Electric vehicles have a mixed role in general inspection (HU). This is demonstrated by the results of the “TÜV 2024 Report”. The VW e-Golf, which is no longer produced, is the best compact car among 2-3 year old vehicles, with a defect rate of 2.6%. In contrast, the Tesla Model 3 ranks last in this age group, with a defect rate of 14.7 percent. The Renault ZOE is in the upper midfield with 5.1 percent.
“With the success of electromobility, more and more electric cars are arriving at test centers,” explains Joachim Bühler, managing director of the TÜV association. “TÜV tests reveal some typical driving defects that are relevant to the technical safety of electric vehicles.”
Defects in the braking function are discovered more frequently than average. One of the reasons is recovery, with which electric vehicles can recover braking energy. Brake pads are therefore subject to less stress compared to combustion engines, which can lead to a decrease in braking performance. Another weak point of many electric cars is the axle suspension. In the case of the Renault ZOE in particular, the defect rates of the first and second HU are significantly above average. “The axle suspensions of many electric cars suffer from the high weight of the traction batteries,” says Bühler. “The result is negative test results at the HU and expensive repairs.”
This also applies to Tesla’s Model 3: in addition to defects in the axle suspensions, the US electric car has above-average rates of defects in brakes and lighting. This places the Model 3 in last place in the ranking for children aged 2 to 3 among the 111 types of cars examined in this age group. Although the mileage after three years is 55,000 kilometers, well above the average of 41,000, other frequently driven vehicles perform significantly better. Bühler: “The extent to which the identified brake and axle defects are typical of electric vehicles and whether manufacturers need to make improvements to certain models will become clear in the coming years.”
Every fifth vehicle fails
The global assessment of the TÜV 2024 report shows: With a percentage of 20.5 percent, one in five cars has “significant” or “dangerous” defects and therefore failed the general inspection (HU). Compared to the same period last year, this is a slight increase of 0.3 percentage points.
Experts at TÜV test centers found “minor defects” in 11.2 percent of vehicles (+0.5 points). 0.05 percent were classified as “unsafe for traffic” and had to be closed immediately – based on all general inspections in Germany, this corresponds to around 15,000 vehicles.
“After a positive pandemic effect, defect rates returned to their previous level,” reports Bühler. “There has been no sustained improvement in the technical safety of the automobile fleet in Germany in recent years.” Vehicles with “significant defects” must be repaired within a month and then returned to testing centers. If a “dangerous defect” is discovered, the owner must go directly to the workshop.
The TÜV report pays particular attention to older vehicles, as the proportion of claimed vehicles increases with age. The average age of the car fleet in Germany is continually increasing and is currently ten years on average. By 2023, 45% of the vehicle fleet will be 10 years old or more. For comparison: in 2019 it was 42 percent.
“We observe two trends: vehicle longevity is improving and rust is no longer a problem,” explains Bühler. “At the same time, new car prices have exploded. Many consumers can no longer afford and rely on a used vehicle.”
Due to the growing importance of older cars, the current TÜV report also includes vehicles that are 12 to 13 years old for the first time. The average failure rate (significant disabilities) in this age group is 28.9 percent. The most vulnerable models are the Renault Twingo at 39.9 percent and the Dacia Logan at 40.9 percent. The Audi TT, which is apparently well maintained by its owner, has just 15.0 percent and the VW Golf Plus has 20.7 percent. “Despite better overall longevity, older vehicles are a problem for road safety,” says Bühler. “When it comes to used vehicles, those interested in purchasing should know the weak points of the respective models and take into account the need to regularly invest in the maintenance and care of the vehicles.”
The overall winner of the 2024 TÜV report is the VW Golf Sportsvan. The proportion of 2 to 3 year old vehicles with significant defects is just 2.0%. This is the lowest value of all vehicles tested. The Audi Q2 also took the podium with 2.1 percent and the Audi TT with 2.5 percent. In addition to the double winner Golf Sportsvan, the VW T-Roc impressed with a 4.5% defect rate among children aged 4 to 5 years. The Mazda CX-3 wins among 6- to 7-year-olds with 6.5 percent.
In the classification by vehicle class, the Opel Karl is at the top of the minis with 3.6 percent in the first HU. Among slightly larger small cars, the Peugeot 208 wins with 4.0 percent and the e-Golf wins among compacts (2.6%). Among SUVs, the Audi Q2 leads (2.1%) and among vans, the Golf Sportsvan (2.0%). Bühler: “The TÜV 2024 report shows that several manufacturers have achieved top ratings across the various vehicle ages and classes. Longevity and quality pay off for customers and guarantee a high level of vehicle safety.”
TÜV Association demands access to safety-relevant vehicle data
With a view to the electrification and digitalization of the vehicle fleet, the TÜV Association calls for further development of general inspection. “Until now, testing the high-voltage battery of electric cars has consisted of a purely visual inspection,” says Bühler. With additional test points, protection against electric shock and surge voltages can be improved.
“Testing organizations need better access to vehicle safety-relevant data to be able to check the status of the battery and other components,” explains Bühler. This included cybersecurity and software status, as manufacturer updates influence the operation and security of the respective vehicle. Additionally, data analytics can be used to more effectively combat widespread speedometer fraud. According to European Commission estimates, the mileage of half of all used cars traded across borders is manipulated.
The TÜV Association is also in favor of creating a digital vehicle register. “A digital vehicle register maps the history of a vehicle and documents environmentally relevant and safety changes,” says Bühler. In addition to adapted trailer hitches, aluminum wheels and spoilers, the changes also included software updates that influence a car’s driving characteristics and other functions. Bühler: “A digital vehicle register, as is already common in other countries, brings more transparency to the increasingly important used car market.”