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Second-Worst - Tesla’s Reliability Scores Remain A Challenge

A new brand ranking by Consumer Reports shows that Tesla still has a long way to go in order to join the mainstream with regard to reliability. Here is how Tesla Models rank against their peers.

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Now that Tesla has meaningful numbers of vehicles in the hands of owners who fill out quality surveys, more accurate data about the brand’s reliability is being made available. A new brand ranking by Consumer Reports highlights just how far Tesla has to go before its vehicles rank among the mainstream for reliability. In the report, Consumer Reports finds that Tesla is the second-worst brand for reliability overall.

How Tesla Ranked Overall
The new report from Consumer Reports is constructed based on data from owners who complete Consumer Reports reliability surveys. Consumer Reports then calculates a reliability score on a 0-to-100-point scale, with the average rating falling between 41 and 60 points. This year, the overall average was 57. Tesla’s brand score is 27. Lexus earns a score of 76 and Mazda a Score of 75. These two brands have swapped the top spot for the new year.

How Tesla’s Individual Models Ranked
Only one model, the Tesla Model 3, earned a score of average. The Model X had a shockingly-low score of just 5. The Model Y earned a score of 18 and the Model S a score of 20. In contrast, the Kia Niro EV earns a score of 95.

Here is a chart comparing Tesla’s Models to some of its peers in the industry:
Chart by John Goreham. Data by Consumer Reports

As can be seen from the chart, Tesla’s models don’t score well among their peers with conventional powertrains and they do not match the best scores of electrified models with similar capacities. Torque News communicated with Consumer Reports to get more background on Tesla’s reliability ranking. Steven Elek, Consumer Reports automotive data analyst, told us, “In our owner satisfaction questions, Tesla owners love to tell us how much they love their cars. That said, the same owners recognize how unreliable they are and will truthfully convey this to us in our surveys as well."

Jake Fisher, CR's senior director of auto testing, told us, “Tesla models generally perform well in our road tests, and get stellar marks from owners in our satisfaction surveys. But reliability has been a major hurdle for the brand. It's holding Teslas back for ranking much higher in our car ratings." Only one Tesla model, the Model 3, earns a "Recommended" stamp from Consumer Reports.

It’s Not Just Consumer Reports
If the poor reliability rankings for Tesla were based on one source, it would be easy to call the results questionable. But they are not. J.D. Power’s Vehicle Dependability Study also ranks Tesla near the bottom of the industry as fourth worst overall. The group’s Initial Quality Study has Tesla ranked third-worst.

Tesla has three main challenges ahead of it that must still be overcome. Here is a listing and which we think rank as most important:
Product Reliability - See above.
Scope of Offering - Tesla basically sells just two models. The Y and 3. Its Roadster and Cybertruck have been teased for literally years and Tesla’s least-expensive model has a consumer cost above $45K. Tesla barely sells any Model X or Model S vehicles.
Production Limitations - Tesla has pushed its Model Y LR into late 2022 and Model S into 2023.

Tesla has built a massive fan following based on its “stick-it-to-the-man” attitude and a product that is exciting to drive. The last thing Tesla needs today is another supercar. To help fight climate change, Tesla needs to be a bigger vehicle provider. If Tesla wants to operate on the scale of Toyota it needs to increase its vehicle production by 10X. To serve middle and lower-income new vehicle buyers it needs a crossover half its current cost. However, these goals are likely more achievable than making the reliability gains Tesla requires to be ranked by its owners among the top three brands in America.

Image by John Goreham. Comparison chart by John Goreham. Data by Consumer Reports. J.D. Power chart courtesy of J.D. Power.

John Goreham is a long-time New England Motor Press Association member and recovering engineer. John's interest in EVs goes back to 1990 when he designed the thermal control system for an EV battery as part of an academic team. After earning his mechanical engineering degree, John completed a marketing program at Northeastern University and worked with automotive component manufacturers, in the semiconductor industry, and in biotech. In addition to Torque News, John's work has appeared in print in dozens of American news outlets and he provides reviews to many vehicle shopping sites. You can follow John on TikTok @ToknCars, on Twitter, and view his credentials at Linkedin

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