Tesla Model 3 cars are seen at an event at the Tesla factory in Fremont, California. PICTURE: HANDOUT VIA REUTERS
Tesla Model 3 cars are seen at an event at the Tesla factory in Fremont, California. PICTURE: HANDOUT VIA REUTERS

Bengaluru — Tesla CEO Elon Musk has sought to play down a report identifying "big flaws" in its Model 3 sedan, admitting there is a braking issue with the vehicle but saying it will be fixed with a software update within days.

Responding to a review by influential US magazine Consumer Reports, which stopped short of recommending the car, Musk said in a round of tweets late on Monday that the magazine’s tests — which used two separately sourced vehicles — had been of older versions of the car that had already been improved.

The issue, which ate into gains for Tesla shares on Monday, come at a time when Tesla is dealing with reports of crashes involving its vehicles, and growing scepticism over its finances.

Tesla stock, down about $100 since last September, gained about 1% on Tuesday, having finished almost 3% higher on Monday, helped by an easing of trade tensions with Chinam which may aid its plans to produce there.

"With further refinement, we can improve braking distance beyond initial specs. Tesla won’t stop until Model 3 has better braking than any remotely comparable car," Musk wrote in exchanges with other twitter users.

"Also Consumer Reports has an early production car. Model 3 now has improved ride comfort, lower wind noise and many other small improvements. Will request that they test current production," he wrote.

Production of the Tesla Model 3 began in July last year and the first regular customers only received their cars in December, after some Tesla employees.

Consumer Reports said in the review on Monday that it had sourced a second, privately owned Model 3 to confirm initial results that showed the sedan braked slower than a full-sized pick-up truck. The report did not mention the age of either car used in the testing.

Calling the review "very strange", Musk also said that the variability in stopping distance was due to an anti-skid braking system (ABS) calibration algorithm.

"The [Consumer Reports] braking result is inconsistent with other reviewers, but might indicate that some Model 3s have longer braking distances than others," he wrote. "If so, we will address this at our expense. May just be a question of firmware tuning, in which case can be solved by an [over the air (OTA)] software update."

Analysts said the magazine’s story was a bad advertisement for Tesla. "While the negative reports of braking issues will not deter Tesla brand enthusiasts, it might raise doubts among the more casual buyer," said Neil Saunders, MD of consumer research house GlobalData Retail. "It is important not to be too harsh on Tesla as other vehicles have had their share of safety and technical issues.

The issue for Tesla is that, unlike other car companies, it is a young brand that needs to win people over so can’t afford too many missteps."

Reuters