Electric vehicles perform mixed general inspection (HU). This is demonstrated by the results of the “TÜV Report 2024”. 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 takes last place in this age group with a defect rate of 14.7%. The Renault ZOE is at the top of the table with 5.1%.
“With the success of electromobility, more and more electric cars are entering test centers,” explains Joachim Bühler, managing director of the TÜV association. “TÜV tests reveal some typical driving defects that are relevant for the technical safety of electric vehicles.”
Defects in the braking function are detected more frequently than average. One reason is recuperation, with which electric vehicles can recover braking energy. Brake pads are therefore subjected to less stress than in combustion engines, which can lead to impaired braking performance. Another weak point of many electric cars is the axle suspension. Especially in the case of the Renault ZOE, the defect rate in the first and second HU is significantly above average. “The axle suspensions of many electric cars suffer from the high weight of the traction batteries,” says Bühler. “The result was negative test results at HU and expensive repairs.”
This also applies to Tesla’s Model 3: In addition to defects in the axle suspension, the American electric car has above-average defect rates in the brakes and lighting. This places the Model 3 last in the rankings for 2- to 3-year-olds among 111 car types tested in this age group. Although the mileage after three years is 55,000 kilometers, well above the average of 41,000, other frequently used vehicles perform significantly better. Bühler: “To what extent the defects found on the brakes and axles are typical for electric vehicles and whether manufacturers need to make improvements to certain models will become clear in the coming years.”
One in five vehicles breaks down
The overall assessment of the TÜV report 2024 shows: With a share of 20.5%, 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 the TÜV test centers found “minor defects” in 11.2 percent of the vehicles (+0.5 points). 0.05% were classified as “unsafe for traffic” and had to be stopped immediately: according to all general checks carried out in Germany this corresponds to around 15,000 vehicles.
“After a positive pandemic effect, the defect rate returned to its previous level,” reports Bühler. “There has been no lasting improvement in the technical safety of the car fleet in Germany in recent years.” Vehicles with “significant defects” must be repaired within a month and then resubmitted to inspection 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 percentage of reported vehicles increases with age. The average age of the car fleet in Germany is continuously increasing and currently averages ten years. In 2023, 45% of the vehicle fleet will be 10 years old or older. For comparison: in 2019 it was 42%.
“We observe two trends: the longevity of vehicles is improving, rust is no longer a problem,” explains Bühler. “At the same time, new car prices have exploded. Many consumers can no longer afford this and are dependent on a used vehicle.”
Due to the growing importance of older cars, the current TÜV report also includes vehicles aged between 12 and 13 years for the first time. The average failure rate (significant deficiencies) in this age group is 28.9%. The most vulnerable models are Renault Twingo with 39.9% and Dacia Logan with 40.9%. The Audi TT, apparently well maintained by its owner, accounts for only 15.0% and the VW Golf Plus 20.7%. “Despite an overall better longevity, older vehicles pose a problem for road safety,” says Bühler. “When it comes to used vehicles, those interested in purchasing should know the weaknesses 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 TÜV report 2024 is the VW Golf Sportsvan. The percentage of 2-3 year old vehicles with significant defects is only 2.0%. This is the lowest value among all tested vehicles. Also on the podium were the Audi Q2 with 2.1% and the Audi TT with 2.5%. In addition to the two-time winner Golf Sportsvan, the VW T-Roc also impressed with a defect rate of 4.5 percent among children aged 4 to 5 years. The Mazda CX-3 wins among 6 to 7 year olds with 6.5%.
In the vehicle class ranking, the Opel Karl leads the minis with 3.6% in first Hungary. Among slightly larger small cars the Peugeot 208 wins with 4.0% and among compacts the e-Golf (2.6%). Among SUVs, the Audi Q2 is in the lead (2.1%) and among vans, the Golf Sportsvan (2.0%). Bühler: “The TÜV report 2024 shows that numerous manufacturers have achieved top positions in different age and vehicle classes. Longevity and quality repay customers and guarantee a high level of vehicle safety.”
The TÜV association requires access to data relevant to vehicle safety
In view of the electrification and digitalisation of the vehicle fleet, the TÜV association calls for further development of the general inspection. “Testing the high-voltage battery of electric cars has so far consisted of a purely visual inspection,” says Bühler. With additional test points, protection against electric shock and surges can be improved.
“Monitoring organizations need better access to safety-relevant data of vehicles to be able to monitor the status of the battery and other components,” explains Bühler. This included cybersecurity and software status, as manufacturer updates affect the operation and safety 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 the creation of a digital vehicle register. “A digital logbook traces the history of a vehicle and documents changes relevant to safety and the environment,” says Bühler. In addition to tow hooks, aluminum wheels and adapted spoilers, the modifications also included software updates that influence the driving characteristics and other functions of a car. Bühler: “A digital vehicle register, as is already the case in other countries, brings greater transparency to the increasingly important used car market.”