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Tesla’s quality issues will be harder to overlook for Model 3 owners, says J.D. Power

Consumer insights and data analytic firm J.D. Power conducted “multiple focus groups of Tesla owners and an in-depth evaluation of Tesla models against competitive vehicles by automotive research experts”.

Based on their research, they released a new report highlighting the fact that quality and reliability issues are currently not affecting the perception of Tesla owners, but they warned that it could change for the Model 3, which they see as aimed at the mass market instead of “early adopters” for the Model S and X.

Kathleen Rizk, director, global automotive consulting at J.D. Power, said about the findings of the report:

“Tesla owners see themselves as pioneers who enjoy being early adopters of new technology. 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.”

I’m not sure that it is fair to generalize current Tesla owners as “early adopters”. It certainly was the case for the Roadster and early days of the Model S, but the all-electric sedan has now been on the roads since 2012 and there are now close to 200,000 Tesla owners in the world. An increasingly large portion of them are just looking for a premium sedan or SUV and the Model S and X are available options on the market.

In the report called “Tesla: Beyond the Hype“, J.D. Power goes into details about the reported “quality issues”. We previously reported some quality issues, especially on the early production of the Model X which led Tesla CEO Elon Musk to personally test vehicles as they came off the line last year.

Reliability issues with the Model S also led to the vehicle scoring below average on its reliability survey with Consumer Reports. Musk quickly took to Twitter to defend the company and said that most issues have been addressed and highlighted that by Consumer Reports’ own survey, 97% of Model S owners say they would definitely buy the Model S again. The Model S re-earned Consumer Reports’ recommendation on improved reliability in October.

Rizk claims that Tesla wouldn’t be able to have the same problems with the Model 3 without the brand taking a bigger hit:

“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. We’ve seen that with other well-liked brands, whether or not it involves an electric vehicle.”

Tesla already made it clear that it plans for the Model 3 to be more reliable by making the vehicle simpler with fewer “bells and whistles”. Tesla also snagged Apple’s Reliability Director to scale up production with iPhone-like dependability.

Last week, we reported on Tesla starting the production of Model 3 ‘release candidates’ and Musk said that he is already seeing higher quality prototypes than the release candidates of the Model S (2012) and the Model X (2015).

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