March 8, 2007

Toyota overtakes Lexus in Consumer Reports’ annual reliability study

Yonkers, New York – Lexus slipped to fifth place from last year’s first in new car predicted reliability, based on Consumer Reports’ Annual Car Reliability Survey, printed in the magazine’s Annual April Auto Issue. Toyota, meanwhile, moved from third place to first.

The magazine says that most models with the best predicted reliability are from Asia, although Lincoln and GMC improved considerably, and a few other domestics got better over last year. However, for the second year in a row, Mercury (no longer sold in Canada) was the only domestic brand to land in the top ten.

Lexus’ drop can be attributed to its GS models receiving only an average rating, the magazine says. Honda remained unchanged in second place to Toyota, while Scion (a Toyota brand not sold in Canada) moved up to third place from seventh. The top five vehicles are all made by Toyota or Honda.

The predicted reliability score is based on the three most recent model years’ data for models whose design has not changed for 2007, although the magazine sometimes makes a prediction for a redesigned or new model if the model or manufacturer has an outstanding history, and one or two years of data might be used if the model was new or redesigned in 2006 or 2005.

Infiniti made the biggest improvement of any brand, moving up 20 slots to eighth place, although it is still below average, which the magazine attributes to “the still troublesome QX56 SUV.” Suzuki had the biggest slide of any Asian brand, from 10th to 26th, although the magazine says the fall can be linked to a 2006 redesign of the Grand Vitara, “the only Suzuki model with sufficient data to generate a ranking.” Hyundai is also in the top ten.

Lincoln showed the biggest improvement among domestics, from 30th to 13th position, mostly due to outstanding first-year reliability of the Zephyr/MKZ sedan. GMC moved 11 positions to 14th, due to high reliability marks for its Yukon. Ford remained unchanged in 16th position, while Buick and Chevrolet improved slightly; Jeep dropped the most of all domestics to 32nd place, from 19th, with its Grand Cherokee far below average.

Among European brands, Audi received a 15-place improvement, while Mercedes-Benz fell four positions to replace Porsche in last place. Mini fell furthest of any European brand, and is now in 28th place.

Meanwhile, Consumer Reports’ Annual Car Reliability Survey has expanded to include vehicles up to 10 years old, while some of the 16 different trouble areas were revised to give more details into the types of problems vehicles experienced.

The data shows that Asian, American and European vehicles age differently, with Toyota and Honda holding up best on average. Ford had fewer problems than Chrysler and GM for three-year-old and older vehicles, while Volkswagen showed the steepest problem increase as its vehicles age. The Lexus LS has consistently been the most reliable car in the survey. The survey also found that the biggest increase in problem rates is between five- and six-year-old cars, but there is less of a difference in reliability between eight- and ten-year-old models as a whole.

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