In Europe, Model 3 anticipation turns into Model 3 morosity

On February 5th, a ship docked in the Belgian port of Zeebrugge, and it disgorged thousands of Tesla’s highly anticipated Model 3 cars. After a few snags, such as a day-long national strike, were mastered, the cars were on their way to European customers. Some of them anxiously waited several years for their electric car. If comments in usually Tesla-friendly online forums are an indication, Model 3 anticipation has given way to Model 3 morosity. 

Germany’s TTF Forum already has a sub-forum called “Model 3 problems/fails,” and four days ago,  TTF opened a poll on Model 3 delivery problems [now made inaccessible, see P.S.] At the time of this typing, there were 56 responses. 34% reported no problem. 66% reported small to serious problems. One respondent said he already returned the car. 14% said they are considering returning the car. (20% considered returning the car a day after the poll was posted.)

TTF stands for “Tesla Fahrer und Freunde,“ German for „Tesla drivers and friends.“ It is an on-line gathering place for hardcore Tesla fans, and it is beyond suspicion of any anti-Tesla tendencies. Which makes the forum’s ongoing accounting of Model 3 gripes even more appalling. Here is a short excerpt with links to the original postings in German:

  • 2/16: User SebboMSP posts long list of problems after 400km in his new Model 3: No auto dim, condensation in lights, “bangs” from below, wrong charger cable, car locks automatically when driver leaves, even if passengers remain in car, more. Post receives 77 replies.
  • 2/16: Usually enthusiastic user tesla3.de reports water ingress in trunk (11:10 in his video). Says “car seems to be built for California.” His video declares the Model 3’s wipers unfit for Northern European climes.
  • 2/18: User Christian23 reports Homelink problems: His garage door won’t open. Very popular thread.
  • 2/19: User MichiRedv reports misadjusted trunk lid, scratched spoiler, shoddy upholstery, audio system dropouts.
  • 2/19: User Mittelhesse reports problems with windshield seal, missing paint, misadjusted doors, scratches in glass roof (“robot arm?”) an AWOL auto-dim, intermittent rear camera, and a crooked Tesla logo. Front lights can’t be turned on during daylight.
  • 2/20: User Christian23 reports multiple system reboots while driving.
  • 2/20: User MMJ reports that his Model 3 charger uses only one leg of a 3-phase charger box, resulting in slow charging. Posts video on Youtube. Software version 51.10.1 fdd45c7. Many posters report same. Some users point out that occasionally, the wrong charge cable is included with the car.
  • 2/20: In addition to the above, MMJ reports: rattles and loud bangs, paintwork inclusions, leather of passenger seat scratched, trunk seal uneven, headlights and foglights cannot be switched off, “greyed-out.” Considers returning the car. Post receives 109 replies.
  • 2/20: User Shades receives check tire pressure sensor warning 10 minutes after leaving Tesla store in his new Model 3.
  • 2/20: User Amber reports painful hand entrapment by automatically closing window. Other posters point out that automatic jamming protection should cause the window to back off.
  • 2/21: User Konrudi reports dead USB sockets.
  • 2/21: User macman1010 reports eCall problems, in addition to a missing key card and the wrong charger cable.
  • 2/21: User Sebastian815 reports sluggish brakes. “Can’t even make ABS engage.”
  • 2/22: (Only in Germany Dept.) User TCO points to reports that the Model 3 P (as in performance) can’t do more than 235 km/h (146 mph)
  • 2/23: I give up. There simply is too much.

Considering that the shipload on Model 3s was destined for all of EU, and that only a few Model 3 should have arrived, this German gripe list is shocking. The problems seem to be all over the place, there is no clear pattern, except maybe for the missing charge cable, the greyed-out controls for the headlights, and the well-known wet trunk. 

What is even more shocking is that the Model 3 has been made in (somewhat) earnest for more than a year. Normal teething problems should be long solved by now. After Consumer Reports yanked the car’s recommendation, because “owners report problems with paint, trim, and electronics,” Tesla claimed that “the vast majority of these issues have already been corrected through design and manufacturing improvements, and we are already seeing a significant improvement in our field data.” What arrived in Europe sounds very much like a grab bag of the same problems with paint, trim, and electronics.

The run-of-the-mill dinosaur legacy carmaker would have a pre-delivery inspection (PDI) operation at that dock in Zeebrugge, and failed cars would be sent right back to where they came from. Abandon all hope, at Tesla it is likely to get worse: A week after the ship docked, Tesla CEO Elon Musk swooped into Zeebrugge on his Gulfstream, and as a first order of business, he fired the Belgian company that was too slow (too thorough?) in handling the pre-delivery.  Tesla is doing it itself now, and it is looking for “Delivery Experience Specialists” and “PDI Service Technicians” who can “ensure that all Tesla vehicles are in perfect shape to be handed over to the owner of the car (our highly-valued customer),” both working in Zeebrugge.

What stands out from the complaints on the German forum: As opposed to what is going on in U.S. Tesla forums, people posting problems in Germany are not automatically shouted and voted down as idiots who don’t realize that there is a world to change, an occurrence so common that is has become a fodder for satire.

Tesla owners, if you want to discuss your gripes without being hung from the virtual lamp posts, learn German.

P.S.: Hours after this story appeared, the thread with the poll apparently was moved into a protected area of the forum. The thread may be accessible by registered members only. Other linked contributions were still accessible at the time of this typing.