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Broken wings: Quality issues surface in early Tesla Model X builds

The long-delayed Tesla Model X may have wowed the public when it debuted last fall, but early examples of the electric crossover may not be living up to the hype. The Model X is suffering from quality issues, some related to its headline-grabbing features.

Consumer Reports hasn’t issued its own verdict on the Model X yet, but it did relay the woes of one owner. Michael Karpf took delivery of his Model X at the Tesla factory in Fremont, California, with the intention of driving it cross country with his family. Along the way, he ran into lots of problems, according to the magazine. The driver’s door wouldn’t open from the outside, the window got stuck, the giant touchscreen in the dashboard froze, and the heating system, couldn’t keep the car warm. Karpf also complained that the curved windshield distorted the lights of other cars.

Then there were the “falcon doors.” Arguably the Model X’s signature feature, the roof-hinged rear doors are supposed to fold so they can open without smashing into the ceilings of garages. However the doors failed to close on one occasion, and failed to detect a low overhang on another, hitting it and leaving a dent. Journalists at the Model X launch also noticed problems with the “falcon doors” as well.

“We are committed to making the world’s most reliable cars. While we have seen some issues with early Model X builds, the issues are not widespread, and we are working closely with each owner to respond quickly and proactively to address any problems,” a Tesla spokeswoman said in an e-mail response to Consumer Reports. The magazine has had reliability issues with Model S test cars, and the sedan scored poorly in a recent reliability survey.

It isn’t too surprising that the Model X is experiencing quality issues. Similar issues were reported when the Model S was launched in 2012, and the Tesla crossover is a more complicated vehicle. Tesla had to switch suppliers before it could get hinges for the “falcon doors” that worked, and features like a glass roof, beefed-up climate control system, and that curvy windshield added to the complexity of building the Model X.

Tesla certainly isn’t alone when it comes to new models with quality issues. Consumer Reports recommends against buying any vehicle in its first year of production, because new and untested components or manufacturing processes are more likely to cause problems. That goes for redesigns of existing models as well as those vehicles, like the Model X, that are new from the ground up.

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