Buick surprises, Asian brands dominate Consumer Reports

DETROIT - Buick is ranked third in Consumer Reports annual ranking of the most reliable automotive brands, marking the first time a domestic brand has been in the top three.

Even so, Asian brands continued to dominate influential consumer magazine's rankings.

Of 29 brands, Asian nameplates accounted for 7 of the top 10 spots. Lexus was ranked first, with a predicted reliability score of 86, followed by Toyota, Buick, Audi, Kia, Mazda, Hyundai, Infiniti, BMW and Honda.

Vehicles sold by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles continued to struggle with four of its brands — Dodge, Chrysler, Fiat and Ram — occupying the bottom four slots.

Consumer Reports reliability rankings are based on a survey that analyzes the magazine subscribers experiences with new vehicles over the past three years. That feedback is used to predict future reliability.

Chevrolet ranked as the second-best domestic brand and is in 15th place overall among the 29 brands covered.

Buick has been performing well in the survey for several years. But this year, it out-distanced its past performance and was able to surge to the top of GM's stable because its few models did well. The Buick Enclave, Encore, Verano and Regal all scored near the top of their individual segments.

“Buick’s achievement is commendable and sure to be a wake-up call to other manufacturers,” said Jake Fisher, Consumer Reports’ director of automotive testing in a statement. “One reason why the brand has been able to leapfrog others in the General Motors’ stable has been its limited vehicle lineup--with none of the pickups and truck-based SUVs that have negatively impacted Cadillac and Chevrolet.”

Ford’s mainstream Ford brand was ranked 18th while the Lincoln brand fell four spots to No. 20. Consumer Reports said Ford continues to have problems with its nine-speed automatic transmissions, especially in the Ford Focus compact car and Fiesta subcompact car.

“This is a shame, because it’s a great car to drive,” Fisher said

Consumer Reports released the survey results in Detroit today before the Automotive Press Association.

Tesla, the luxury electronic carmaker, is ranked 25th, which is well below average. This is the first year that Tesla has been ranked because, until now, there was only one Tesla model. Fisher said Tesla's ranking was pulled down by the newer Model X.

In general, Fisher said, new or redesigned models perform worse on the surveys because manufacturers are still working out manufacturing kinks. The older Tesla Model S performed better, and is now recommended by Consumer Reports.

While Asian automakers continued to dominate the rankings. There was a surprising trouble in the survey for Honda.

Consumer Reports, which is often accused of having a survey that inherently favors Asian automakers, said Honda's reliability scores have become less consistent.

Honda, which normally finishes in the top ten on the reliability survey, has been hurt by spotty results on new introductions, Consumer reports said. Honda's redesigned Pilot SUV scored just average.

Honda’s popular Civic sedan scored much-worse-than-average on reliability because of problems with its power equipment and infotainment systems, Consumer Reports said. The Civic was North American Car of the Year for 2016.

Meanwhile, Korean automakers continued to rise in the rankings. Both Kia and Hyundai finished in the top 10. Even more impressive -- no Kia or Hyundai models scored below average. The Kia Forte, Optima, Soul and Sorento along with the Hyundai Azera, Accent and Santa Fe all scored among the top in their segments.

Brands sold by FCA have historically performed poorly on the survey. This year, Consumer Reports said no Fiat or Ram model scored average or better.

Only the company's Chrysler 300 sedan, Dodge Grand Caravan minivan, and Jeep Patriot SUV managed an average or better score. All three of those vehicles are made on platforms that are at least several years old, indicating that FCA is eventually able to work out manufacturing kinks but struggles with newer vehicles.

“(FCA) values all feedback from our customers and third-party evaluators, including Consumer Reports, as it helps guide our product improvements," the company said in a statement. "Our internal quality surveys and measurements continue to show positive growth toward vehicle quality and dependability across our brands."

Detroit Free Press


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