Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Consumer Reports 2011 Best Automakers

ConsumerReports just published its 2011 car ratings report (you need to be a subscriber to have access to the car-by-car rating data). Consumer Reports publishes every year what has become the most influential set of ratings in North America, obtained by compiling reliability and car feedback data from hundreds of thousands of its subscribers, this year for 1.3M vehicles, along with Consumer reports' own extensive road test scores.  Consumer Reports also selects ten favorites across ten different categories.

As part of its rating report, Consumer Reports rates the automakers themselves, by averaging their individual car ratings across the brand (here is a second post by Consumer Reports on the same topic). There are two interesting dimensions to look at: the road tests, which are fairly representative of the success of the design - they gather performance, safety, fuel economy, comfort, and convenience,-  and the reliability ratings, which are what Consumer Reports is most well known for.

We had already reviewed the car reliability survey report, published in November 2010, here. This new edition of the Consumer Reports car ratings assembles the previous reliability report with Consumer Reports new 2011 car road test ratings. As usual, the results this year are interesting.

Stability at the top for Japan

The three best automakers, like last year and the year before, are Honda, Toyota, and Subaru, with Honda being the most reliable, and Subaru having the best road tests. Toyota took some hits in reliability, but remains close to the top, and carries 3 car category winners. Not far from the top 3 is Volvo, sold by Ford last year to Chinese carmaker Zhejiang Geely, slightly behind in both reliability and road tests.  Ford, most improved this year in road tests (from 66 to 70) is practically even with Volvo in reliability, but still several points behind in road test results.

Following roughly 7 points behind in reliability are Hyundai, Mazda, and Nissan, all of them roughly even with Toyota and Honda in road tests. Nissan is going down, while Hyundai is going up fast in both directions.

Another 10 points behind in reliability we find Volkswagen and GM, followed by Mercedes 5 reliability points behind, then by BMW 5 reliability points further. Chrysler, roughly equal to BMW in reliability, is 15 points behind GM in road tests and 20 to 25 points behind Mercedes and BMW.

US car manufacturers are catching up - except for Chrysler

How are the domestic manufacturers doing? Ford had climbed up several ranks in reliability in late 2010, and is now showing good progress in road tests as well, being 2011's most improved brand on road tests as its score grows from 66 to 70. It is not very far behind from the top three, and could conceivably catch up in the next 2 to 3 years if progress continues. GM had also progressed significantly in reliability last year, and now improves in road tests as well, going from 64 to 67. It also gains a category pick with the Chevy Avalanche, in  pickups, but was slammed on the Chevy Volt. GM had not invested enough in new product development in the two years prior to bankruptcy, so the past two years saw poor product line renewal from GM. We should expect the next two years, then, to show many new models, and GM could be poised for a radical step forward in road test results.

Chrysler, on the other hand, is last by a very wide margin in road tests, and last in reliability as well with BMW, although not far behind Mercedes. Chrysler suffered from the same problem as GM in the past 3 years, and should show very significant product line renewal in the next two years, but its reliability and road test data are so poor today that there is a very long way to go. Consumer Reports, however, states that the first vehicles coming out are showing some promise.

"Luxury" European cars are starting to lag

Both Volkswagen and BMW score well in road tests, behind Subaru, but even or ahead of Honda and Toyota. However... BMW is last in reliability across all manufacturers, even with Chrysler. Mercedes-Benz is behind all players except Chrysler and BMW in reliability, and behind all players except the Big Three in road tests. It dropped from year to year, both in reliability and road test ratings - the only manufacturer to do so. How long can it keep its luxury brand image? Volkswagen would do better without its flagship Audi, which, when rated alone in reliability, is only barely ahead of Chrysler. Unfortunately for VW's Fahrvergnügen,  Consumer Reports indicates that its new Jetta sedan's road tests are definitely worsening, a bad sign for the brand.

Toyota remains on top of the best picks

Despite a rough 2010 year and multiple product recalls, Toyota's product line appears to remain the deepest in the field, collecting three best picks, more than any other automaker, with the RAV4 in small pickups, the Prius in green cars, and the Sienna in family haulers.

Hyundai is getting up with the best of them

Not only have Korean brand Hyundai and its sub-brand Kia successfully gained multiple spots in reliability,but they are the only manufacturer apart from Toyota and Nissan to score more than one category pick, with the Kia Sorrento in family SUVs and the Hyundai Elantra in small cars.

Want to read more about it? Try the Washington Post, the Christian Science Monitor, CNETBloomberg, The Wall Street JournalAP, Detroit free Press #1, Detroit free Press #2, Detroit Free Press #3, the Car Connection, Edmunds, CBS MoneyWatch, NPR, New York Times, CNN Money, USA Today, cars.com, autoblog, Gearlog, or the LA Times.                                  

1 comment:

auto loan said...

Luxury vehicles fell flat on this survey maybe because they're not supposed to be abused on the road.

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