Is Tesla’s New Model 3 a Lemon Waiting to Happen?

Categories: Lemon Law

Tesla Model 3: A Lemon?

Tesla is about to boost production of its popular Model 3 sedan. There is no question that people love this car, based upon early reviews from journalists and consumers. But there is a serious problem lurking on the horizon: reliability and quality.

Automotive industry analyst Toni Sacconaghi recently drove and reviewed a Tesla Model 3 in Brooklyn, noting that the car was compelling and attractive and should increase the popularity of electric vehicles. But he added that fit and finish on the Model 3 was poor.

Potential Tesla Lemon Problems

One of the problems with the test vehicles was their glass roof, in which two parts were misaligned; this defect could allow water to leak into the vehicle. Also, body panels were not fitted together properly, and ceiling seams were out of alignment. Some of these problems might not even be noticed by the average consumer, but Sacconaghi commented that these cars were demos. The company knew that automotive experts would comb them over, so it is a concern that fit and finish were that poor on these particular vehicles.

Some of the other problems that were reported this year by Edmunds with a Tesla tester were:

  • Intermittent screen and backup camera function
  • Navigation system problems
  • Failure to recognize keycard
  • Audio system turning on and off and up to full volume without warning
  • Vanity mirrors falling off
  • Rust on doors
  • Touchscreen required to use cruise control
  • Paint and finish problems
  • Door, window and trunk defects
  • Shutdown while driving
  • Inability to shift the Tesla into drive or reverse.

The above problems are alarming because Edmunds had been driving the test Tesla for only four months and problems continued to crop up.

Also, it seems likely that Tesla would share vehicles with the automotive press that represent the best quality and assembly. So, what does this say about potential problems on cars rolling off the assembly line intended for consumers? If quality issues continue with the Model 3, it could lead to serious problems for the brand.

For example, vehicles under warranty in California can be declared lemons if they require constant repair for the same defects. If questionable reliability and quality plagues Tesla, it will not be long before lemon law claims are coming in across the country.

But there is good news with the Tesla vehicles, as well. Only a few test drivers have had access to the Model 3 to date, and most of them gave the vehicle good marks. The car’s handling and pickup have been widely praised, as well as its ‘minimalist’ dashboard and interior. It features an innovative touch screen instead of most of the levers and dials you see in regular vehicles.

It is still early in the game for Tesla, so it is unknown whether the early quality and finish problems will lead to serious reliability problems and lemon law claims.

California Lemon Law Basics

Southern Californians tend to quickly embrace new technology, so it would not be surprising if there are plenty of Teslas sold here. As with regular vehicles, Teslas under the factory warranty are governed by the Lemon Law in California. If a Tesla shows serious repair problems under warranty, the owner is entitled to have the vehicle repurchased or replaced by the dealer or manufacturer.

The Lemon Law has a presumption provision relating to whether enough “reasonable attempts” have been made to fix the vehicle. If the buyer of the Tesla meets or exceeds the minimum standards, it will be presumed that a reasonable number of attempts were made. But the auto manufacturer may try to rebut this presumption by convincing the jury that under the circumstances, a “reasonable” number of attempts were not made.

The presumption provision of the California Lemon Law presumes that a “reasonable” number of attempts were made, IF, during the first 18 months or 18,000 miles, either:

  • A defect that is likely to cause serious injury or death has been attempted to be repaired two or more times, or a defect that affects the car’s use, value or safety has been attempted to be repaired four or more times, OR
  • The vehicle has been in the shop for service for repair of the problems for at least 30 calendar days.

However, you may very well still have a viable lemon law claim, even if you do not meet the presumption above, in fact, most lemon law claims do not meet the presumption.

If you have purchased a Tesla or another vehicle under warranty and have problems keeping it on the road, you may need to file a Lemon Law claim. Neale & Fhima can help. Keep in mind that if your lemon law case is successful, the car manufacturer is required to pay your legal fees. If you have a weak case, the lemon law attorney will advise you as such and you will not be out any money.

Neale & Fhima Lemon Law Attorneys Are Ready to Help You

Are you having constant repair problems with your vehicle under warranty? You may have a lemon law claim against the vehicle manufacturer. Neale & Fhima is an experienced lemon law firm that has been serving Southern California customers for years. If you require legal advice about a possible lemon vehicle, please talk to our attorneys for a complimentary consultation.