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The EV Ownership Experience, Defined

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Feb. 19, 2021—Here’s the bottom line: electric vehicle owners are a small group at 2.4 percent of U.S. retail auto sales in 2020. But they’re going to become more and more common.

“Battery electric vehicles are certainly increasing in sales and an area that we expect to grow dramatically in the next couple years,” said Brent Gruber, senior director of global automotive for J.D. Power.

What’s more is that current EV owners are very likely to purchase another in the future—82 percent, according to the inaugural J.D. Power Electric Vehicle Experience Ownership Study. Gruber spoke during a January virtual presentation to introduce the study, which is first in a group of surveys intended to gauge the role of EVs in a changing automotive industry.


Understanding an Audience

The disruption that EVs pose to the auto industry is one reason for J.D. Power’s studies, Gruber said. Subsequent studies will ask consumers about home and public charging, mobile app usage and purchase consideration.

For the current study on ownership experiences, J.D. Power surveyed owners of EVs that are as old as the 2015 model year. Respondents drove one of 23 makes and 56 models that are represented in the survey.

The respondents were separated by owners with “premium” models and “mass market” models, the latter being those at a lower price point. The top premium models in the survey were the Tesla Models 3 and Y, followed by the Audi e-tron. The top mass market models were the Chevrolet Bolt, Nissan Leaf and Hyundai Kona EV.


Key Findings

When talking about consumer satisfaction, range and charging availability are the top concerns, the survey found. One notable statistic is that the popularity of Tesla in the premium category, mixed with the company’s impressive charging network, accounted for a lot of the high marks in this category.

“The premium electric segment has satisfaction that is much higher in this attribute than the mass market electric,” Gruber said.

When assessing the rate of issues among EV owners, the study found that premium vehicles experience more problems overall. In a single issue category, however, mass market vehicles had the most issues per 100 vehicles in the infotainment area. In most other categories, premium vehicles experienced more problems.

“You see some very sharp differences in a lot of those build quality-related problems,” Gruber said.

The study ranked the Tesla Model S as the highest in the premium category and the Hyundai Niro EV as the highest in the mass market category in terms of overall satisfaction.


Service Concerns

The service landscape could look a lot different in a majority-EV world. EV owners surveyed had some kind of service performed at a much lower rate than even a plug-in hybrid owner—77 percent versus 54 percent, respectively.

It’s tough at this point to assess the independent aftermarket role. Tesla owners in the survey relied on the company’s proprietary network.

“A lot of the problems that are occurring on Tesla vehicles are often times mitigated by over-the-air fixes or mobile technicians,” Gruber said.

Many EV repairs of other models are completed under warranty by a dealer. Gruber said that 14 percent of vehicle owners said they had been to a dealer service facility within the previous year.

“The owners of electric vehicles are sticking to the dealer,” Gruber said. “They’re not necessarily going to the independent repair shops.”


Image: Chevrolet

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