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Consumer Reports’ car reliability survey shows brands rising and falling

Japanese brands still dominate, European brands gain ground, Ford flounders

Published: October 28, 2013 12:45 PM

Japanese car brands continue to dominate in car reliability, but brands from all corners of the globe showed movement in the latest analysis. Lexus, Toyota, and Acura claim the top three spots in predicted reliability rankings by brands. But that is not to say choosing a Japanese-branded car ensures fewer problems.

In fact, we’ve seen some Japanese brands tumble, with Subaru, Scion, and Nissan all losing several positions over last-year’s rankings. Meanwhile, Audi, having shown steady improvement in vehicle reliability during recent years, moved up four places this year to finish fourth overall—the top European carmaker in the survey. Three Audis—the A6 2.0T sedan, Q7 SUV, and Allroad wagon—have "much better than average" reliability. Volvo jumped 13 places to seventh.

Domestic brands are led by General Motors, with GMC, Buick, and Chevrolet ranking above the brands from Chrysler Corp. and Ford Motor Company. GMC is the lone domestic brand in the top 10, claiming the 9th spot. Buick is close by in 12th spot. All Buicks except the V6 LaCrosse were average or better. The only dark spots for Chevrolet are the Camaro and Cruze, both of which earned below-average reliability scores.

Despite climbing five spots to 18th, Chrysler models are still below par overall. Ram is next in line at 19th, with Jeep at 23rd and Dodge at 24th. (Because the Fiat line was limited to the 500 when the survey was conducted, we do not have sufficient models to have included that brand in the rankings. We require at least two models for this ranking.) Some of the automaker’s most reliable models, such as the Jeep Compass and Jeep Patriot SUVs, didn’t score well in our testing rendering them ineligible for a recommendation. And the better-performing Jeep Grand Cherokee V6 has fallen well below average in reliability.

Ford and Lincoln crowd the bottom, with only Mini scoring worse. These domestic brands are hampered primarily by the MyTouch infotainment systems, and some problems in versions with the V6 EcoBoost. There are problems with components associated with those heavily marketed engines, rather than the engines themselves. In-car electronics have been a challenge for other manufacturers, but we’re seeing these systems prove especially troublesome for Ford and Lincoln. As a follow-up survey revealed, there is a learning curve with advanced infotainment systems, but with the reliability survey, we’re focused strictly on serious problems that might require a trip to the dealer. And with MyTouch, the problem rate is high, partially contributing to two thirds of the 34 Fords and Lincolns in our reliability survey getting scores that were much worse than average. The F-150 pickup with the 3.7-liter V6 was the only one above average. Seven achieved an average score.

The most reliable and unreliable models
The most-reliable new car in our latest survey is the 2014 Subaru Forester. This small SUV has done great in our testing. It has excellent crash test scores. And now it is the reliability champ. A true grand slam.

The worst score goes to the Ford C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid, with the regular C-Max Hybrid not faring much better. To be clear, this should not cast a negative light on other electric cars or hybrids. In fact, the Toyota Prius, Lexus ES 300h, Toyota Prius C, and Honda CR-Z hybrids, along with the pure-electric Nissan Leaf, were among the top models in reliability. This is more of a Ford issue.

Digging into the data, there are interesting findings throughout. For example, Japanese nameplates do not always make reliable cars. The Honda Accord V6, once the paragon of reliability, has a below-average rating. And the redesigned Nissan Altima, in both four- and six-cylinder forms, is well below average and last among midsized cars.

At the other end, the high-tech, high-test-scoring Tesla Model S earned an average predicted reliability score, enabling us to formally recommend it.

For more findings, read our complete report at: consumerreports.org/reliability.

Full reliability details, broken down across 17 problem areas, can be found on the individual model pages.

   

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