Tesla Tops 2016 Consumer Reports Owner Satisfaction Survey

Tesla tops Consumer Reports customer satisfaction surveryEvery year, Consumer Reports asks hundreds of thousand of people to tell it how happy they are with their car. Then it tabulates the results to get a mathematical picture of how good a job every car brand in the US marketplace ranks in customer satisfaction. For 2016, Tesla sits at the very top of the list. Despite a raft of issues with the Tesla Model X, people who buy Teslas love their cars more than owners of any other brand.

Of course everybody loves a car when it’s new. After all, people spend hours, days, sometimes weeks deciding what car to buy. Why wouldn’t they be happy? But what about after the new wears off, the car gets dirty from rain, snow, and road salt and the owner has trudged back and forth to work for a few months? Do people still love their cars then?

How does the survey work? Here’s how CR phrases it in their typically clinical terms: “Model satisfaction is determined by the percentage of owners who responded ‘definitely yes’ to the question of whether they would buy the same vehicle if they had it to do all over again.” This year’s survey included cars from model years 2014 through 2017.

To be included in the survey, a manufacturer has to offer at least two models and the responses from owners have to cover all the models offered. As Consumer Reports  notes, one outstanding model or one clunker in the lineup does not accurately define an entire brand. The responses are averaged for each manufacturer then ranked mathematically.

After tabulating more than 300,000 responses, Consumer Reports says Tesla owners as a group are happy campers. 91% said they would definitely buy another Tesla. Pretty good for a start up automaker that didn’t start selling cars until less than 5 years ago. Others at the top of the list are Porsche, Audi, and Subaru.

It is interesting to note that Subaru tops all manufacturers when price is taken into consideration. Tesla, Porsche, and Audi all make great cars but few of them are affordable by mainstream buyers.

Some brands surged upward in this year’s survey, others tumbled down the order alarmingly. The winners include Hyundai, which shot up from 24th position last year to 13th in 2016. Lincoln Motor Company’s quirky ads featuring Matthew McConaughey seem to be working. It climbed up from 21st to 12th.

Not so fortunate is the iconic Dodge Ram brand. Its fall from grace was dramatic as it dropped from 5th place last year to 17th position in the 2016 survey. BMW dropped from 6th to 14th overall and Volkswagen, which was 16th last year, fell even further to a lowly 24th place ranking.

Does a low ranking indicate anything about the quality of the cars in a manufacturer’s lineup? Not necessarily. All this survey does is ask people if they would buy another car from the same brand. Car ownership is a highly emotional experience and the marketplace is a notoriously fickle environment. That’s life, as Frank Sinatra would say.

The love Tesla gets from its owners may be a bit of an aberration. The company has sold far fewer cars in total than any other company in the survey. People who buy Teslas consider themselves to be at the bleeding edge of technology and, let’s face it, are inclined to think they are part of a Zen-like experience.

Let’s see how the numbers hold up when the Model 3 gets here and the company starts cranking out a half million cars a year or more. Model 3 owners may not be cosseted and coddled quite as much as those who buy a Model S sedan or Model X SUV. Check back at the end of 2019 to see if Tesla is able to keep the magic flowing.

Source: Consumer Reports



Steve Hanley

Closely following the transition from internal combustion to electricity. Whether it's cars, trucks, ships, or airplanes, sustainability is the key. Please follow me on Google + and Twitter.