New electric cars have problems in latest Consumer Reports survey

The latest auto survey from Consumer Reports shows several newer electric cars to be beset with problems, contradicting the conventional wisdom that EVs with their simpler powertrains should have fewer issues than gasoline- or diesel-powered cars. The CR reader survey harvested data on some 329,000 vehicles and specifically calls out the Audi E-Tron, the Kia Niro EV, and the Tesla Model Y.

The E-Tron is dinged for “drive-system electrical failures along with other power-equipment issues.” The Niro EV’s problems reportedly included electric-motor bearing failure. The Tesla suffers a panoply of build-quality issues include misaligned body panels and poor paint quality. Both Audi and Kia claimed to be aware of the issues. For now, though, CR has removed the E-Tron and the Niro EV from its Recommended list (which is based on vehicle test results as well as reliability). The Model Y was not on the Recommended list.

CR notes that some older, less-complicated EVs did well in the reliability survey, including the Chevrolet Bolt and the Nissan Leaf.

More controversially, as a result of this latest survey’s findings, Consumer Reports has decided to downgrade the predicted reliability of several new EVs that were not even included in the survey, including the Ford Mustang Mach-E, the Mercedes-Benz EQC, and the Porsche Taycan. Predicted reliability for new models is a bit of a crapshoot, although for cars that have enjoyed consistently above-average reliability, like, say, the Toyota Corolla, it seems safe to predict that a new version would perform similarly. These EVs are all-new models, however, without a track record. With Ford currently near the bottom of the CR reliability survey brand rankings — and the recent Explorer launch having been plagued with problems — one could maybe see giving the Mach-E poor predicted reliability even as a new model. The Taycan, however, is the opposite situation, with Porsche models generally faring well in the CR survey. Here, CR seems to be punishing the Taycan for other automakers’ problem EVs.

Mostly, it seems, the issue with EVs is a reflection of a greater truth about automobile reliability that has been born out in CR’s survey results. Newly introduced vehicles generally have more issues than models that have been out for a few years. With a raft of new EVs coming to market, they may be destined to suffer worse reliability than other vehicles, at least initially.

The following distinction, from CR’s article, should be noted, however:

“Often, it’s not the EV tech that’s problematic,” says Anita Lam, CR’s 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.”