Guy gives his 97 year old grandpa a ride in his Tesla

If you’re really interested, here is a 15+ minute video that discusses the problems with the retracting door handles, including the common causes of failure and how to fix them. It’s been awhile since I watched the video, so I don’t remember what goes wrong.

They switched to a flush, but “manually ejected” door handle for the Model 3. Aside from being cheaper, there is much less to go wrong. After a few minutes of practice it is easy to open with one hand. Push with the thumb, and then pull the presented lever with the rest of your hand. I could see it as a problem for somebody with arthritis, otherwise I think detractors are just whining.

A few things:

  • Tesla quality control was pretty rough early on (and early, for Tesla, was 2012-2013). It’s certainly not Toyota-level today but it’s gotten a lot better.
  • As others have said, the auto-retract door handles add complexity. The benefit is a percent or so in aerodynamic improvement.
  • Essentially every owner of an '01-05-era BMW 3-series or X3 had multiple (often, all 4) power window regulators fail after a handful of years. This had the result of letting the window slide down completely. Ask me how I know this…

And as echoreply said, the new Model 3 has manual flush door handles. I’ve had zero problems with mine; after a few days they’re just as easy as a normal handle.

The Model S handles are spring loaded. Worst-case scenario, you attach a suction cup to pull them out. I’d say failing windows are actually a bigger problem.