March 16, 2006

Consumer Reports ranks Lexus first in predicted reliability for 2006 models

Yonkers, New York – Lexus has placed first for predicted reliability of its 2006 models, out of 36 nameplates, in Consumer Reports’ Annual Car Reliability Survey. Lexus was in second place last year to Scion, an entry-level Toyota brand sold in the U.S. but not in Canada.

Honda moved into second place from fifth, and Toyota remained unchanged in third. Mitsubishi ranked fourth, up from seventh, while Subaru ranked in fifth place, one down from 2005’s standings. Eighth place went to Mercury (not sold in Canada), the only domestic manufacturer in the top ten, while Mazda moved up eight places to finish ninth.

Infiniti plunged from eighth in 2005 to 28th in 2006, mostly due to its QX56 which the magazine says “was the most unreliable vehicle among new cars.” Scion dropped from first to seventh. Volvo moved up 10 places to 12th overall, while Mini moved up 18 places to 11th overall. Porsche placed last, at 36th overall, down from 26th in 2005 based solely on the “problematic” Cayenne SUV.

Among domestic manufacturers, Chevrolet dropped to 24th, down from 13th in 2005; Chrysler moved up to 15th place from 20th; Jeep dropped five places to 19th; Ford dropped from 16th to 15th; and Dodge moved up three places to 18th overall.

The full list is published in Consumer Reports’ Annual April Auto Issue. The findings are based on the company’s annual survey, conducted in 2005. The survey gathered information from just over one million respondents, and covered 1998 to 2005 models. The respondents were asked to report any serious problems due to cost, failure, safety or downtime during the previous 12 months, in 17 different trouble areas, including the engine, transmission, body hardware and electrical systems. Consumer Reports then presents detailed reliability ratings for 1998 through 2005 models, and predicts reliability for 2006. The magazine’s editors also use the predicted reliability rating in determining vehicles to recommend.

In its report, the magazine also says that “shifts in nameplate ratings for predicted reliability came during a period in which industry-wide progress in lowering new-car problem rates appears to have stalled.” Analysis of the 2001 to 2005 surveys for the past five years shows that overall problem rates have reached a plateau for newer cars, especially for Asian manufacturers. Japanese and Korean manufacturers still have the fewest problems on average, with 12 problems per 100 vehicles, but the number has held steady for the newest models since 2002, when they improved from 15 problems per 100 in the previous year. The magazine states, “On average, Asian vehicles are still by far the most reliable, but their rate of improvement has slowed.”

In the most recent survey, domestic manufacturers had an average problem rate of 18 problems per 100 vehicles. The rate has been about the same since 2003. European makes, which the magazine says “have recently been the most unreliable overall,” remained steady at 21 problems per 100 vehicles.

Using data from the past five surveys, Consumer Reports found that Toyota and Honda models have “significantly fewer problems than cars from other manufacturers. Overall, eight-year-old Toyotas are about as reliable as three-year-old Fords and Chryslers, and two-year-old Volkswagens. Toyotas have about half the problems of Volkswagens when new, and only a quarter of the problems when five years old.” On average, five-year-old Asian vehicles had 44 problems per 100 vehicles; Americans 89 per 100; and European 97 per 100. Among U.S. automakers, Ford consistently showed lower problem rates than Chrysler and GM for older vehicles.

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