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Video: Who makes the most reliable cars?

Consumer Reports News: November 01, 2010 02:07 PM

Consumer Reports released the findings from its latest annual car reliability survey last week, showing how car brands and models compare based on new car predicted reliability. The results reveal that some Asian brands again top the list, American brands are spread out with just Ford and Lincoln among the top half rankings, and leading European prestige brands are among the least reliable. But how do the automakers themselves stack up when we combine all their brands?

When looking at the automakers, the reliability findings are quite similar to those at the brand level, despite that each brand has a range of reliability. There is a slight shuffle, as the chart below indicates. For instance, combining Lexus, Scion, and Toyota allows Porsche to rise to the top position as the automaker with the highest predicted reliability. Of course, Porsche benefits from having just three sporty models that we have sufficient data on, compared against a more diverse 41 model versions for Toyota.

Strong showings by both Acura and Honda enable Honda Motor Company to claim the second position, with a full 100 percent of its models rated average or above for predicted reliability.

Toyota claims the third spot, aided by Scion’s performance as the most reliable brand and top-10 rankings for Lexus and Toyota. However, they have two models that rated below average.

Subaru has earned the fourth position with consistently reliable products. Among the models that we tested, only the Subaru Impreza WRX is not Consumer Reports recommended due to below-average reliability.

A full 100 percent of Volvo models are average or above in reliability, showing a significant increase over the year prior. For 2010, 63 percent of the Volvo line-up was average or better. Since our predicted reliability ratings factor in data from the newest three model years, we would not know the impact of the new Chinese owner Geely for a while.

Ford Motor Company leads the domestic automakers, again with 90 percent of its products rated at average or better reliability.

Hyundai dipped slightly for 2011, sliding two positions. Still, the six models that were newly introduced in 2010 rated at average or better in predicted reliability, and Consumer Reports recommends them all. Only one model, the Kia Sedona, rated below average.

General Motors makes the top 10 position. At a glance, GM has made significant gains, with just 43 percent of its models being average or better in 2010 and now 69 percent making the grade for 2011. However, part of this gain was the discontinuation of several models rated below-average last year, including the Hummer H3; Saturn Astra, Outlook, and Sky; and Pontiac G6, Solstice, and Vue. Most of their newly introduced models started out reliable and some older models also improved. Today, all remaining GM brands trail Asian brands for reliability, but they trump Audi, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz.

The European prestige brands demonstrate this year that paying extra for luxury may likely lead to also paying extra for repairs. All three companies offer some models that are quite reliable, though their ranking is hurt by other models that are far below average.

Volkswagen falls outside the top 10, brought down by Audi.Various Audi models rated below average, including the A6 3.0T (tied for least-reliable car). The VW Routan, a Chrysler-sourced minivan also proved unreliable, as did its siblings.

At the automaker level, there are some clear trends. In descending order, Porsche, Honda, Toyota, Subaru, Volvo, Ford, Hyundai/Kia, and Mazda models are generally safer bets for reliability. Though not all their cars meet our requirements to be recommended, including performance in our tests and crash test ratings by the government and insurance industry.

With other automakers, reliability is more variable and risky. Of course, just because a model has a greater likelihood of experiencing a problem doesn’t mean all buyers will suffer from reliability woes. But it does mean there is a greater risk for unscheduled expenses and inconveniences.

2011 Rank Automaker Number of models 2011 percent
at least average
2010 percent
at least average
1 Porsche 3 100% 100%
2 Honda 20 100% 100%
3 Toyota 41 95% 98%
4 Subaru 9 89% 91%
5 Volvo 6 100% 63%
6 Ford 30 90% 90%
7 Nissan 24 83% 88%
8 Hyundai/Kia 16 94% 87%
9 Mazda 14 93% 92%
10 GM 52 69% 43%
11 VW/Audi 16 56% 71%
12 Mercedes-Benz 13 54% 70%
13 BMW 16 50% 53%
14 Chrysler 20 40% 38%

With such a major purchase, it is well worth doing your research to be able to compare reliability, test scores, and safety--all included in the interactive new car selector tool.

Learn more about car reliability. See car reliability by car types.

Jeff Bartlett

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