Tesla wants drive units that never wear out

Tesla got some bad news from Consumer Reports recently. The automotive testing service no longer recommends the Tesla Model S, saying it has too many reliability issues compared to other cars on the market. Some of those issues concern sunroofs that rattle or door handles that don’t function properly, but the most serious problem is with electric motors and drivetrains that wear out prematurely. Repairs could wind up costing owners lots of money.

During a conference call with investors and stock analysts this week, Elon Musk, Tesla’s CEO, addressed those concerns. He said company engineers had figured out why the drive units on early Model S cars were wearing out and had resolved the issue on later cars.

“We transitioned to automatic grease injection into the spline of the large drive unit,” Musk told the group. “We had variation in how much grease was put into the spline and if not enough grease was put into the spline, it would have premature wear.”

Musk also said that his company had stepped up to address the issue and replaced the faulty equipment at no cost to consumers. It also increased the factory warranty for its battery and drive units to 8 years with no mileage limitation. He then issued a little dig to Consumer Reports by pointing out that Tesla owners are happier with the way their cars are serviced than the owners of any other brand of car, according to Consumer Reports’ own surveys.

For Musk and company, good enough is never good enough, however. He went on to tell the group,

“We are very happy with the quality of the drive unit. We changed the goal of the drive unit endurance from being approximately 200,000 miles to being a million miles – just basically we want drive units that just never wear out.

“That’s our goal. I think we made really good progress in that direction. the drive units that are going out now and for the last several months have been excellent.”

Consumer Reports has every right to be concerned if its research shows there are reliability issues with the Model S. But it should also tell people that, to date, there are no reports of any Tesla owners having to spend money to fix a faulty drive unit or replace a short lived battery. That’s the kind of information potential customers need to know most.