Gas-saving models lead in reliability according to Consumer Reports survey

Jan. 1, 2020
Fuel-efficient vehicles are a very reliable segment overall, European cars are improving, and, on average, Ford continues to build the most reliable American cars. Those are some of the results of Consumer Reports' 2008 Annual Car Reliability Survey

Fuel-efficient vehicles are a very reliable segment overall, European cars are improving, and, on average, Ford continues to build the most reliable American cars. Those are some of the results of Consumer Reports' 2008 Annual Car Reliability Survey announced today at an Automotive Press Association luncheon in Detroit.

More details, and a list of models with the best and worst predicted-reliability Ratings, will appear first on The reliability report will also appear in the December issue of Consumer Reports, on sale November 4 and in the latest Consumer Reports Cars publication, Best & Worst for '09, which also includes predicted-reliability ratings for more than 350 models.

A total of nine hybrid models for which Consumer Reports has sufficient data rated above average in predicted reliability, most from Japanese automakers. From the Family Cars category, the Toyota Prius, the Toyota Camry Hybrid, and the Nissan Altima Hybrid, as well as the luxury Lexus GS450h Hybrid sedan are all among the most reliable. The Lexus RX400h and the Toyota Highlander Hybrid are among the most reliable in midsized SUVs, while the Ford Escape Hybrid and Mercury Mariner Hybrid small SUVs rated above average in predicted reliability. The Honda Civic Hybrid is also above average. In addition, conventional gas sippers such as the Honda Fit, Scion xD, Smart ForTwo, and Toyota Yaris had few problems.

Ford's three nameplates - Ford, Lincoln, and Mercury - lead the domestic automakers and continue to pull away from the rest of Detroit. Except for some truck-based vehicles, almost all Ford products are now average or better. Excluding those, Ford's reliability is now on par with good Japanese automakers. The Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan continued to rank among the most reliable family cars. The freshened Ford Focus sedan rated above average, a vast improvement from when the new model debuted in 2000 with below-average reliability.

European automakers, particularly Mercedes-Benz, showed signs of a comeback. Six Mercedes models, including the redesigned C-Class and E-Class (V6) sedans and the ML350 SUV have improved to average reliability and are now recommended. Last year, no Mercedes models had average or better reliability and so could not be recommended by Consumer Reports.

Still, Japanese cars are the most reliable overall, leading 15 of 16 categories in Consumer Reports' predicted reliability ratings. The Scion xD has the best predicted reliability score for all new cars with about 80 percent fewer problems than the average model.

European, Japanese Brands Rebound; Korean Brands Excel; Chrysler Struggles

Though Mercedes-Benz has shown improvement, a third of its models still have reliability problems, and no models scored above average. Overall, the brand moved up five places, from last year's 32 to this year's 27, in Consumer Reports survey. Audi and BMW also continue to improve. Two-thirds of Audi's lineup scored average or better, while most versions of the BMW 3 Series and some 5 Series are average or better. Volvo also improved leaving only the redesigned XC70 wagon rated below average in reliability.

Last year Consumer Reports called out three Toyota models that slipped to below average: the Camry V6, Tundra V8 4WD, and the Lexus GS AWD. But Toyota seems to have rectified some of the problems since all 42 of the Toyota, Lexus, and Scion models in the survey scored average or better. The three models noted above scored average.

Nissan showed striking improvements, with the troublesome Armada SUV, Titan pickup, and Infiniti QX56 SUV finally gaining average reliability. The new Nissan Rogue and Infiniti EX have started out above average. Nissan moved up in the Makes Rankings six places to fourteenth, while Infiniti moved up one spot, to sixth place when compared to last year's results.

The two closely related South Korean nameplates, Hyundai and Kia, rank right up there with the better Japanese makers. Most models scored above average or better.

General Motors is a mixed bag. Among the bright spots is the redesigned Chevrolet Malibu with above-average reliability for the 4-cylinder model and average for the V6. The Buick Lucerne V8 and four-cylinder Pontiac G6 are both above average. The Chevrolet Avalanche is now average. But a quarter of GM models are still well below average. Newer designs that did well in our testing, like the highly rated Cadillac CTS and Buick Enclave, GMC Acadia, and Saturn Outlook SUV triplets, were below average in reliability.

Chrysler trails the pack. Though the Dodge Caliber hatchback and Jeep Patriot SUV are above average, almost two-thirds of its products rate below average. The new Chrysler Town & Country and Dodge Grand Caravan minivans earned low scores, as did the Chrysler Sebring V6 and Dodge Avenger sedans and Jeep Liberty SUV. The Sebring convertible had the worst predicted reliability score: 283 percent worse than average.

Findings are based on responses on more than 1.4 million vehicles owned or leased by subscribers to Consumer Reports or its Web site. The survey was conducted in the spring of 2008 by Consumer Reports' National Survey Research Center and covered model years 1999 to 2008.

Consumer Reports' expert team of statisticians and automotive engineers used the survey data to predict reliability of new 2009 models. Predicted reliability is CR's forecast of how well models currently on sale are likely to hold up. To calculate predicted-reliability ratings, CR averages the overall reliability scores (used car verdicts) for the most recent three model years, provided that the model remained unchanged in that period and also didn't substantially change for 2009. If a model was new or redesigned in the past couple of years, one or two years' data may be used, or if that's all that's available.

Consumer Reports Annual Car Reliability Survey is used in determining which makes and models are recommended to consumers by CR. Consumer Reports recommends only models that have performed well in tests conducted at its 327-acre Auto Test Center in Connecticut, and that have average or better predicted reliability based on its annual survey. In addition, vehicles must perform well in government or insurance-industry crash and rollover tests, if tested, in order to be recommended. Occasionally, Consumer Reports may recommend a redesigned model too new to have compiled a reliability record if the previous generation, and the manufacturer's reliability track record has been consistently outstanding, and if the model meets the other criteria.

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