News Column

Toyota Brands Earn Top Spots in Reliability Study

Oct. 30, 2012

Brent Snavely

Scion xB
Scion xB

Toyota's three brands -- Scion, Toyota and Lexus -- swept the three top spots in Consumer Reports' annual reliability survey, which analyzes subscribers' experiences with 1.2 million new vehicles to predict future reliability.

Ford's reliability took its biggest hit yet as complaints about its MyFord Touch infotainment system and a new transmission continued to hurt the automaker, causing its ranking to fall to 27th of 28 brands, down from 20th in last year's study.

Cadillac, at 11th, was judged the most reliable domestic brand, improving from 25th last year.

Asian brands took nine of the top 10 spots. Audi, at No. 8, was the only German automaker to rank in the top 10. This year, Mazda was ranked fourth, followed by Subaru, Honda, Acura, Audi, Infiniti and Kia.

The drop for Ford comes three years after Consumer Reports praised Ford as the only domestic automaker with "world class reliability." Two years ago, the Ford brand also cracked the top 10. Now, only Jaguar is ranked lower.

Despite efforts to improve MyFord Touch, the smartphone-like screen on which drivers can control everything from their phones to temperature settings to entertainment options, continues to confuse some customers, said Jake Fisher, director of testing for the magazine.

Fisher said customers say the touch screens sometimes go blank, or settings disappear and sometimes the system needs to be rebooted. Customers also continue to complain about rough shifting with Ford's six-speed, dual-clutch Powershift transmission, Fisher said.

"They've put out some updates to try to address some of those problems for both the transmissions and the infotainment controls, but it doesn't seem to be enough," Fisher said.

Chrysler also had a disappointing showing. The Auburn Hills automaker has devoted tremendous attention to quality in recent launches of new vehicles. Still, three of its four brands ranked near the bottom. Jeep, the automaker's top-ranked brand, finished 19th, six spots lower than last year.

Inconsistent reliability for Chrysler was caused by problems with optional powertrains and issues with features found on higher-priced versions, the magazine said.

Fisher said Chrysler's problems stem from overhauling so many vehicles so quickly. The Auburn Hills automaker significantly redesigned or upgraded 18 cars and trucks in 18 months after it emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

Those changes included new engines and other new technology.

"Chrysler seems to be a victim of its own improvements," Fisher said. "They have actually improved a lot of their vehicles quite a bit, but when you make so many changes it is hard to maintain your reliability."

In addition to Cadillac's much-improved showing, Buick, Chevrolet and GMC all climbed several spots.

The Cadillac brand was the first to receive substantial changes and upgrades from GM after it came out of Chapter 11 bankruptcy and has been steadily improving in recent years, Fisher said.

Consumer Reports is often criticized for favoring Asian automakers over domestic automakers because Asian automakers almost always finish near the top and the Detroit Three typically struggle.

"We are basically just taking data that the consumers and subscribers are providing to us," Fisher said. "We often have people tell us they really love their domestic cars."

Consumer Reports' reliability ratings

Automakers were ranked based on average predicted reliability scores:

1. Scion
2. Toyota
3. Lexus
4. Mazda
5. Subaru
6. Honda
7. Acura
8. Audi
9. Infiniti
10. Kia
11. Cadillac
12. GMC
13. Nissan
14. Mercedes-Benz
15. Chevrolet
16. BMW
17. Hyundai
18. Volkswagen
19. Jeep
20. Volvo
21. Buick
22. Mini
23. Chrysler
24. Dodge
25. Ram
26. Lincoln
27. Ford
28. Jaguar

For more coverage on the automotive industry, please see HispanicBusiness' Auto Channel

Source: (c)2012 the Detroit Free Press Distributed by MCT Information Services

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