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How can Consumer Reports give a car a 99 out of 100 rating, call it "the most practical electric car we've ever tested" and still not give it a "Recommended" rating? Because of how that rating gets decided. Basically, when CR tests a vehicle, it also needs more reliability data over time to assign that famous "Recommended" rating. That time has now passed, and the Tesla Model S is, indeed, recommended.

The update comes in the new Consumer Reports Annual Auto Reliability rankings, where the Model S has been added to the "Models that now have sufficient data" list. The data combines CR's in-house tests with subscriber survey data with, CR says, 1.1 million vehicles. There were only 600 Model S EVs in that data pool, and CR says the 2012 models were holding up better than the 2013 models. The problems that drivers reported included "wind noise, squeaks and rattles, and body hardware (including the sunroof, doors, and locks)."

One well-known green car has dropped off the "recommended" list due to getting a "poor" rating in some crash tests. The Toyota Prius V (along with the Camry and RAV4) lost its "recommended" rating, part of a year where "Japanese dominance in car reliability is showing cracks." The standard Prius liftback, Prius C, Lexus ES 300h, Honda CR-Z and Nissan Leaf all were considered "top models," while the Ford C-Max and Fusion hybrids were not. In fact, CR's press release (available below), says the "Ford C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid got the worst [predicted-reliability] score, and the regular C-Max Hybrid wasn't much better."
Show full PR text
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, Oct. 28, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- 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 of them 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 C-Max 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.

Complete reliability report and results for all models are available at www.ConsumerReports.org today, and in the December issue of Consumer Reports, on newsstands November 5. Updated daily, ConsumerReports.org is the go-to Website for the latest auto reviews, product news, blogs on breaking news, and car-buying information. Check out CR's ongoing Twitter feed at @CRCars.

Consumer Reports is the world's largest independent product-testing organization. Using its more than 50 labs, auto test center, and survey research center, the nonprofit rates thousands of products and services annually. Founded in 1936, Consumer Reports has over 8 million subscribers to its magazine, Website and other publications. Its advocacy division, Consumers Union, works for health reform, food and product safety, financial reform, and other consumer issues in Washington, D.C., the states, and in the marketplace.

NOVEMBER 2013
© 2013 Consumer Reports. The material above is intended for legitimate news entities only; it may not be used for advertising or promotional purposes. Consumer Reports® is an expert, independent nonprofit organization whose mission is to work for a fair, just, and safe marketplace for all consumers and to empower consumers to protect themselves. We accept no advertising and pay for all the products we test. We are not beholden to any commercial interest. Our income is derived from the sale of Consumer Reports®, ConsumerReports.org® and our other publications and information products, services, fees, and noncommercial contributions and grants. Our Ratings and reports are intended solely for the use of our readers. Neither the Ratings nor the reports may be used in advertising or for any other commercial purpose without our permission. Consumer Reports will take all steps open to it to prevent commercial use of its materials, its name, or the name of Consumer Reports®.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 80 Comments
      b.rn
      • 1 Year Ago
      I'm rooting for Tesla, but Consumer Reports needs to get out of the automotive review business.
        • 1 Year Ago
        @b.rn
        Where do you go for auto reviews pray tell?
        pickles
        • 1 Year Ago
        @b.rn
        Consumer Reports is on YOUR side. All they're trying to do is help you decide what you want based on statistics. I wanted a Swedish wagon a few years back. I'd owned 5 Volvos and for every one, CR was spot on with problems it got. When I trusted CR on the Saab 9-5, it wound up being exactly as they'd reported- fun, great mpg, amazing seats and better than average but not perfect reliability. I trust them. Period. With their information, I gained the trust to try Saab and it was a great ride.
        Ron
        • 1 Year Ago
        @b.rn
        Totally agree b.rn. Let them stick to toasters and vacuum cleaners. Their reliability figures are gathered only from CR readers, so how is that a reasonable cross sample?
        Andy
        • 1 Year Ago
        @b.rn
        Why? CR's best selling issues are their car issues. More people read CR for their car reviews than Car and Driver or Motortrend etc. Just because they include things you don't care about like reliability, ergonomics, fuel efficiency and safety, does not mean CR doesn't know what they are talking about.
          Dean Hammond
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Andy
          yep, they also read CR for their comparisons of BACON...if that doesnt add creedence to their opinion NOTHING does....these guys are the final word on EVERYTHING....
      mikeybyte1
      • 1 Year Ago
      Take it with a grain of salt, people. This is CR, the "pay no attention to the man behind the curtain" testing group. The same goes with reliability data. If you read the press release they point out that some of the big problem areas have to do with readers complaining about infotainment systems. I don't consider a buggy infotainment system a reliability issue. It's frustrating, sure. I am more concerned about mechanical break down. I feel that the CR testing is flawed because it is limited to it's own readership. If you tell people for years to buy Toyotas and you forever trash MyFord Touch in every single review, then chances are your readers will give Toyotas a pass on some stuff and be overly critical of Ford. I also think their broad "Recommended" rating is a bit of a joke if they are lumping Infotainment bugginess into reliability. A better approach would be to let the consumer decide what reliability features matter to them. Same with testing results. I think CR has some value if they see trends in true mechanical issues, such as brake or engine failures. But there are plenty of other sources out there to use. A smart shopper will do a lot of research, and CR is just one of many to take into consideration. Side note - although not mentioned in the AB article, the press release indicates that the Accord V-6 and Altima are no longer recommended. Surprised that was not highlighted by AB.
        jaydez860
        • 1 Year Ago
        @mikeybyte1
        It's not even that the infotainment systems are buggy and crash. There is also a big problem with people not understanding how they work so they rate them poorly. I have MFT in my Focus. I think its a great system. It's by far my favorite part of the car. There is a learning curve with and my troubles with it are minimal. Occasionally it will crash and restart itself or it will be slow to respond. But hey, so does my "recommended" iMac.
      Rotation
      • 1 Year Ago
      There is no way. This car (the Tesla) is not reliable by any stretch of the imagination. If you don't have any direct access to any owners, just look at the edmunds.com long-term test. Just in the past week their car has taken to opening (not unlocking) the car doors when the car is turned off and has a motor drive noise problem. And that's ignoring the shredding of the rear tires or the other things that are even less publicized. CR, you're a joke.
        Nick Kordich
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Rotation
        @Rotation - The door handle issue isn't a software problem, it's due to a microswitch in the door that needs to be replaced on some of the older cars. I had this issue - about 1% of the time that I put the car into Park or unlocked it, it would trip the switch while extending the handles, just as if you pulled the inside lever to open the door. The latch closed on the first detent, just as Edmunds indicate. There may have been some software-based unlocking problems earlier, too, as people on the forums reported various odd behaviors with the earlier firmware, but I have no doubt Edmunds is seeing the microswitch problem. Edmunds' long term test car is from February. I had my car serviced for this in late May - the problem seemed to be understood by then. On the TMC forum, I've seen it reported on a car as delivered as late as March. Tesla will replace it if it's reported, obviously, but I don't know if they replace the switch proactively without it being reported. http://www.edmunds.com/tesla/model-s/2013/long-term-road-test/2013-tesla-model-s-door-opens-automatically.html
      Rick Seconds
      • 1 Year Ago
      How many drivers on here have ever had a car catch fire after a crash, or known anyone who had a car catch fire after a crash? I've been driving since 78, and have never had it happen, or known it to happen to another driver. As a Police Officer I have only been on scene of one car fire, and it was an electrical issue under the hood, not caused by an accident.
        Thereminator
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Rick Seconds
        My Volkswagen square-back caught fire(back in the eighties),and because it was a magnesium block we had to get the fire dept to put it out.The fire started simply because an electrical spark ignited a gas leak.The back half of the car was burnt to a unrecognizable crisp.
        Bernard
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Rick Seconds
        How many driver's here have sped head first into a brick wall?
        zoom_zoom_zoom
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Rick Seconds
        In 1983 I test drove a VW Rabbit. It caught on fire 500 ft from the Dealership.
        m_2012
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Rick Seconds
        Ive had two car fires; one electrical and one from a crash. From http://www.nfpa.org/safety-information/for-consumers/vehicles: U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated average of 152,300 automobile fires PER YEAR in 2006-2010. These fires caused an average of 209 civilian deaths, 764 civilian injuries, and $536 million in direct property damage. - Automobile fires were involved in 10% of reported U.S. fires, 6% of U.S. fire deaths. - On average, 17 automobile fires were reported per hour. These fires killed an average of four people every week. -Mechanical or electrical failures or malfunctions were factors in roughly two-thirds of the automobile fires. - Collisions and overturns were factors in only 4% of highway vehicle fires, but these incidents accounted for three of every five (60%) automobile fire deaths. - Only 2% of automobile fires began in fuel tanks or fuel lines, but these incidents caused 15% of the automobile fire deaths.
      juststeve35
      • 1 Year Ago
      Yes! Consumer Reports endorses the Tesla S as a fine Fire Starter. http://autos.aol.com/article/tesla-stocks-fall-after-footage-of-second-model-s-fire-released/?icid=maing-grid7|main5|dl26|sec1_lnk3%26pLid%3D398480
      Johan
      • 1 Year Ago
      Are other car manufacturers astroturfing comments here like Samsung? If you don't like the Tesla, that's fine, but why would you actively hate it or want it to fail? It doesn't make sense.
      Bob
      • 1 Year Ago
      I wouldn't own this piece of crap if someone bought it for me. Why is it no one can perfect an electric car? The car is enornously expensive. No average person will ever own one. Hope they lose their shirt on this one. Only problem is we are paying for it. Everything the government touches turns to crap.
      chambo622
      • 1 Year Ago
      5,000 miles on ours since May. Zero problems whatsoever. I think the Pano roof folks tend to have a bit more defects in the squeak/rattle area but we skipped that option. Best car on there, period.
        Rotation
        • 1 Year Ago
        @chambo622
        True. The pano roof is a big cause of problems. Not just squeaks and rattles. The roof fails to open and close correctly. But not getting it doesn't exempt you from shredding tires or having your doors malfunction because the over-the-air software updates don't update the door locking/unlocking modules correctly (the cause of doors refusing to open or opening on their own).
      Fixitfixitstop
      • 1 Year Ago
      "[predicted-reliability]" <--- all you need to know that this is b.s.
      Luke
      • 1 Year Ago
      "Predicted reliability"? Who are they kidding? Cars these days are so reliable (in general) that this is somewhat of a moot statement. Does anyone under 55 actually rely in CR anymore? Judging by the fact that the Camry will still sell gazillions of cars and Ford still keeps selling loads of vehicles I'm going to say 'no' on that one....
        CoolWaters
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Luke
        People who aren't going to buy the Ford CMax Energi are going to be VERY Gratified they read CR.
          Ryan
          • 1 Year Ago
          @CoolWaters
          My Dad's experience with the Ford C-Max Energi has been extremely good. This looks like a hit job on all electric cars that use less gas.
      hemipwr54
      • 1 Year Ago
      Has handy fire pit in the Frunk. No charcoal need. Strike a piece of metal and poof, FIRE.
      Dean Hammond
      • 1 Year Ago
      what happened to Tesla stocks this time around....?
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