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Tesla cars build quality a rare pandemic bright spot in JD Power survey but one Model S Plaid owner disagrees

The build quality of 2022 premium cars dipped the most (image: Tesla)
The build quality of 2022 premium cars dipped the most (image: Tesla)
Creaky dashboard, panel gaps, rattling interior - one new Model S Plaid buyer begs to disagree with a new J.D. Power 2022 Initial Quality Survey that showed Tesla's build quality actually improved year-on-year. It still sits at the bottom of the new US vehicles quality pile, though.

Despite a new J.D. Power survey finding that the build quality of Tesla cars actually improved during the pandemic, unlike most other brands, one Model S Plaid owner begs to disagree with a real-life vehicle demo. Storied research firm J.D. Power ran its 2022 U.S. Initial Quality Study based on 84,165 forms filled by new car buyers or lessees between February and May.

It turned out that the supply chain challenges that arose during the pandemic have drastically reduced the build quality of most new vehicles with the exception of only a few brands that showed slight improvement. One of those is Tesla, whose electric cars were "included in the industry calculation for the first time, with a score of 226 PP100" (for problems per 100 vehicles).

Given that Tesla's unofficial J.D. Power score in the same study was 250 PP100 last year, indicating more problems, Elon Musk's electric carmaker demonstrates a genuine advance. The survey, in its 36th year, goes through "a 223-question battery organized into nine vehicle categories: infotainment; features, controls and displays; exterior; driving assistance; interior; powertrain; seats; driving experience; and climate." This year's results, however, returned the most drastic, 11% increase in new vehicle problems ever, showing unprecedented drop in build quality overall with the most pronounced dip coming from premium cars. As per David Amodeo, director of global automotive at J.D. Power:

Given the many challenges automakers and their dealers had to face in the past year, it’s somewhat surprising that initial quality didn’t fall even more dramatically. In general, initial quality has shown steady improvement throughout the history of this study, so the decline this year is disappointing - yet understandable. Automakers continue to launch vehicles that are more and more technologically complex in an era in which there have been many shortages of critical components to support them.

One premium 2022 Model S Plaid owner seems to totally agree with that last point as he showed how his brand new US$155,000 Tesla has a creaky and rattling interior, as well as trunk and door panel assembly gaps that are out of spec. Tesla has been criticized numerous times for its hasty assembly issues, not least by one Model S buyer who traded it for a V8 Chrysler 300 on precisely shoddy build quality not long ago, despite that Chrysler sits even lower than Tesla here.

The J.D. Power survey which found Tesla to be a rare pandemic bright spot in this respect doesn't contradict that fact as, despite Tesla's slight improvement, it still ranks towards the bottom of the new 2022 car quality pack that now includes both EV and legacy car manufacturers, as you can see from the graph below. In general, however, owners of electric cars or hybrids reported more problems with them than those who bought new cars with internal combustion engines only.

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J.D. Power 2022 new car quality ranking
J.D. Power 2022 new car quality ranking
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Daniel Zlatev, 2022-06-30 (Update: 2022-06-30)