While Tesla CEO Elon Musk has readily admitted that the company made mistakes with its third car, the Model X, new info from the company's recent earnings report as well as an updated review from Consumer Reports demonstrates just how much of a problem that car has been for the company.
Consumer Reports earlier this week ranked the vehicle within the top ten least reliable cars, calling it "more showy than practical." In contrast, last year, Consumer Reports declared that Tesla's second car, the Model S, was so good it broke their rating system.
But after spending months reviewing the Model X and its swooping doors, the consumer's rating site just delivered the overall Tesla brand an ugly 25th out of the 29th most reliable auto brands. That's definitely not something that's good for Tesla's reputation.
The Model X problems shouldn't come as a surprise for anyone that follows the company. Tesla settled a lawsuit over design flaws with the Model X earlier this summer, and Fortune's own review of the car fell somewhat short (see below). In addition, there's been rampant (and public) complaints from Tesla customers who bought the very first Model X cars.
Check out Fortune's review of the Model X.
Meanwhile, during Tesla's earnings call this week, the company disclosed how hard it's worked to improve the reliability of the Model X, while Musk reiterated how hard it was to fix the manufacturing difficulties that Tesla faced with producing the car.
In Tesla's shareholder's letter, the company declared "dramatic improvement" in Model X reliability, signaling that, yes, apparently the car needed dramatic improvement. Tesla wrote that "the amount of issues that we have addressed with Model X have fallen by 92% in the last 12 months."
Tesla said it shipped 8,774 Model X cars in the third quarter of this year, while shipping a little less than double that amount of Model S cars, at 16,047. The company appears to still be working on ramping up production despite beginning to deliver the very first Model X cars a little over a year ago.
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Tesla execs have laid out some of the Model X production hurdles before, like the over-complicated doors, the trickiness of the door seals, and the difficulty with the second row seats (there was even a recall around those). But Musk reiterated on the earnings call just how hard it was to work out some of the early manufacturing problems with the Model X.
Musk said there were "a lot of things broken in our production system." He explained:
I personally probably took a year off my life or more camping out at Fremont factory solving that along with a number of other members of the Tesla team. We went through bloody hell in the first half of this year. We got out of that basically around mid-June, and then the result is achieving a weekly production target of roughly 2,000 cars a week.
With all of these factors, it's debatable if Musk and Tesla wish they'd never launched the Model X.
Nevertheless, the complexity problems of the Model X likely taught the company a valuable lesson now that they're heads down focused on trying to design and produce the next car, the Model 3. The company has said that the Model 3 is being designed for highly efficient manufacturing.