Study Finds Tesla Owners Have Emotional Bond Despite Quality Complaints

Tesla owners have been demanding yet loyal, helping the electric carmaker recover from glitches in the Model S and Model X, a new study says.

In “Tesla: Beyond the Hype,” J.D. Power and Associates found that several times the automaker has been slammed by owners for a number of serious quality issues. Still, there’s a strong emotional bond owners tend to retain for their expensive luxury electric vehicles. Part of that appeal is in seeing themselves as pioneers in a cutting-edge new technology.

The study conducted a detailed examination of the brand’s quality issues. J.D. Power utilized focus groups of Tesla owners and an in-depth evaluation of Tesla models against competitive vehicles to produce the report.

Tesla has been kept out of annual rankings in the research firm’s Initial Quality Study and the Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout Study. That’s been due to small sample size from the relatively new automaker. J.D. Power conducted the study to provide clients with its perspectives on Tesla vehicle quality and Tesla owners’ emotional attachment to their vehicles.

“Tesla owners see themselves as pioneers who enjoy being early adopters of new technology,” said Kathleen Rizk, director of global automotive consulting at J.D. Power. “Spending $100,000 or more on a vehicle that has so many problems usually would have a dramatically negative effect on sales and brand perception. Right now, though, Tesla seems immune from such disenchanted customers.”

The study also concludes that Tesla will be facing a different scenario with the upcoming, affordable Model 3. Consumers who purchase the Model 3 are expected to be less forgiving of quality issues.

These consumers tend to be more concerned about their pocket books than having a high-performance car or helping to fight climate change and air pollution. They expect the car to perform and be reliable – to be worth the money in the competitive auto marketplace.

“When consumers buy a mass-market car priced around $35,000 that will be their primary mode of transportation, the degree of expectation will increase immensely,” Rizk said. “We’ve seen that with other well-liked brands, whether or not it involves an electric vehicle.”

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Tesla hopes to transfer over brand loyalty from its luxury vehicles to the Model 3. Tesla CEO Elon Musk has forecasted the company’s sales will reach 500,000 in 2018, and one million by 2020, with the Model 3 accounting for most of it.

Car shoppers will also be watching to see how the Model 3 does in reviews and reliability ratings. They’ve seen the company deal with Consumer Reports’ downgrading the Model S and Model X for a series of concerns including problems with electronics and the electric SUV’s falcon wing doors.

However, Consumer Reports and its research team has come back to offering overall support and enthusiasm for their Tesla vehicles, similar to what happens with Tesla owners.

The Detroit Bureau

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