Tesla Model 3 rebuffed by Consumer Reports on slow braking

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Tesla chief executive Elon Musk said Model 3 has a braking issue, but it will be fixed with a software update within days.
Tesla Inc's compact Model 3 car at a showroom floor in a Tesla dealership in Chicago, Illinois. PHOTO: AFP

SAN FRANCISCO (BLOOMBERG)- Consumer Reports magazine won't give Tesla Inc's compact Model 3 car its recommendation because of the electric car's long stopping distances and difficult-to-use controls.

The magazine said the Model 3's 96.6kmh stopping distance of 46.3m was "far worse than any contemporary car we've tested." It took 2.13m more that Ford Motor's F-150 full-size pickup.

The company told Consumer Reports that its own tests averaged a stopping distance of 40.5m and that results vary based on weather, tire temperature and other conditions.

Consumer Reports is one of the most influential sources of information for US car shoppers. It once gave the larger Model S its highest rating ever, lending credibility to the upstart maker of electric-powered vehicles - and prompting chief executive officer Elon Musk to declare his love for the magazine. But it went on to withhold its recommendation for that car on the basis of its below-average reliability.

Tesla shares dialed back from an earlier gain of as much as 5.3 per cent, and were up 2.8 per cent to US$284.49 at the close in New York.

The stock had been rallying after a Berenberg analyst raised his price target to US$500 based in part on the Model 3 costing significantly less to build than the Model S.

Consumer Reports' finding on braking is inconsistent with other reviewers, but might indicate that some Model 3s require a longer distance to stop than others, Mr Musk said in a posting on Twitter.

"If so, we will address this at our expense," Mr Musk said. "First time we've seen anything like this." Consumer Reports praised the car's battery range, handling and "exhilarating acceleration" that could make it a strong competitor to performance-oriented luxury makes, such as BMW AG's 3 Series and the Audi A4.

But the Model 3's stiff ride, unsupportive rear seat and excessive wind noise at highway speeds hurt its road-test score. In the compact luxury sedan class, most competitors deliver a more comfortable ride and rear seat.

REPEATED DELAYS The Model 3 has faced repeated production delays and manufacturing bottlenecks at both its assembly plant in Fremont, California, and battery production site near Reno, Nevada, which the company says are starting to clear. Tesla delivered 8,180 of the sedans in the first quarter, making it the best-selling electric car in America, and almost a half-million people have put down US$1,000 deposits for Model 3s.

Tesla said in February a dual motor version would come at midyear and a standard battery pack would be available in late 2018.

In a letter to shareholders earlier this month, Musk said that the company would begin offering new options such as all-wheel drive - and a base model with a standard-sized battery pack - once the company reaches aproduction rate of 5,000 cars a week. Reservation holders could start configuring all-wheel-drive versions over the weekend, Musk tweeted.

Musk tweeted that a dual-motor, all wheel drive performance version of the Model 3, with all options except for Autopilot, will be US$78,000. The company has yet to manufacture the base version of the car, which is supposed to start at US$35,000 before options or incentives.

"The lack of a Consumer Reports recommendation won't hurt the brand amongst its loyal following but certainly makes it harder to penetrate the mass market Tesla is relying on for long-term growth," Rebecca Lindland, executive analyst at Kelley Blue Book, said in an emailed statement.

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