Consumer Reports' Most Reliable Cars of 2011
Ford's problems show the risks of buying a first-year model.
In recent years, Ford has been a model of American reliability. The brand ranked 10th in our predicted-reliability ranking last year and competed well with Japanese makes. This year, however, the Ford brand has slipped 10 spots, to 20th out of 28 makes. That was the biggest drop for any major nameplate, according to our 2011 Annual Auto Survey, which is based on subscribers' experiences with 1.3 million vehicles.
What changed? Three new or redesigned models — the Explorer, Fiesta, and Focus — had below-average reliability in their first year. We have often found that new or revamped models have more problems in their first year than in subsequent model years. Ford's problems underscore our advice to hold off buying a new car in its first year.
Other highlights from our survey:
- As Ford's star has fallen, Chrysler's has risen. Jeep has moved up seven spots to become the most reliable domestic brand, and all its models for which we have sufficient data scored average in predicted reliability. Chrysler and Dodge moved up 12 and three spots in ranking, respectively.
- Japanese brands dominate our survey's upper echelons and took the top nine spots. They were led by Scion, Lexus, Acura, Mazda, Honda, and Toyota.
- Jaguar, Porsche, and Audi are at the bottom among brands for which we have sufficient data.
- Many hybrids are proving extremely reliable. The top two models in our survey are the Lexus CT 200h and Honda CR-Z. The Toyota Prius was among the top models, rebounding from brake problems that plagued the current design.
- Family sedans hold up well overall and are led by the Ford Fusion Hybrid. All of the models for which we have data have at least average reliability. In contrast, only one minivan makes that cut: The front-wheel-drive Toyota Sienna is average.
- Heavy-duty, three-quarter-ton pickups are among the most problematic vehicles. With the exception of the turbodiesel Ford F-250, they all scored below average.
For full reliability charts and predicted reliability on hundreds of 2012 models, plus a list of what's up and what's down, visit ConsumerReports.org.
Fortunes Change for Big Three
Even with Chrysler's improvement, Detroit models still have reliability problems. Of the 97 domestic models and versions for which we have sufficient data, 62 (64 percent) rated average or better in our new-car reliability ratings.
The new Buick Regal and Chevrolet Cruze did well in our road tests but were below par in reliability. The Buick LaCrosse, an all-wheel-drive version of the Buick Enclave, and the Cadillac SRX were all deemed reliable last year but dropped to below average and are no longer recommended. General Motors' bright spots include the above-average Chevrolet Avalanche and the Cadillac CTS, which has improved to average.
The gas/electric Chevrolet Volt, with much better than average predicted reliability, ranks as GM's most reliable car but with a caveat: The sample size was just a little more than our minimum threshold of 100 cars, and most respondents had owned theirs for only a few months.
Ford's drop can also be attributed to problems with new technologies: the new MyFord Touch infotainment system and the new automated-manual transmission used in the Fiesta and Focus. Lincoln finished above Ford, although the freshened MKX, a cousin of the Edge, suffered from the MyLincoln Touch system. On the bright side, the Ford Fusion Hybrid sedan remained outstanding, and other Fusion versions were above average.
Chrysler had better results with its new models, including the freshened Chrysler 200 (formerly Sebring) sedan and the redesigned Dodge Durango and Jeep Grand Cherokee SUVs. The Chrysler brand moved up in the survey, but its rank is based on just two models: the 200, which was well above average, and the freshened Town & Country minivan, which tanked. The remaining model, the 300, is too new for us to have sufficient data.
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A while back when the domestics were dominating this list and the imports were faltering, everyone was complaining that CR was biased towards domestic autos. I assume those same people will continue to argue that CR results are flawed.
I mean, they wouldn't change their argument just because the CR results are now in their favor would they................?
I drove a Ford for years, in fact we were a two Ford car family for about 10 years. Then due to an error in their billing department I switched to Toyota. WE are now a two car (Toyota) family. I have never driven a GM or Chrysler product I liked. I have owned one of each in the past and will not do soa gain in the forseeable future. Both had quality and relilability issues. Ford and Toyota have never caused me any issues with reliability or quality. I find it highly suspect that the government bails out GM and Chrysler and now a Chrysler product is at the top of the list.
I work hard for my money an am gong to buy what saves me the most money to own and Japanese vehicles have the lowest cost of ownership.
Trust me, I wish Detroit would step up it's quality and reliability. They are making some pretty nice looking, high tech vehicles, but until they reach import quality levels in those areas and cost of ownership, I will not be spending my money with them. Been there, done that.
And I will never buy GM I hate their vehicles and most of them have been n othing but lemons to me when I have had them.
We all have our own experiences to use as proof but those experiences are only sampling a small pool, not millions like CR, Car and Driver, JD Powers and such.
My personal and professional experience happens to agree with them right now. I have saved on my personal vehicle ownership costs and have saved the company I work for huge amounts on their ownership costs by purchasing Japanese vehicles.
I still purchase Suburban's for the company but only because they don't have any Asian competition when it comes to interior cargo space but we rarely get more than 150k miles out of them before they start having motor and transmission problems. I'm sure when used as a personal vehicle, and well maintained, they will exceed 200k but not in a work environment.
While it isn't the only factor, cost of ownership is very important for me. That is why nearly every auto purchase has been a domestic auto. I enjoy applying the money I save to other parts of my life. Reliability has never been an issue. And any problems that have come up have never offset the money I saved over the life of the vehicle. So in the end, I am way ahead.
I have never put any trust in CR, and that includes the times when their reports favored the vehicle I drove. They have put a "recommended" tag on too many vehicles that were simply junk (domestic and import). Have you ever noticed that most people who say they agree with CR tend to have little to no knowledge about automobiles? That isn't a coincidence.