New EVs suffer reliability problems: Consumer Reports

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Despite the prevailing belief that EVs, by virtue of their relatively straightforward design, promise to be more reliable than gasoline-powered vehicles, a recent study by Consumer Reports reveals that even electric cars are subject to new-model hiccups.

The magazine surveyed the owners of 329,000 vehicles, and among the EVs that had “more than their share of problems” were the Audi E-Tron, the Kia Niro EV, and the Tesla Model Y.

2019 Niro EV rear three-quarter
Kia Niro EV Kia

“These latest results mirror what we’ve known for a long time: All-new cars and new technology are prone to growing pains,” Benjamin Preston writes. “CR data (has) consistently shown that first-year models tend to be less reliable than ones that have been on the market for a few years. EVs are no exception, although specific electric components, such as batteries and drivetrains, are often not the issue.”

According to the magazine, E-Tron owners reported drive-system electrical failures and power equipment issues. Model Y owners described numerous build quality issues, such as paint problems (one even reported human hair stuck in the paint) and body alignment problems that led to owners not being able to close the rear hatch. Niro EV owners reported having to replace a bearing in the electric motor, among other issues.

2021 Audi etron on charger front three-quarter
Audi/Jeremy Cliff

Consumer Reports is also hesitant to endorse the Porsche Taycan, the German automaker’s first EV, mostly due to a lack of “sufficient data.” Although the EV performed well in on-track testing, the magazine predicts it will experience similar reliability issues because it is “loaded with new equipment and tech.”

“Often, it’s not the EV tech that’s problematic,” says Anita Lam, Consumer Reports’ associate director of automotive data integration. “It’s all the other new technology that could show up on any car—new infotainment systems, more sophisticated power equipment and gadgets—that often gets put on new EVs to feed a perception that they’re supposed to be luxurious and high-tech.”

Porsche Taycan 2021-3

Porsche stands behind the Taycan, telling Consumer Reports that the “focus in the development of every Porsche vehicle is careful engineering” and the Taycan is “no exception.” It also points out that the magazine ranks Porsche as “the most reliable European brand,” and “over 70 percent of all Porsche vehicles made that are still on the road today.”

Jake Fisher, senior director of Consumer Reports’ Auto Test Center, stresses that reliability issues are not exclusive to new EVs.

“Whenever a new platform or new component is introduced, there’s an opportunity for problems,” he says. “There are plenty of new cars that have reliability problems because they’re using a new transmission, infotainment system, or other unproven component. In most cases, it takes a little time to get everything straightened out, as anyone who has ever bought the first version of a car knows.”

On the bright side, the magazine assures buyers that EV reliability issues “will be covered under warranty.” It also offers the Ford Edge as a prime example of a vehicle that eventually got it right after a troubled start. Since a redesign in 2015, “the Edge stands out as (Ford’s) most reliable model.”

The magazine has not yet tested the Ford Mustang Mach-E and the Mercedes-Benz EQC.

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