The Future May Be Rosy, But For Now, J.D. Power Says EV Owners Are Less Happy With Service Experience

In the long run, it’s supposed to be cheaper and easier to service battery powered electric vehicles, vs. cars and trucks with internal-combustion engines, but in the short run, BEVs drag down the average for customer satisfaction in the latest J.D. Power Customer Service Index, published on March 9.

In the survey, EV owners report their vehicles were more likely to be recalled than ICE vehicles, and that was a big reason for lower marks, said Chris Sutton, vice president of automotive retail at J.D. Power.

“EV satisfaction is concerning,” if it doesn’t improve in the next couple of years, Sutton said in a phone interview. On average, customer service satisfaction among owners of EVs is 42 points lower than owners of ICE vehicles, at 806 vs. 848 respectively, according to the survey.

What went wrong? BEVs are mechanically simpler, with fewer moving parts than ICE vehicles, and no engine oil as coolant. They should be simpler to fix, and require fewer dealership visits, since there are no oil changes.

Separately, Consumer Reports in November 2022 gave EVs lower reliability scores vs. ICE vehicles, for issues like fit and finish, and infotainment systems. The good news was, EV owners did not report a lot of complaints about the electric powertrain, Consumer Reports said.

At J.D. Power, the Customer Service Index is on a 1,000-point scale. For the industry as whole, the average score was 846.

That was down vs. the previous year’s survey. Granted, it was only a 2-point decline out of a possible 1,000 points.

But Sutton said it was the first time in 28 years the industry CSI score failed to improve from one year to the next, and EVs contributed to the decline in the average score for the total industry, even though EV market share is still relatively low.

Sutton pointed out it’s early days for mass adoption of EVs, so it’s reasonable to expect CSI scores would improve, as manufacturers get the bugs out of new technology, and as dealership service advisors and service technicians get more training and experience working on EVs.

In 2022, U.S. market share for EVs was 5.6%, up from 3.1% a year earlier, according to Automotive News. Contributor Jim Henry, a freelancer, also writes for Automotive News.

Besides a higher average level of recalls, EV owners also reported lower satisfaction with “service advisor knowledge,” the J.D. Power survey said. EV owners rated service advisor knowledge at 8.01 out of ten, vs. 8.59 for ICE vehicles.

“On the service adviser side, that’s a place where you would hope there could be some strides,” Sutton said.

This year’s U.S. Customer Service Index Study is based on responses from 64,248 owners and lessees of 2020 to 2022 model-year vehicles. The study was fielded from August through December 2022, J.D. Power said.