Here’s where Tesla and other EVs ranked in this year’s Consumer Reports reliability survey

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  • Electric vehicles made up a bigger part of Consumer Reports’ Auto Reliability Report in 2021 than ever before.
  • Complicated bells and whistles hurt the reliability ratings of some electric vehicles.
  • Tesla came in second to last overall, with the Model S, X, and Y all reporting problems, but Consumer Reports placed the Model 3 in the middle of the pack and still recommends it.

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Lexus was ranked the most trusted automaker in Consumer Reports’ 2021 Auto Reliability Report, followed by Mazda and Toyota, while Jeep, Tesla and Lincoln were at the bottom of the list.

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The report, which was released Thursday, focuses on what went wrong with owners’ cars over the past 12 months, and uses that data to predict which upcoming models from major automakers. How reliable will it be?

Consumer Reports surveyed owners of more than 300,000 vehicles from model years 2000 to 2021, and used that data to make predictions about 269 different 2022 model year vehicles. The report covers 28 automakers and 144 models with established history.

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Battery-powered electric vehicles comprised a larger segment of the list than earlier this year, and their reliability ratings varied widely, while gas-electric hybrids were among the most reliable vehicles overall.

According to Jake Fischer, senior director of auto testing at Consumer Reports, Consumer Reports evaluated 11 fully electric models from 8 different brands, including 5 fully electric SUVs.

“The entire market is moving towards a full EV fleet. We are very interested to see what this means in terms of reliability,” Fischer said.

Overall, Toyota’s luxury Lexus brand reclaimed its top spot in reliability surveys when Mazda overtook it a year earlier, the first time in 15 years that the Toyota brand was not number one.

Mazda ranks second in this year’s survey, followed by the main Toyota brand.

Domestic brands such as Chrysler, Chevrolet and Ford had average reliability, while other brands such as Ram, GMC and Jeep were below average. Ford’s luxury Lincoln brand ranks 28th behind Tesla.

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Reliability ratings for EVs vary widely.

The Tesla Model X and Audi e-tron ranked last in the segment for reliability, while the Kia Niro EV had “far above average reliability”. The Nissan Leaf and the new Ford Mustang Mach-E scored “above average reliability”.

High-end electric SUVs were among the least reliable vehicles in the overall survey.

“There’s no reason why fully electric cars can’t be more reliable or more reliable than conventional vehicles with internal combustion engines.” Fisher said. “That’s how they implement the technology.”

Electric drivetrain was not the problem. Instead, Fisher blamed unnecessary high-tech bells and whistles.

“For EV introductions, there’s a tendency to just add so much technology that isn’t necessary,” Fischer said.

The reliability ranking is in stark contrast to Consumer Reports’ satisfaction survey, where Tesla Top of the list for 2020, then Lincoln. Fischer suggested that Tesla’s success with customers has put pressure on other automakers to surprise and delight consumers with features ranging from entertaining to serious. Elon Musk’s electric car company pioneered over-the-air software updates that could give owners’ cars new navigation features like “waypoints” or provide recall fixes without dealership visits.

But introducing more software, hardware and features adds complexity, and can hurt reliability, Fischer said.

Tesla

Tesla’s low status stemmed primarily from issues with the company’s Model S, X and Y vehicles for the 2019 to 2021 model years. The Tesla Model 3, which Consumer Reports continues to recommend, showed average reliability.

According to Fisher, issues commonly reported by Model Y owners included faulty sensors that had to be replaced, problems with the heat pump, air conditioning, body panels that didn’t line up and water leaks in the trunk. She was Owners also reported a variety of electrical and hardware issues with the higher-priced (and less-popular) Model S sedan and Model X Falcon-Wing SUV.

Older models generally outperform in reliability, as companies make tweaks and redesigns to address known problems while sticking with the same parts and suppliers.

But Tesla deviated from this approach, Fischer explained. “At almost random times during the year Tesla will switch major components, suppliers or sensors and other units. The more you change, the more likely you are going to have some problems.”

While electric vehicles showed moderate reliability, hybrid and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, which combine electric vehicle components and conventional internal combustion engines, were among the most reliable models.

“What stood out was that the most reliable were really compact hybrids and plug-in hybrids,” Fischer said. “It can be counterproductive. They are probably the most complex when it comes to powertrains.”

Popular hybrids such as the Toyota Prius and Honda Insight have been on the market for many years and manufacturers have identified and resolved past reliability issues.

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