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Tesla loses its EV quality edge as repair problems continue to plague the market

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A dog looks out the window from a Tesla electric vehicle charging at a Tesla Supercharger location in Santa Monica, California on May 15, 2024. 
Patrick T. Fallon | AFP | Getty Images

Tesla is losing its lead over legacy automakers in the quality of its new all-electric vehicles, according to an annual influential study conducted by J.D. Power.

The 2024 U.S. Initial Quality Study found the quality of Tesla’s battery-electric vehicles, or BEVs, and those of traditional carmakers were the same, at 266 problems reported per 100 newly sold or leased vehicles.

Previously Tesla models outperformed the electric vehicles of legacy automakers in the annual survey of quality. Last year, the U.S. EV leader received a rank of 257 problems per 100 vehicles, compared with 265 problems per 100 vehicles on average for EVs from traditional automakers.

The study attributes Tesla’s growing problems to a negative response from customers after the company removed traditional feature controls, such as turn signals and wiper stalks.

Across the broader industry, not just BEVs, Tesla has consistently ranked toward the bottom in initial quality since J.D. Power began including Tesla in the study in 2022.

Overall, the study, which included repair visits data of franchised dealers for the first time, found electric vehicles such as BEVs and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs), are plagued with more problems compared to traditional gas- and diesel-powered vehicles with internal combustion engines.

“Owners of cutting edge, tech-filled BEVs and PHEVs 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,” Senior Director of Auto Benchmarking at J.D. Power Frank Hanley said in a news release.

The study found that plug-in vehicles require more repairs than gas-powered vehicles across all repair categories.

BEVs averaged 266 problems per 100 vehicles, 86 points higher than gas- and diesel-powered vehicles, which averaged 180 problems per 100 vehicles, according to the study. A lower score indicates higher vehicle quality.

Top concerns included features, controls and displays as well as wireless smartphone integration, as customers reported frequent difficulties with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

The study also reported frustration over false warnings, unnecessary traffic alerts and automatic braking features. Specifically, rear seat reminders contribute 1.7 problems per 100 vehicles across the industry, as owners report receiving signals even when no one is in the rear seat.

“It is not surprising that the introduction of new technology has challenged manufacturers to maintain vehicle quality,” Hanley said.

— CNBC’s Michael Wayland contributed to this report.

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