Japanese brands have dominated the latest Consumer Reports vehicle reliability survey in the United States, taking out the podium places in estimating a car’s likelihood of experiencing problems.
The influential study by the non-profit organisation includes responses from 329,000 of its members and looks at makes and models sold in the US, not all of which are available or relevant to Australia, with many sourced from different factories to the same models sold here.
While CR praised Mazda’s relatively simple model range, it pointed to “ongoing problems” with the Lexus LS limousine, something that hurt the otherwise “outstanding” vehicles from the luxury brand.
The senior director of auto testing at Consumer Reports, Jake Fisher, said the reliability rankings were designed to help owners predict how reliable their next new car will be.
“A car might be great to drive and have all the features you want, but all that won't matter to you much if you have to keep going back to the dealer for repairs,” said Fisher.
Despite dominating the brand rankings, Mazda only had one car – the CX-5 – sneak into the list of the top 10 most reliable cars, outdone by the Toyota Prius, Lexus NX, Buick Encore (which is similar to the Holden Trax), Lexus GX (similar to the Toyota Prado), Honda HR-V, Hyundai Kona, Audi A5 and Audi A4.
But due to extensive component sharing across the lineup Consumer Reports predicted “all Mazdas will have above-average reliability”.
As the other end of the list that ranked 26 brands was Ford’s luxury offshoot Lincoln, which was penalised because its “historically reliable sedans” are no longer on sale and the newer SUVs had reports of various problems.
Second last was Tesla, a brand that polarises with its infotainment and electric technology but one that has long struggled with quality.
The popular Model 3 was ranked as Tesla’s most reliable model but the upcoming Model Y SUV (above) that is shared so many components with was deemed to have “build quality issues with body hardware and paint, and some drive system failures”.
Mercedes-Benz was also singled out for its GLE SUV, described as “one of the least reliable models in our surveys, with drive system failures, emission sensor issues, power equipment problems, and in-car electronics headaches”.
Luxury rival Audi had its A4 and A5 rated as having “outstanding reliability”, although the recently-arrived Q8 SUV and all-electric e-Tron were “much worse than average”.
The e-Tron was indicative of sub-par results for many electric models, including the Kia Niro EV and Tesla Model Y.
However, simpler and more affordable EVs were less problematic, according to Consumer Reports, which said it was typically not the electric drive systems causing dramas for EV owners.
The Chevrolet Bolt was “one of Chevrolet’s most reliable models”, something tempered by the Chevrolet Silverado being ranked as the least reliable vehicle, with the Colorado joining it in the list of the 10 least reliable vehicles ranked.
Consumer Reports said new tech and new architectures could cause issues early in a car’s life.
“There are plenty of new cars that have reliability problems because they’re using a new transmission, infotainment system, or other unproven component,” said Fisher. “In most cases, it takes a little time to get everything straightened out, as anyone who has ever bought the first version of a car knows.”
While the 2020 Consumer Reports Auto Surveys covered 26 brands, many others were not ranked, including Alfa Romeo, Jaguar and Land Rover, because Consumer Reports said it did not have sufficient data.
2020 Consumer Reports most reliable major automotive brands