BEVs Hurt J.D. Power Service Satisfaction Rates, and It Could Have Been Even Worse

One of the most common things you hear about battery electric cars (BEVs) is that they need less maintenance than ICE vehicles because they are simpler. That’s not true, and the creation of several BEV-specialized shops proves that. J.D. Power discovered it is a bit more complex as BEVs made service satisfaction rates drop for the first time in almost 30 years – and Tesla is not even included in the ranking, which could make it worse.
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Photo: Tesla
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According to the consumer insights company, that goes beyond the sales volume increase BEVs have experienced more recently. It is true that several legacy carmakers offer new products in this market segment, but that alone does not explain why the “recall rates are more than double for BEVs than their gas/diesel counterparts,” as J.D. Power found out. Service advisor knowledge is also an issue.

What these elements do indicate is that legacy automakers are rushing into the EV trend without properly understanding it. Their technicians did not deal with BEVs that much before, and neither did car companies. That’s the bottom line. Ironically, it could suggest that including Tesla in the survey would improve the results. Sadly, that is not true.

Tesla Service Centers
Photo: Tesla
Although Tesla has a lot more experience with BEVs, it gives very little attention to testing and quality control. Its customers frequently share checklists on what to verify before accepting delivery of any vehicles. If the BEVs have too many flaws, clients are advised to refuse the cars and wait for another one in better conditions.

When Tesla customers take delivery of their vehicles, they most immediately have to make appointments to crack the issues they happen to find. That made everything the factories should have solved before shipping the BEVs end up with Tesla Service Centers, overloading them. On top of that, several chronic problems that more extensive testing could have detected and prevented also need immediate attention, with the most recent one being the rear motor inverter failures. Caught in November 2020, it had a recall in China and kept happening despite that.

Tesla Service Centers
Photo: Tesla
Satisfaction levels could drop sharply in such conditions. According to J.D. Power, people already have to wait more for a service appointment, something the company has started noticing in the 2021 edition of the study. Owners of premium cars have to wait 1.9 days more, leading the average to 5.6 days. Those trying to service mass-market vehicles have 1.3 days more of waiting, for an average of 4.8 days. That is probably an effect of the pandemic. Although that must also have affected Tesla, some customers say they have to wait weeks to get their BEVs fixed.

Chris Sutton, the vice president of automotive retail at J.D. Power, told me why Tesla information was not even disclosed in this last survey. The company sometimes presents it in other ratings, even if it can’t say the numbers are official: Tesla refuses to grant J.D. Power access to data in states where the automaker’s authorization is mandatory.

“We don’t include Tesla on the retail studies due to lack of representative samples in states like California. While we do include Tesla in the quality studies, customer feedback on retail experiences can differ quite a bit in states like California, so we opt not to include them.”

Tesla Service Centers
Photo: Tesla
It would be enlightening to have just a glimpse of the service level and ratings the EV maker gets from the Tesla Service Centers. Most of the EV shops that have popped up recently focus on Tesla vehicles, which already shows the company’s servicing network is insufficient for all the BEVs that need to be repaired. That makes it clear that if Tesla granted J.D. Power permission to collect data, the numbers would be even worse.

The consumer insights company stated that average satisfaction with the service experience declined by two points in the 2023 edition. From 1,000 possible points, the average was 848 in 2022 and 846 this year. When only BEVs are analyzed, the satisfaction average with their services is 42 points lower than among those with combustion-engined cars. On a 10-point scale, BEV owners’ satisfaction is just 8.01, while owners of vehicles powered by fuel have an 8.49 average.

Tesla Service Centers
Photo: Tesla
Tesla often says that its mission is to get everyone to drive BEVs. It even said it wants to sell 20 million units per year by 2030. If it refuses to allow J.D. Power to scrutinize satisfaction levels while it is selling around one million annually, it is not reasonable to believe it will be more open to the idea when selling 20 times as much. On the other hand, it is more than fair to suppose it does not care what all this secrecy may do to EV adoption. As I wrote in February 2022, this is the sort of behavior that harms clean transportation the most.

Legacy automakers have their fair share of mistakes. However, allowing J.D. Power to check what is happening to their BEV customers may help them correct their strategy and fix the satisfaction issues customers are having with keeping their cars in good condition. As even Elon Musk tweeted one day, sunlight is the best disinfectant.
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About the author: Gustavo Henrique Ruffo
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Motoring writer since 1998, Gustavo wants to write relevant stories about cars and their shift to a sustainable future.
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