J.D. Power's 2024 Initial Quality Study is out, giving us yet another study showing that EVs and plug-in hybrids have more quality issues than their internal combustion and standard hybrid competitors. Skeptics will tell you that's because EVs are fundamentally unreliable. But that's not what the data shows if you dive deeper.

On the face, I get it. J.D. Power shows that internal combustion buyers have 180 reported problems per 100 vehicles (PP100), while EV buyers have 266 PP100. The score for EVs hasn't improved, but most problems have nothing to do with the vehicle's electric motors or batteries.

It's all about the new tech.  

Get Fully Charged

EV Quality And Reliability Ratings

Many studies have shown that EVs have worse quality and reliability, on average, than ICE vehicles. But battery and motor technology has already matured to the point where electric cars can easily last for over 200,000 miles. It's the other tech features that drag down the average. As EVs mature, we expect them to surpass ICE vehicles in both metrics.

One essential truism about automotive reliability: Older, more proven technology tends to be more reliable. Both in initial quality surveys and long-term reliability studies, consumers tend to be more satisfied with vehicles that use old-school technology. This is why Toyota and Honda—automakers that treat reliability as central to their mission—were slow to adopt turbocharging, slow to provide decent infotainment systems and slow to launch electric cars. (It's also why generations of cars like the Toyota 4Runner tend to stick around until they're old enough to buy their own cigarettes.)

It's also likely why Ram is at the top of the mainstream pack in J.D. Power's Initial Quality Study. If your previous truck was a Ram, and your new one uses the same 5.7-liter V-8, the same basic controls and the same fundamental U.I., you're unlikely to come back to the dealer confused or dissatisfied. That's key here because the IQS doesn't just cover things breaking, but also things that consumers are annoyed by. 

Here's an example: “It is not surprising that the introduction of new technology has challenged manufacturers to maintain vehicle quality,” Frank Hanley, senior director of auto benchmarking at J.D. Power, said in a statement. “However, the industry can take solace in the fact that some problem areas such as voice recognition and parking cameras are seen as less problematic now than they were a year ago.”

2025 Ram 1500 Ramcharger

Hopefully Ram maintains its top spot on the IQS when the Ramcharger launches next year.

That's a big part of why EVs tend to get creamed. Technology issues dominate the list of pain points for all cars, and EVs tend to have more cutting-edge technology than their gas-burning counterparts. The two biggest problem categories this year were "Infotainment" and "Features, Controls and Displays," the latter of which EVs particularly struggle with. EVs had 30% more problems with Features, Controls and Displays.

That isn't surprising if you've been in many EVs. In an effort to drive down prices, manufacturers are removing buttons and putting more and more essential controls into their bloated touch-screen displays. Tesla alone accounts for a large amount of this variation, as J.D. Power notes:

"From such seemingly simple functions like windshield wipers and rear-view mirror to the more intricate operation of an [automaker's] smartphone application, this category is particularly troublesome in EVs," the report reads. "The PP100 incidence in this category is more than 30% higher in EVs than in gas-powered vehicles. This is exacerbated by Tesla’s recent switch to steering wheel-mounted buttons for horn and turn signal functions, a change not well received by owners." 

Get the best news, reviews, columns, and more delivered straight to your inbox.
For more information, read our
Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.

Confusing warnings and beeps also frequently bring consumers back to the dealership, the study notes. I personally can't stand "rear-seat reminders" that chide me with loud dings every time I leave a backpack in the rear seat, and I'm not alone. Rear-seat reminders account for 1.7 PP100 across the whole industry.

Smartphone apps are also a pain point, and because EVs are more reliant on the apps—for conditioning the cabin, setting charge schedules, finding and paying for charging and route planning—it's no surprise to see them struggle here. 

In fact, the more tech-forward a company, the worse it seems to do. Chevy and Ram top the list, which makes sense as these companies sell plenty of simple trucks with loyal buyers who know how to use them. Rivian, Tesla and Polestar all bring up three of the last four spots.

Dodge is in last place, though, a surprise turn for a brand that only sells cars that are quite old. It's also worth calling out because Dodge uses many of the same engines, parts and infotainment systems as Ram, highlighting how different customer bases, different quality control processes and different design choices can be the difference between first and last place. 

Updated Polestar 2

Polestar had the worst rating of any EV-only brand, with 316 problems per 100 vehicles.

Many outlets will say that this data shows that EVs are unreliable, as if it's a new and concerning trend. To my eye, though, this data shows what we already know. More sophisticated, cutting-edge cars tend to have more reported issues as automakers learn how to build them and consumers learn how to use them.

That's why luxury brands have always performed worse than mainstream brands on average, that's why the companies that were first to focus on infotainment suffered initially and then became industry leaders and, for now, that's why EVs have lower "quality" rankings.

If you know how to use the company's app, though, and you're not afraid of a car's infotainment system, you don't have anything to worry about.  

Contact the author: mack.hogan@insideevs.com

Got a tip for us? Email: tips@insideevs.com