Consumer Reports has released its annual Auto Reliability Rankings, and surprise of surprises, Japan is dominant. Among brands in 2014, Lexus, Toyota and Acura make up the top three marques, while Mazda, Infiniti, Honda and Subaru sit fifth, sixth, eighth, and tenth, respectively. For those keeping track at home, Japan's dominance wasn't complete, though.

Audi's 2014 models helped the German brand jump from eighth to fourth, while Volvo saw a massive, 13-spot improvement, to seventh overall. Even GMC got in on the action, jumping three places, to ninth.

Outside of the top 10, America, Europe and Japan saw more mixed results. Scion took the biggest tumble of any brand, falling ten positions to number 11, while Subaru, though still in the top ten, dropped five spots (coincidentally, CR had nothing good to say about Subaru and Toyota's joint venture, calling the BRZ and Scion FR-S each brand's least reliable vehicle). Nissan fell nine places to number 22 overall. BMW and Mercedes-Benz each climbed one place, to fifteenth and thirteenth, respectively.

The big earners, though, besides Volvo, included Buick, which jumped nine places to number 12. Chrysler and Ram both saw improvements, turning in at 18 and 19 respectively, although Jeep dropped four spots and Dodge stayed level at number 24. After a big fall in last year's rankings, Ford made a mild improvement, but was still dinged by CR over infotainment issues relating to MyFord Touch. Only Lincoln and Mini scored worse than the Blue Oval.

While the American and European brands have gained ground in terms of individual marques, Japan still has a firm grasp on individual vehicle categories. Of the 18 vehicle categories, ranging from subcompacts to sports cars to full-size pickups, Japanese models led 14 categories, including the midsize car and midsize SUV rankings. Europe captured the remaining four categories, while US cars and trucks were relegated to silver medals, at best.

Take a look below for a full press release on the 2014 rankings from Consumer Reports, and be sure to pick up CR's December 2013 issue for the full story on the annual Auto Reliability Rankings.

*UPDATE: Consumer Reports has removed the Toyota Camry, RAV4 and Prius V from its list of Recommended vehicles, and has added the Tesla Model S as a Recommended vehicle. Read more about those changes here.
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Consumer Reports Annual Auto Reliability Rankings: Japanese Dominance Cracks as Audi, Volvo & GMC Secure Spots in Top 10

In-Car Electronics Prove to be Achilles Heel for Many Models in Survey

YONKERS, NY-Japanese brands have historically been known for building some of the most reliable vehicles in the world. But Consumer Reports 2013 Annual Auto Reliability rankings show that some other automakers-from Europe and the U.S.-are also capable of building reliable vehicles. Audi, Volvo, and GMC captured three of the top-10 spots in the survey this year.

Survey results were released at a press conference today before the Automotive Press Association in Detroit.

Three Japanese brands, Lexus, Toyota, and Acura captured the top three spots in the survey, which was conducted by the Consumer Reports National Research Center. The survey is believed to be the largest of its kind; findings are based on CR subscribers' experiences with 1.1 million vehicles. Consumer Reports uses the survey data to compile reliability histories on vehicles and predict how well new cars that are currently on sale will hold up.

For more than a decade, Japanese brands have had a lock on most of the top spots in the survey. It's been rare for a European, Korean, or U.S. carmaker to achieve anything higher than seventh or eighth place.

But Audi, which has shown steady improvement in vehicle reliability during recent years, moved up four places this year to finish fourth overall-the top European manufacturer in the survey. Three Audis, the A6 sedan, Q7 SUV and Allroad wagon, have "much better than average" reliability. Volvo jumped 13 places to seventh. GMC emerged as the top domestic brand, finishing ninth-three places higher than last year. Moreover, every model from Audi, GMC, and Volvo, for which CR has data, earned an average or better reliability score.

The top predicted-reliability score went to the redesigned 2014 Subaru Forester SUV, which hadn't been on the market for very long when CR conducted the survey. The Ford C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid got the worst score, and the regular C-Max Hybrid wasn't much better.

General Motors fared better than other domestic brands. In addition to GMC, Buick climbed nine slots to 12th place over last year. 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.

Japanese brands took seven out of the 10 top spots in the survey. Nissan sank to 22nd among the 28 brands in the rankings. As a group, the nine Japanese brands in the survey still produce a remarkable number of reliable cars. Of the almost 100 models, 90 percent were average or better and almost a third ofthem received top marks. Ten of those highest scorers were Toyotas. Of the eight Lexus models in CR's survey, six got top marks. All Lexus and Acura models earned an above average reliability score while all Infiniti, Mazda, and Toyota models earned an average or better reliability score.

Two popular models, the redesigned 2013 Honda Accord V6 and the 2013 Nissan Altima, scored too poorly in the survey for Consumer Reports to continue Recommending them. Last year, CR had predicted that both vehicles would have at least average reliability.

Mazda slipped from fourth to fifth. The redesigned Mazda6 debuted with above-average
reliability. Subaru and Scion, which also typically rank well in reliability, were torpedoed by their twin sports cars, the Subaru BRZ and the Scion FR-S, which scored below average. This dropped Subaru to 10th place, from last year's fifth. Scion, for which CR had only two models with sufficient data, sank from first place to 11th this time.

One of the key problem areas in Consumer Reports' survey centers on in-car electronics, including the proliferating suite of audio, navigation, communication, and connected systems in newer cars. Of the 17 problem areas CR asks about, the category including in-car electronics generated more complaints from owners of 2013 models than for any other category.

In many cases, the survey revealed touch-screen infotainment systems have been buggy, with frustrating screen freezes, touch-control lag, or a reluctance to recognize a cell-phone, an MP3 device, or a voice command.

Hybrids and electric cars continue to do well. The Toyota Prius, Lexus ES 300h, Toyota Prius C, and Honda CR-Z hybrids, as well as the Nissan Leaf electric car, were among the top models. Ford's CMax and Fusion hybrids were the only exceptions.

The Tesla Model S electric car performed well enough in the survey to earn a Recommendation from CR for the first time. CR gathered data on more than 600 2012 and 2013 models. Owners of the 2012 model reported very few problems, although 2013 owners reported quite a few more. Problem areas included wind noise, squeaks and rattles, and body hardware (including the sunroof, doors, and locks).

Of the 31 Ford models in Consumer Reports' survey, only one, the F-150 pickup with the 3.7- liter V6, was above average. Seven achieved an average score. Ford's challenges don't end with the historically problematic My-Touch systems. Several EcoBoost turbocharged V6 models have poor reliability as well. Almost two-thirds of the 34 Fords and Lincolns in our survey got scores that were much worse than average.

Chrysler is still below par overall, but a bright spot is the very nice Chrysler 300 C which scores above average-last year it was the company's most troublesome vehicle. Unfortunately, some of Chrysler's most reliable models, such as the Jeep Compass and Patriot SUVs, didn't score well in Consumer Reports' testing, while the better performing 2014 V6 Jeep Grand Cherokee has fallen well below average reliability.

In recent years, Hyundai and Kia were beginning to challenge the Japanese at the top of Consumer Reports' reliability rankings. In 2011, they scored well ahead of Detroit and most European companies. But they slipped a bit in the 2013 survey, with Kia ranking midpack and Hyundai sliding to 21st place.

BMW and Mercedes-Benz remained around midpack among all brands. Most models from those German badges are average or better, with each company having a few problem children: the BMW 335i and turbocharged six-cylinder X3, and the diesel-powered Mercedes M-Class. Volkswagen, which turned in a middling performance, was especially hampered by the trouble-prone Beetle, GTI, and Touareg. All three Minis in our survey made a very poor showing.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 72 Comments
      NightFlight
      • 1 Year Ago
      Mazda is more reliable than Honda. All the more reason to buy a 3 over a boring, outdated Civic, and a 6 over the Accord.
        Famsert
        • 1 Year Ago
        @NightFlight
        Eh I'd still take the Accord over the 6.
        piggybox
        • 1 Year Ago
        @NightFlight
        Now Audi is more reliable than Honda. That's a real surprise.
          Phil B
          • 1 Year Ago
          @piggybox
          Yeah....somehow I'm not entirely believing that just yet. And I say this as someone who loves Audi.
        TheDoctor
        • 17 Days Ago
        @NightFlight

        Honda is way more reliable than Mazda.

        FutureDoc
        • 1 Year Ago
        @NightFlight
        Well, my friend's 3 has had one less "problem" than my wife's Fit. Then again, failed/improperly installed weather-stripping is not the end of the world. Honda has taken steps back and Mazda seems to be upping their game.
          Bryan Pizzuti
          • 1 Year Ago
          @FutureDoc
          Of course, Mazda is where Honda used to be 20 years ago. Small, agile, and hungry. Honda today, on the other hand, fell into the Toyota trap, and is too busy trying to avoid offending anyone to actually excite anyone.
        Soyntgo4it
        • 1 Year Ago
        @NightFlight
        What article are you reading nothing says Mazda is better than Honda.
        Bruce Lee
        • 1 Year Ago
        @NightFlight
        If they updated the damned head unit in the 6 to the one in the 3 (or better) they'd be easily top pick. The 6 is a gorgeous, gorgeous car and it's reliable and sips gas. Problem is that interior looks crazy outdated.
      Matt
      • 1 Year Ago
      I'm skeptical that Audi could be so high and VW so low; the brands share engines, transmissions, emissions components, etc. Audis just have different interior bits and body panels. How could the 3.0 TDI be unreliable in the Touareg and reliable in the Q7, for instance? Same engine, they share most of their components, and the vehicles are even built on the same assembly line.
        Paul
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Matt
        Remember, this is CR, not based on anything other than someone's opinion. A couple of years ago, (ok, more than a couple), there was a CR report on a Buick and Pontiac. They had wildly different reliability ratings, even though they were made by the same people, in the same factory, and the only difference was the badge on the front.
          Bryan Pizzuti
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Paul
          Part of it is going to be "owner satisfaction." As in someone who is happy about their car is more likely to mentally gloss over issues, whereas someone unhappy with it is more likely to nitpick every single tiny thing that's wrong.
        Bruce Lee
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Matt
        Porsche also scores very highly even though it's part of VAG and the Cayenne (which is their volume seller) is the same car as the Toureg (which is one of the worst rated vehicles in terms of reliability). From what I understand there are some slight parts differences but I don't know if this is VW purposely shittying up the reliability of the VW versions or what?
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Matt
        [blocked]
      UnderdogSupporter
      • 1 Year Ago
      I am happy for Mazda. They have been trying really hard and they are currently ranked higher than Honda.
      Matt
      • 1 Year Ago
      The problem with "reliability ratings" is that they don't distinguish between someone that has to go to the dealer because they can't figure out their touchscreen, and a fuel pump that grenades when the car is 100 miles out of warranty. I only care about the latter.
      LW
      • 1 Year Ago
      That's what happens to subaru when they make a car that someone would actually stress its engine/chassis instead of just making these MIDLF utility cars.
      kagroyalo
      • 1 Year Ago
      There is a reason CR is nicknamed "Consumer Distorts" They only get feedback from their subscribers. While this may be some sort of indicator of a particular vehicle it is probably a small sample and not a true indicator of a vehicle's quality, good, bad or indifferent. Use the information as a buying tool, but ultimately use your own impressions and feelings
        CTMechE
        • 1 Year Ago
        @kagroyalo
        Small sample? Yes, it's not a truly random sample, but they get over 1 million responses. It's one of the largest reliability surveys in the world.
        jtav2002
        • 1 Year Ago
        @kagroyalo
        Eh what's the difference, everyone on AB makes decisions based on small sample sizes and no actual experience with certain products. My brothers girlfriends uncles kindergarten teacher had a recall on her X vehicle. They must all be junk. How many people only base their view of something based on a couple of complaints they heard on a forum?
      loopless
      • 1 Year Ago
      I think these reliability ratings are becoming the proverbial "counting the number of angels dancing on the head of a pin" . I have a 2010 GTI , and I have had the inlet manifold and water pump replaced like everyone else.. Big deal. Both were replaced in a day for $0 no-questions-asked under warranty - at minor inconvenience to me. Does that mean I would swap my GTI for a Corolla? Get real! Otherwise the car has been solid as a rock and drives like new at 50K miles.
        NightFlight
        • 1 Year Ago
        @loopless
        Wait till your VDub is out of warranty and you put on some more miles. There is a reason why you hear more horror stories about VAG products than anything else. Have you ever been in Reddit's /justrolledintotheshop? Those are real mechanics...
        CH
        • 1 Year Ago
        @loopless
        "I think these reliability ratings are becoming the proverbial "counting the number of angels dancing on the head of a pin" I wouldn't go that far, but today's cars are so reliable on average that being below average is not the big deal it was years ago. Below average definitely does not mean unreliable.
      Dfelix70
      • 1 Year Ago
      Firstly, I'll say (knocking on wood) that I've had my Audi for 2 years now and have had ZERO problems with it. Well, I have/had some rattling in the dash and doors, but I wouldn't count that against reliability. But I do wonder what the issue is with the Accord V-6 that would make CR remove it from the Recommended list. I'm sure it was primarily this model that brought Honda's rating down.
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Dfelix70
        [blocked]
      mary.keana
      • 1 Year Ago
      I so enjoy reading butthurt Ford boys trying to discredit Consumer Reports.
      MistyGreen
      • 1 Year Ago
      These tests, CR, ALG, JD Power.. are becoming the standardized testing of the automotive world - pointing out failures, yes, but also hindering innovation, and people's paychecks rely on their company's performance in these tests. Just like teachers are evaluated based on their student's performance on tests. It's not all bad, but there's less and less motivation to expand outside the box. It's kind of sad. That being said, the public is being made aware of Mazda! Woo!
        The Wasp
        • 1 Year Ago
        @MistyGreen
        To Ford's credit, if the only thing CR keeps dinging them for is MFT, then Ford's true mechanical reliability must be pretty decent (or at least average anyway).
          Seal Rchin
          • 1 Year Ago
          @The Wasp
          But it is an issue, Ford has not release a software fix, and probably will not for a 4-5 year old car. Also the reason this is a reliability issue is that when MFT malfunctions you have to take it to the dealer to restart it and reboot the software. First of all they will charge money for that once you are off the warranty and being that MFT is Ford only feature you will have to go to the dealer..........you you will PAY thru the nose. It does not matter what the issue is, transmission or software, once that warranty end you are on the hook and people who are looking for used cars know this, they will demand an appropriate price.
          clquake
          • 1 Year Ago
          @The Wasp
          MFT controls more than just the entertainment. If the heater gets stuck on meltdown in the middle of a 120 degree day in Phoenix, I think that qualifies as broken (and life threatening).
      boboybebop
      • 1 Year Ago
      CR makes for a good birdcage liner.
      m.harpole
      • 1 Year Ago
      I lost all trust in CR years ago when they admitted they weren't even testing some Toyota models. They were just giving them good marks because they were Toyota. This was about the time of the uncontrollable acceleration issue. CR has been a Japanese auto puppet for a long time.
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