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Electric vehicles are not reliable — yet: Consumer Reports

Electric vehicles and gas-powered pickups are the least reliable vehicles sold in America, whereas hybrids and gas-powered sedans are the most reliable, according to Consumer Reports 2022 Annual Auto Reliability survey.

Every year the consumer advocacy non-profit asks its members about problems they’ve had with their vehicles in the past 12 months in 17 trouble areas, including issues with a car's engine, transmission, electronics, plus fit and finish issues, among others. Consumer Reports then uses that information to predict reliability ratings for new cars from every major automaker for every model sold in the U.S.

Consumer Reports gathered data on more than 300,000 vehicles from the 2000 to 2022 model years, with a few newly-introduced 2023 models. In order to predict reliability for new models, those redesigned for 2023, and models with insufficient data, Consumer Reports “analyzes the brand’s reliability history, the previous generations, and, if applicable, the reliability of models with shared components.”

Of the models surveyed, EVs and hybrids are some of the most desirable and in-demand, but their reliability ratings are at the opposite ends of the spectrum.

“EVs are gaining in market share, and CR has more data than ever before from its owner surveys to gauge their reliability,” Consumer Reports said. “But with the introduction of so many new models, the results are, not surprisingly, subpar.”

A visitor views the Tesla Model 3 electric vehicle at the Canadian International Auto Show in Toronto, Ontario, Canada February 18, 2020.   REUTERS/Chris Helgren
A visitor views the Tesla Model 3 electric vehicle at the Canadian International Auto Show in Toronto, Ontario, Canada February 18, 2020. REUTERS/Chris Helgren

The study found that Tesla models continue to have issues with “body hardware, steering/suspension, paint and trim, and climate system on its models,” but the electric powertrains haven’t had many issues. While the Model 3 has average reliability, and the Model S,Y, and X have below average reliability, Tesla still rose four spots this year to 19th place in the overall brand rankings.

Looking at EVs from other manufacturers, owners reported charging problems, battery issues, and electric motor problems from those cars. Of the 11 EV models that Consumer Reports has data on, only 4 of them (the Kia EV6, Tesla Model 3, Nissan Leaf, Hyundai Ioniq 5) have average or better than average predicted reliability.

On the flipside, hybrid and mid-size and full-size sedans scored highest in terms of reliability. Among all vehicle types, non plug-in hybrid cars and hybrid SUVs rank first and third, respectively, for predicted reliability, according to Consumer Reports data.

“With today’s inflated car prices, people are keeping their vehicles longer than ever. A hybrid can provide years of trouble-free miles, and they are a good defense against rising fuel prices,” said Jake Fisher, Consumer Reports senior director of automotive testing, said in a statement. “With a top-rated hybrid you get solid reliability, better fuel economy, and lower maintenance costs without sacrificing acceleration, ride comfort, or cabin quietness.”

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - JULY 14: A 2022 Lexus NX is introduced to the media at the Chicago Auto Show on July 14, 2021 in Chicago, Illinois. The show, which opens to the public tomorrow, is the first major auto show to be held in the United States since the start of the pandemic. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - JULY 14: A 2022 Lexus NX is introduced to the media at the Chicago Auto Show on July 14, 2021 in Chicago, Illinois. The show, which opens to the public tomorrow, is the first major auto show to be held in the United States since the start of the pandemic. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Among the top-performing hybrids in Consumer Reports ratings were the Lexus NX, Ford Maverick, and Toyota Corolla. Consumer Reports found that 36% of prospective buyers are considering a hybrid car or truck purchase, up from 29% in 2019.

Looking across brands at overall standings, Toyota and Lexus continued to dominate in terms of reliability. Consumer Reports placed Toyota and Lexus (owned by Toyota) in the top two spots, which continues the brand's long run of delivering strong reliability across its product portfolio.

Other notable brands in the top ten were BMW in third, climbing ten spots, with Mazda coming in fourth this year, down two spots; Honda was unchanged in fifth. Subaru ranked seventh and Acura ranked eighth overall; with Kia ranked ninth, up six spots from 2021. Ford’s Lincoln brand rounded out the top ten.

Consumer Reports' top ten brands in terms of overall reliability (credit: Consumer Reports)
Consumer Reports' top ten brands in terms of overall reliability (credit: Consumer Reports)

Pras Subramanian is a reporter for Yahoo Finance. You can follow him on Twitter and on Instagram.

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