter to most buyers. Sure it may not seem like Audi fit quality but the Model S kind of stands alone. It's in a class of 1. As much as Tesla wants you to think it's an alternative to an A8 or S Class, it just isn't. For the luxury sedan buyer who wants an electric vehicle and is willing to make compromises associated with an electric car (yes there are compromises), I would say these minor flaws are exactly that, minor. No buyers coming from an A8, willing to deal with range issues and charging times is going to pass on the Model S because of an uneven panel gap. I would say things like a buggy touchscreen are a much greater risk to this car's success than the fit issues highlighted here.

  • fordson1 fordson1 Posts:

    OK, wait...back on 3/8, this car has 1076 miles on it. On 3/15 it had 1030 miles on it, and now it has 915 miles on it. I know these posts are not in chronological order, but...is this car even being driven?

  • duck87 duck87 Posts:

    Still not sure whether to give Kcai a thumbs up or a thumbs down. On the one hand it's a pretty crass statement, but on the other hand, it's so random seeing it on a $100k+ Tesla post (of all the American cars that could have been commented on) that it's got to be trolling. Right? Right? Also note the capitalization on 'American Car'. Clearly the Model S stands in a league of its own?

  • mercedesfan mercedesfan Posts:

    My Model S has a number of little fitment issues as well (plus some rattles inside), but I give it a pass. It is one of the risks you take when being an early adopter. I'm sure things will get sorted out over time. @zimtheinvader, That misaligned Benz hood on Top Gear was actually their fault. They hadn't closed the hood properly (it latches in 3 places) before shooting. There was actually a bit of hub-bub about it.

  • throwback throwback Posts:

    The early adopters may not care about fit and finish. However, having worked with high income individuals for many years, build quality like this would not be well received in a 100K+ car.

  • here ya go, brand new Aston Martin with sanding marks still showing in the paint from the factory: http://www.autopiaforums.com/forums/detailers-showcase/38405-2012-aston-martin-virage-volante-richies-custom-detailing-central-south-florida.html Lamborghini with factory sanding marks: http://www.detailedimage.com/Ask-a-Pro/lamborghini-correction-detail-and-removing-factory-defects/ These guys have been making cars a lot longer and can't even get the paint right and yet Tesla is 'typical American"? Seriously?

  • stovt001_ stovt001_ Posts:

    I think Mercedesfan is about right. Yeah you don't want to see that on a sedan in this class, but the car and plant are new (well the plant is new to this company and the car) and that is something the early adopters probably come to expect.

  • tokyorush tokyorush Posts:

    Picking mine up in 2 days and if that significant, I'll ask Tesla to fix before I'm willing to take it. It really should be perfect for this kind of money. I'm more concerned with how they respond to these flaws - do they look for ways to make me happy and to improve the product over time, or do they look for excuses to not help me at all? I once had a Jeep that had no brakes when we pulled out of the dealership. They had accidentally cut the lines. The dealer yelled at me when I walked back in to tell them. I will never buy another Jeep.

  • shepski shepski Posts:

    I'm still looking forward to sitting in one - or at least being able to peek in the windows of a parked one - soon. Why? Because, in every pic or video I've seen, the seats look awfully cheap and cheesy to me - like something out of a 'Vette. Hope I'm wrong.

  • dashpot dashpot Posts:

    Shepski - Yes, the seats (among a few other interior things) are not up to luxo brand standards in features. They're supportive and comfortable but lack features compared to the rest of the industry in this price range. They're better to sit in than look at. There are a few other misses on the interior, like the lap joint on the A pillar trim, that can easily be rectified. Surprised that one made it this far without comment. Whether the driving experience outweighs the shortcomings is up to the individual. The driving experience does not disappoint but the other stuff may detract from "specialness" over time.

  • jeffhre jeffhre Posts:

    I'm thinking the first few hundred or so A-8's might not quite have the fitment of later ones off the line.

  • josh_b josh_b Posts:

    We have the same issues with our Model S; some slight deflection on the front quarter panels. The hood is slightly off as well. The chrome trim is not as well aligned as an Audi's, nevermind a Buick's. Nevertheless I feel like Tesla should get a pass for the Model S v.1.0 given that they needed to get product delivered in a hurry. It was more important to get it out than to get it perfect -- at least where fit and finish is concerned. So far the important things (read: safety equipment, powertrain) are impeccable in their reliability.

Leave a Comment

Past Long-Term Road Tests

Have a question? We're here to help!
Chat online with us
Email us at help@edmunds.com
*Available daily 8AM-5PM Pacific
Call us at 855-782-4711
Text us at ED411