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Japanese brands tops in Consumer Reports' 2012 Car Reliability Survey, Ford continues fall

Japanese brands tops in Consumer Reports’ 2012 Car Reliability Survey, Ford continues fall

Japanese brands dominate the latest Consumer Reports’ Car Reliability Survey, claiming the top seven spots in new-car reliability. At the other end of the spectrum, Ford now ranks second from the bottom, followed closely by Lincoln.

The top three brands all hail from Toyota. Each Toyota brand touts that their entire product range has average or better predicted reliability. The subcompact Toyota Prius C earned Consumer Reports top reliability rating overall, although it did not score well enough in our testing to be recommended.

Only two years ago, Ford was Detroit’s reliability leader. It cracked the top 10 among brands in Consumer Reports predicted-reliability scores, with more than 90 percent of its models being average or better. Now, 60 percent of its models are below average, with the worst being literally off the chart at 226-percent worse than the average car.

Several factors contributed to Ford’s decline in Consumer Reports reliability rankings. A few new or redesigned models, including the Explorer, Fiesta, and Focus, came out of the gate with more problems than normal. Further, the MyFord/MyLincoln Touch electronic infotainment system has been problematic so far, and it has been added to many vehicles, impacting reliability across several models. In addition, three historically reliable models–the Ford Escape and Fusion and Lincoln MKZ–were redesigned for 2013 and not included in the analysis.

Cadillac is the top domestic brand, having moved up 14 spots this year. All General Motors nameplates–Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, and GMC–rose in the ranking. The Volt extended-range electric car continues to have above-average reliability, and the compact Chevrolet Cruze, dismal in its first year, improved to average.

Chrysler brands had a few setbacks. This year, Consumer Reports has enough data to report that problems with some of the recently revamped Chrysler and Dodge models have dragged the nameplates’ rankings down. Last year Jeep was the top-ranked domestic brand, but it has since slid down six positions. Separating its trucks into a new nameplate, Ram, didn’t help Dodge’s standing.

The story from Europe is decidedly upbeat, with all of the German luxury brands showing improvement. Six of the seven Audis in CR’s survey rated average or better, as did 10 of the 12 BMWs. Mercedes-Benz made a good showing, with the turbocharged, four-cylinder C250 sedan doing well in its first year and the V6 E-Class sedan moving from average to above average. But the redesigned M-Class came in below average in its first year. Volkswagen had mixed results due to troubles with the Beetle, GTI, Jetta, and Touareg.

Best Worst
Scion Jaguar
Toyota Ford
Lexus Lincoln
Mazda Ram
Subaru Dodge
Honda Chrysler
Acura Mini
Audi Buick
Infiniti Volvo
Kia Jeep

As is the case every year, there is much movement across the industry, underscoring the importance of not making assumptions simply based on brand reputation. Within a brand’s portfolio, there are models that are better than others.

The findings from Consumer Reports 2012 Annual Auto Survey are based on subscribers’ experiences with 1.2 million vehicles. The organization uses that extensive data to predict how well new cars that are currently on sale will likely hold up. The complete report and rankings are now available at ConsumerReports.org on model pages and Ratings charts.

See our complete report on car reliability, and visit our car reliability special section.

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