Yonkers, New York – Ford’s overall reliability is slipping, Chrysler’s is improving and the Japanese models continue to dominate in Consumer Reports’ 2011 Annual Auto Survey. The findings are based on results from 1.3 million vehicles leased or subscribed by the magazine’s subscribers.

Ford has been “a model of American reliability, competing well against Japanese makes that have dominated for decades,” the magazine said, “but three of its new models are blemishing that record.”

The new Explorer, Fiesta and Focus all had below-average reliability in their first year. As a result, Ford’s overall reliability rank among 28 major car makes slipped from the 10th to the 20th spot this year, the biggest drop for any major nameplate.

“We have often found that new or revamped models have more problems in their first year than in subsequent model years,” said David Champion, senior director of Consumer Reports’ Automotive Test Center. “Ford’s problems illustrate why we recommend to our subscribers to hold off buying a first-year model.”

Ford’s drop can also be attributed to problems with new technologies, including the MyFord Touch infotainment system and new automated-manual transmission used in the Fiesta and Focus. Lincoln finished above Ford, although the MKX “suffered from the MyLincoln Touch system,” the magazine said. The Ford Fusion Hybrid sedan remained outstanding and other Fusion models were above-average.

Jeep moved up seven spots to 13, becoming the most reliable domestic brand, while Chrysler moved up 12 spots and Dodge moved up three. Chrysler had better results with its new models, including the Chrysler 200, Dodge Durango and Jeep Grand Cherokee. The Chrysler brand moved up in the survey but only based on two models, the 200 and Town & Country. The 300 is too new for the magazine to have sufficient data.

The study found that even with Chrysler’s improvements, Detroit models still have reliability problems. Of the 97 domestic models and versions for which there is sufficient data, 62 of them, or 64 per cent, rated average or better for new-car reliability ratings. After edging up last year, General Motors “has stumbled,” with the Buick and Cadillac brands taking a step backward. Chevrolet held steady and GMC dropped one spot. The new Buick Regal and Chevrolet Cruze were rated below par, while the Buick LaCrosse and Cadillac SRX were deemed reliable last year but dropped to below average and are no longer recommended. Vehicles with above-average reliability include the Chevrolet Avalanche and Cadillac CTS. The Chevrolet Volt rated better than average and is GM’s most reliable car, but the magazine warns that the sample size was just slightly more than the minimum threshold of 100 cars and most respondents had owned theirs for only a few months.

Japanese brands took the top nine spots, led by Scion, Lexus, Acura, Mazda, Honda and Toyota. Of the 91 Japanese models rated, 87 of them, or 96 per cent, were rated average or better, and 24 models earned the highest rating.

The biggest improvement was Mazda, which moved up eight spots from last year, and all of its models were rated above average. Scion remains the top brand but only two of its three models, the xB and xD, had sufficient data to be included. Lexus moved up seven places from last year.

Toyota finished sixth overall, the same as last year, with every model except the all-wheel drive version of Sienna minivan rated average or better. Honda had only one below-average vehicle, the redesigned Odyssey.

The Korean brands held the eleventh and twelfth spots. Hyundai had only one sub-par entry, the V6 Santa Fe, and its sister vehicle V6 Kia Sorento also finished below average.

European models continued to have mixed results. Overall, European vehicles scored slightly below domestic models. Of the 58 models for which there is sufficient data, 37 of them, or 64 per cent, scored average or better. Volvo ranked highest at tenth overall, helped by the redesigned S60 which was above average in its first year. Volkswagen held 16th place, with seven of its 11 models scoring average or better.

Mercedes-Benz and BMW improved, but results were inconsistent for their various models. The redesigned BMW X3 did well, but the 5 Series sedan was well below average. The Mercedes-Benz GLK improved but its S-Class sedan fell to below average.

Porsche dropped from being the second-best brand last year to the second-worst this year, due to data on only two models and the redesigned Cayenne having a “terrible debut year.” Jaguar finished last, with its XF and XJ the two least-reliable new cars in the survey.

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