Consumer Reports Ranks Reliability Of These Automotive Brands

Consumer Reports is out with its reliability survey for 2020. There are lots of surprises and brands reliability shuffled around from previous years. Five of the top ten brands are Japanese. For the first time, Mazda is at the top for the most reliable brand overall. Last year Lexus was the top dog. This year it came in second, followed closely by parent Toyota. 

Unfortunately, two American manufacturers were at the bottom

Lincoln Nautilus
2020 Lincoln Nautilus is on display | Getty

Of the domestic brands, it was Buick that topped the list at number four overall. The “Most Reliable” list covers six brands, with Honda and Hyundai at five and six. At the other end is the “Less Reliable” category. Unfortunately, two American manufacturers were at the bottom.

The least reliable brand was Lincoln, with Tesla rated quite a few points above it. Topping out this list is Mercedes Benz, followed by Cadillac, Ford, Mini, and Volkswagen. Lincoln’s score was “8” which put it as the only brand of the 26 listed to be in single digits. Consumer Reports blamed the poor showing on being “dragged down by its SUV-focused model line, especially the new Aviator and Corsair.” 

CR’s survey is based on data from over 300,000 vehicles. Scores are from 1 to 100. It collects the stats for a variety of categories over each entire brand. Mazda scored 83 overall points out of 100. At the bottom, Lincoln scored 8 out of 100. 

The scores were based on quite a few different categories and sources

A man inspects a red Mazda CX-5
A Mazda CX-5 | Getty

CR said owners “reported everything from transmissions needing replacement after as little as 5,000 miles to display screens that required hardware replacement” and, going so far as to paint that was marred by embedded human hair in a Tesla according to Automotive News. Road tests, owner satisfaction surveys, safety systems, and crash test information are also just part of what CR factors into the results. In Tesla’s case, it would have scored far higher was it not for the initial problems experienced with the Model Y. “I am surprised that we would see just basic paint and trim type issues and body panel fitment issues,” said Jake Fisher, Senior Director of CR auto testing in an interview with Reuters. 

“You would think that that would have been worked out a long time ago. Really disappointing when you spend this much money for a car and hopefully they’ll be able to rectify a lot of these as time goes by,” Fisher added. But there were other issues with Tesla models. The Tesla Model S and Model X crossover were “worse than average,” with the former losing its “recommended” status, Fisher said. The Model 3 sedan scored an “average” rating and remained in the “recommended” category.

For Mazda, it was “risky new powertrains and infotainment systems” that helped it to the top

A blue 2021 Lexus ES on display with a mountain range in the background
A 2021 Lexus ES on display | Lexus

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For Mazda, it was “risky new powertrains and infotainment systems” that helped it to the top. As for Lexus losing ground, this was blamed on the LS sedan. And what was expected to be the year that more EVs would make the list didn’t work out that way.

“What we’re seeing now is, when automakers launch EVs, they’re changing a lot,” with new platforms as opposed to using an existing platform with an electric motor and systems, Fisher said. “Almost all automakers seem to use the opportunity to make these vehicles a technological tour de force, and as a result, they’re creating problems because they’re changing everything.” The Audi E-Tron and Kia Niro EVs were both examples of reliable brands launching vehicles that had major teething problems because of their complex powertrain systems. 

Be that as it may, we believe this will end up being an advantage down the road. Once early issues are worked out the new platforms will allow manufacturers to use platform variations to pump out many new EV models with a drastically shorter development time. It is a calculated risk that should reap many benefits in just a couple of years.