How Reliable Are Tesla Electric Cars?


You only have to think about Fiat’s jokes, fix it again Tony, or Ford, found on road dead, to understand how poor reliability and build quality can cause years, even decades of jokes.

Although, for the most part, those reputations were at one time earned through poor engineering or poor reliability and build quality, both of these companies and many more like them are the butts of jokes when a friend’s family member or colleague notes that they’re interested in buying one.

It’s not just automakers; even parts suppliers can get in on the effects of negative press. For example, I bet that I only need to mention Lucas to some of you.

You’ll respond in chorus about the Prince of Darkness and the company’s long terrifying reputation for making electronics components that were inferior.

Of course, reliability is a subset of metrics that we use today to judge just how reliable a car is, and how likely we’re going to be satisfied with it.

You can have a car that’s well built with terrible reliability, a car that’s badly built with terrible reliability, and a super reliable car from a mechanical point of view that has a plethora of bodywork issues.

As far as automakers go, Tesla motors are synonymous with high performance, long-range electric cars that are jam-packed with technology, can drive at least partially themselves, and retain a higher value than many other cars on the market.

For that reason, they are generally a substantial investment. Still, there’s one thing that Tesla has been plagued with for its entirety, and it’s threatening to become the company’s Achilles heel.

The problem is quality control. From poorly aligned panels to cars shipped with incorrect or missing parts, and from noticeable page damage at the point of delivery to tears and scratches inside the vehicle has is earning itself a bit of notoriety.

So much so that the just-released 2020 JD power initial quality study, Tesla managed to score a metric of 250 PP100.

For those unfamiliar with the study, it grades cars using customer supplied data about any issues or problems present in the vehicle at or immediately following purchase.

The metric expresses the average number of issues per 100 cars, in Tesla’s case, that translates to 250 issues per 100 cars. As Dave sergeant vice president of automotive quality at JD Power explained on Wednesday to CNBC, “vehicles with less cutting-edge technology tend to get lower scores than those with lots of high-tech functionality.”

There is more to go wrong as one of if not the most advanced automaker today Tesla, topped the list for the highest number of issues per 100 cars.

However, it is super important to note that these issues were, for the most part, not related to any of Tesla’s computer systems, or the electric drivetrain.

They were four issues that are less related to the cutting-edge nature of Tesla’s offerings. But two basic things like body panel alignment poorly fitted doors, hoods and fronks, paint defects, rattles, squeaks, and other poor part fitments.

While some people did complain in the JD Power initial quality study about range, namely that the car didn’t represent its real-world range accurately, the overwhelming majority of concerns related to non-mechanical, non-electrical flaws topped the charts.

Given that many buyers look at such surveys to help them make their purchase decisions, and Tesla is quickly migrating from hardened electric vehicle fans into the wider population, these issues could cause a huge headache for Tesla.

I’ll come out with why in a second, but first, I want to make sure I’m super clear about this survey. Where Tesla sits and an odyssey that I really should note.

First, the average brand in the survey clocked a total of 166 problems per 100 vehicles. A pretty high number at first glance if you think about it, but I’m sure if you’ve ever purchased a vehicle from new, you’ll remember one or two things that niggled at you until they were fixed.

Even the top brands in the survey, Dodge and Kia, managed one hundred and thirty-six problems per 100 vehicles, which still seems high.

To reiterate. While Tesla’s problems were mostly cosmetic, not every brand in the survey had the same kind of issues; many had mechanical or electrical faults.

The other thing to bear in mind about this survey is the fact that in states where it’s not required for Tesla to permit JD power to survey its customers, that’s a total of fifteen states, a total of 1250 owners were surveyed from the other 35 states.

From that starting point, Tesla’s score was calculated. Now, some of you will look back at this and note that it’s a tiny sample size, especially considering that Tesla is now shipping upwards of 80 to 90 thousand vehicles globally per quarter.

And you would be right to note that, and we would be wrong not to bring it up, so we are.

But I’d also be wrong not to bring up something more troubling that I’ve seen time and time again in the electric vehicle world. Specifically, Tesla owners who talk in hushed tones about the problems they’ve had with their cars or new customers who feel unable to talk about their experiences, both good and bad, for fear of reprisal.

And we need to stop applying the term Tesla hater, or Tesla short to anyone who dares mention these issues in public, basically we as a community need to make it okay to talk about quality control to help Tesla tackle these problems head-on.

Given that the large number of cars delivered, it would be wholly unfair and ludicrous to assert that every Tesla falling off the production line in Fremont is plagued with problems.

However, given the number of new model 3 and model Y owners I’ve talked to in recent months about paint problems, minor flaws, and niggles, I think it’s time for both Tesla owners and EV fans to start addressing these issues head-on and to help Tesla do the same.

In a recent letter to employees, Tesla CEO Elon Musk called for staff to reduce the number of rectifications on model Y, as industry talk for fixes to vehicles after they come off the production line.

This indicates that Tesla is well aware of some of these quality control issues with its latest and greatest vehicle. You only have to look on YouTube to see the number of videos posted by people having issues with quality control to see that this is a real persistent present problem.

Concerning electric drivetrain and battery packs, as well as some of the other tech that Tesla offers in its cars, there are frankly few companies that can even come close to comparing at a similar price point and a similar market.

Quality control of the body panels and trim is an important issue; it’s one that’s costing Tesla time and money to rectify, and ultimately it could damage the company’s reputation.

For those of us who want Tesla to succeed, and frankly, I don’t know anybody who doesn’t, being able to tackle the sources of these floors, head-on is essential.

Being vocal as customers about problems and praising a company when they do things right, are also super important elements to help Tesla improve its quality reputation.

And to those with other car brands, we need to do the same thing. It’s one reason why I was vocal when my Chevrolet bolt EV had a problem, and it’s why we openly talked about battery degradation on my wife’s Nissan Leaf before she sold it.

It may suck, but discussing problems and working to fix them is healthy in a relationship, after all, who wants to joke about Tesla’s Quality Control in 10 years? Do you want Tesla to be the next Fiat or Ford?