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Whitney Tilson’s Comments On Model 3 Rear Tires Email

Whitney Tilson’s email to investors discussing the Tesla Model 3 rear tires going bald after only 4,000 miles.

Rear Tires
Blomst / Pixabay

Initial email:

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Q4 hedge fund letters, conference, scoops etc

A guy on my email list just sent me this – anyone else heard of this?

A close friend of mine casually told me his Model 3 is on its 3rd(!) set of rear tires with only 8,000 miles on the car.  Each set was bald after only 4,000 miles.  Tesla checked his car’s computer and concluded he hadn’t been driving the car hard, but acknowledged that rear wheel wear can be a problem because of the cars high torque.   I wonder how unusual this is.

Replies:

Going all the way back to 2012, the Model S has been legendary for premature tire wear.  While the torque can be a problem for some people, it has generally not been the main reason.  Rather, the main reason has been that the Model S -- and I guess, to some degree, the Model X and 3 that followed it -- have been notorious for their frequent misalignments.

When a wheel/tire is misaligned, it causes premature (uneven) wear.  Then combine it with liberal application of "teenager boy right foot" and its related torque, and the life expectancy of this tire falls by approximately one decimal point -- from 40,000 miles to 4,000.

It's just one of those costs that Tesla does not include in its "savings" calculator on its web site.  Yeah, you have to prepared to spend an extra $4,000 a year on tires, on a Tesla.

In comparison, if you drive the American average of 12,000 miles a year, you will consume 240 gallons of gasoline in a Honda Accord hybrid or Toyota Camry hybrid.  Multiply those 240 gallons with the average nationwide gasoline price of $2.28 as of today -- https://gasprices.aaa.com/ -- and you're at $547 per year in gasoline cost.  So, the extra tire cost of driving a Tesla is, ahem, not too far from a decimal point higher than your entire fuel bill of driving a regular full-size hybrid sedan.

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Have not but the temperatures in the country are currently invalidating the warrantee on the Michelin tires. Also insurance rates are through the roof.

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I have a Nissan LEAF and I had the same experience with both the 2013 I leased and the 2015 I have now. After just 6000 miles I needed 3 new tires on the 2013, and the rear tires on the 2015 went in about 6000 miles too. I don't know if it's electric cars in general, or if they are putting lightweight tires on them to save weight? Just thought I'd mention it.

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I've had my Model S for three and a half years .. currently at 55,000 miles. Excellent tire wear. My original Michelin tires logged in at 38,800 miles ... I realize we are talking about the Model 3 but I will point out that as tempting as it is to show off my car's acceleration, I hardly ever do it ... and I suspect if I was always flooring it, I would probably be on my third or fourth set of tires at this point. Also, is his Model 3 all wheel drive? If his 3 is just rear wheel that might also be a factor. I have all wheel drive on mine ... so I would assume the torque is evenly distributed. I have some friends with Model 3's .. they love it. Will ask them.