Consumer Reports Reliability Study: Ford Down, Chrysler Up

2011 Ford Explorer

Uh oh, Ford…

The new Explorer, Fiesta, and Focus all had below-average reliability in their first year. As a result, Ford’s overall reliability rank among 28 major car makes slipped from the 10th to the 20th spot this year—the biggest drop for any major nameplate in Consumer Reports 2011 Annual Auto Survey.

This news was circulated yesterday in an e-mailed press release and posted on the CR website later in the day. While many blogs and news sources are repeating the message that Ford’s reliability has gone down the drain, the truth is, it hasn’t. Most of the problems reported are technology-related and involve the MyTouch infotainment system, a distraction I don’t believe should even be in cars.

2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee

At least it's not last!

Ford has already sent more than 100,000 newly redesigned Ford Explorers to new homes this year, proof that consumers are enamored with the vehicle regardless of what reviewers say. Compared with the same period last year, January through early-October, that’s a hefty 290 percent increase. Think Ford is lamenting the CR study? Probably not so much.

Chrysler (including Jeep and Dodge), should feel okay about the report, but mostly because it didn’t come in last. It’s 13th-place finish is respectable and, believe it or not, good enough take home the title of “most reliable domestic automaker.”

As far as GM goes, Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet and GMC all fell in the rankings compared with last year.

Asian brands were honored with the top 9 spots in the reliability study, with Scion taking the top spot and Lexus, Acura, Mazda, Honda and Toyota finishing in the top 10.

I think it’s a pretty common belief among car enthusiasts that CR studies don’t influence buying decisions. For the average car buyer, though, the magazine can act as a veritable list of what, and what not, to test drive.

Would you let a Consumer Reports study influence the brand of car you buy?


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  1. The new 2012 Chrysler 300 luxury sedan is coming out with lot of advanced technology updates. I have never heard of something like 9-speed auto gearbox system, and even none of the models have such a transmission facility in the company’s model line-up presently.

  2. As someone who was involved intimately in vehicle testing for many decades, including working with organizations like NHTSA and IIHS, I can tell you that CR has a strong bias that is built right into it’s testing protocols. I’ve tested many of the same vehicles that they’ve tested and walked away wondering what the heck it was they tested and how it was tested. I even seen them rate Japanese models higher than American models that came down the same assembly line and were identical in everything except nameplate.

  3. Tim has a point… I do listen to CR on consumer products like TVs, but tend to discount their thoughts on cars. I don’t think there’s an American bias, just a long history of Asian reliability dominance.

  4. I look to CR before any major purchase. While it isn’t my only decision making tool, I do take it into account. If a TV has a low rating, I stay away. Cars, same thing.

    And an ‘anti-American bias’? CR is the least subjective piece of information around. FACT: In general, domestic vehicles have more issues in the first 3 years of ownership. Where is the bias?

  5. Aside from an obvious anti-American bias, CR seems to base it’s reviews on stating the obvious— first year vehicles have more problems than more seasoned products.
    Ford released profit results today, which showed income up quite a bit but profits slightly down. That’s a good illustration of what I’ve said about Ford’s problem– Legacy costs are higher than their competition, which impacts the bottom line.

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