Teslas Are Breaking Down More and More, Data Shows

Breaking Bad

Elon Musk's Tesla has been struck with a plague of bad news lately, from the company laying off scores of workers to a federal investigation on wire fraud.

Now add another headache: the latest JD Power US Initial Quality Study found that Tesla cars are breaking down more and more — and that electric vehicles, with Tesla far and away the top seller in America, are having more mechanical issues than vehicles powered by gas.

The study not only sends into high relief overall problems at Tesla, but also undercuts the prevalent narrative that EVs require less maintenance and repair compared to gas-powered vehicles — a narrative long touted by federal agencies and parroted by mainstream media.

In the study, Tesla vehicles now rank about the same as other EVs from legacy carmakers in terms of quality, when Tesla models in previous years outranked their rivals on average.

Why the change in quality? Drivers dinged Tesla for eliminating turn-signal stalks and moving window controls and the car horn from the center of the steering wheel to the rim, among other reasons.

"It’s not being well received," JD Power senior director of auto benchmarking and study author Frank Hanley told Bloomberg. "In an emergency situation when you have to hit the horn, you don’t necessarily want to have to think about it. We see customers commenting that eyes-off-the-road time is increasing because they have to hunt around."

Twist Ending

On the subject of maintenance and repair issues, JD Power found that the industry average is 195 recorded problems per 100 vehicles, with data on repair visits from dealerships incorporated.

On this metric, vehicles that run on fossil fuels perform overwhelmingly better than electric vehicles like Tesla, with 180 problems on average for gas versus 266 problems in EVs, respectively — which makes for a remarkable gap of 86 points.

Overall, Haney told Bloomberg, drivers of EVs "are experiencing problems that are of a severity level high enough for them to take their new vehicle into the dealership at a rate three times higher than that of gas-powered vehicle owners."

That's a surprising twist to the common notion that owners wouldn't have to bring EVs to dealerships for maintenance and repair as often since EVs have fewer parts to break. Why have so many automobile experts gotten this wrong?

One issue might be statistical: on average, EVs haven't nearly been on the road as long as cars that run on fossil fuels, giving EVs' early years a false impression that they're relatively trouble-free.

This report, though, just might be towing that narrative to the junkyard.

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