Home » Why Electric Cars Go To Dealers For Service 3X More Than Gas-Powered Cars

Why Electric Cars Go To Dealers For Service 3X More Than Gas-Powered Cars

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The annual J.D. Power Initial Quality Survey (IQS) is out and, for the first time ever, it includes data from franchised dealership repair visits to give a broader sense of what’s bugging new car owners. Right at the top are electric cars, with way more problems per vehicle than gas-powered cars. Is nuance required here? Yes.

I’m getting two stories out of the IQS this year because of the other quirk, which is that somehow Ram is at the top of the rankings with the fewest problems, and Dodge is at the bottom, with the most problems. Whaaaa?

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Vidframe Min Bottom

We are now officially in the third quarter of the year (life comes at you fast, don’t it?) and that means sales numbers for pretty much everyone will come in over the next two weeks. Our first big glimpse of the numbers is from analyst estimates for Tesla and, well, they don’t look great.

Finally, we’ll see how much CDK Global’s ransomware attack impacts June sales, but at the very least we get the company’s CEO thanking dealers for their “heroism.”

What’s The Deal With Electric Cars In The IQS?

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Source: Tesla

The J.D. Power survey of initial quality is an imperfect measure that relies on consumers and, now, franchised dealers, for data. It’s also probably the best publicly available measure of initial quality and has been going long enough to be able to see trends.

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Let’s start with the quote from the J.D. Power 2024 IQS that first struck me:

“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.”

The inclusion of PHEVs almost makes sense, as these are complicated machines with two different powertrains working together; still, hybrids seem to work fine, and the biggest difference usually is just more battery and a plug…

Weren’t battery-electric vehicles supposed to be simpler? Weren’t they supposed to require less care? That doesn’t seem to be what’s happening:

Gas- and diesel-powered vehicles average 180 PP100 this year, while BEVs are 86 points higher at 266 PP100.

PP100 is problems per 100 vehicles, FYI.

If you’re a Tesla fan you might be looking at the inclusion of dealer data and thinking to yourself that this is a non-Tesla OEM problem, and in the past, Tesla has tended to perform better than traditional carmakers when it comes to the IQS. This year?

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While there are no notable improvements in BEV quality this year, the gap between Tesla’s BEV quality and that of traditional OEMs’ BEV quality has closed, with both at 266 PP100.

So what’s going on here? Quite simply, cars are becoming increasingly complex and software-addled, creating all sorts of problems. Both EVs and PHEVs are generally out on the extreme of what automakers are offering from a software/feature perspective as they try to appeal to more tech-forward consumers.

According to J.D. Power, the biggest issues are:

  • Constant warnings from driver safety systems like reverse automatic emergency braking, traffic warnings, rear-set reminders, and other modern safety features that are inaccurate or overwhelming.
  • Connectivity issues for Android Auto and Apple CarPlay
  • Infotainment woes in general, which are complained about 30% more in BEV vehicles versus ICE vehicles

In particular, J.D. Power says Telsa owners are bummed about some very specific changes:

In the past, Tesla has performed better, but that is not the case this year and the removal of traditional feature controls, such as turn signals and wiper stalks, has not been well received by Tesla customers.

It seems like everyone who isn’t Tesla needs to work on making all of their “advanced” systems perform better, which is no surprise. And it seems like Tesla should maybe take a step back and try to add a few physical controls to its vehicles.

If there’s anyone screwing up the curve here it’s Polestar, with an overall worst 316 PP100.

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Ram Tops The IQS, Dodge… Not So Much

Iqs 2024 Survey
Source: JD POWER

Here’s a strange quirk of the IQS. Ram, the Stellantis truck brand, topped the IQS with a low low 149 PP100.

There’s a little logic to this, I suppose. Ram basically makes two vehicles: The Ram Promaster Van and the Ram truck in various sizes/trims/payload ratings. With only a few vehicle lines, Stellantis can focus on making those popular and highly profitable vehicles.

Also, while trucks do have a lot of technology, Stellantis vehicles are typically a little behind their competitors which, in this case, might be an aid.

But would that explain why the Dodge brand is suddenly the rotten strawberries at the bottom of the Stellantis Yoplait yogurt cup? Not quite. Dodge isn’t just at the bottom of the survey, it’s in a league of its own when it comes to traditional brands, with 301 problems for every 100 vehicles made. The two closest traditional brands are Volvo and Audi with 242 PP100. That’s a big gulf.

As a refresher, Dodge sells the Charger/Challenger (but no longer builds them), the Durango, and the Dodge Hornet.

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Just a wild guess here, but the extremely troubled Dodge Hornet did it. Owner complaints are, anecdotally at least, extremely common. It’s also one of two vehicles from Dodge that are in current production, with the other being the tried-and-true Durango, which is built at the not-so-tried-and-true Jefferson North facility. That maybe also has something to do with it.

Tesla Is Likely To See Lower Sales In Q2 2024

Cybertruck 5 12 24

Tesla has shifted from focusing on selling cars to, I don’t know, robots or whatever. Elon Musk has billions of dollars and I don’t (though I do have a 21-year-old BMW with 236k miles on it, so I’m not sweating it either).

The slow update of its cars hasn’t helped the brand build sales and, as of yet, the Cybertruck hasn’t seemed to boost numbers.

Per Reuters:

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The company is expected to deliver 438,019 vehicles for the April to June period, according to an average estimate based on forecasts from 12 analysts polled by LSEG, seven of whom slashed their expectations in the past three months. The EV maker is expected to announce the results on Tuesday.

Tesla has hit a speed bump after years of rapid growth that helped make it the world’s most valuable automaker. It warned in January that deliveries growth in 2024 would be “notably lower” as a boost from months-long price cuts wanes.

By comparison, Tesla sold 466,140 vehicles in Q2 of 2023.

With a ton of other automakers crowding the space and getting closer on cost, some of this was probably inevitable. If the EV transition continued at its former pace maybe it could keep growing sales, but in a market that’s maturing it’s a lot harder to sell cars that seem old to people who may or may not like the CEO.

CDK Global CEO Calls Dealers ‘Heroes’ For Pressing Forward

Brian Macdonald 0
Source: CDK Global

The CDK Global ransomware attack is not quite resolved and there are many questions about when, exactly, all dealers will be back to normal and what the total monetary fallout will be. The role of private equity and the performance of its CEO Brian MacDonald are also big questions that will also need to be answered.

What’s MacDonald saying? According to Automotive News, he sent a letter to the company’s dealership customers thanking them for being heroes.

“Over the past several days, I have spoken to and exchanged countless emails and texts with many dealers, OEMs, and partners,” MacDonald wrote. “I have never in my life been so humbled and grateful for the offers of assistance, advice and shared compassion to get through this together for the benefit of the industry.”

MacDonald wrote he also was “witnessing the heroism of each of you and your dealership team members doing whatever it takes to serve your customers.”

This is sort of like a tornado lauding the employees of a flattened Walmart for their hard work, but what do you expect the guy to say?

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Over at r/partscounter the reaction is, uh, not great:

Unfortunately, Brian being proud of our resilience doesn’t pay my bills next month.

It doesn’t fix the 2000 parts we have sitting in the back that will take several days or weeks to process.

It doesn’t pay me for the next couple of weeks requiring many late nights and weekends working to reconcile this mess.

It doesn’t fix the several hundred RO’s we have to write, or the couple thousand parts that have been handed out and need reconciled.

Yup.

What I’m Listening To While Writing TMD

I kinda slept on Chappell Roan’s “The Rise and Fall of a Midwest Princess” and its catchy, ’80s-inflected, horny, funny vibe. Thankfully, she shot the video for “HOT TO GO” in my friend’s small Missouri town and he sent it to me and I gave it a fuller listen. This song is clearly about fornication but, and perhaps this is an age thing, it mostly makes me want a pizza. Also, a YouTube commenter called this the “Lesbian YMCA.”

The Big Question

Do you care what JD Power says? What are the vibes?

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David Muse
David Muse
17 days ago

The IQS discriminates against cars with technology. Any features that have learning curves get dinged. This is why all the higher end premium cars are at the bottom.

It’s important to point out that IQS isn’t the only automotive quality study out there. It gets outsized media coverage for some reason, but it’s a poorly designed study in my opinion.

It doesn’t even agree with other JD Power quality studies, for example the APEAL study or the Tech Experience study, where Tesla typically scores at or near the top.

The headline of this article is also misleading, because the IQS results don’t correlate with service visits at all.

Manwich Sandwich
Manwich Sandwich
20 days ago

“CDK Global CEO Calls Dealers ‘Heroes’ For Pressing Forward”
Heros? LOL… bullshit.

Do you care what JD Power says?”

Up to a point. It’s important to look at the “issues” being reported and if they actually matter to me and if they can be “solved” by just turning unnecessary crap off.

Hugh Crawford
Hugh Crawford
21 days ago

So the people that buy the cars at the bottom of the list are a whiny entitled bunch and the people at the top that have work trucks, Chevys, Hyundais, and Kias, are a more stoic lot and feel lucky to have a car thats not actually on fire right this minute and don’t have the time to waste at the dealer because their lives have too many other things to deal with. Or am I missing something?

GreatFallsGreen
GreatFallsGreen
21 days ago

Not sure if it was mentioned anywhere but looking at last year’s IQS…Dodge was at the top, just above Ram. Then Alfa Romeo in third.

I was initially thinking the Hornet alone wouldn’t have had quite enough sales to single-handedly tank the brand like that. All other Dodge models still sold in higher volumes. But going from first to last like that, I can’t think of what else it would be. And Alfa Romeo falling to that extent suggests the same of the Tonale twin.

There were 2023MY Hornets, but they weren’t really on lots until Q2 2023, so they wouldn’t have had time to impact the 2023 IQS results.

-Tom-
-Tom-
21 days ago

Theory: All of the cars made today are actually pretty darn good cars. Basically equally so. So how can Stellantis (or what ever prescription pill they call themselves these days) be at the TOP-MIDDLE-BOTTOM of the pack? Same engines, same infotainment, etc…

My theory: Its the buyers. Perhaps your average Ram owner isnt all that in tune with their vehicle or is more pragmatic and if it doesnt stop the truck from going down the road, they arent gonna make a special trip to the dealer outside of scheduled maintenance. Perhaps your average Dodge buyer is just beating the everliving hell our of their car and causing problems? Perhaps your average EV buyer is more tech inclined and TRIES to brick the car by trying to eek out fringe scenarios that the software engineers didnt think of.

All I’m saying is we have one massive variable unaccounted for here, and thats the actual people behind the wheel.

Marshall Eubanks
Marshall Eubanks
22 days ago

I’m not convinced that the age of Tesla’s fleet has much to do with anything here. I suspect it’s “wise”, so far as Elon has ever done anything “wise”, to ignore the shared wisdom of the auto rags, because we’re Tesla to invest heavily in new models it would do very little to improve their sales figures and thus they would have dug themselves only deeper in the hole. The problem isn’t that the market is mature — it’s not — it’s that it is simply, at present, saturated. Nobody who isn’t a tech bro wants a Tesla because everyone knows they’re full of useless semi-functional tech which is there solely to differentiate Tesla from traditional automakers, as though throwing out a century of accumulated wisdom is a good idea. Given what we know about the company and its leadership, it seems preposterously unlikely that future models will walk back this tech creep, which means they will remain unappealing to the people who have not already bought them.

Dangerous_Daveo
Dangerous_Daveo
22 days ago

Fair to say the Ram products have more of a even split between commercial clients and retail, and the commercial clients just want the vehicle to run and move things, so as long as they do that, they don’t give a shit?

Likewise, the tech people buying techy cars kinda expect the tech to just work, they also aren’t typically cheap cars, so when their expensive thing doesn’t work, they whine about it, no matter how small or easily fixed it may be.

Amy Andersen
Amy Andersen
21 days ago

I suspect a lot of these infotainment woes could be easily resolved by the customer with a little bit of RTFM.

MiniDave
MiniDave
22 days ago

My neighbor is a service writer at the local Audi dealer, he said today he had over 200 service orders backed up to enter manually into their computer system so he can close them out….they’re overwhelmed. I know it’s impacting their service dept, and it has to be having a similar effect on sales, even tho it’s not their fault. It’s a mess……

Last edited 22 days ago by MiniDave
Eric Wondersmith
Eric Wondersmith
22 days ago

Weird, I’ve had three EVs now since 2013 and I’ve never had a single issue with any of the cars. Two were Fiat 500e and the current one is a Hyundai Kona Electric. Guess I’ve just been lucky?

Raptor
Raptor
22 days ago

How was the Fiat? My brother just bought a 2016 500e and ai am nervously awaiting his ownership experience

Norek Koss
Norek Koss
21 days ago
Reply to  Raptor

Don’t worry, be happy.

Eric Wondersmith
Eric Wondersmith
18 days ago
Reply to  Raptor

I loved the 500e. The range makes it a city car for the most part, but I was able to charge at both ends of my commute so it worked well for me. It’s a spunky little thing. I’ve heard some people talk about having 12V battery issues, but I never experienced any issues and I leased two of them in a row (2013 and 2016) for dirt cheap.

David Muse
David Muse
17 days ago

Same experience. My two Tesla cars have been the most reliable cars I’ve ever owned.

There’s a tendency in the media to slam EVs, possibly to please their automotive sponsors.

This IQS study is intentionally designed to ding cars with technology, by counting features that take time to learn as defects.

Google for studies of owner satisfaction. All such studies rank EVs very highly. Tesla has topped Consumer Reports driver satisfaction study pretty much every year for a decade.

Dolsh
Dolsh
22 days ago

Constant warnings from safety systems, Android Auto and Apple Car Play connectivity, and Infotainment…

I wonder if the problems are more because automakers aren’t very good tech companies.

Slow Joe Crow
Slow Joe Crow
22 days ago

I’m not really surprised, EVs are patient zero for the ergonomic shit show of touchscreen everything.
You’re probably on target with Ram versus Dodge quality. Ram has very little to screw up and the Hornet is awful.

ProfPlum
ProfPlum
22 days ago

As one tiny data point, I’ve had my Volvo BEV for almost two years with zero problems.

The problem is that writing software at this level is difficult for traditional car makers. Rather than trying to build all the subsystems themselves, they buy some of the parts from their OEMs, who provide a software interface for their part (an API or application program interface) that tells the car manufacturer how to add it to the CANBUS or equivalent. If the API is incorrect or the car’s software programmer screws up, you add in problems. There are a lot of other potential issues, but that’s probably for a different day.

Tesla has less of this as it siloed all its components and fully controlled its API, which is why you see more hardware problems – Tesla is a software company building hardware rather than the traditional auto manufacturers, who are hardware companies building software.

Nick Slater
Nick Slater
22 days ago
Reply to  ProfPlum

My wife drives a Volvo BEV. Yeah it’s fine except for software glitches… except those glitches have blacked out all of her screens while driving which makes her panic. Easily fixed with a reset but not great. It has only happened a couple of times and the car has been great otherwise.. but still. Would be nice if the software wasn’t so buggy.

Knowonelse
Knowonelse
22 days ago
Reply to  ProfPlum

Kudos for spelling out a likely unfamiliar acronym!

Frackle
Frackle
22 days ago

anecdotally, I was in a polestar uber a couple weeks ago and was genuinely surprised how crappy it was. I’m sure it was a base model interior, but the interior fabric felt like an old jansport backpack and everything else was crappy plastic. Not sure how anyone’s paying money for that.

Myk El
Myk El
22 days ago

I remember riffing on J.D. Power back when I was in college. Adopted this concept the J.D. Power was just some individual and nobody really liked because he just couldn’t keep his opinions to himself. Think mid 1990s. “Aw, man, Ol’ J.D.’s got an opinion on everythin’. He’s still complainin’ about ‘New Coke.’ Don’t even get him started on that Hi-und-day shit.”

Which is to say, I’ve never really given much credence to J.D. Power.

Tekamul
Tekamul
22 days ago

Just to add to the anecdata on topic 1, I’ve had a PHEV for a little over 5 years. It has had 2 repair visits outside of routine maintenance. That was 1) a software fluke that flagged an error on the main screen (no CEL) and required a tech to plug in a manufacturer-specific device in the OBDII and hit ‘reset’, and 2) a safety belt recall that involved adding the loop side of some self adhesive hook and loop to the side of the seat belt receiver, for some reason.
My gasser Audi that this PHEV replaced had 4 unplanned ($$$) visits in 2 years by comparison. I think JDP needs to look at some good statistical practices, and consider reporting an additional metric that normalizes for manufacturer and MSRP.

Autopizen
Autopizen
22 days ago

For fewer problems, Keep It Simple Stupid. Or buy a Toyota (even a relatively complex hybrid).

R Rr
R Rr
22 days ago
Reply to  Autopizen

..but maybe not a Tundra with the grenading engines that Toyota hasn’t got a fix for in over a year

Last edited 22 days ago by R Rr
Autopizen
Autopizen
22 days ago
Reply to  R Rr

Not aware of that one, but my mechanic serviced an older Tundra with several hundred thousand miles.

R Rr
R Rr
21 days ago
Reply to  Autopizen

The new turbo v6 they replaced the v8 with, it’s well-known and pretty old news at this point

Autopizen
Autopizen
21 days ago
Reply to  R Rr

That would do it. Trade bulletproof durability for better mileage I guess.

Box Rocket
Box Rocket
21 days ago
Reply to  Autopizen

For the most part, yes. Also Mazda.

Genewich
Genewich
22 days ago

My BEV has not had to go in for any infotainment issues or fancy EV drivetrain problems, but I’ve been in for window switches, a cracking airbag cover, and a failed seatbelt detector. All of these things have been in production for decades.

Chronometric
Chronometric
22 days ago

JD Power is Vaporware Horseshit (thanks Jason). They are a marketing organization not a testing organization. I contend that the whole idea of “initial quality” is stupid. Of course I don’t want my new car to have problems but I am far far more concerned if it stops running after 3 years than if a trim piece rattles or heaven-forbid, the CarPlay wont connect fast enough.

MrLM002
MrLM002
22 days ago

PHEVs should not be treated as the same as BEVs for the purposes of this study. That being said it wouldn’t surprise me if the figure was still 2x+.

There is nothing wrong with an electric drivetrain, we’ve been using them for over 100 years, and most trains currently in use have diesel electric drivetrains.

Batteries have caused some issues, but most of said issues are brought to you by pushing the limits of battery tech with very fast charging and discharging speeds. You know what BEV has no battery fires whatsoever? The Nissan Leaf, even though it has NO active cooling for the batteries whatsoever, no liquid coolant, no fans, nada. So the problem isn’t the cooling tech itself, it’s the batteries, but batteries have worked great for over 100 years, so batteries are not really a problem either.

The Real Problem with BEVs is technophilic in nature. It’s not as if a decree from God came down stating that all BEVs had to be Software Defined Vehicles (SDVs), it’s just that after over 100 years of major automakers neglecting BEVs for the general populace Tesla came out of left field, and started making them in California of all places, and wiped the floor with everyone. Nissan came out with a sensible, simple, and boring little electric car, and a matching little electric van. GM put a ton of money and effort into making a short range BEV with a gas generator that was surprisingly good and was killed too early to see the revival of the PHEV, and after that EVERY LEGACY AUTOMAKERS’ bright idea was to make Tesla knockoffs, except unlike Tesla the legacy automakers are up to their eyeballs in bureaucracy, bean counters, and a ton of overpaid executives and underpaid engineers. So subsequently all of their knockoffs not only preform worse than the Teslas they are trying to compete against, but they also have much much much worse software, which in a Software Defined Vehicle is a massive deal.

What Legacy Automakers did well for a very long time and to a degree still do well are Hardware Defined Vehicles. Mechanical door latches work great and have long done so since before the first motorized vehicle, in every house I’ve ever been in the door latches are all mechanical FFS. Honestly how many of you have ever seen a home door without a mechanical latch? Some have electronic locks sure, but the latch is mechanical, but nooooooooooooooo we can’t have mechanical latches for car doors, car trunks, car hoods/frunks, etc. they have to be electric! We can’t have physical buttons, knobs, switches, levers, etc. they have to be through a touchscreen that uses our proprietary shitty software.

Then they feel entitled to charge an arm and a leg for a worse product, then say the people don’t want to buy BEVs (which is because the only BEVs they’re making are overpriced POS.

If BEVs were being made as Hardware defined vehicles we wouldn’t be having these issues.

Toecutter
Toecutter
22 days ago
Reply to  MrLM002

I agree with this assessment.

Ironically, when it comes to motors/controllers/battery packs, Tesla’s hardware is the best-built on the market in the USA, even if a lot of odds and end of the cars that are hardware-related are poorly built.

Tesla drive system components placed in a car repairable with basic tools, where actual buttons/switches/knobs control everything, where the locks/windows/other items are mechanical, where the driveline and chassis was overbuilt, and where the battery pack was easily accessed for repair and replacement, would be an absolutely amazing car. It would last a very long time.

Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
22 days ago
Reply to  Toecutter

So do many modern cars if you take even basic care with them. Reliability isn’t the problem it used to be.

Vc-10
Vc-10
22 days ago

For what it’s worth, I got my Polestar in February 2023 and whilst I’ve had to reset the infotainment a couple of times, it’s generally been fine. Nothing mechanical and nothing that’s needed a trip to the dealer.

Is ‘power cycling the infotainment’, which is all I’ve had to do, considered as big a problem as having to have some mechanical issue repaired? Or have some people got a lemon and I’ve lucked out?

Vic Vinegar
Vic Vinegar
22 days ago

Does CDK have a competitor? Bottom line is that CDK has failed to deliver, likely due to a vulnerability they chose not to find or not to fix. That is clearly unacceptable if your whole business relies on it being available. If my business relied on a service provider like that, I’d be ditching them first chance I get.

I was in a dealership again today. Service department is still pen and paper. Sales, I heard some of their morning prep and they said “cars should show up on the website” again today.

Initial quality does not equal long-term quality, even if the methodology wasn’t flawed. The fact Grandpa has a problem figuring out the infotainment system isn’t the same as the factory forgetting to put gear fluid in the transfer case.

Andy Individual
Andy Individual
22 days ago

A lot of people don’t realize when they buy an EV, that EVs use a special formulation of blinker fluid. You have to have a subscription for it and can’t just top it up in the driveway. It has to be done at a certified dealer. The same applies for air in the tires, and those wheels and tires are now so big it may take multiple visits to properly fill them.

Rad Barchetta
Rad Barchetta
22 days ago

I am honestly quite surprised to see Mazda right there neck-and-neck with Alfa Romeo.

Box Rocket
Box Rocket
21 days ago
Reply to  Rad Barchetta

I quote agree. Though maybe the MX-30 and hybrid setups on the new larger crossovers affected some things.

Box Rocket
Box Rocket
21 days ago
Reply to  Box Rocket

Quite, not quote. Darn autocorrect.

WaitWaitOkNow
WaitWaitOkNow
22 days ago

How many PP’s does it take to beat the average? A 3 year lease on the electric Volvo XC40 Recharge has had minimal dealer visits, but they are precisely for what was mentioned:

Infotainment woes in general, which are complained about 30% more in BEV vehicles versus ICE vehiclesThankfully it’s limited to “Amazon Music app won’t work” and not “where did the 360 camera view go” or “HVAC controls gone haywire”. Overall it’s been better than I expected, but I’m still returning it soon and not getting another.

Last edited 22 days ago by WaitWaitOkNow
Crank Shaft
Crank Shaft
22 days ago

First we got the Software Defined Network. Apparently now we get the Software Defined Vehicle.

Steve Lee
Steve Lee
22 days ago
Reply to  Crank Shaft

I’ll take ACI any day over a Tesla. 😉

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