DETROIT (AP) – Consumer Reports’ latest auto reliability and survey rankings find overall domination by Japanese automakers, strides from Detroit’s Big Three and stumbles from Europe.
The findings, released Wednesday and featured in the magazine’s April issue, are based on more than 250 tested vehicles and data collected from 1.3 million subscribers’ vehicles.
For the second time in 10 years, all the magazine’s top-10 picks are Japanese nameplates. This year’s list includes five new models: the Toyota RAV4, Infiniti G35, Toyota Sienna, Mazda MX-5 Miata and the Honda Fit.
The list features vehicles that performed well in Consumer Reports’ tests, have at least average predicted reliability and adequate performance in government and insurance industry crash protection tests.
The Toyota Prius ranked as the most satisfying vehicle overall for the fourth straight year based on the percentage of respondents who said they would buy the same model again, according to the magazine’s annual car owner satisfaction survey. The Chevrolet Corvette again came in second.
Seven U.S. models made the top cut, compared with four last year. Japanese models fell from 31 to 26, and European models increased from nine to 11.
The magazine found that Volkswagen leads in overall test performance, followed by Honda, BMW and Mercedes-Benz, Mazda and Nissan. But Honda, Subaru and Toyota get the highest marks when it comes to reliability.
Vehicles are given a single score that reflects their performance in Consumer Reports’ own testing.
In a new report card, Mercedes-Benz received the fourth-highest test score with 77 out of a possible 100. But not one of the German automaker’s vehicles received a recommendation from Consumer Reports because of reliability concerns. By contrast, Honda’s test score was 78, but the magazine recommends all the automaker’s vehicles it tested.
Recommendations of the tested vehicles are based on performance, reliability in surveys, and crash-test results.
The reliability of cars from Detroit vary greatly, according to Consumer Reports. While some models are good, even the best seldom rise to the top of their categories against stiff competition, the magazine reported.
Chrysler posted the lowest score at 51, with 21 percent of the tested vehicles getting a recommendation. Ford’s score was 64, with 54 percent of its tested vehicles getting a recommendation; General Motors received a 57 with a 36 percent recommendation rate.
David Champion, the magazine’s senior director of automotive testing, said there was some good news for a domestic industry battered by a decreased market share and manufacturing cuts.
“They are making strides in the right direction, but time is not on their side and certainly the financial situation is not on their side,” he said. “If they’re going to succeed in this market, they have to build a world-class product…that doesn’t fall down in any one area.”
Among the domestic shining stars, he said, are the Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan, both of which have the same underpinnings as the Lincoln MKZ.
The Fusion and Milan were on Consumer Reports’ “most impressive” list, described as having a nimble handling and a comfortable ride. Unlike many cars in their first year, the magazine said, reliability for both has been excellent.
While Ford’s Fusion and Milan were on the top of the heap, Toyota’s subcompact Yaris made the “most disappointing” list. The magazine said the Yaris has excellent fuel economy and reliability but sloppy emergency handling, a lot of noise and an uncomfortable driving position.
Bennie Fowler, Ford’s vice president for quality, was in South America on Wednesday and had not read the magazine’s results. But he said the results for the Fusion and Milan reflect the company’s plan to release an entirely new lineup by 2010.
“One of the key challenges facing us as we close the gap on the competition is making sure the buying public recognizes (Ford’s quality improvements),” he said. “One of the hardest things is living down things that may have happened in the past.
“We have to start…by taking one step.”