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Consumer Reports Downgrades Tesla Models Over Safety Concerns

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Consumer Reports has been pretty hard on Tesla Motors over the past year. The primary point of contention in 2016 was the automaker’s perceived misrepresentation of the company’s Autopilot feature. CR wanted the automaker to disable hands-free operation until its system could be made safer and insisted that it make clear to consumers that it was not capable of true self-driving capability.

While Tesla addressed some of those concerns with its 8.0 software update last autumn, the consumer advocacy publication said it didn’t go nearly far enough — demanding that Tesla stop calling it Autopilot, disable automatic steering, and quit beta testing on its own customers.

Continuing those safety concerns into 2017, Consumer Reports has downgraded both of Tesla’s existing models, claiming the company failed to enable automatic emergency braking features it said would come as standard equipment. This is perplexing, as Model S and Model X vehicles equipped with first-generation Autopilot systems actually had this function. 

“When we purchased our latest test car, we were assured automatic emergency braking would be enabled by the end of 2016,� explained Jake Fisher, director of Consumer Reports’ Auto Test Center in Colchester, Connecticut. “We’ve been waiting for this important safety feature, which is standard equipment on much cheaper cars.�

The change drops the Tesla Model S’ rating by two points and removes it from the top spot in the publication’s ultra-luxury car category. It’s now positioned behind the Lexus LS and BMW 7 Series. For the Tesla Model X, the score drops to 56 from 58, placing it near the bottom of the luxury midsized SUV category. Consumer Reports hasn’t been particularly fond of the Model X due to severe quality concerns and a lack of practicality.

However, the issue isn’t so much about scoring as it is Tesla’s continued inconsistency. The publication places an emphasis on safety and predictability, appearing somewhat disdainful of the automaker’s approach to both.

Consumer Reports says it will gladly restore the points once the manufacturer includes AEB on the models, though its stance on the matter remains firm. In its announcement, CR accused Tesla of selling “premium luxury cars without basic safety features that come standard on far less expensive vehicles, such as the $20,000 Toyota Corolla.” It also accused the automaker of lying about update timelines and inquired about potential compensation for owners who have driven for up to six months without safety functions and convenience features they may have expected.

Tesla, which is already facing an Autopilot-related lawsuit that it calls “inaccurate and sensationalistic,â€� did not respond. However, the all-electric manufacturer has stated that it will announce a software update for Thursday that addresses concerns over automatic braking. If it does not, we’ll certainly hear about it from Consumer Reports.

[Image: Tesla Motors]

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