2013 Tesla Model S Long-Term Road Test

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2013 Tesla Model S: Broken Sunroof

July 10, 2013

2013 Tesla Model S

My daughter was curious about the all-glass sunroof in our 2013 Tesla Model S. So I opened it for her, or tried to.

It jammed at 21-percent open and went no farther. I closed it without incident and tried once more. Same result, except just 20 percent this time.

The trouble seemed to originate on the driver's side just above my head where I could hear a faint click. And I could see the glass panel pull up short on my side, too, as the whole mess cocked sideways a tiny bit before the action ground to a premature halt.

I saw what was going on in short order once we all exited the car at home. But it was also abundantly clear that I wasn't going to be able to fix it myself. This looked to be a job for the Tesla service center.

2013 Tesla Model S

As you can clearly see, the pop-up air deflector isn't popping up on the driver's side.

2013 Tesla Model S

A closer look shows why: the left-hand pivot arm is broken in two. Yes, it's made of plastic, but plastic isn't unusual for this sort of part.

2013 Tesla Model S

The remaining piece is still attached to its hinge point, but it's free to drop down into the works where it can jam things up.

2013 Tesla Model S

I can fiddle around and line up the pieces, but the result only shows how futile it would be to attempt to fix it. And it looks to be a brittle sort of fracture. This fix is going to require a whole new piece.

I'm a big fan of the Tesla Model S and of Tesla's approach to the EV segment in general. There's a lot of genius here, and it's an unprecedented car from electric vehicle performance, range, and usability standpoints.

But I also see many signs of Tesla's inexperience as a carmaker. After all, this isn't the only quality or satisfaction issue that has cropped up on our test car. I'm of a mind that Tesla is set to become a permanent part of the automotive landscape, but if anything shoots them down it's going to be quality issues like this.

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 6,021 miles

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Most Recommended Comments

By legacygt
on 07/10/13
7:13 AM PST

I'm not going to defend Tesla here. The purpose of these blog posts is to point out strengths and weaknesses of these cars. But flaws like this aren't necessarily explained by Tesla's inexperience as a car manufacturer. Sometimes any company can design a part poorly. Mercedes has as much experience as anybody but that hasn't prevented the SLS from frequent service visits to fix problems with its roof.

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By fordson1
on 07/10/13
8:07 AM PST

Can't the Tesla Service Center just reflash your car remotely with the most recent rev of that pivot arm?

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