The J.D. Power 2020 Initial Quality Study (IQS), released today, places Tesla at the bottom of its quality rankings. It’s the first time that Tesla was profiled in J.D. Power’s influential study of quality.

It’s widely regarded as the industry benchmark for new-vehicle quality. The key metric is problems experienced for 100 vehicles (PP100). A lower score reflects fewer problems and, therefore, higher quality. Tesla received an initial quality score of 250 PP100 – or 250 problems per 100 vehicles.

Tesla’s quality issues are primarily with cosmetic items, such as paint imperfections, poorly fitting body panels, and squeaks and rattles – rather than core powertrain or infotainment functions.

Doug Betts, president of the automotive division at J.D. Power, told CNBC:

These are primarily a result of factory quality. Also, in the area of electric vehicle issues, they do have complaints related to range lower than expected; range gauge is inaccurate.

Tesla was not officially ranked against other brands. Betts explained:

Unlike other manufacturers, Tesla doesn’t grant us permission to survey its owners in 15 states where it is required. However, we were able to collect a large enough sample of surveys from owners in the other 35 states, and, from that base, we calculated Tesla’s score.

California, the largest EV market in the US, was not included in the study. J.D. Power said it decided to profile the electric-car maker based on the roughly 1,250 owners it was able to survey. The vast majority of respondents own a Model 3.

The annual study, now in its 34th year, measures components that fail and features that are difficult to use, hard to understand, or don’t work the way owners want. The 2020 US Initial Quality Study is based on responses from 87,282 purchasers and lessees of new 2020 model-year vehicles who were surveyed after 90 days of ownership.

Separately, the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced today that it is launching an investigation into Tesla’s problem with older MCU (the media unit with a large touchscreen) in older Model S vehicles. In early June, Tesla owners opened a class-action lawsuit over paint issues on Model 3 vehicles.

Fiat Chrysler’s Dodge is the first domestic brand in the study’s history to rank No. 1. Hyundai’s Genesis was the highest-ranked premium brand for the fourth consecutive year in the study.

Electrek’s Take

There’s no good excuse for these types of quality problems. The silver lining in the 2020 J.D. Power study is the crystal-clear message that it sends to Tesla about the need to improve.

Moving at breakneck speed and a laser focus on innovation has served Tesla and most of its owners well. Past quality issues have not slowed its momentum.

But here’s the critical question: Can the company continue to show the way forward for EVs to the rest of the auto industry while adopting the highest quality and reliability that its competitors can offer?

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