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New J.D. Power quality survey: Tesla in last place, Dodge and Kia tie for first

Russ Mitchell
The quality survey comes on the heels of widespread complaints about quality in Tesla's new Model Y, a hatchback version of the Model 3 sedan. Above, CEO Elon Musk unveils the Model Y in 2019.  (Frederic J. Brown / AFP/Getty Images)

Tesla has finally been added to the annual J.D. Power survey of new car buyer satisfaction — unofficially.

The maker of electric cars did not do well. Out of 33 automobile brands measured, Tesla came in rock bottom.

The results are “unofficial,” J.D. Power said, because Tesla did not cooperate with the market research company, whose surveys draw intense interest among auto industry executives and car buyers.

Tesla “has consistently refused to grant J.D. Power permission to survey owners in 15 states, a requirement to participate,” said the company, which has conducted the quality survey for 34 years.

Nonetheless, J.D. Power surveyed 1,200 Tesla owners without the company’s cooperation, and Dave Sargent, vice president of automotive quality, said he’s highly confident of the results’ accuracy.

Most customer complaints, Sargent said, did not involve batteries and electric motors.

“The challenge Tesla faces is with the sort of basic manufacturing of the vehicle,” Sargent said in a prepared statement. “They’re fairly new to volume manufacturing, and it’s not easy.”

Many of the flaws reported in the survey were "things that other automakers would have had maybe 10 years ago, but have solved,” such as faulty exterior parts, Sargent said.

J.D. Power quality survey 2020

The survey, released Wednesday, comes on the heels of widespread complaints about quality in the company’s new Model Y, a hatchback version of the Model 3 sedan. Those complaints include unaligned body parts, seats not attached to the base, bumpers falling off in the rain, water leaks in the cabin, and door seals that allow dirt particles to get inside and coat the interior.

Also on Wednesday, Business Insider, quoting internal Tesla emails, revealed that Tesla may have knowingly installed defective cooling tubes prone to leakage in Model S sedans. The issue involves model years 2012 through at least 2016. The story noted that glycol coolant that comes into contact with a hot battery can result in fire. The Times has also reviewed internal Tesla emails that show Tesla employees discussing the tube leakage problem.

Tesla did not respond to a request for comment.

Dodge tied with Kia for first place on the quality list, the first domestic brand to reach the top spot. The Dodge models surveyed include the Challenger, Charger, Journey, Grand Caravan and Durango. The fact that these cars have not be redesigned for many years helped, Sargent said, but "They’ve done a really good job of improving their quality. It’s not a fluke that they did well.”

The survey polled 87,282 buyers and lessees of new 2020 models. Quality problems were tallied and ranked. Dodge and Kia had 136 problems per 100 vehicles. Tesla had 250.

More problems were reported for all models this year, J.D. Power said, mainly because more questions were asked about issues with infotainment systems and other technologies.