Consumer Reports Annual Reliability Survey: Tesla and other Domestic Brands Take Big Steps Backwards in Rankings

Consumer Reports Auto Reliability Study

YONKERS, NY — It was a rough year for domestic brands, according to Consumer Reports’ (CR) latest Annual Auto Reliability Survey, which collected data from its members about their experiences with more than half a million vehicles. Buick, Chevrolet, Chrysler, and Tesla are among the brands that tumbled in the organization’s predicted new-car reliability rankings announced at a news conference before the Automotive Press Association in Detroit today.

Every domestic automaker landed in the bottom-half of CR’s latest reliability rankings, which covers 29 brands this year – two more than 2017. Ford ranks the highest at 18, down three spots from the previous year. Right below Ford on the list is Buick, which had performed well in recent years and was in the top 10 last year. Cadillac is the worst-rated domestic manufacturer and ranks near the very bottom at 28.

Asian brands, led by Lexus, Toyota, and Mazda, in that order, continue to be the best for new car reliability in CR’s survey, which is the largest of its kind. Seven of the top 10 brands in this year’s reliability rankings are from Japan and South Korea, including Subaru, Kia, Infiniti, and Hyundai.

Three European brands, Audi, BMW, and Mini, round out  the top 10. Audi and BMW both declined from last  year. Three other brands, Porsche, Volkswagen, and Mercedes-Benz, finished midpack. Volvo finished last overall.

Tesla fell six spots from last year and now ranks third-worst (27 out of 29). The Model S dropped to “Below Average” this year, and its Overall Score is no longer high enough to be “Recommended” by CR. Owners reported suspension problems and other issues that included the extending door handle. (Please see chart below.) The Model X SUV remained “Much-Worse-Than-Average” for reliability, with ongoing problems including the falcon-wing doors and center display screen. On the flip side, the Model 3 sedan has  “Average” predicted reliability based on owner feedback.

“While the Tesla Model S appears very similar physically to the car that launched six years ago, Tesla has made many significant mechanical and software changes over the past few years. Just as we’ve seen with many other manufacturers, major changes and updates can cause reliability to slide. It can take a year or two for carmakers to work out the kinks with new technology,” said Jake Fisher, Director of Auto Testing at CR. “Making air suspension and AWD standard in the 2017 model has added more complexity and more things that could potentially falter.”

 

For more information on Consumer Reports’ 2018 Annual Auto Reliability Survey, or to get the latest ratings and scores for more than 300 models, visit CR.org/reliability.

 

“Time and again, consumers tell us that reliability is what matters most when it comes to choosing a vehicle that will meet their families’ needs,” said Marta L. Tellado, President and CEO of Consumer Reports.  “That’s why we conduct this exhaustive survey each year—to equip people with the trustworthy information they need to make confident choices, which in turn helps drive the market toward even greater reliability.”

Consumer Reports’ survey also reveals that some automakers–striving for improved fuel economy–are clearly making more reliable turbocharged engines than others. When compared to the average non-turbo engine among 2016-2018 models, overall, Lexus makes the most reliable turbo powertrain, followed by Honda and Porsche. On the other end of the spectrum, Hyundai and Mini have the most problematic turbos. There hasn’t been a common thread to explain the problems, but new powertrains have the propensity to be problematic in their first few years.

“Not only are auto manufacturers adding more and more turbocharged engines, but they’re increasingly pairing them to high-tech transmissions with eight, nine, even 10 gears,” Fisher added. “With this added complexity, it’s not surprising to see some brands struggling to get them right, particularly the ones that don’t have a long history of producing turbos.”

 

Newly “Recommended” models show some bright spots for Detroit:

Dodge, GMC edge up; Other domestics slide down

Consumer Reports’ prediction of new-car reliability is a key element of CR’s Overall Score. The score also includes road-test performance, owner satisfaction survey results, whether a vehicle comes with key safety systems, and results from crash tests, if applicable. This year there are more than a dozen vehicles with reliability ratings that improved enough to lift their Overall Scores to enable them to be “CR Recommended.”

Overall, there is a lot of reshuffling among the brands in CR’s latest predicted new-car reliability rankings, with most domestic brands moving down the list. But reliability for some key models from Detroit has risen over the past year, allowing CR to “Recommend” them. Those vehicles include the Cadillac XTS, Chevrolet Cruze, Chevrolet Suburban, Chrysler 300, Dodge Charger, and Lincoln Continental.

Brands from Fiat Chrysler Automotive (FCA) continue to occupy the bottom third of CR’s rankings. Dodge edges up three spots to number 21 out of 29 brands thanks partly to the “Better-Than-Average” reliability rating of the Dodge Charger, which has steadily improved over the past few years. The Dodge Grand Caravan continues to have “Average” reliability, while the Challenger, Durango, and Journey all stay “Below-Average.” Jeep has mixed results, falling two spots to 22. The Grand Cherokee and Renegade improve to “Average,” while the Cherokee and Compass SUVs have “Below-Average” reliability. Chrysler drops seven spots to number 24. While the Chrysler 300 improves to “Average,” the Pacifica minivan falls to “Below-Average.” Ram was the worst-charting FCA brand at 26.

GMC inches up one spot to number 25 due to average or above reliability for the Terrain, Yukon, and Yukon XL. The Acadia and all the pickup trucks rate “Below-Average.”

Other GM brands saw their place in the rankings fall from last year. Buick, which had recently been a bright spot for reliability among all domestics, falls 11 spots to 19 – this year’s biggest decline. The redesigned Enclave SUV had a “Much-Worse-Than-Average” rating, with owners reporting problems related to the new nine-speed automatic transmission. Chevrolet is down five places to number 23, in part because the redesigned Traverse had “Much-Worse-Than-Average” reliability. Cadillac is again the worst-performing of the GM brands, dropping one spot to 28. Only the XTS sedan rates “Better-Than-Average” for reliability.

Ford ranks number 18, down three spots from last year. The Taurus, the oldest model in Ford’s fleet, has “Much-Better-Than-Average” reliability. But the usually reliable Fusion drops to “Below-Average”, mainly because of problems with the Sync 3 infotainment system screen. The Mustang and Explorer are “Worse-Than- Average.” As for 20th ranked Lincoln, its bright spot is the Continental’s “Much-Better-Than-Average” reliability rating. The MKC, MKX, and the MKZ are “Below Average.”

 

Volvo sinks to last in down year overall for Europe

Volvo drops six spots from last year as it rapidly brings a number of new models to market. It’s now in last-place among the 29 brands in the survey due in large part to an infotainment system that’s common to a number of different models including the XC60 and XC90 and the S 90. For the XC60, owners also reported problems with the climate system and interior cabin rattles.

Other European automakers also lost ground. Audi tumbles three spots to seven on the list. BMW falls three spots to eight, followed by Mini at number nine. Mercedes-Benz declines three spots to number 17. The C-Class coupe and sedan improves to “Average,” but the GLC and E-Class are “Below-Average.” Porsche bucks the trend in this group, rising two places to number 11.

 

Lexus, Toyota trade places at the top as Asia dominance persists

Lexus and Toyota take the top two spots, respectively, in CR’s predicted new-car reliability rankings, as they have for six years in a row. Mazda jumps nine spots in the rankings to third overall, making it the year’s biggest gainer, as the automaker worked out the problems that plagued the CX-9 and MX-5 Miata roadster. Subaru continues its recent march up the chart, rising two places to fourth overall.

The Infiniti brand also rebounds slightly, with the Q50 getting an “Average” score and the QX60 improving to “Above Average.” Nissan similarly tumbles a few slots, even with both the Maxima and the redesigned Leaf rating above average.

Honda turns in mixed results, landing at 15, which is six spots lower from the year prior. The brand’s reliability is bogged down by some of its new and redesigned models. The Odyssey and the Clarity have “Much-Worse-Than-Average” reliability, and the CR-V and new Accord drops to “Average.” However, Acura seems to have worked out recent trouble spots with its new transmissions and infotainment systems. Honda’s luxury brand gains six spots in this year’s rankings to number 13.

Kia drops two spots but remained in the top-ten as its all-new Stinger hatchback rates “Average” for reliability, as was the Sportage. Hyundai comes in at number 10, and its luxury Genesis brand is close behind. The G80 has “Above Average” reliability, and the G90 is below average, with reported problems in the area of body hardware and power equipment.

For more information on CR’s annual #CRCarReliability survey, visit CR.org/reliability or follow Consumer Reports on Facebook at facebook.com/consumerreports and on Twitter @consumerreports.

The latest Consumer Reports Annual Auto Reliability Survey, gathered information from Consumer Reports members who collectively owned or leased more than 500,000 vehicles, from model years 2000 to 2018, covering more than 300 models. More information can be found at www.CR.org.

 

About Consumer Reports

Consumer Reports is a nonprofit membership organization that works side by side with consumers to create a fairer, safer, and healthier world. For 80 years, CR has provided evidence-based product testing and ratings, rigorous research, hard-hitting investigative journalism, public education, and steadfast policy action on behalf of consumers’ interests. Unconstrained by advertising or other commercial influences, CR has exposed landmark public health and safety issues and strives to be a catalyst for pro-consumer changes in the marketplace. From championing responsible auto safety standards, to winning food and water protections, to enhancing healthcare quality, to fighting back against predatory lenders in the financial markets, Consumer Reports has always been on the front lines, raising the voices of consumers.

OCTOBER 2018

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