By on February 20, 2014

Tesla brown front quarter
TrueDelta has updated its car reliability stats to cover all of 2013, making them about eight months ahead of other sources. A new set of statistics includes only powertrain and chassis repairs—the systems needed for a car to be drivable. Stats for electric vehicles, including the Tesla Model S, are especially noteworthy with this update.


The average 2013 model required 27 repair trips per 100 cars during 2013. When you consider that this statistic includes even minor repairs, such as those for rattles, the average car today is very reliable. The averages for 2008 and 2003 model year cars were 44 and 73, respectively. Even ten-year-old cars aren’t averaging one repair trip per year.

CRS 1213
Some car owners only consider repairs that render a car undrivable to be worthy of concern. With this update TrueDelta has released a second set of statistics that include only powertrain and chassis repairs. These are only about one-third of the total for 2013 models. Powertrain and chassis repairs are rare during the warranty period. But such repairs increase as cars age to become 64 percent of the total for 2008s and 75 percent of the total for 2003s.
With the Prius, Toyota has demonstrated that hybrids (and, by extension, electric cars) can be highly reliable. And at first the Chevrolet Volt and Nissan Leaf required few repairs. With the 2013s, though, both suffer from new common problems, the Volt with its charge port door and the Leaf with its battery charging system.
The Tesla Model S has scored very well on at least one prominent reliability survey. In TrueDelta’s latest stats, though, it has the worst score of any 2013 by a wide margin, 109 repair trips per 100 cars per year, about four times the average. The sample size was a few cars below the usual minimum, but this score is so high that even a sample size twice as large could not have yielded even a middling score. In Tesla’s defense, nearly all of the reported problems were minor–wind noise, rattles, a click in the steering–and owners report outstanding service quality. For these reasons it is not surprising that the car has scored much better on surveys that ask owners to only report “problems you considered serious.”
These problems with the Model S could only affect early cars, and even these only during the first year of ownership. With prompt, quarterly updates, TrueDelta’s Car Reliability Survey will track the Model S and other car models closely as they age. When a car company reacts quickly, the reliability of its products can improve dramatically in well under a year.
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70 Comments on “TrueDelta Updates Latest Reliability Stats...”


  • avatar
    Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

    Yep, the charge port door in my 2013 is prone to sticking, particularly in what passes for cold weather in TX. I reckon I’ll have that looked at at the 15k service (rotate tires, check fluids, apply firmware updates where appropriate). The 2014 went with a manual charge port door, which doesn’t strike me as a great way to fix the problem, but then I’m paranoid enough to worry about teens and disgruntled assholes messing with the port.

  • avatar
    jmo

    “The average 2013 model required 27 repair trips per 100 cars during 2013. When you consider that this statistic includes even minor repairs, such as those for rattles, the average car today is very reliable. The averages for 2008 and 2003 model year cars were 44 and 73, respectively. Even ten-year-old cars aren’t averaging one repair trip per year.”

    Just confirms that all those turbos and multispeed transmission and computers are making cars worse and worse every year. Automakers are just increasing the planned obsolescence trying to milk even more money out of consumers.

    Oh, what? The data shows the complete opposite?

    Doesn’t matter, no amount of data will convince me.

    Sincerly,

    The B&B

    • 0 avatar
      geeber

      Auto makers are adding those features to their vehicles because they are striving to meet tighter CAFE requirements while maintaining the performance levels people demand. It’s not because they are trying to encourage people to trade in their vehicles more often under some sort of “planned obsolescence” scheme.

      And please note that planned obsolescence, as originally envisioned by Alfred P. Sloan at GM, didn’t involve purposely designing components to fail so that people would be forced to buy a new car. It involved regular styling changes and the addition of new features (power steering, air conditioning) to make people dissatisfied with their current cars BEFORE those cars wore out.

      Henry Ford I’s vision of the new-car market involved first-time owners buying a new car and then driving it until it died. Alfred Sloan didn’t want to wait that long, particularly once the new-car market was largely saturated by the late 1920s.

      The entire scheme depended on the old cars still being mechanically sound enough to preserve some trade-in value. People weren’t going to pay good money for a used car that didn’t work. And most people needed the trade-in value of the old car to help pay for the new one.

      • 0 avatar
        djsyndrome

        “Auto makers are adding those features to their vehicles because they are striving to meet tighter CAFE requirements while maintaining the performance levels people demand.”

        Meeting CAFE requirements wouldn’t be a problem if Americans stopped buying gigantic vehicles they don’t need.

        • 0 avatar
          bball40dtw

          You appointed you to the postion of Arbitrator of American Vehicular Needs?

          • 0 avatar
            Waterview

            +1000 bball40dtw

            I’ll give “djsyndrome” the benefit of the doubt and assume he/she is trolling. If not, then I need to ask if djsyndrome rides a bicycle or walks everywhere. Very rarely do you even need a car.

            I prefer, on the other hand, to allow the market participants (consumers) to determine what they need or don’t need and purchase accordingly.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            Bah, I messed up the sentence, but the point still stands.

          • 0 avatar
            Detroit-Iron

            @bball40dtw

            I thought you wrote it that way on purpose. I think it is funnier that way.

          • 0 avatar
            CRConrad

            Oh, come on, admit it: IF one were to apply some kind of “objective” criteria, one would think that Americans on average ought to get by with about the same size car as people in the rest of the world. OK, given the even larger prevalence of obesity over there, perhaps a *little* larger. But not all that much; we’re pretty fat in the rest of the world, too, nowadays. But it seems families and children, above all, need incredible amounts of space, in the American mind if not reality: As soon as you have a couple of toddlers — who in the rest of the world would fit into the rear seat not just of any ordinary or even small-ish sedan, but even into seats where adults would normally be cramped, like, say, the rear seat of a “2+2″ sports coupé — the head of the American family (i.e, the “Soccer Mom”) declares a space emergency, claims this humongous flock of people won’t fit into even a large-ish sedan or wagon, and rushes out to buy a Humongo-SUV sized somewhere between a Peterbilt and the USS Nimitz.

            (Sure, as someone mentioned the other day, it all comes down to preferences. IIRC, the poster quoted Paul Krugman to the effect that “Americans preferred to consume houses, the French preferred to consume vacations”. That’s why I emphasised IF one were to try.)

          • 0 avatar
            JD321

            Mommy-n-Daddy Government.
            If you listen real close, you can hear him crying.

          • 0 avatar
            slance66

            CRConrad, are you for real? Do even know how Americans use cars, especially outside of the cities? Are there a lot of Home Depots and Lowes in the rest of the word? Is it routine to travel to school and after school sporting events daily, and often carry not just your kids but several others as well? This is routine in the U.S. I know people with two kids who can’t even put down the third row seat in their XC90 because it is used every day. Our lifestyle is different.

            Then add the roads. I have a 328xi, love the car an it is right sized. But even though I only put 8000 miles a year on it, I don’t know how much longer it can survive the potholes and broken pavement that passes for roads here in metro Boston. I already decided that my next vehicle has to have larger diameter wheels and a whole lot more suspension travel.

        • 0 avatar
          APaGttH

          Damn you free market economics!

          Damn you to HELL!!!

          • 0 avatar
            jim brewer

            Gasoline tax only pays about half of road building and repair costs. The rest comes from general governmental revenues. In other words, cars are subsidized by 40 to 50 cents per gallon. No “free market” involved.

          • 0 avatar
            brandloyalty

            and @Waterview

            “I prefer, on the other hand, to allow the market participants (consumers) to determine what they need or don’t need and purchase accordingly.”

            Are you saying that the $500 or so that’s spent per car/truck by the car companies to advertise new models has no effect on shaping what sort of vehicles people want? I doubt the ad companies would want to hear that.

            For just one example, it seems to me that heavy advertising of huge goofy pickup trucks has something to do with the large number of people who have them for image and really don’t need them.

          • 0 avatar
            ReSa

            No need to intervene in a free market directly. Just increase car related taxes.

            Start charging USD 9,44 per gallon (like here in The Netherlands), yearly road tax on weight resulting in a USD 2000 bill for a car that weighs 4400 pounds and charge an added buyers tax based on its CO2 emission.

            So, let’s say you’re buying a Fiat/Chrysler 300C (Fiat calls it the Lancia Thema here, pure rape of the elegant Lancia name if you ask me…):

            Your MRSP: USD 36,915
            Our MRSP: USD 62,215

            Let’s see Americans buying still barges at those price levels ;)

          • 0 avatar
            geeber

            brandloyalty: Are you saying that the $500 or so that’s spent per car/truck by the car companies to advertise new models has no effect on shaping what sort of vehicles people want?

            If it were really this simple, then why didn’t GM just ramp up the advertising for its passenger cars (which were getting whipped by Honda, Toyota, BMW and Mercedes) in the early 2000s and thus increase demand, which would have helped it avoid bankruptcy?

          • 0 avatar
            brandloyalty

            Geeber: I’m saying that buying preferences are greatly shaped by that advertising. Big loaded pickups are far more profitable than cars, especially basic small cars. Hence the allocaition of advertising funds. That it didn’t save the companies from bankruptcy may just show how much trouble they were in. And part of that trouble was that they concentrated on pushing iron rather than designing desirable cars.

        • 0 avatar
          daver277

          Very, very true.
          How bizarre is it to use a 4000# vehicle to haul one 150# person.
          The rest of the world shakes their heads at what North Americans drive (Canadians are very little better)

          • 0 avatar
            geeber

            That’s because the rest of the world, by and large, has a limited understanding of where Americans live, and how big this country is. They tend to think that everyone lives in New York City or Los Angeles.

            My German relatives visited one year, and wanted to drive from Harrisburg, Pa., to Niagara Falls. For us, this isn’t a huge vacation.

            I never heard more complaints about the length of a trip from passengers in my car than I did from them.

            They kept asking, “How long is it going to take us to get there? I can’t believe how long this is.”

            They think a three-hour drive on the Autobahn to a vacation destination is a big trip.

            Then there were the German visitors who wanted to see New York City, Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon.

            In one weekend.

          • 0 avatar
            Quentin

            geeber – agreed! A friend from when I was studying abroad in the UK called me out of the blue one day. He was in the US and wanted to visit. He was calling from LA. I was in WV. I explained that I was halfway back to the UK from him.

          • 0 avatar
            geeber

            What’s the old saying?

            In America, 100 years is a long time.

            In England, 100 miles is a long trip.

          • 0 avatar
            mikey

            @geeber….Your so right. Up north, and out west they calculate distance in hours.

            “Oh its 5 hours there, and 3 there”. Nobody says” miles”. Even after 20 years of metric, a lot of folks never say Kilometer’s

            As much, as many people here want us to believe were part of Europe.

            Were not! Oh oh! 11:58 time to watch hockey.

            Go Canada.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            “That’s because the rest of the world, by and large, has a limited understanding of where Americans live, and how big this country is.”

            You’re absolutely correct about the difference in perceptions about distances.

            But that doesn’t explain the difference in cars. From early days, the Europeans were subject to taxes that motivated them to choose small cars (assuming that they had cars at all.)

            In contrast, we had Henry Ford and Albert Sloan who were not only unfettered by such restrictions but who were also the beneficiaries of highway building programs. The Europeans were mostly penalized, while we ended up with subsidies that encouraged us to do the opposite. If gas cost $8 per gallon and a larger engine was slapped with a higher tax, then you can bet that we’d have a new love affair with subcompacts, while an Accord would be considered to be a large car.

          • 0 avatar
            geeber

            I believe the reason we didn’t enact those taxes is that driving longer distances in very small cars with high-revving engines becomes rather unpleasant very quickly.

            Americans viewed the automobile as a way to bring the various regions of the country together and eliminate the isolation experienced by many rural people, particularly in the Midwest. That required a lot of driving.

            Plus, due to climate differences, there is more demand for air conditioning, even in places like Harrisburg, which still gets hot and humid in July and August. That requires a bigger engine.

            Over my lifetime, I’ve seen a definite shift to smaller cars, and real acceleration of that trend over the last 5-6 years.

            One factor is airline deregulation.

            When my family traveled from Pennsylvania to Florida in 1973, there was no question that we would take our car (a 1967 Oldsmobile Delmont 88 Holiday sedan). Flying was too expensive. Now, most people fly when they take a trip of that distance. The sense that you need a full-size car to regularly carry everyone and their luggage for a long-distance trip has declined.

            But we still regularly take 2-3 hour trips to visit relatives, so we won’t be packing ourselves and two children and assorted paraphernalia into a Fiesta or a Fit as our family car anytime soon.

            The new-vehicle market seems to be dominated by two big segments – full-size pickups, and a “super segment” consisting of compacts (Civic, Focus, Corolla, etc.), family sedans (Accord, Fusion and Camry) and small crossovers (CR-V, Escape and RAV-4).

            When I go to rural Pennsylvania, I see full-size pickups everywhere. Here in the Harrisburg region, you see some (primarily driven by people who live on the rural counties just outside the suburbs), but family sedans and small crossovers seem to rule.

            Full-size trucks have captured those who would have driven a full-size or even intermediate domestic car in the 1970s.

            But the rest of us have been happy to downsize to four-cylinder Civics, Accords, Camrys and Fusions (or Escapes and CR-Vs).

            I do think that the day is coming when the Accord will be considered a large car. (Also note that Honda purposely made the current version slightly smaller than the previous generation, which was the subject of numerous complaints about “bloat.”)

            As people like me, who remember when the old full-size mastodons were what everyone drove, fade away, a new generation will have a different perspective on car size and what type of trips are best taken with a car.

      • 0 avatar
        Vulpine

        The difference comes down to “obsolescence” literally meaning Obsolete, not ‘worn out’.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      If the 2022 statistics show that the turbo and touchscreen equipped vehicles built in ’12-’14 are just as reliable as their naturally aspirated and knob using counterparts, I’ll owe you a drink.

      • 0 avatar
        jmo

        Does the plastic knob breaking off such that have to turn up the volume by turning the little steel pin with your fingers count as failure?

        • 0 avatar
          ajla

          Yes.

          • 0 avatar
            jmo

            This is just anecdotal but at least in terms of personal electronics, the touch screens on my iPhone and IPad have proven far more durable and reliable than the buttons and keys on the laptops and RAZRs they replaced.

            IIRC my last work laptop was replaced after the N stopped working and one before that due to a failed space bar.

          • 0 avatar
            ajla

            Yea, Apple seems to make decent stuff. I also know that there is nothing that says that old-style is inherently more durable compared to more modern tech.

            Like I commented before, if the reliability surveys about 8 years from now vindicate some of this stuff compared to the lower tech alternatives of the same model year then I’ll be the one eating serious crow.

          • 0 avatar

            jmo,

            It is possible to buy replacement keyboards for most laptops. IIRC they’re only about $25 on ebay.

    • 0 avatar
      probert

      Used to be that if a car lasted 100,000k you were the luckiest man alive. Now 150 – 200K is a yawn. Things are really built better using better materials and better engineering. The good old days sucked in many ways.

      • 0 avatar

        I thought it was ridiculous when VW touted how many of its cars lasted past 100k miles in its Superbowl ad. 200k would have been much more meaningful–but only one engineer farted a rainbow.

        • 0 avatar
          krhodes1

          Well, it would have been at least three rainbow farting engineers, because I have owned 3 VWs with more than 200K. One of which ultimately managed about 375K before the tinworm got it. Still ran like champ.

          • 0 avatar

            We have quite a few ultra-high-mileage VWs in our survey, especially TDIs. But then we have members who’ve been able to put a ton of miles on just about anything. Keep up the maintenance and pay for repairs as needed, and just about any car will last until rust gets it.

  • avatar
    CJinSD

    Isn’t Consumer Reports supposed to protect its readers from buying cars that require four times the average number of repairs? I’d give CR a giant black dot for their reliability over the past two years.

    • 0 avatar
      RogerB34

      CR reliability assessment:
      Subaru Forester, Better than Average, Recommended
      Mazda CX5, Somewhat Better than Average, Recommended
      Mazda 6, Somewhat Better than Average, Recommended
      Jeep Cherokee, Worse than Average, Not Recommended.
      What do you see as inconsistent?

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        Tesla Model S?

        • 0 avatar
          salhany

          IIRC CR had it scored as “average” in reliability, which gave me pause given that these cars seem to have lots of small problems and a few large ones at times.

          As Michael Karesh has noted, that’s the downside of self-reporting studies like they do. I’ve generally found that CR and TD’s reliability stats match up pretty well, but here obviously they do not.

          • 0 avatar

            I misremembered the Tesla’s score in CR. Change “very well” above to “reasonably well.” I was quite surprised that it got even an average score, since even last October our data suggested a far worse repair frequency.

            CR’s stats are based on a survey conducted in April 2013, at which point the 2014 Forester had been available for only a few weeks.

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            Micheal, to what extent do you think buyers of more expensive cars being fussier affects these surveys?

            I have seen guys on the BMW forum absolute go off the deep end about the most ridiculously minor things. One guy ranted on and on about how he thought that the seat belt chime was the most annoying thing ever and that no car so expensive should have a sound like that!

          • 0 avatar
            CRConrad

            @krhodes1: Your BMW nitwit apparently didn’t realise that it’s *supposed* to be an annoying sound, so nitwits like him will put on their seatbelts in order to avoid it.

            Come to think of it, maybe this is just a very adroit bit of psychology on BMW’s part: The more entitled-arsehole type people are, the less likely they may be — all else equal — to put on their seat belts, so the more annoying a sound it would take to get some given proportion of them to do so. So maybe that sound is exactly appropriate for BMW owners.

        • 0 avatar

          Picky things aren’t a large percentage of the total for any car, and are pretty rare after the first year. It might also be that many of the things that upscale buyers get picky about are not repairable–like that chime they’re designed into the car.

          Then again, BMW buyers still bought cars with early versions of iDrive.

          The larger challenge with luxury cars is they have so many features, many of them electronic. More features = more things to go wrong. Tesla has largely avoided this, at least so far, as the Model S has far fewer features than the typical $90k car.

          • 0 avatar
            brandloyalty

            I know such chimes used to have their own little “buzzers”, but in the interests of reducing part counts, could/are the chimes in modern cars be generated through the sound system speakers? The chimes could be software and therefore could be altered.

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            BMW’s chimes are exactly that – software constructs played though the stereo. One of the cable news channels did a documentary about BMWs design process that actually spent some time with the engineers who create the sounds. They put a ridiculous amount of effort into them! But there is just no pleasing some people. Would be nice to be able to edit them though – upload your own samples like ringtones? I’d use all Star Trek computer noises like the big geek I am.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    FWIW, the Edmunds long-term Model S just received its third drivetrain. The factory original burned out a bearing or something (Tesla won’t say) at 10k miles, and this week the drivetrain AND 85 kWh battery pack were replaced after the car died in dramatic fashion (again, no word from Tesla). Their car has also been eating 21″ tires, and the suspension has required several repairs to keep it straight.

    I’m a big Tesla fan, but I wonder if there are serious design/mfg flaws lurking in the Model S fleet.

    And don’t blame EVs: the Leaf has none of these dramatic problems, and hybrids have generally been pretty reliable.

    • 0 avatar
      mike978

      The Leaf just has range issues when it is very hot (remember the Arizona stories) because it doesn`t have active battery cooling like the Volt does.

      • 0 avatar
        SCE to AUX

        I’m not sure that active cooling is the issue, because a lithium ion battery can be cooked by just sitting in a parking lot – this can happen to a Volt, also. Given the gasoline range extender in the Volt, I’m not sure a Volt owner would notice a range loss in EV mode.

        But either way, Nissan claims the 2014 Leafs will be getting new battery chemistry which supposedly fixes this problem.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        When it is very cold too – my buddy with one is about to trade it for a Tesla because he can’t deal with the range drop in the Maine winter.

        • 0 avatar
          SCE to AUX

          My Leaf’s cold weather range is about 50-60% of what the gas gauge says; fair weather is 80-100% or higher. This is no fun, but it’s not a reliability, CEL, or safety-related issue; it’s just something an EV owner has to live with if your car is powered by lithium ion.

          I don’t know how a Tesla will do any better when it’s very cold, except that you start with more range before it drops in half.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            Consider this: Two Tesla Model S sedans took off from California on Jan 29th for a cross-country run on Supercharger power alone. This was in the middle of winter and the two cars drove through a sandstorm and TWO blizzards. They completed the marathon in a mere three days with no issues on either car. Ironically, during that trip one of their ICE support vans died in North Dakota in one of those blizzards and that crew had to fly to Chicago to catch up to the cars. One of those two cars was at the Philadelphia Auto Show this past week and looked none the worse for wear–along with one of its drivers for that run.

            Let’s just say the Tesla made quite an impression on the folks who stopped to look at it.

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            @SCE to AUX

            Exactly that – he needs about 80 miles a day. The problem has occurred because his kid got accepted to a private school that is 20 miles away. Two 40 mile round trips is BARELY possible on a cold day if he does not touch the car at all in-between so it charges. Which is a problem when he also needs to run errands or go somewhere. But even the cheapest Tesla doubles the range of the Leaf, so he will be all good. The big pain point at the moment is his house cannot accommodate the electrical needs of the good Tesla charger, so he has to get the electricians in. Sillyness in my opinion, but he loves techy stuff and has money to burn.

            I think he is out of his tree, personally. Just buy a darned used Prius for the school run and give it to the kid when he gets his license in 4 years.

  • avatar

    Everytime my shares gain value, a battery goes nova and a garage burns down :-(

  • avatar
    alsorl

    Charger port door issues on the Volt. These morons can’t use a different version of a gas cap ?

  • avatar
    jmo

    And, may I add, I got my TrueDelta e-mail and it mentioned that you’re including a new section on squeeks and rattles.

    That’s huge for me as its nearly my number one priority in a new car.

    If a light goes on and it’s $500 or $1000 to fix every once and while – that’s ok. But, a creak or rattle every time I hit a bump – drives me CRAZY!

    • 0 avatar

      No new section on squeaks and rattles, but a new set of stats that EXCLUDES things like squeaks and rattles. Instead these stats only include powertrain and chassis repairs. This is mentioned in the post above.

      • 0 avatar
        jmo

        Oh, I was mistaken.

        Is there any way break out that data?

        • 0 avatar

          Not yet. We could potentially provide separate stats by system, but I wouldn’t be comfortable doing this without larger sample sizes in most cases. The sooner we get more data, the sooner we’ll be able to do more with it.

          Currently the most we have is a pie chart of problems reported by problem area along with all of the repair descriptions. Search the repair descriptions for a specific term, like rattles, and you’ll get a rough idea whether they’re commonly reported.

  • avatar
    Loser

    Michael,
    I miss reading your reviews.

  • avatar
    Beerboy12

    I am glad to see the Forester doing well.
    As to EV’s, there really is not much to go wrong I guess. No water pumps to fail, no ignition problems and no sensors to mess up the fuel to air ratio.
    Also, they are very quiet so any additional cabin noise (rattles) would be more noticeable, so I see truth in the statement the issues are not big ones. Tesla, realisticly, has a lot to learn when it comes to cabin rattles but they appear to be fast learners.

  • avatar
    sastexan

    I, for one, am glad that we have someone like Michael to drill down and get to the meat of car reliability issues. TrueDelta is everything that any professed B&B should desire – detailed data!

  • avatar
    LeadHead

    I see Chrysler is still struggling to get Jeep Grand Cherokee problems under control. I’m guessing the majority of issues are related to the radio and air suspension still.

    • 0 avatar

      Radio. Somehow the updates for 2014 created a slew of electrical issues in quite a few vehicles. One recent report:

      “Many electrical faults: camera glitches, lock/trunk button don’t work consistently, seat memory shuts off radio, trans shifted rough(only issue here fixed). Radio unit was replaced. All issues persist. Was in shop for 15 days.”

  • avatar
    mikey

    Michael…..I have a lot going on in my life. I’ve bought and sold cars, and forgot my user name, and pass word. I would like to get back on track with True Delta. I think you have my E mail?

    Thanks


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