You can always rely on Tesla and Mercedes Benz right? Wrong. Despite an increase in their technical ability these are two cars which sit at the bottom of the Auto Reliability Report.
It gets worse though. The report investigates in excess of 300,000 cars and compares how they perform.
To be fair, the list is not comprehensive to all cars. They’re attempting to compare Apples to Apples, so they only include car models that were introduced within the past three years. (Any car brand which has had a major redesign can only have the redesigned car or cars investigated.) So basically this isn’t attempting to compare the reliability of new Tesla to a 1969 Ford Pinto or something. We’re talking about reliability issues when compared to other new model cars.
There appears to be problems with high technology – the digital controls are a headache for some people to understand. Exactly why some fairly inconspicuous things such as door handles keep being redesigned seems to be another mystery. In other words, designers and engineers still struggle with what the public will consider user friendly.
The study of making something intuitive is called UXUI and it’s been a chronic struggle in all technology reliant fields for many years.
So with all excuses, er, valid reasons, and caveats now listed, here are the findings.
The Tesla Model Y has the unfortunate honor of being one of the 10 least reliable cars, which includes how the paint reacts to stimulus, the climate system and so on. Yet many people still want to buy a Tesla.
There have been complaints of various scratches on the paintwork, creaking doors and even rattling heard while driving. These aren’t major issues, but they will be annoying for any owner. Certainly, it’s not what you may expect from a luxury car.
The noise problem specifically, may be a symptom of another common complaint– “panel gaps.” A panel gap happens during the car’s construction. The car’s various panels, such as the roof, each of the doors, the hood and so on can only have so much room between it and the next panel or it will result in weird noises when driving. There is a special instrument which measures how much panel gap there is.
RepairPal marks the Mercedes Benz as average, which although makes it a typical car isn’t what you expect from a Merc. They cost an average repair cost of $908 per year which is, it turns out, the average cost of repairing a car. One might expect to pay more to fix a luxury car, but to have less frequent cause to repair them. Only 13% of all repairs are severe but that’s generally the case with all repairs from all makers studied.
Again, this is a new car, not one you bought off a teenager who modified it for street racing or something.
The cost of ownership is related to reliability – how likely it is to break down – and how much it costs when it does. To put a spin on the problems with Mercedes, at least people aren’t experiencing out of the ordinary repair bills. It’s the normal repair bills which are the problem.
In tests the BMW performs better than the Merc. According to the Reliability Index, the Mercedes Benz is rated about the same as a Jeep, which sounds all right, until you realize that a Jeep isn’t a luxury brand, so it could be argued that paying more for prestige didn’t also buy you a better vehicle. Based on these numbers you’re better off buying a Jeep and saving up the rest for repairs.
So, if the prestige is what you care about, you are still okay. So that means Mercedes Benz neither overdelivers nor underdelivers.
Not everyone agrees with this assessment – after all the Mercedes E-class was the 2021 Car of the Year including quality of the ride. The ride quality is to do with how well the car deals with road surface looks, rather than the aesthetic nature of the dashboard or how comfortable the car seat looks. So, we aren’t being very fair if we indicate that Merc buyers are only going for prestige. Quality is in the eye of the car buyer and your decision could be based on your own list of criteria.
Our only challenge is the perception many buyers have, that luxury cars are “better quality,” which may or may not be true if you’re viewing it through the lens of the repair bill.