Japanese automakers continue to produce the most reliable cars in America. Lexus, Toyota and Acura took the top three spots in an annual automotive reliability survey compiled by Consumer Reports. But technology problems are cropping up in more and more brands, ruining the new-car experience for many shoppers, the magazine said.
Seven of the top 10 companies were Japanese companies and brands, including Mazda, Infiniti, Honda and Subaru. The 2014 Subaru Forester was named the most reliable vehicle overall.
Beset by problems with infotainment systems, Ford and Lincoln finished near the bottom of the rankings for the second consecutive year. The Ford C-Max ranked as the most unreliable car surveyed. Audi, Tesla, Lexus, BMW and Chrysler earned praise for their infotainment systems.
Ford was 26th and Lincoln was 27th out of the 28 brands featured in the survey. Only MINI was worse.
Jake Fisher, who heads the testing for Consumer Reports, said that of the serious problems reported by consumers, infotainment and touchscreen glitches dominated.
"Technology is here to stay, it's got to be part of the cars," he said. "People are demanding it. The thing is, we have seen some manufacturers do it well."
For customers like Robert Hoffman, the problems with his infotainment system in his brand-new Lincoln started the moment he drove off the dealership lot.
The radio often froze -- if it turned on at all. Voice commands weren't always recognized. The system, called MyLincoln Touch, was never compatible with his iPod.
"I'm paying this car off early so I can get back into a Cadillac," said Hoffman, a Freeport, N.Y., resident.
He may not have much better luck after the switch. Beset with glitches in their infotainment systems, Ford, Lincoln and Cadillac all were among the worst car brands in terms of automotive reliability, Consumer Reports said Monday at a luncheon hosted by the Automotive Press Association in Detroit.
Cadillac ranked 25th out of 28 car brands in the auto reliability rankings, followed by Ford (26th) and Lincoln (27th). Fisher said the low rankings came largely as a result of the infotainment and touchscreen problems.
"The automakers are new to this, they're not Apple or Samsung, and they are stumbling," Fisher said.
More than 15 percent of vehicle owners reported serious problems with their infotainment systems in the Ford Taurus, Ford C-Max and Cadillac XTS. Fisher said, "failures at that frequency are not something we're used to seeing."
Lexus, Toyota and Acura were the top brands in automotive reliability, according to the survey, which culled information from more than 1.1 million subscribers. Seven of the top 10 most reliable brands were Japanese automakers, and the 2014 Subaru Forester small SUV earned the best score of any car surveyed.
While the survey measured reliability across the car, including engine problems, transmission problems and others, the theme of this year's data was infotainment problems.
These systems have become an important shopping item for car shoppers, who want to stay connected to their phones, email and music while they're in transit. Glitches have meant big problems.
"A large chunk of today's shoppers have little to no interest in these features," said Karl Brauer, senior analyst at Kelley Blue Book, "yet they are being forced to deal with them because they've become an integral part of the climate control and audio systems. ... Throw in the limited design experience automakers have regarding in-car technology interfaces, and you're left with many systems that don't work particularly well."
Some companies have produced enviable systems, including Chrysler, Audi, BMW and Lexus, which all earned high praise from motorists surveyed by Consumer Reports.
Ford's Ongoing Woes
No company has felt that pain more acutely than Ford.
Ford ranked 63 percent worse than the average automaker in the Consumer Reports survey, which compares each brand to the overall industry average. The Ford C-Max, which debuted earlier this year to much fanfare, received the worst score of any model in the survey. Of the 31 Ford models surveyed, only one, the F-150 pickup, received an above-average score.
"We listen to all customer input and remain absolutely committed to delivering the best quality with every new vehicle," said Ford spokesperson Wes Sherwood.
The MyFord Touch and MyLincoln Touch infotainment systems are the subject of an ongoing class-action lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court by the Center for Defensive Driving, which called the MyFord Touch system an "unmitigated disaster" in its filing papers.
Motorists involved in the lawsuit have had similar experiences as Hoffman, who said he bought his Lincoln MKX small SUV on Nov. 17, 2012, and returned the car to the dealership for infotainment system repairs and updates on Dec. 10, 2012, Feb. 1 and August 13.
He said the latest software update has, in some respects, proved helpful. But poor customer service along the way has further soured his experience with the Lincoln brand.
Hoffman said he wrote a letter detailing his problems on April 26, and never heard back from Lincoln. Three months ago, he posted about his experience on Lincoln's Facebook page, and had a few brief exchanges with a representative.
"I never heard back from her after a while," Hoffman said. "Then they (the dealership) gave me the name of a regional rep for Lincoln. I talked to her a couple of times, and she dropped me like a hot potato."
Consumer Reports culls reliability information from more than 1.1 million subscriber surveys.
Even as Toyota and Lexus, its luxury brand, took the top two places, the news wasn't all good. Consumer Reports said it was dropping the Camry, RAV4 and Prius V from its "recommended" list after the three cars received a poor grade on a new crash test designed by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Consumer Reports also lampooned the reliability of the Scion FR-S sports car, which was a co-creation of Toyota and Subaru.
"Toyota and Subaru teamed up to make an unreliable car," Fisher said.
Pete Bigelow is an associate editor at AOL Autos. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter @PeterCBigelow.
- Oct 28th 2013 at 2:00PM
Lexus And Toyota Named Most Reliable Car Brands
Japanese car companies dominate annual Consumer Reports survey