Car Industry

Tesla and Kia nab top marks in first EV ownership study from JD Power

The study not only revealed how well Tesla owners think of the company, but revealed that brand loyalty is a tough battle even for EVs.

The Model S is the top dog.
Tim Stevens/Roadshow

The times are changing, and with changes come new instruments to measure various factors of the automotive industry. On Thursday, JD Power released its very first US Electric Vehicle Experience (EVX) Ownership Study, and the big takeaway is how Tesla has an absolute lock on the premium EV segment.

Tesla scored top marks in the study, though it's fair to point out the study only involves a handful of vehicles for the 2021 iteration. EV options aren't plentiful in the US yet, and JD Power broke the study down into two sections: premium and mass-market. Even so, the Tesla Model S received the highest customer rating from owners with 738 points out of a possible 1,000 points. Just under 10,000 owners submitted responses for the study and it includes both battery-electric cars and plug-in hybrids from the 2015-2021 model years.

The US electric carmaker actually makes up the top three spots with the Model 3 (790 points) coming in behind the Model S and the Model Y (780 points) in third. The Audi E-Tron places fourth with 686 points and the Jaguar I-Pace lands in fifth with 669 points. 

And although quality concerns absolutely popped up for Tesla in this inaugural study, the brand showed a wild example of how Tesla owners are very forgiving when it comes to overlooking quality and reliability concerns for the experience. Its owners are highly satisfied overall, despite noted problems.

On the mass-market side of things, the Kia Niro EV takes the top spot with 782 points, followed by the Chevrolet Bolt EV (745 points), Hyundai Kona EV (743 points), Nissan Leaf (712 points) and Volkswagen E-Golf (696 points). This segment will heat up by this time next year as automaker introduce another batch of more affordable EVs for US buyers.

While it's a moment to celebrate for Tesla and Kia, the study also provided a positive note for any automaker in the business of selling electric cars: the vast majority of EV owners want another one. That figure, specifically, is 82% of those included in the study; this group said they "definitely will" consider another EV in the future, a lofty retention rate, indeed. Where things get interesting is brand loyalty.

Today, range is the deciding factor in the ownership experience when shoppers kick the tires on an electric car, and owners watch how the EPA-estimated range reflects their real-life driving. As the overall ownership experience satisfaction score falls for a specific brand in the study, the more likely EV owners said they would probably shop another brand, rather than stick with their current one. It's a clear conclusion that automakers can't mess up these first EVs they're rolling out because it may create some long-term repercussions and kick steady customers to a rival.

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