Survey Says: Japanese Companies Make the Most Reliable Cars

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UPDATED: Mar 13, 2020

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By Joni Gray

Most Reliable Car Brands

Consumer Reports recently announced the results of the top ten car brands, putting Toyota squarely at the top with its Scion, Toyota, and Lexus brands in the top three spots. Next were four other Japanese companies – Mazda, Subaru, Honda, and Acura. Also on the list of the top ten was the only German company listed, Audi. Kia was the only one Korean company to make the top ten, and no American brands were represented on the top list.

Of the American brands, General Motors had the biggest gain in reliability with Cadillac brand taking 11th place in the study.

 Most Reliable Car

The subcompact Toyota Prius C earned the top reliability rating overall – however, Consumer Reports’ testing did not put that particular model in their “recommended” list. The company is both applauded and criticized for its objectivity due to the way it tests cars, refrigerators, vacuums, and other products. They buy one product from a retailer and put it through a bastion of testing to measure not only reliability, but satisfaction and comparative features.

The 2012 Toyota Prius C (Source: Toyota)

How CR Measured Reliability

In the case of these new car reliability ratings, the goal of the survey is to discover how each model is likely to hold up after a year of use. Basically, consumers are asked which problems and repairs they have experienced in one year of ownership. If the model has been unchanged for any other years of its life cycle, its past track record is also measured. Since it’s a “prediction” of sorts, there has to be at least one year of history reported by the owner, so brand new models that are built from the ground up don’t count into the survey results until next year.

Consumer Reports weighs each individual issue differently by how severe it considers the individual issue. For instance, a major engine problem is weighed quite a bit higher than a glitch in the audio system. By contrast, J.D. Power and Associates’ Initial Quality Study (IQS) measures all problems found in the first three months of ownership as equal in weight.

The Bottom of the List

The most notable fail on the bottom of the list is Ford, which only a few years ago, dominated the top of the list. The brand had issues with drivability in its PowerShift transmission and the MyFordTouch infotainment system, which had been cited for failing while in use and being difficult to use. Only two years ago, Ford was the most reliable of the American brands in the study; however, Ford had three new models that were too new to qualify for this survey – the 2013 Ford Escape and Fusion and the Lincoln MKZ.

From first being best to 27th being worst, here’s how Consumer Reports ranked car brands for reliability:

1. Scion: 72% above average
2. Toyota: 47%
3. Lexus: 47%
4. Mazda: 40%
5. Subaru: 37%
6. Honda: 36%
7. Acura: 26%
8. Audi: 16%
9. Infiniti: 14%
10 Kia: 11%
11. Cadillac: 10%
12. GMC: 6%
13. Nissan: 5%
14. Mercedes-Benz: 4%
15. Chevrolet: 3%
16. BMW: -2%
17. Hyundai: -3%
18. Volkswagen: -9%
19. Jeep: -12%
20. Volvo: -14%
21. Buick: -29%
22. Mini: -42%
23. Chrysler: -43%
24. Dodge: -46%
25. Ram: -55%
26. Lincoln: -58%
27. Ford: -59%
28. Jaguar: -141%

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