Krisztian Bocsi | Creative photos by Bloomberg | Getty Images
Electric vehicles are now among the least reliable cars and trucks in the auto industry, according to Consumer Reports rankings released Tuesday.
Compared to hybrid and gas-powered cars and trucks, battery-only electric vehicles were the worst-performing segment alongside traditional full-size pickups, according to Consumer Reports.
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EV reliability issues are to be expected given that most automakers, with the exception of early EV leader Tesla, have rolled out all-electric models in recent years, said Jake Fisher, senior director of auto testing at Consumer Reports. He said companies haven’t had time to iron out issues that affect reliability.
Because EV buyers tend to be tech-savvy early adopters, automakers also pack models with a variety of other features that can also cause problems.
“Automakers are using EVs as a technological proving ground for new technologies they want to try,” Fisher told CNBC. “With all this new technology, there are a lot of potential problems with them.”
Consumer Reports surveyed owners of more than 300,000 model year 2000 through 2022 vehicles and used that data to make predictions about the reliability of 2023 model year vehicles.
Electric models had a larger share of the rankings than ever before. State and federal incentives, as well as new environmental regulations, have encouraged greater adoption of all-electric cars inside and outside the US, in large part to try to reduce air pollution from traffic.
According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, charging a hybrid or all-electric vehicle can cause pollution at the power plant, but overall emissions from driving the cars are lower than gasoline-powered cars. Electric vehicles can also become “greener” over time as electricity from clean or renewable resources such as nuclear, solar and wind increases.
Hybrids work well
The report covers 24 car brands with an established history. Of the 275 models in the report, only 11 models across seven brands were all-electric vehicles. Owners of more than 2,000 Tesla vehicles were surveyed.
The top electric vehicle was the Kia EV6, which was well above average. At the bottom of the EV reliability ranking was the electric Hyundai Kona.
All-electric vehicles, many of which have only been launched in recent years, made up a larger segment of the list this year than ever before, but still only represent a small segment of the market.
In contrast to pure electric vehicles, hybrid cars and trucks were among the most reliable in the study. That’s largely because many hybrids like the Toyota Prius have been around for years, allowing automakers to work the problems out of them.
“As you adopt new technology and try new things and deviate from proven technology, you’re going to have more problems,” Fisher said.
Topping this year’s brand reliability list were Toyota, Lexus, BMW, Mazda and Honda – all with above-average reliability. Seven of the ten most reliable brands came from Japanese and Korean automakers. Lincoln is the only domestic brand in this year’s top 10 rankings.
Rankings of individual vehicles by Consumer Reports were not immediately available.
As an overall brand, Tesla climbed four places in the reliability rankings compared to last year, but remained below average. Other brands with below average reliability were Chevrolet, GMC, Volkswagen, Jeep and Mercedes-Benz.
Fisher said Tesla is a “standout” in terms of electric powertrains compared to older automakers.
However, according to Steve Elek, Consumer Reports’ auto data analytics program manager, Tesla owners continue to report issues with their vehicles’ body panels, paintwork and trim across all models.
A man plugs his Tesla vehicle into a Tesla charging station on September 22, 2022 in Santa Monica, California. Tesla is recalling over 1 million vehicles in the US because windows can pinch a person’s fingers when they roll up.
Allison Dinner | Getty Images
Elek said that Tesla’s high-end sedan, the Model S, experienced steering and suspension issues, and that both the Model S and Model Y crossover utility vehicles continue to have problems with air conditioning and heating systems.
The central touchscreen of Tesla vehicles remained problematic in the Tesla Model S and Model Y.
Selling fewer Model X vehicles, which have struggled in the past, also helped Tesla’s ranking, Fisher said. Tesla CEO Elon Musk has likened the Model X, a gull-wing SUV, to a “Fabergé egg” due to the relatively large number of parts needed to manufacture the car.
The company’s entry-level sedan, the Model 3, was the only Tesla with an average reliability ranking, while the Model S and Model Y underperformed.
Consumer Reports did not rate the reliability of driver assistance systems like Tesla’s Autopilot in its analysis.