Lexus, Toyota top Consumer Reports’ reliability rankings; Chrysler falters – Los Angeles Times

Posted: Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Asian automakers remain the go-to source for reliable vehicles, according to Consumer Reports’ latest annual reliability survey, released Monday. And brands that live by cutting-edge infotainment systems also die by them.

Seven of the top 10 brands in the magazine’s annual ranking were from South Korea or Japan, while Buick, Audi and Porsche grabbed the remaining three positions. Nothing had a greater impact on how owners felt about their vehicles than how well the navigation, phone and stereo systems worked, Consumer Reports found.

“Infotainment system problems generally don’t exist in a vacuum,” said Jake Fisher, director of automotive testing at Consumer Reports. “A close look at the results suggest that cars with a lot of in-car electronic issues usually have plenty of other trouble too.”

The annual survey polls Consumer Reports’ subscribers about the problems they’ve had with their vehicles over the last 12 months. The results cover 248 models from 28 brands, and 1.1 million vehicles total.

The top 10 most reliable brands in order are Lexus, Toyota, Mazda, Honda, Audi, Buick, Subaru, Scion, Porsche and Kia.

Consumer Reports praised both Toyota and its luxury arm Lexus for introducing new technology slowly and on proven models, which it said helped the two brands maintain a comfortable reliability lead in nearly every category they compete in.

Infiniti suffered the biggest drop from last year’s results, thanks in large part to the poorly received infotainment system in its new Q50 sedan. More than 1 in 5 owners reported a problem with it, a trend that was foreshadowed by our own flawed experience with the system in two Q50 models we tested last year.

This shortcoming, paired with the poor reliability performance of Infiniti’s QX60 SUV, meant that the brand dropped 14 places to 20th overall.

Infiniti can take some solace in knowing other automakers have recovered from the impact of poor infotainment systems. Consumer Reports praised Honda, Ford and Chrysler for improvements they’ve made to their systems.

Other trouble areas owners reported were noises and leaks inside the cabin, problems with body hardware like door locks or trunk latches, power equipment like lighting and keyless entry, and paint and trim issues.

Buick was the sole American brand in the top 10 rankings, moving up from 16th in 2013. Consumer Reports noted that all six of Buick’s vehicles scored average or better for reliability, and the magazine issued a coveted “Recommended” rating for the LaCrosse large sedan.

It was a bleaker picture elsewhere on the domestic side. Numerous compact cars and full-size trucks from U.S. brands were ranked below average. Chevy’s Silverado and its GMC Sierra twin were particularly poor performers, which Consumer Reports largely attributed to teething problems for the all-new generation.

“Our standing advice: Wait a year or two after a new-model introduction before taking the plunge,” Consumer Reports said.

Chrysler Group as a whole had a very bad day, with four of the bottom five brands on Consumer Reports’ rankings: Dodge, Ram, Jeep and Fiat taking the 25th through 28th spots, respectively.

On the European front, Mercedes-Benz was the lowest-ranked brand, coming in 24th overall. The tri-star brand was dogged by the “dreadful” debut of its new CLA compact sedan, Consumer Reports said. BMW was middle of the pack, while Audi and Porsche were in the top 10.

Tesla wasn’t ranked in Consumer Reports’ ratings because it only sells a single model.

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