Rivian Tops Tesla in J.D. Power BEV Study; Mini Electric Leads Volume Brands

Rivian and Mini top J.D. Power’s Electric Vehicle Experience Ownership Study, with charging complaints rising.

David Kiley, Senior Editor

March 1, 2023

3 Min Read
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BEV buyers have same complaints as ICE vehicle owners, plus charging network problems. But Rivian scores highest on satisfaction.

Shares of electric pickup maker Rivian have plunged with a bleak outlook for the next few years as the company burns through cash raised at its Initial Public Offering. But the car buyers who forked over around $75,000 for the battery-electric truck apparently are very happy with their purchase as the start-up scored higher than any other premium make on J.D. Power’s U.S. Electric Vehicle Experience Ownership Study.

Thus, the Rivian R1T bested the Tesla Model 3 in the premium segment, and there were five premium nameplates all together. Mini Cooper Electric topped the list of mass-market cars in the study, ahead of the Ford Mustang Mach-E and Kia EV6. There were 10 mass-market BEVs in the study.

The 2023 study considers 10 factors (in alphabetical order): accuracy of stated battery range; availability of public charging stations; battery range; cost of ownership; driving enjoyment; ease of charging at home; interior and exterior styling; safety and technology features; service experience; and vehicle quality and reliability.

Rivian scored 794 on a scale of 1,000 possible points, while the Tesla scored 759. The Mini scored 782, followed by 762 for the EV6 and 742 for the Mach-E.

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“The electric vehicle landscape is changing quickly, and newer models are bringing in more mainstream, first-time EV buyers,” says Brent Gruber, executive director of the EV practice at J.D. Power. “Recent vehicle launches from both new brands and traditional automakers have had a profound effect on what factors are most important in the ownership experience. Today’s EV owners are looking for quality, reliability, driving enjoyment, safety and technology features.”

All the vehicles cited in the J.D. Power study use a battery as their sole propulsion system. Wards specifies these vehicles as BEVs to distinguish them from the range of electrified vehicles including BEVs, gasoline-electric hybrids, plug-in hybrid-electrics and hydrogen fuel-cell electrics.

Though buyers of these cars can be considered early adopters, and are predisposed to grading their vehicles well, the Power study finds that BEV owners are grading their experiences similarly as owners of internal-combustion-engine vehicles.

Among premium BEV owners, the most problematic categories are squeaks and rattles (17.5 problems per 100 vehicles [PP100]) and exterior (13.6 PP100). The largest gap in satisfaction between owners of premium and mass-market BEVs is availability of public charging, which is greatly influenced by the Tesla network of chargers. Among premium BEV owners, satisfaction with public charging availability is just 589 out of 1,000, while satisfaction among mass-market BEV owners is well below that at 341.

“The EV marketplace is dynamic and the important factors that manufacturers need to watch will vary based on their history and experience,” Gruber says. “First-time EV buyers who are more mainstream will compare their EV’s build quality to what they know about gas-powered vehicles.”

New to the study this year are questions specific to BEV trucks regarding towing. Interestingly, satisfaction is higher among BEV truck owners who have used their vehicle for towing (779) than among owners who have not towed (753).

Satisfaction with driving range is higher among owners who have towed (635) than among those who have not towed (617), and satisfaction with accuracy of stated range also is higher (707 vs. 680, respectively). Truck manufacturers that proactively communicate the effect that towing has on range — like they do with gas mileage — seems to help set owner expectations, the study shows.

The study was conducted in collaboration with PlugShare, an EV driver application maker and research firm.

Broad Takeaways

Automakers still are losing a lot of customer satisfaction from the non-intuitive user interfaces of telematics and entertainment systems. With the growth of BEVs, automakers are trying to feature more and more apps and revenue-driving services. It's to figure out why system designers are not on the same page with vehicle owners.

Tesla and its founder Elon Musk have certainly disrupted the auto industry. And some of the company and owner practices seem to hold the No.1 BEV maker back. But the decision by Musk to build out the company’s own charging network looks like a master stroke given the dysfunction of the non-Tesla charging network nationwide.

About the Author(s)

David Kiley

Senior Editor, WardsAuto

David Kiley is an award winning journalist. Prior to joining WardsAuto, Kiley held senior editorial posts at USA Today, Businessweek, AOL Autos/Autoblog and Adweek, as well as being a contributor to Forbes, Fortune, Popular Mechanics and more.

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