(Bloomberg) -- Consumer Reports cut ratings on Tesla Inc. cars, dropping the Model S sedan from its top segment ranking until the Elon Musk-led company restores an automatic braking system.
The Model X sport utility vehicle and the Model S sedan produced over roughly the last six months have lacked functioning automatic emergency-braking systems, which can slow or stop vehicles with sensors capable of detecting potential collisions. The lack of the feature, which Tesla had said would be available by the end of last year, will cost Model X and Model S two points apiece on the magazine’s 100-point scale.
Consumer Reports and Tesla have been through a series of ups and downs, and these lower ratings may not last for long. The magazine said Tesla has promised a software update Thursday will activate automatic braking. Its testers have gone from calling the Model S the best car evaluated in 2014, to awarding an off-the-charts rating the next year, to dropping their recommendation of the car in late 2015 due to owner-reported reliability concerns.
“Tesla said they would have the software update soon,” Jake Fisher, director of automotive testing at Consumer Reports, said in a phone interview. “Unfortunately, we have heard that in the past, as well.”
Investors have taken Consumer Reports’ whims seriously because the magazine has built credibility by paying for the vehicles it tests and refusing automakers’ advertising. Tesla shares have surged on Consumer Reports’ praise and plunged when its cars have come under criticism. The stock has climbed 47 percent this year, valuing the company at $51.5 billion as of Tuesday’s close, about $230 million more than General Motors Co.
Due to the loss of points related to the lack of automatic emergency braking, the Model S now has a score of 85 and is Consumer Reports’ third-best ultra-luxury car, behind the Lexus LS and BMW 7 Series sedans.
The Model X’s rating drops to 56, ranking it near the bottom among luxury midsized SUVs, according to the magazine. Consumer Reports said it will reevaluate the scores once the automatic-braking feature is activated.
Tesla disabled automatic braking when it transitioned to new hardware in October that it said would render every one of its vehicles capable of self-driving at a later date. The company shifted its approach following an ugly breakup with Israeli supplier Mobileye NV.
Automatic emergency-braking systems that work at speeds below 55 miles per hour are standard on 19 percent of cars this year, according to Consumer Reports. About 14 percent of vehicles are equipped to handle highway speeds.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and major automakers signed an agreement last year to make the systems a standard feature on U.S. vehicles by 2022. IIHS released a study in 2016 that found the systems reduce rear-end crashes by about 40 percent.
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