Consumer Reports’ (CR) latest auto brand reliability survey results are out, and it will surprise no one to learn that Lexus and Toyota top the publication’s list of automakers building the most dependable vehicles.
The ranking is compiled based on responses to CR’s annual vehicle reliability survey, in which it asks owners of new cars what has gone wrong with their vehicles. Electronic systems were a big source of headaches, with CR citing unresponsive infotainment systems, Bluetooth setups that won’t pair with smartphones, and collision warning systems that are either too sensitive or don’t work at all. Actual reliability isn’t all CR uses to determine its ratings: it also takes into account user-friendliness complaints, most of which have to do with those electronic gadgets.
Less expected was Audi’s third-place ranking, which CR suggests as an indication the company is making progress in quality control.
The balance of the top 10 finishers, in order, are Mazda, Subaru, Kia, Buick, Honda, Hyundai, and Mini.
At the bottom of the list are three Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) brands–Fiat, Jeep, and Ram; Dodge and Chrysler finished sixth- and seventh-worst, respectively.
From General Motors, only Buick showed well, with the rest of its brands–GMC, Chevrolet, and Cadillac– finishing in the bottom half.
While Tesla’s low sales volumes don’t generate enough data for CR to include it in the brand ranking, the publication’s editors say an increase in reliability complaints against the Model S prompted a downgrade from ‘average’ to ‘below-average.’
The leading cause of complaints are infotainment systems (partly responsible for Infiniti (InTouch) and Cadillac’s (CUE) poor ratings), and transmissions. CR says Nissan’s mid-pack finish is owed to reported flaws with its continuously variable transmissions (CVT), and it’s a similar story for Honda, which this year slips four places, to eighth.
One particular transmission is the source of numerous performance and reliability complaints, that being a nine-speed automatic used in Acura and FCA models; the gearbox, manufactured by a German company called ZF, has gained an unfortunate reputation for poor shifting in its first couple of years on the market. Land Rover uses it too, but their models aren’t included in the survey due to insufficient data from Land Rover owners.
CR suggests these relatively new transmission technologies–most of which were conceived as fuel-savers–may not be worth the hassle; it points to Mazda, whose traditional, six-speed SkyActiv automatic has proven durable and efficient, contributing to the brand’s fourth-place ranking.