Each year, J.D. Power releases the results of a study that looks at the number of problems reported by owners of three-year-old vehicles. The Vehicle Dependability Study is not a glimpse at the problems associated with new vehicles, but rather those that have been used for many years and driven many miles. This year, the report has concluded that vehicles equipped with a battery electric vehicle (BEV) or plug-in hybrid-electric powertrain have the most reported problems. According to the data, BEVs have more problems than plug-in hybrids.
By contrast, vehicles with conventional powertrains and hybrids have lower reported problems. This summary of findings jives with what Consumer Reports recently reported. Both groups use owner surveys to gather the facts that they subsequently summarize into their reports.
The report says the following about the correlation between powertrain type and dependability:
“Electrified vehicles more problematic than others: Owners of battery electric vehicles (BEVs) and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) experience more problems than owners of gas-powered and hybrid vehicles. BEVs are most troublesome (256 PP100), followed by PHEVs (216 PP100). Hybrids (191 PP100) and gasoline vehicles (187 PP100) fare significantly better. At three years of ownership, tires are a sore spot for BEVs, with 39% of owners saying they replaced tires in the past 12 months—19 percentage points higher than owners of gas-powered vehicles.”
In the report, Tesla, which only makes BEVs, scored 252 problems per 100 vehicles. This is a dramatically worse score than brands that make vehicles with all types of powertrains, such as Toyota (147) and Lexus (135). A lower score is better, in case that is not apparent. The Rivian, Polestar, Lucid, Hummer, and Fisker brands are not included in the study since they had delivered virtually no vehicles as of three years ago. We reached out to J.D. Power and asked for some individual BEV model examples.
Interestingly, Toyota and Lexus, two brands that offer plug-in hybrid-electric vehicles, scored highest overall. We have reached out to J.D. Power and asked if they have the individual model scores for the RAV4 Prime and Prius Prime, which lead the PHEV segment in terms of volume of sales. We use the term "segment" here loosely since a powertrain type and a segment should not really be thought of as one and the same. If J.D. Power replies, we will update our story.
Image of Tesla service center by John Goreham. 2024 VDS chart courtesy of J.D. Power.
John Goreham is an experienced New England Motor Press Association member and expert vehicle tester. John completed an engineering program with a focus on electric vehicles, followed by two decades of work in high-tech, biopharma, and the automotive supply chain before becoming a news contributor. In addition to his eleven years of work at Torque News, John has published thousands of articles and reviews at American news outlets. He is known for offering unfiltered opinions on vehicle topics. You can follow John on Twitter, and connect with him at Linkedin.