While automakers are beginning to get a handle on quality issues with EVs and plug-in hybrids they still suffer more problems than conventional gas models, according to the 2023 Consumer Reports Auto Reliability Study. On the flip side, conventional hybrids were among the most reliable products now on the market, owners reported.
Based on responses from more than 330,000 vehicle owners, the annual Auto Reliability had bad news for domestic automakers, most landing in the bottom third among the 30 brands included in this year’s report. Buick was the highest-ranked U.S. brand but still came in just 12th. European brands were a “mixed bag,” with Mini coming in third overall, but Mercedes-Benz was second to last. Asian brands, meanwhile, made up the majority of the top 10.
EVs and PHEVs are “having problems”
On the whole, the industry fared “about the same” as last year in terms of the number of reliability issues owners reported, according to Jake Fisher, senior director of auto testing at Consumer Reports.
If anything, there were “far less problems reports with (conventional gas) powertrains,” Fisher noted. “But as automakers launch all these new (electrified) models … they’re having problems.”
On average, EVs experienced 79% more problems than vehicles with internal combustion engines. And plug-in hybrids fared even worse, with a reported 146% more problems than ICE models.
But conventional hybrids rank among the best
Full-size pickups were among the lowest-ranked vehicles in this year’s study, but midsize and full-size electrified pickups sank to the absolute bottom.
While EVs and PHEVs fared poorly, it was an entirely different story for conventional hybrids, such as the Toyota Prius. Owners reported them having 26% fewer problems than ICE vehicles.
What’s the problem?
Charging and battery issues are “bedeviling” EVs, noted a summary of the 2023 Auto Reliability Study, with numerous pack failures reported, as well as vehicles that wouldn’t take a charge even when plugged in.
The study found that traditional automakers are doing well with the overall build quality of their EVs, but they’re still struggling to work out the kinks with their electric powertrains.
Conversely, startups like Rivian “have build quality issues,” such as misfitting body panels, squeaks and rattles. But their electric powertrains are relatively trouble free.
Tesla shows improvements
That has been a traditional problem for Tesla, noted Fisher, but the upstart EV maker has begun getting a handle on those issues, at least with its most popular product lines, the Model 3 sedan and Model Y SUV.
Tesla’s older nameplates, notably the Model X SUV, continue to suffer from a variety of issues Still, the non-profit organization is now listing the Models 3 and Y as recommended buys, and Tesla came in 14th overall.
Asian makers take the lead.
The overall reliability of hybrid models helped buoy Toyota and Lexus which will soon have a total of 18 gas-electric models in their collective U.S. line-up. The luxury marque was this year’s top-ranked brand in the 2023 Consumer Reports Auto Reliability Study. The mainstream Toyota brand came in second.
In descending order, Acura was fourth, followed by Honda Subaru and Mazda. Porsche and BMW were ranked eighth and ninth, respectively, Kia rounding out the top 10, just ahead of its sibling Korean brand Hyundai.
Of all the Asian brands, the lowest-ranked was Nissan, at 17th, just ahead of the third Korean brand, Genesis.
A “mixed bag” for Europeans
Mini was the top-ranked European brand and third overall, with both its Cooper and Cooper Countryman showing above-average reliability. BMW and Porsche also ranked in the upper third of the 30 brands.
But Audi landed midpack and Volvo, in 25th place was rated below average. It still fared better than Mercedes-Benz. Fisher noted that all of its products were rated either below or well-below average for reliability.
Buick leads a lackluster pack of domestic brands
Buick was the highest-ranked domestic brand, at 12th, with Tesla, Ram and Cadillac also slipping into the middle-third. The rest of the U.S. brands plunged into the bottom third, with Chrysler in last place. Much of that brand’s problems centered around the plug-in hybrid Chrysler Pacifica minivan, said Fisher.
One of the reasons why the domestics fared so poorly, he noted, is due to their shift away from passenger cars to emphasize pickups, SUVs and other light trucks.
As has been the norm for many years in the study, compact cars were the most trouble-free vehicles, followed by sports and sporty cars. Small pickups did do well, but they make up a small portion of the U.S. market. Electric cars, electric SUVs, full-sized pickups midsized pickups and electric pickups ranked at the bottom end of the reliability study, in descending order.
How the results are calculated
The annual study considers a variety of factors when rating the 30 brands and individual models. That starts with the list of issues owners say they’ve experienced. But Consumer Reports road tests and also factored in. The study also considers whether a vehicle comes standard with active safety systems, such as forward collision warning with Automatic Emergency Braking.
Ironically, consumers have reported numerous complaints with advanced driver assistance systems, as well as other high-tech features, such as onboard voice controls.