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Where the Model S Fails

I took my test drive of a Model S today in Portland, Oregon. As a long-time BMW owner, I was very pleased that the ride and handling (with steering in Sport mode), was very similar to a 5-series. Additionally, these are beautiful cars in person and will turn lots of heads. Unless you get the no-touch entry with the Tech Package, however, you will be forever looking at smudgy door handles as the chrome practically shows your fingerprint every time you touch it to reveal the handle. The Tesla guys were constantly cleaning them today - please make the no-touch reveal standard!

Unfortunately the Tesla design team dropped the ball on the dash and console, as in person it looks cheap and unrefined. The dash stitching just looks out of place, and there's too much brushed chrome trim, some of which intersects other pieces by one piece being on top of the other (never seen that in a car). Those of you who are used to real wood like on a BMW or Mercedes will be disappointed, as none of the "wood" looks real in any way. The Piano Black is the only trim that doesn't look cheap to me (my opinion). The huge rectangular touchscreen and it's straight edges conflict with the mish-mash of dashboard curves, which is the opposite of the exterior, which is a smooth blend of graceful curves.

I'm still buying a Model S, however, as there's so much to like about this car, and it's truely revolutionary. I just wish the Tesla design team had copied the interior of a 5-series or X5, which are stylish, functional, and cohesive, with great attention to detail. In person, the exterior styling exemplifies the breakthrough product that is the Model S, the interior simply does not.

Mel, I am not certain what you are implying by your statement "Steve W, you have to admit it is hard for most of us to believe that Teala cannot make seat comparabe to a Chevrolet, Volvo, or liar". Do you think I am lying? I only reported what i observed. I want for Tesla to succeed. But the interior of the car, and especially the seats, leave a lot to be desired. As I said, I commented on the issue of the seat leather to the Tesla rep, and he merely attributed the problem to the cars being test cars. Maybe that is why the leather seemed stretched in the cars, but I don't buy it. Not when the cars were only a few weeks old and only had about 1500 miles on them. I regret that I did not take pictures, so you would believe what I saw.

I am not bent out of shape by the lack of cup holders (I don't eat or drink in a car), but do wish there was more storage space for sunglasses, coins (for tolls), etc.

I gave them $45,000 in deposits ($40,000 for the Signature reservation and $5,000 for the production model), and have waited nearly 3 years for the car to be produced. I am still waiting for the refund of the $40,000 deposit from the canceled Signature model.

As i indicated, the interior is not the sole reason I canceled the order on the Signature, but it is one reason. In the three years since I placed my initial deposit, I have suffered 3 retina detachments in my right eye and one retina detachment in my left eye. As a result, safety features in a vehicle have taken on an increased importance. I praise Tesla for achieving a 5 star crash test rating, but they have fallen down on not including systems to prevent (avoid) a collision in the first. Features such as blind side detection system, a collision avoidance system where the car automatically applies the brakes if an accident is immenient, headlights that turn in the direction that the car is steering. My 2005 MB has a front collision avoidance system and turning headlights, so why can't the Tesla? Due to changed circumstances, such safety features are now more imporatant to me that 0-60 in 4.4 seconds. Such features can be found in vehicles costing $50K/60K from other manufacturers. So why does Tesla not include such safety features, even if optional. based on conversations with the Tesla reps, I believe they are rushing the car to market (which is understandable). They told me that they are aware of this deficiency in the car, have already developed some of these safety features and will add these features to the car, but do not know whether they will be upgradable on a car in the field. I will likely defer the production car (P258; already received the email to configure and order) for 6 months, hoping they add some (if not all) of these features to the car.

BTW, I have no stock or other interest in Tesla, and no intention of buying the stock. My comments are based solely on my observation and current needs, which I hope Tesla will listen to in order to improve the car. It is a wonderful car to drive; world class in that department. Now they just need to attend to the interior and safety features to truly make the car the best in the world.

So it turns out that building a brand new car from scratch is a lot more like building software than I had realized. The last 20% takes 80% of the effort here, too!

I have friends that would love to buy/lease one if it is BMW since they are all about BMW. I like to encourage BEVs from any manufacturer altho I prefer Tesla.

The I3 looks like a little 4 seater compact car... not a full sedan. My wife would love it. Hopefully in the next couple years (3-6 years) when BMW actually comes out with it Tesla will have the GEN III on the way. (looks like they may be using the skateboard concept)

The I8 appears to be a 2 seater sports car hybrid, not a sedan. Not what I am looking for.

The BMW ActiveE All-Electric Coupe only goes 100 miles to the charge,
They are looking for drivers (as of January) now but again the range is way to limited for my needs.
There it usual I can't own/lease one anyway because I am in the wrong city.
"German automaker BMW is now officially accepting applications for the electric ActiveE coupe to be leased by 700 drivers in Boston, Hartford, New York, Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Diego and San Francisco."

No competition for Tesla if they are only leasing to a select market. I am sure they will catch up but by that time Tesla will have all the whistles and bells and a 500+ mile range. Elon is working towards perfection.


"Steve W, you have to admit it is hard for most of us to believe that Teala cannot make seat comparabe to a Chevrolet, Volvo, or liar". Do you think I am lying?

Giving the benefit of the doubt (and taking into account that the sentence does not make sense on a grammatical level) I assume that Mel was typing on a device that has the keyboard replaced by some "smart spell checker" (e.g., iPad or Android tablet) and the word that turned out "liar" was actually another mistyped car brand.

They told me that they are aware of this deficiency in the car, have already developed some of these safety features and will add these features to the car, but do not know whether they will be upgradable on a car in the field.

That makes an awful lot of sense to me. If you have any such assistant feature in your car, you want it to work reliably. A safety feature that doesn't work reliably is bound to cause more harm than good. Getting these kinds of systems to a production level in any particular car, let alone multiple of them that potentially interact, takes considerable time. Not only does Tesla want (and need) to get the Model S out the door, also many buyers (including myself) are more than willing to take the car without those features today, if given the choice to wait another year and then get it with them.

I think you are on the right track: The Model S is very promising, and if these safety features are a priority for you, just wait another couple of months. You will get what you want in the end, it just cannot be done all at the same time.

RickS_8756, Steve_W, if you don't have TSLA stock, today is a good day to buy some! ;-)

Seve w, sorry, sorry, sorry, I thought I typed in Kia..all I was saying was that Tesla must know how to make a seat, I have never seen a Tesla, but I have sat in all these basic cars,and the seats were satisfactory, except for the Lexus

Volker.Berlin. , thank you, I do have huge hands for this I-pad .

Jscottsanders, I am leasing a Lexus while waiting for my Tesla, it is a reliable car but I feel I am driving a Lincoln Town Car made in the 70's. I was in 335I convertible, and my wife takes the corvette, leaving me with,, well you know

Mel, no problem. I suggest you try to look at one of the cars in the Tesla showroom. Regarding my comments about the seats, I read today (after my above postings) that the test vehicles may not have been actual production cars, and thus, not up to the fit and finish of the cars that will be delivered to owners. On the one hand, i hope this is true, and that the cars delievered to the owners do not exhibit the issues I saw in the test cars. On the other hand, if this is the case, I think it did a dis-service to Tesla, as the test vehicles were the cars that reviewers test drove for their write-ups. I would have thought that Tesla (actually any car manufacturer) would want to put their best foot forward when showing their products to the media, let alone potential purchasers.

Steve W, I have seen pictures of the seats that appear worn and streached, it just appears really odd that any car company could put out such an inferior product.. Maybe I just have that Teala smile.,anyway I will be back to you when the car arrives in september, I hope I have a good report

Perhaps the upholstery/seat supplier is one of those the list for replacement (in house or another supplier). Given Elon's nitpickeyness (is that a word?) he's probably fuming more over the stretched leather on the seats than we are.

I agree with Beaker! If Tesla pulled the Carbon Fiber trim because of the wear and tear they saw on these test drives, then I would bet my family jewels(the ones attached to me) that they obsered and will fix the leather issues as well. At least for the sake of my jewels Tesla?? :)


IMO Tesla is making miracles in their car. Somehow they manage to be superior to every other car manufacturer, and I'm not talking about engineering and technology only, they seem to be able to create extremely high quality in every aspect of the car with very low cost, which means they do something fundamentally different compared to other car manufacturers businesswise.

People really need to keep in mind that Tesla does NOT have the resources to do EVERYTHING with their first mass produced car.

Wanting collision avoidance & blindspot warnings is all well and good, but Tesla does not have the resources YET to build and test those features to the nth degree like ICE manufacturers do.

Like the old saying: you can't HAVE your cake AND eat it too.

I hate that saying, What's the point of having cake if you can't eat it? :D

I also think we were told about the carbon fiber, the areo wheels, and the banana leaf because it directly impacts the final look of the Model S. That means that unless they are changing the look of the seats to fix the problem, we're not gong to hear about it.

[soap box]
We're all in a heightened state of Model S awareness, and emotions run high ad delivery nears and gets pushed out. I went through a similar situation last year with an automated lighting company who also had supply chain quality issues for some new products, the parallels are amazing, and I have to say the Telsa forum members are holding it together better than the lighting forum members did... so far. :)
[end soap box]

It's hard to do them in reverse order, is the point. Ba-Bing!

Drove the car today. Your comments are right on. The car's exterior and handling are first class. The interior fit and finsh and lack of storage compartments is second class. I will still get it but I sure hope they continue to make a few more improvements before mine arrives. The fit and finish carpeting leather stitching etc. was poor. Hopefully that was because it was an early production model.
I drive a 2005 VW Phaeton. The interior in my Phaeton is far superior.

All - take a look at the dashboard rendering for the Model X that is posted on this site. It has some of the same lines as the Model S, but without the garish dash stitching (on a rubber dash no less), the skinny intersecting brushed trim (which makes the huge touchscreen look gargantuan and out of place), and overall jumble of curves and lines accented by the "put brushed chrome trim everywhere" design approach. It's a BIG improvement over the current Model S design. If Tesla can get the details right (like making wood accents look like real wood), this will be a fantastic looking dashboard. It has forward-thinking design, not Back To The Future design! (see 1979 AMC Pacer interior here -

Please Tesla - make a 2013 Model S with this dashboard! Maybe you can solve your production problems AND give us an interior that harmonizes with the exterior all at the same time.

By "this site" I mean the Tesla website.

Notice the huge door pocket in the Pacer?!

Kinda confused about the optical bubble effect in front of the driver. Some kind of HUD effect?

The window is very curved at that point, I think the glass bends 90 degrees, and there is a magazine that probably shows the specs for the car.

Yeah, I'd forgotten just how drastic the Pacer's glass shaping was. Rode in one once or twice when young, and don't recall any excessive optical effects, though.

It's the mostly-white magazine on the dash that makes it apparent.

Musk announced that following feedback they intend to make interior changes.....


Please see my new post "Crow Eating Time". Basically I've learned that some of the things I was told (like needing the Tech Package for no-touch door handle reveal), and some of the things I saw (prototype cars and material samples), were outdated or incorrect. The interior of the Model S I saw yesterday in Bellevue, WA was pretty nice, although I still feel it's a tick below the other luxury cars I've owned. Still buying a Model S (#8756).

Hi Rick,

Thanks for the update. However, you should know that your initial posting made it into the on-line press. In this article Priuses Are for Losers the author states:

So far, though, the defects catalogued by the car’s few detractors have been reassuringly picayune. One early buyer was frustrated that the car doesn’t creep forward when it’s in idle, as does a gas-powered car—which actually seems like an improvement to me. A post called “Where the Model S Fails” on one of Tesla’s customer forums points out that, in the version without retractable door handles, the chrome gets all smudgy when you touch it. My own most irksome finding was that the cruise-control stalk was where I expected the blinker to be, so that I failed to signal any of my turns until I was halfway through them.

So apparently he has lumped your remarks about smudgy chrome along with other picayune remarks.

His article has provisions for comments so you have the option of disputing why smudges aren't picayune, or remarking about your revised point of view. ;-)


The haters are going to hate regardless. Most folks will just ignore them as a bad noise. There are still Prius haters after 16 years of success--no one will change the haters' opinion but they will become marginalized.


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