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Consumer Reports restores ‘recommended’ ratings to Tesla Model 3 and Model S

Visitors look at a Tesla Model 3 during a press preview of the Seoul Motor Show in Goyang, northwest of Seoul, on March 28, 2019. - South Korea's largest international auto show will open on March 29, with a total of 28 brands showing their latest cars and concepts. (Photo by JUNG Yeon-Je / AFP) (Photo credit should read JUNG YEON-JE/AFP via Getty Images)

Consumer Reports has restored its coveted “recommended” rating to the Tesla Model S and Model 3, because Tesla has made its cars more reliable.

“The Tesla Model 3 struggled last year as the company made frequent design changes and ramped up production to meet demand,” said Jake Fisher, senior director of auto testing at CR. “But as the production stabilized, we have seen improvements to the reliability of the Model 3 and S that now allow us to recommend both models.”

Although Consumer Reports says the Models S and 3 need fewer repairs, it did have some bad news for Tesla, too: The Model X SUV continues to rank among the magazine’s least reliable.

Consumer Reports removed its recommended ranking from the Model S, Tesla’s most established vehicle, a year ago. Its reviewers had been huge fans, calling it the best car it had ever tested in 2013, soon after its debut. By 2015, it was even giving it a better than perfect score: 103 out of 100.

But problems with its reliability continued to lower its subsequent ratings until the Model S lost its recommended status last year. And after initially giving the Model 3 a “recommended” rating in 2018, further reliability survey data from more owners of the new car prompted Consumer Reports to remove it from its recommended list in February of this year.

“Consumers expect their cars to last — and not be in the repair shop. That’s why reliability is so important,” Fisher said at that time.

Despite the improved reliability, Fisher said Thursday that he can’t promise Tesla can hang onto the recommended rating, cautioning that he expects continued fluidity given its track record.

Fisher also said that the problems have not damaged the opinion of the cars by Tesla owners–who have the highest customer loyalty in its survey, Consumer Reports has found.

“The people who are buying the Tesla aren’t buying it to have the most reliable vehicles. They purchase it because they want something exciting,” he told CNN. “The Teslas are delivering on that front.”

Despite the enthusiasm of current owners, Fisher said some people may have been discouraged from buying the cars. Now, though, “this should open the door to more people buying a Tesla 3,” he said.

Tesla shares shot up about 1% in afternoon trading Thursday on the news of the improved ratings. Tesla has been on a roll since the company reported an unexpected profit last month. Shares are up nearly 40% since that time.

Tesla did immediately respond to a request for comment on its new rating.

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