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9May/13Off

Lost almost all respect for Consumer Reports today

I was getting my morning dose of CNBC this morning(I'm not an investor - I watch CNBC purely for entertainment purposes) when news came over the wire that Tesla had gotten a 99/100 rating on their ultra luxury green car by Consumer Reports.

I watched the interview with the guy at Consumer Reports and I was shocked, and I still am. A bit disgusted too.

Let me start out by saying I have no issues with the car itself. I'm sure it's a fine automobile. My issue is with the double talking standard of Consumer Reports in this particular case.

(forgive me the quotes will not be precise, see the video link above for the full interview)

The guy who wrote this report starts off by saying it's better than the other $90,000 cars in it's price range... (also goes on to say it's better than pretty much ANY car they have EVER EVER EVER TESTED -- not just better than any other electric car -- ANY CAR)

..but..

It is an electric car, while it has a long range compared to other electric cars, I can take a Toyota Corolla and drive to Cleveland from New York  -- I can't do that in this car yet.

You can only go about 200 miles before charging it up, that is a severe limitation. (those last two are his words)

CNBC goes on to quote him as saying If you leave it unplugged, you experience what you describe as a parasitic loss of energy(Consumer Report's words) that amounts to 12-15 miles per day, and asks him on that topic. He responds -

The concern is this is a new vehicle from a new automaker and there's going to be growing pains. If you're really looking for something to be trouble free off the bat - look elsewhere (his words too!)

I'm really glad I saw the interview. My disgust here is not with the car. I have no doubt it is a fine car! I think many people should go buy it. But if these sorts of flaws knock only a single point off the score ....that just seems wrong. Very wrong.  Especially the last bit -- if you want something to be trouble free look elsewhere -- for something that got rated 99 out of 100!!!

He goes on to talk about how it takes 30 minutes to charge the battery to half strength at one of Tesla's charging stations. He thinks people would be happier (duh) if they could fully charge it in four minutes.

CNBC half seriously asked him if you could charge a Tesla from a hotel room power outlet. Consumer reports guy said yes but it would take a VERY long time.

People buying this $90k car obviously are not concerned about the price of gas. It's really more for the image of trying to show your green than anything else, which is sad in itself(you can be more green by buying carbon offset credits - folks that can afford a $90k car should have no trouble buying some). But that's fine.

Again my issue isn't with the car. It's with the rating. Maybe it should be a 75, or an 85. I don't know. If it was me I'd knock at least 20 points off for the lack of range and lack of charging stations alone. Now if gas was say fifteen dollars a gallon I could see giving it some good credit for saving on that.

I think what Tesla is doing is probably a good thing, it seems like decent technology, good (relative to other electric vehicles) range. Likely can't take it on a road trip between SFO and Seattle any time soon..

I have relied at least in part on Consumer Reports for a few different purchases I have made (including my current car - which if I recall right Consumer Reports had no rating on it at the time it was too new. One of my friends just bought the 2013 model year of my car a few weeks ago).  It was extremely disappointing to see this result today. Maybe I should not of been surprised. I don't pay too close attention to what Consumer Reports does, I check them usually once every couple years at most. This may be par for the course for them.

Internet tech review sites have often had a terrible reputation for giving incorrect ratings for some reason or another (most often it seems to be because they want to keep getting free stuff from the vendors). I had thought(hoped) Consumer Reports was in a sort of league by itself for independent reporting.

I think at the end of the day the rating doesn't matter - people who are in the market for a $90k car will do their homework. It just sort of reeks to me of a back room deal or perhaps a bunch of hippies over at Consumer reports dreaming of a future where all vehicles are electric, never mind the fact the power grid can't handle it. (I can hear the voice of Cartman in the back of my head - Screw you hippies!). Tesla wants all the positive press they can get after all.

So let's see. We have a perfect score of 99/100 along which we have the words severe limitation, parasitic loss of energy, and look elsewhere if you want a trouble free experience ........

I'll say it one more time - my problem is with the perfect rating of 99/100 not with the car itself.

TechOps Guy: Nate

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  1. I’ve only used CR for car buying for their reliability stats; my #1 source has been Edmunds for their editor reviews, forum reviews, and pricing info. It’s interesting but understandable that the Edmunds’ owner (forum) review ratings tend to be higher than the editors’ reviews…

    The problem with good reviews isn’t going away, and is widespread. Trade mags are just as bad; there’s good info in them, but you have to be a bit cynical: I almost never see negative reviews, and lot of the articles are written by vendors.

    Another distortion is that the mags & websites like to concentrate on what’s new and shiny, not what people are actually using (which is often old, tried, and true — or open source in the computing world). Many photographers would rather argue about the latest cameras, which really don’t make a difference, than talk about what does: lighting (flash, diffusers, reflectors, time of day, etc), composition, posing, and such, because that doesn’t cost much, and doesn’t change much.

    I’ve rarely seen negative coverage of “The Cloud” — that’s one reason why I like your site.

    Finally, in most areas, writing good reviews takes a lot of time AND expertise, but doesn’t pay well (I’m especially thinking about non-consumer stuff here like MCAD, EDA, PCB design, etc).

  2. Hey Tony!

    Yes I agree with all of that.. it is a sad state of affairs. There’s even folks out there that have facebook and twitter bot nets where you can “buy likes” to prop up your stuff. Then there are claims of folks being paid to write fake reviews on sites like Amazon. There was that one incident recently with Samsung in Taiwan I think where they were accused of paying folks to do similar stuff.

    It seems it’s almost impossible to find trustworthy reliable reviews, which in the age that we are in just for some reason seems crazy and unfortunate.

    I saw a snippet on CNN recently where a former CNBC reporter commented on the review. I sort of cringed at first since she was just saying a bunch of praises then she mentioned the limited range and charge time. And called out another CNN reporter’s trip from Wash DC to Boston where he used the only two(I believe) charging stations to make the journey. She said it took 1 hour to charge at each station, and for a trip that takes 7 hours “why would you ever want to add another 1-2 hours?” So at least she is shooting through some of the hype.

    http://outfront.blogs.cnn.com/2013/05/14/consumer-reports-gives-tesla-model-s-near-perfect-score/

    As per the cloud, oh my how that just drives me nuts!! The level of incompetence out there in IT management when it comes to that stuff is just absolutely astounding to me. Combine that with the fact how those same folks are somehow able to justify such stuff to upper management is even more astounding. I will continue to do by best to call that stuff out as I see it, appreciate your readership as always!!


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