Tesla Owners Love Their Cars, Despite Their Faults


Love is blind. It’s official — well, unofficial — that true love enables car owners to overlook a lot of faults.

The Tesla all-electric-vehicle brand is Exhibit A.

According to J.D. Power, the very same people who rated Tesla the (unofficial) No. 1 in the 2020 J.D. Power Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout Study released this week, also rated Tesla dead last (also unofficially) in the recent J.D. Power Initial Quality Study.

Insiders sometimes refer to the APEAL study as “things gone right.” The IQS Study measures “things gone wrong.” There are other brands in the past — Mini is an example — that inspired love with the overall concept, despite irritation at “things gone wrong.”

But this year’s Tesla results appear to be the first time the same brand has been No. 1 in APEAL, and in last place in IQS. More on why the scores are “unofficial,” later. Tesla has had well-documented quality problems ramping up production, as demand increased. The good news is, demand increased.

So, do people love, or hate their Teslas? Mostly love them, said Dave Sargent, vice president of automotive quality at J.D. Power, in a webinar. He cited “performance,” which is auto industry-speak for get-up-and-go-fast.

Electric vehicles are fast from a standing start, because electric motors have lots of torque, the twisting power that drives the wheels. That’s one of the reasons New York subway trains have electric motors, so they can get up to speed quickly between stations.

“It’s largely driven by performance. The infotainment system also performs very well. Lots of owners like the styling,” Sargent said of Tesla’s high APEAL score. “Owners can sort of look past the fact that they are having quite a few problems with their vehicle — but people still love their vehicle.”

The Tesla score is “unofficial,” because it’s based on results from only 35 states, J.D. Power said. That’s because Tesla withheld its permission for J.D. Power to access state registration data, for 15 states where permission is required.

For anybody who ever wondered how J.D. Power knew they just bought a car, J.D. Power uses state registration data to identify and contact buyers, to ask them to fill out a survey.

The J.D. Power APEAL and IQS surveys are aimed at buyers in their first 90 days of ownership. The same respondents fill out both surveys, plus a third one, the J.D. Power Tech Experience Index (TXI) Study.

Tesla scored 896 in APEAL, J.D. Power announced this week. Porsche got the highest “official” score, of 881 out of a possible 1,000. It was the 15th time in the last 16 years Porsche won the highest (official) score among luxury brands, which is to say the highest score overall. Interestingly, Porsche was below industry average in the 2020 IQS Study.

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