When Sterling Cooper fired Lane Pryce a few seasons ago on “Mad Men” and he responded by attaching a tube from the exhaust into the cabin and taping up the windows of his new Jaguar E-Type coupe, a few of us car guys cringed.
“No! Don’t do it in the most beautiful, most desirable sports car of all time!”
The rest of us knew what was going on. Don’t worry guys and gals; it probably won’t start. It’s a Jaguar E-Type.
Too many owners had reported such problems as the car not starting, the windshield wipers not working, and the electric pop-out door handles not popping out, thus making it hard to even get inside the car. Tesla stock, which jumped more than $10 on Wall Street when CR gave the Model S 103 points, promptly lost that much when owners gave it Jag E-Type-like reliability marks, even though most of those owners in the survey told the magazine they’d buy another of Elon Musk’s wonder cars.
We should not be surprised.
The key words above, though, are “production sedan.” Tesla is, as Silicon Valley journalists like to point out, a tech company, not an automobile manufacturer. CEO Musk thinks that’s an advantage, and that someday soon his way of doing business will put Detroit and Stuttgart on the trash heap of automotive history. But he’s a tiny manufacturer with limited experience and resources and had to rely on Toyota’s help in learning how to build cars.
He has even upgraded the software so that the car can drive itself, semi-autonomously, on limited-access highways. Here, Musk has overestimated his customers, thinking they intuitively understand semi-automated driving and won’t think of posting “hey, watch this” selfie-videos as their Teslas veer off the road.
Teslas can’t crash like PCs or Macs, and they shouldn’t be used for beta-testing new software. With its new Model X on the way, Tesla can’t afford to be cavalier about quality and reliability. On the other hand, in what other car would you accept the kinds of reliability glitches that we’ve come to accept from our computer devices? Precisely: the Jaguar E-Type.