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Tesla’s Electric Model S Gets Consumer Reports Top Rating

The Tesla Electric Model S Sedan
Tesla Motors Inc.’s electric Model S received the highest rating from Consumer Reports. Source: Tesla via Bloomberg

Tesla Motors Inc.’s electric Model S, Motor Trend’s 2013 “Car of the Year,” received the highest rating from Consumer Reports in an evaluation of the luxury sedan that led first-quarter North American plug-in car sales.

The Model S from Palo Alto, California-based Tesla scored 99 out of 100 points, the non-profit magazine said in an e-mailed statement. The $89,650 car bought by Consumer Reports “performed better, or just as well overall” as any vehicle it’s ever tested, the Yonkers, New York-based magazine said.

“It accelerates, handles and brakes like a sports car, it has the ride and quietness of a luxury car and is far more energy efficient than the best hybrid cars,” said Jake Fisher, Consumer Reports’ director of automotive testing, in a statement. Still, the magazine said it isn’t recommending the car yet as there isn’t enough reliability data so far to do so.

A favorable evaluation from the influential publication comes after Tesla yesterday reported its first-ever profit in the quarter that ended March 31. Tesla, led by billionaire Elon Musk, beat estimates for the quarter by delivering 4,900 units of the Model S, which has a $69,900 base price, in 2013’s first three months.

Net income was $11.2 million in the first quarter, compared with a loss of $89.9 million a year earlier, Tesla said in a statement on its website. Excluding some items, the profit was 12 cents a share, compared with a year-earlier loss of 76 cents. The average estimate of 10 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg was for a profit of 4 cents a share.

Highest Score

Tesla surged 24 percent to $69.40, a record closing price. The shares have more than doubled this year, compared with a 14 percent gain in the Russell 1000 Index.

No rechargeable car has won a score as high as the Model S. The magazine last gave a vehicle 99 points in 2007, when Toyota Motor Corp.’s Lexus LS460L ranked that high, said Douglas Love, a spokesman for Consumer Reports.

Among competing luxury cars, Consumer Reports said Porsche AG’s Panamera received 84 points and Fisker Automotive Inc.’s Karma plug-in hybrid got 57 points. Fisker Automotive stopped making cars in 2012 and fired most employees in April.

Model S shortcomings include limited range, long charge times and “coupe-like styling that impairs rear visibility and impedes access,” Consumer Reports said. Along with reliability that isn’t yet determined, Tesla still has a limited service network, the magazine said.

‘Most Practical’

The test vehicle had an 85-kilowatt/hour lithium-ion battery pack and averaged about 200 miles (322 kilometers) per charge in real-world driving, the magazine said.

The Tesla “is easily the most practical electric car that has been tested to date,” Consumer Reports said. By comparison, Ford Motor Co.’s Focus Electric and Nissan Motor Co.’s Leaf hatchback averaged about 80 miles and 75 miles, respectively, per charge, the magazine said.

Based on electricity costs for charging, Consumer Reports estimates fueling the Model S is equivalent to running a car on gasoline that costs $1.20 a gallon. The average U.S. price for regular grade gasoline was $3.54 a gallon on May 7, according to AAA’s Daily Fuel Gauge report.

A review of the car appears in the July issue of Consumer Reports.

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