Consumer Reports 2013 Auto Reliability Rankings causes headaches for Automaker CEOs & Marketers

consumer reports auto reliability


The much-anticipated results of the Consumer Reports 2013 Auto Reliability Rankings were released today.  Not surprisingly Consumer Reports Auto Reliability Rankings are causing massive headaches for automaker CEOs and marketers across the industry.  Even if Japanese and American automakers are not to happy with the results it seems Germans and the Swedes are having parties (even if the NSA is listening.)  Here’s why and who took the top spots this year.

Consumer Reports 2013 Top 10 Most Reliable Automakers

  1. Lexus – up 2 spots
  2. Toyota – same
  3. Acura – up 4 spots
  4. Audi – up 4 spots
  5. Mazda – down 1 spot
  6. Infiniti – up 3 spots
  7. Volvo – up 13 spots
  8. Honda – down 2 spots
  9. GMC – down 2 spots
  10. Subaru – down 5 spots

Up and Downs of the 2013 Consume Reports Auto Reliability Rankings

As you can see 3 Japanese brands, Lexus, Toyota, and Acura captured the spots in this year’s reliability rankings.  Japanese automakers took 7 out of the 10 top spots in the survey while GMC, Volvo, and Audi also got favorable overall reliability ratings.

The reason Lexus and Toyota earned the top spots this year was that out of almost 100 models, 10 of the highest scorers were Toyotas and the 8 Lexus models in the CR’s survey, 6 got top marks.  As a group, the 9 Japanese brands in the survey still produce a remarkable number of reliable cars according to Consumer Reports.  All Lexus and Acura models earned an above average reliability score while all Infiniti, Mazda, and Toyota models earned an average or better reliability score.

Even though Subaru dropped 5 spots in the brand position, which is a fairly significant drop, the top predicted-reliability score went to the redesigned 2014 Subaru Forester.  (Read our 2014 Subaru Forest Review by the way.)  Impressive since it had not been available for too long when Consumer Reports conducted this survey.  The reason for drop is the Subaru and Scion sports car collaboration, the Subaru BRZ and the Scion FR-S, which scored below average.  This dropped Subaru to 10th place, from last year’s 5th place.  Ouch!

Nissan was the loan Japanese automaker that fared quite poorly, as they moved from to 22nd position out of the 28 automotive brands in the rankings.  The 2013 Nissan Altima, scored too poorly in the survey for Consumer Reports to recommend the sedan.  In addition the redesigned 2013 Honda Accord V6 had a “Recommended” rating revoked.  Last year, CR had predicted that both vehicles would have at least average reliability.  Mazda slipped from this year 1 position from 4th to 5th place.

Ford has taken a beating in the Reliability Rankings coming in 26th place.  Of the 31 Ford models in Consumer Reports’ survey, just one, the F-150 pickup with the 3.7-liter V6 engine, was rated as average and only 7 achieved an average reliability score.  The Ford C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid got the worst reliability score, and the regular C-Max Hybrid did not do better.  Ford’s My-Touch systems seems to be the source of the hit in reliability for a large majority of Ford vehicles.  The Consumer Reports reliability rankings also cited the EcoBoost turbocharged V6 models as having poor reliability in addition to 2/3 of the 34 Fords and Lincolns in the survey got scores that were much worse than average.  (Come on guys, I own Ford stock!)

Chrysler is another American automaker which could have done better.  Even though they jumped 5 spots to 18th brand reliability position they still have below par overall reliability.  (You can probably hear swearing from Chrysler executives.)  This is due to the Jeep Compass and Patriot SUVs and the 2014 V6 Jeep Grand Cherokee.  The only ray of sunshine is the Chrysler 300 C which scores above average, and it is important to point out that last year it was the company’s most troublesome vehicle.  Chrysler has consistently scored poorly in Consumer Report’s reliability surveys for years.

General Motors fared the best out of the Big Three automakers.  In addition to GMC scoring in 9th place, Buick climbed 9 slots to 12th place over last year.  The reason?  All Buicks, except the V6 LaCrosse have average or better reliability according to Consumer Reports. The only vehicles that scored poorly for Chevrolet are the Camaro and Cruze, which earned below-average reliability scores.

Hyundai and Kia over the last few years have started to challenge the Japanese at the top of Consumer Reports’ reliability rankings.  Back in 2011, the Korean automakers scored well ahead of Detroit and most European companies for reliability.  They have fallen this year though.  Kia scored 16th place which drops the brand 6 position compared to last year.  Hyundai moved down to the 21st place which is a drop of 4 positions.

Germans can be happy even if the NSA likes listening to their freaky phone sex.  BMW and Mercedes-Benz have bascially kept their middle positions for brand reliability. Most models from these German automakers score average or better.  However BMW and Mercedes-Benz each have a few sore spots in their vehicle lineups which includes the BMW 335i and turbocharged six-cylinder X3, and the diesel-powered Mercedes M-Class.

All three Minis in the auto reliability survey did the extremely poorly in the reliability survey.  The iconic British brand dropped to the 28th spot, which is dead last.  This is a drop of 6 spots compared to last year.  BMW owns Mini and I guess they haven’t improved reliability enough.   I expect Mini Cooper buyers to start a revolution though as you can’t say anything bad about a Mini to an owner.  Its like telling a parent their child is ugly or isn’t that smart.

Volkswagen dropped from 2 positions to 20th place this year. The German automaker was hammered by the trouble-prone VW Beetle, VW GTI, and VW Touareg.  Just so our reader are aware we never said the VW Beetle Convertible was reliable, only that chicks love it!

Audi was the German that came out with a knockout.  The brand has shown steady improvement in vehicle reliability over the past few years according to the survey.  This moved them up 4 places this year to finish 4th overall, which was the top European manufacturer in the survey. There were 3 Audis, the A6 sedan, Q7 SUV and Allroad wagon, have “much better than average” reliability according to the results.

Volvo is the most impressive  European brand this year.   The Swedish automaker catapulted up 13 places to 7th overall in brand reliability.

Tree Huggers will be glad to know that hybrids and electric cars continue to have favorable ratings in the survey.  The Toyota Prius, Lexus ES 300h, Toyota Prius C, and Honda CR-Z hybrids, as well as the Nissan Leaf electric car, were among the top models this year. (Ford’s C-Max and Fusion hybrids were the only exceptions.)

The Tesla Model S electric did well enough this year to earn a “Recommended” rating from Consumer Reports for reliability.   CR gathered data on more than 600 2012 and 2013 Tesla Model S models which they consider sufficient data.  (Do you think drifting the Tesla Model S was a question?)  Owners of the 2012 Tesla Model S reported very few problems, although 2013 owners reported more apparently.  A bit odd since usually automakers iron out kinks and problems in a car in a models next generation.  Noted problem areas included wind noise, squeaks and rattles, and body hardware (including the sunroof, doors, and locks).  Consumer Reports this year gave the Tesla Model S a score of “99” which is it’s highest score of all time.

Consumer Reports’ survey noted that one of the key problems areas is in-car electronics.  This includes the proliferating suite of audio, navigation, communication, and connected systems in cars on the market now.  Of the 17 problem areas CR asked consumers about, the category including in-car electronics generated more complaints, hassles, and issues.  (Specifically for 2013 new car models.)  In many cases, the CR survey revealed touch-screen infotainment systems have quite a lot of bugs, which includes frustrating screen freezes, touch-control lag, or a reluctance to recognize a cell-phone, an MP3 device, or a voice command.

The survey was conducted by the Consumer Reports National Research Center. The survey is the largest of its kind; findings are based on CR subscribers’ experiences with 1.1 million vehicles. Consumer Reports uses the survey data to compile reliability histories on vehicles and predict how well new cars that are currently on sale will hold up.

Adam Yamada-Hanff
Adam has always loved cars and anything with wheels. When he is not writing about interesting stories you might find him jamming on his saxophone, watching movies, creating art, or playing with his two dogs.