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10 least reliable automakers as rated by Consumer Reports

Bad news for American automakers, especially Ford and Lincoln.

By Claire_Martin Oct 30, 2012 12:37PM

Ford Explorer photo by FordIn this year's Consumer Reports auto reliability reportLincoln took the biggest tumble since last year, Jaguar held onto last place and Ford was ranked the worst American carmaker and the second-to-worst overall.

Even though Lincoln dropped from 14th to 26th place, Ford's fall from grace was perhaps more dramatic. Just two years ago, the automaker was feted for breaking into the top 10, with more than 90 percent of its models rated average or better for reliability.

What gives? The MyFord/MyLincoln Touch electronic infotainment system proved to be a dud, as did the majority of Ford and Lincoln models tested by Consumer Reports. Redesigned versions of the Explorer, Fiesta and Focus were all deemed problematic. "Sixty percent of Ford-branded models and half of Lincolns were below average in predicted reliability, and none placed above average," Jake Fisher of Consumer Reports told USA Today.

Also working to Ford's and Lincoln's detriment was that the typically high-scoring Escape, Fusion and Lincoln MKZ were not included in the report. They've been relaunched for 2013, and hence there isn't yet enough data to score their reliability. 

Jaguar XJ photo by JaguarThe biggest loser was Jaguar, whose XF and XJ models landed it on the very bottom of the reliability list. Unfortunately, the British automaker has had plenty of time to get comfortable in this spot -- it's a perennial last-place finisher and historically hasn't gotten much love from Consumer Reports. In 2009, a Consumer Reports reviewer noted that after just 12,000 miles, the fuel door and power driver's window were busted on the XF model he was testing. 

Rounding out the bottom 10 are Jeep, Volvo, Buick, MINI, Chrysler, Dodge and Ram, bringing the tally of least reliable cars to a total of seven American and three foreign carmakers. On the flip side, the top seven most reliable automakers were Japanese.

Unlike similar reliability surveys from companies such as J.D. Power, which pay car owners a dollar to rate their cars within the past 90 days or three years, Consumer Reports polls only its 1.2 million subscribers. The manufacturer ratings are based on vehicles sold within the past 10 years and include 17 "trouble spots" for each individual model.

How much weight do these rankings typically carry in auto showrooms? A lot, according to industry experts. “When I was at Nissan ... more than 60 percent of consumers were influenced by Consumer Reports in one way or another," former Nissan executive Larry Dominique, now executive vice president of, said in an interview with the Los Angeles Times.

[Sources: USA Today, Consumer Reports]

Nov 5, 2012 9:38AM
As a general rule, I think that Consumer Reports do a better job testing reliability than J.D. Power. The reason being that they track long term reliability with their subscribers, whereas J.D. Power only test the first 90 day reliability. Want an example? When the new Jaguar XF came out in 2008, it received 4 out of 5 stars on the J.D. Power predicted reliability. A year later, that shrunk to just 2 stars, due to the large number of reliability issues that owners discovered with their 2008 XF.
Nov 3, 2012 9:11PM
Just look at all the displacement from the Detroit fans.....   no big suprise.
Nov 3, 2012 9:09PM

Ford overpromising and underdelivering has been going on for decades.  No big suprise to see them reap what they sew.

Nov 3, 2012 10:47AM

It is still really funny that Honda and Toyota have had the most recent recalls for alot of cars and yet are shown to be best. This makes absolutly no sense at all. Here in N.E. Ohio Fords are pretty dominant. I do talk to the guys in Fords service dept. and they have said they are seeing less issues. My brother in law is a transmission tech at a Lincoln dealership and is in agreement with Ford having much better quality. I personally will only drive a Ford product.


The other issue is Fords My Touch. If people would actually read the manual MyTouch would be fine. It is a little complicated at first, but great to use afterwards.

Nov 2, 2012 11:49PM
Consumer Reports. A magazine for the snobs. That drive in BMWS and other luxury Imports.  
Nov 1, 2012 6:49AM

As far as I'm concerned, these studies will never have any impact on my buying decision.  You have two types of car buyers; those who look at a vehicle as nothing more than a means of transportation and those who believe a vehicle should evoke an emotion.


For those exclusively interested in getting from A to B, enjoy your bland, boring Hondas and Toyotas.  I'll stick with my vehicles that have personality, even if it means I may find myself in the dealership slightly more often.   (Which just for the record, I've never owned an import and have never spent time in the dealerships) 

Nov 1, 2012 6:34AM

 Interesting study. Meanwhile, Chrysler states that warranty repairs have dropped about 33% over the last year. In the dealership it bears out. It used to be if one model had a concern, they all did. Warranty repair numbers are deep in the basement, compared to a year or so ago.

 It kinda sucks because all the warranty work we used to count on during slow times just isn't there like it used to be.

Nov 1, 2012 5:17AM

Dont know how they figure that any American car company would rank behind Nissan.  I recently took a trip to a salvage lot, which was overwhelmingly filled with Nissans.  On the way home, I was stuck in traffic, because of a car fire, it was a relatively late model Nissan.  The 370's have been a huge flop compared to to the 350's, and reliability is not that much better. 

Now I admit that this could all be coincidence, but when was the last time you saw a 10 year old Nissan chugging along on the road that was in good condition, or even the last time you saw a 10 year old Nissan that still runs.

Perhapse the only thing that saves their rep is that most of their vehicles are leased, not bought. 

Yet surveys and car mags etc dont really pick on the brand.

Oct 31, 2012 10:43PM
They got the bail out money, the pressure is high, they are trying to catch up and impress, they crancked out a lot of new models and updates, that leaves room for a lot of mistakes. Taxpayers be patient its going to take some time. Ford slip is really concerning, one step forward and two backward some focus is needed here.
Oct 31, 2012 9:30AM
One issue which is rarely discussed is that automobile manufacturers have to market their vehicles at certain price points within the various vehicle's segments.  They also have to make a profit to stay in business.  Besides overhead, the main costs of production are materials and labor.  The issue is the more money spent on labor, the less money available for materials.  The less money spent on materials, the lower the quality.  If American manufacturers are spending 30-50% more for labor than their competitors, I can't see how the quality of their components will ever be as good.
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