Consumer Reports 2010 Car Reliability Survey: Who Makes The Best Cars?

Our gear-head bros at Consumer Reports have published the results of their Annual Auto Survey and there’s good news for General Motors, whose numbers showed considerable improvement. Still, no U.S.-based car makers were able to beat out either Honda or Toyota for reliability.

Leading the way for GM was its Chevrolet brand, which saw 83% of its vehicles receiving average or better scores in predicted reliability. That’s a huge uptick from last year’s 50% rating.

Writes CR:

While some GM nameplates had been among the least reliable brands in past years, they now rank above some major European competitors such as Audi, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz. Two factors are aiding GM’s reliability improvements. First, GM’s recent introductions, such as the Chevrolet Camaro and Equinox, Buick LaCrosse V6 (FWD), and Cadillac SRX, are proving reliable from the time they were launched. In addition, GM shed many models with subpar reliability when it shut down the Hummer, Pontiac, and Saturn brands. Even some older models, such as the Chevrolet Avalanche, Corvette, and Suburban have improved to average.

GM is still lagging behind Ford, which once again was the top domestic car maker. CR’s survey of 1.3 million vehicles found that 90% of Fords have at least average reliability. While the car company wasn’t able to beat out Honda or Toyota, it did score top marks in two categories: family cars (Fusion Hybrid) and large SUVs (Ford Flex EcoBoost).

Chrysler performed woefully in comparison to its U.S. counterparts, with 12 of the 20 models that CR had sufficient data for rating below average in reliability. None of Chrysler Corporation’s models scored above average. However, the magazine does point out that Fiat’s acquisition of Chrysler means that many of its products will either be replaced or redesigned in the near future.

Meanwhile, Toyota still reigned supreme over all car makers, in spite of all the recalls in the last year. The world’s largest car company earned top scores in five vehicle categories: small cars (Yaris), midsized SUVs (FJ Cruiser), luxury SUVs (Lexus LX), minivans (Sienna V6, FWD), and full-size pickups (Tundra V6). Of all Toyota brands, only the all-wheel-drive Lexus GS and the new Lexus IS 250 convertible scored below average. The redesigned 2010 Toyota Prius, hurt by antilock brake problems on early vehicles, scored only average.

Honda also earned top marks in five vehicle categories: upscale cars (Acura TL, FWD), luxury cars (Acura RL), small SUVs (CR-V), upscale compact SUVs (Acura RDX) and compact pickups (Ridgeline). Problems with rear brake pads help drop the four-cylinder Accord and Acura TSX to average.

Consumer Reports’ 2010 Annual Car Reliability Survey: GM makes big strides, while Honda, Toyota dominate []


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  1. ajkilroy24 says:

    With all the recalls I doubt Toyota will be doing as well next year

    • WagTheDog says:

      I was going to say, bring on the Japanese car haters, but you beat me to it. Good work!

      • perkonkrusts says:

        Pretty mild statement to be labelled a “Japanese car hater”, isn’t it? Wild guess, you own or drive a Toyota.

  2. FrugalFreak says:

    Where is NISSAN? I never hear any good or bad about NISSAN these days.

    • Mom says:

      Right next to Mazda, between Ford and Chevy.

      • OSAM says:

        Which is odd, as both Ford and Mazda share models that are, barring the sheetmetal and badging, the same, or at least vastly share the same parts.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      I can’t tell where it’s ranked (there’s no list) but the CR article says in terms of brand, it ranked below Ford. But that doesn’t indicate where it is in terms of reliability. It did say, however, “Nissan’s mainstream models scored well. The Altima and Maxima sedans; the Murano and Pathfinder SUVs all rated average or better in predicted reliability. The Titan had shown improvement in the last year or two, but both 2WD and 4WD versions have once again dropped to below average reliability. The small Nissan Cube had a below average score in its first appearance in Consumer Reports survey. The Infiniti models were all average or better.”

      • swarrior216 says:

        im wondering where the frontier comes in at. ive been considering on getting one.

      • tooluser says:

        Quality is irrelevant if you don’t fit in the driver’s seat.

        From personal testing in 2007, I know that the Nissan Altima and the Buick Lucerne are the only two sedans costing less than $100,000 that a giant monkey can fit in comfortably.

        It’s all about the design of the dash and the knee room that a good design provides.

  3. Bativac says:

    I drive a CR-V and my wife drives a Tundra… we won’t buy anything but Toyotas and Hondas. Too many family members have had terrible experiences with GM vehicles, and after having a Ford fall apart on me years ago, I’ll never drive another one.

    My CR-V has just under 150k miles and the only things I’ve had to get done, outside of regular maintenance, are the brakes (which I’d still consider maintenance) and the O2 sensor.

    • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

      Did you have any rust problems with your Tundra?

      We spent a lot of money on ours only to have the frame rot away within a few years (still under warranty). Instead of replacing the truck, they actually replaced the frame in its entirety, resulting in a POS full of squeaks & rattles, and premature part failures. The same exact thing happened to every Tundra in my company’s motor pool.

      • Mike says:

        Just out of curiosity, where do you live? Are you in a snow area?

        • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

          West Virginia — We get some snow but it’s nothing like up north.

          The only good thing that came out of it was the willingness of the dealer to replace any additional parts for no extra labor. I’m pretty sure this was thanks to the dealer and not corporate.

          Even so, they lost a customer. Having a $40k truck completely fall apart within 3 years was completely unacceptable. I would have been happy if they had offered to buy it back based on a pro-rated amount or even applied most of the amount towards a new vehicle.

          The truck had so many problems after the frame replacement, it turned into a heap within a few months. It ranged from suspension and steering issues to non-stop squeaks, rattles, and wind noise. It was never the same afterward and Toyota refused to help. After failing trying to sell it privately, I ended up trading it in (for a non-Toyota) at a very hefty loss.

      • Bativac says:

        My wife hasn’t had any problems with her Tundra as far as rust goes. I have heard other people having similar problems, though…

      • HoJu says:

        I have an ’02 Tundra. Got the rust inspection and apparently it wasn’t that bad so they’re SUPPOSED to be calling about doing an undercoating. Hasn’t happened yet. The inspection was in May.

        My neighbor had his ’01 inspected in April and it was a mess of rust. They took it in immediately and had it until the end of September when they finally completed the work. He hasn’t complained about it, though.

        • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

          I think I read in a Toyota forum that the problems were resolved by ’02.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      I test drove one of the 2010 CR-Vs and was really disappointed. It seems like the earlier models were much better in terms of handling. The one I drove seemed to have asthma as it was going up a hill.

      • Bativac says:

        My dad’s wife bought a new CR-V. I prefer my older model. Mine’s an ’04 and was 3 years old when I got it. It was also six grand less than a new one.

        I guess I should have said “we won’t buy anything but USED Toyotas and Hondas.” I’d never buy a new one unless I won the lottery and went temporarily insane.

  4. agent 47 says:

    How the FJ Cruiser is considered “mid-sized” is beyond me.

  5. duxup says:

    Good to see the US makers making some progress, but I’ll stick with the Hondas and Toyotas of the world for now.

  6. UssaRars says:

    Uggghh call me old fashioned but I like American cars. Unless we’re talking Italian sports cars, I tend to stick with the domestic companies…….

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      Buying “American” vehicles is a strange notion nowadays. Toyota, Honda, Nissan, BMW, Audi, and Mercedes Benz all have plants in the US and employ hundreds of thousands of American workers. I think it’s perfectly fine to buy a Toyota that was built in Louisiana. Buying American shouldn’t really refer to buying from companies that just happened to originate in the US.

      • SonarTech52 says:

        That and even when you try to buy American you get parts from overseas.. I used to have a Chrysler Seabring, open the hood.. Mistubishi Engine…

      • SpinnyD says:

        You would be hard pressed to buy a Toyota that was built in Louisiana, Toyota doesn’t have a plant there, Better hunting in Kentucky, Indiana (1.5 with the Subaru plant), Texas and soon Mississippi!

    • WagTheDog says:

      My husband’s Ford was built in Mexico City. My Toyota was built at NUMMI in San Francisco. I buy American, he does not.

  7. umbriago says:

    I always thought it was just my experience only, but it seems like for the longest time – I mean, since Duster days – that every Chrysler owner I’ve ever known always has some sort of problem with their vehicles. Rust, windows falling off tracks, cooling systems, goofy ventilation, leaks, groans, you name it.

    And I think, “aaah, c’mon, umbriago ol’ boy, Chrysler can’t be THAT bad,” and then all of a sudden CR comes along and says “umbriago, maybe you ARE right. Maybe Chrysler sucks, and you were smart to never consider buying one.”

    I had the same experience with AMC, though, and you can see what happened to them.

  8. Blueskylaw says:

    My family bought a Tempo, Escort and a Taurus in the 1990’s. All three had massive problems from busted transmission, cracked cylinder heads, bad wheel bearings, water pump with broken fins, leaking coolant and engine oil, etc.

    Ford’s solution? They let me buy parts at the wholesale price.

    NEVER again.

    • jallen80 says:

      Yeah, because that’s totally relevant to 2010.

      • Blueskylaw says:

        Fool me once, shame on you…

        • TheGreySpectre says:

          You weren’t able to take it back under lemon law? My parents had a 92 explorer that had all kinds of problems right off the bat and they were able to use that to get ford to just give them a new explorer which ran great until they sold it at around 175k

      • MeOhMy says:

        It is in the sense that this represents the cautionary tale for why poor reliability is the cardinal sin of automotive manufacturers and why American labels did themselves irreparable damage in ignoring it. You can add my name to the “will never buy a Ford” list. Maybe they did “turn the corner” but there’s enough companies that never went around the bend to begin with to justify making a $15k-$60k gamble that Ford finally figured it out.

  9. Marlin says:

    Too bad this “report” is garbage. For a scientific study to be truly valid it has to meet several standards. One is the sample group must be open and any one can be chosen. In CR’s case ONLY those that pay them; subscribe, can be chosen. So this is not a valid scientific study, but an opinionated in-house review.

    Let alone all the biased reviews for cars where something sounds great for 1 car but the same thing on another looks cheap.

    • Mike says:

      Agreed, it is not a truly random test at all. I wish we had a Nielsen type rating for cars, that would survey random families and get feedback on how often they have to repair their cars. I am not sure if it would be much different, but it would at least be more scientific.

      For the best idea of reliability I like to compare CR ratings to ratings done overseas. At least you get different perspectives that way.

    • ttw1 says:

      I have never read where CU describes thier findings as scientific. It is what it is, the self-reported findings of thier subscribers. I’m not sure why that would qualify it as “garbage”.

      • Marlin says:

        Look above. Its says…”1.3 million vehicles…” yet does not say that was people that pay us and that it. They use the same weasel words and language that Fox and other groups with a Bias use. Its there to make you think they went and did everything in a well respected manner. In fact they only used in house data and weasel words it to sound good.

    • fortymegafonzies says:

      I think I just lost all respect for Consumer Reports. I always just assumed that these ratings were generated from governement data concerning complaints or from dealership data or whatever … at least something encompassing a good sample population. If they’re going to publish that stuff, they need to go out of their way to make sure everyone knows that it’s just anecdotal evidence.

    • colorisnteverything says:

      Yes, this is a non-random or self-selection sample.

      But most things you read on Fox News or ABC news, etc which you go to a website and submit a vote are the same.

      You would be appalled at how many of these samples mean nothing because of a self-selection bias.

      • Marlin says:

        Thing is those always have a disclaimer saying this is not scientific only for fun… In CR case they push their “study” as thou it’s tested and meets valid standards and should be believed.

        • colorisnteverything says:

          Just because it is not a random sample doesn’t mean that it is completely garbage. Yes, there are some validity issues. And yes, you probably don’t have a representative sample, but not all nonprobability methods are garbage. Without them, we would not have any background data on political elites, the CEO’s of companies, etc.

          • Marlin says:

            Yes it is garbage unless it was titled “heres how our members think about cars…” its not.

            This is a small group of people that have given money to CR. As such it is a group think survey at best.

    • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

      As a general guide, I think CR does provide valuable information but the sampling is incredibly biased. Because it’s based on self reporting, many non-existent problems (e.g., brake pads producing too much dust or “rough ride” complaints for vehicles with off road suspension) and self induced problems from lack of maintenance get thrown into the mix.

  10. Blueskylaw says:

    My family bought a Tempo, Escort and a Taurus in the 1990’s. All three had massive problems from busted transmission, cracked cylinder heads, bad wheel bearings, water pump with broken fins, leaking coolant and engine oil, etc.

    Ford’s solution? They let me buy parts at the wholesale price.

    NEVER again.

  11. tjytiedt says:

    The last time that I owned a Big Three vehicle was in 1987. Toyotas between then and 2003. Purchased a 1999 Mercury Villager (Nissan Quest). The only parts that failed in the course of 5 years were Ford parts. I now own a 2004 Odyssey. It is somewhat encouraging to see that Big Three (two) vehicles are edging up in quality, but it is obvious that Asian vehicles remain the gold standard. I will not consider buying another Big Three car until I can be convinced that their sins of the last four decades have been atoned for.

    • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

      It’s kind of ironic that you mention switching to a Honda Odyssey. The early 2000’s aren’t anything Honda is proud of. They suffered a whole slew of transmission problems and it wasn’t until a class action lawsuit (and being exposed by Consumer Reports) that Honda extended their warranty.

  12. veronykah says:

    Still driving my ’91 Celica, replaced most everything that could wear out but I’ve never had any major issues.
    210,000 + miles and no problems.
    Too bad they quit making fun, “sporty” cars or they could’ve had a customer for life…

  13. georgi55 says:

    My Equinox FTW!

    • tbax929 says:

      +1 My Equinox is the first Chevy I’ve owned since the awful Chevette I had in high school, and I love it. I may trade it in for a GMC when I finish paying it off, but I’m definitely a born-again GM fan – after years of only driving Japanese cars.

    • rg129798 says:

      Very true… I drove an Equinox during a vacation and was blown away! Could not believe it was a GM. My past cars: Honda: CR-V, FIT, Accord Hybrid, Chrysler Sebring, Audio A6, Ford Taurus.

      The Equinox really impressed me, a possible next purchase, but Hyundai’s are looking really good too !!!! 10 Year/100,000 warranty?!?!?!?!?

    • Maglet says:

      I’m with you. The last car I had before my Equinox was a 2001 Nissan Quest. It blew up at about 130K miles… the engine and transmission were fine, but something called the serpentine belt broke–costed more to fix it than it was worth.

      Did my research, and for what I needed and the price point, the 2010 Chevy Equinox was my choice. The miles per gallon (being able to switch to ECO mode is so awesome… I can get from Delaware to North Jersey and back on about 3/4 tank of gas). The Highlander was one of my top 3, but I didn’t wanna go fast when I didn’t wanna. :-) Also, I thought the Nissan Pathfinder was very nice.

      I agree with their picks, BUT Toyota? Leading? What about all those recalls?

  14. HoJu says:

    I bought about 10,000 shares of Ford stock a couple years ago at $2 when it started to look like they weren’t taking the bailout.

    I feel like I owe them now for doing good. I’m seriously eyeing the 2011 Explorer to replace my aging Tundra. It looks like a pretty sweet ride.

  15. newfenoix says:

    I have never figured out how do their vehicle ratings. I had a 1996 Pontiac Grand Prix several years ago when CR said to avoid it. I never had a single problem with that car. My wife currently owns a 2006 Dodge Durango which she bought new. Again, a vehicle that CR rated poorly but we have not had a SINGLE problem with the thing. I know several people that own Durangos and I know of no problems with them. I still have ties with law enforcement and several departments in Arkansas use them and once again; no problems. I have noticed that CR has a problem with V8 powered vehicles in general. They rate the new Camero and Mustangs high but it seems that it is only the V6 models that get top ratings with them. I read CR when I am looking for appliances and TV’s but not when I want a vehicle because it is clear that they have issues.

    • tbax929 says:

      CR has always been biased against American cars. I’m not surprised that your experiences with reliability are better than their ratings.

      • Marlin says:

        Yep CR ONLY surveys those that pay them, subscribe. So you get the same group think over and over. With all the issues Toyota has had for the last couple years you think it would show in their “survey” but it does not.

        CR is the last place I would look for a car review.

    • Bodger says:

      Maybe a review of statistics would help you figure it out? The fact that you or someone you know had X vehicle with no problems does not mean that half of the X vehicles sold in a given year might not have exploded on the road or met some other undignified death. By your standard, vehicle X is 100% reliable because your particular vehicle didn’t explode and you’ve never actually observed anybody’s X explode. Hell, I’ve owned three Fiats in my lifetime, and never had a problem with any of them but I would never claim that this means that Fiats are perfectly reliable.

  16. Das G says:

    So no mention of Mazda other than to say that Ford now outranks it? Yet they spend 3 paragraphs on GM…

  17. dadelus says:

    I know it’s anecdotal, but I’ve never had problems with GM vehicles. Owned a 79 Cutlass Supreme that was passed down to me after being owned by my brother for four years. By the time I was done with it that car had over 200,000 miles on it and had been driven to hell by two teenage boys but I only did standard maintenance until I traded it in for an 87 Cutlass Ciera that already had over 90,000 miles when I got it.

    I owned the Ciera for a few years (again doing only standard maintenance) until I decided I wanted to buy my first brand new vehicle. I saved up and bought a 98 Chevy S-10. I owned it for 8 years and drove over 120,000 miles in it. For a couple of years I was putting 3,000 miles a month on that truck and I never did anything other then scheduled maintenance.

    Traded it in 05 for a Saturn Vue that is now five and a half years old has over 60,000 miles and still no problems.

    So I’ve owned GM vehicles built in four different decades and each vehicle was (virtually) maintenance free. Maybe I’m just lucky.

    • sugarplum says:

      My first car was a late 90s Chevy – no major problems in the ten years I had it. If you do basic maintenance with your GM car they seem to be fairly reliable.

    • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

      I also owned a ’79 Cutlass Supreme. Did you also have the sporty 2 door coupe with 10 ft long doors :-)

      I really wish I would have held on to it (I owned it from ~1990 – 1999) and never had any problems, outside of a finicky carb which always needed adjusting going into winter.

  18. yessongs says:

    What about Yugo? Yugo buy another car!

  19. jacobs cows says:

    No matter how many recalls Toyota has there are enough brain washed morons left who still love to buy them.

  20. GasSaver says:

    Consumer Reports rates some Fords and GM models highly, so it’s wrong to say otherwise. The Ford Fusion (made in Mexico) is very reliable. Why not test drive one? But don’t hate me for looking for the most reliable car I can get. I’m not convinced by your brother’s friend’s sister’s uncle’s wonderful hunk of junk. One million responses to the CR survey paints a much clearer picture for me.

  21. skakh says:

    How Chrysler sells a single vehicle is beyond understanding. With so many great vehicles available, the question has to be “why would anyone even consider a Chrysler vehicle?” I have owned vehicles from all the major companies. My experience follows the ratings in that overall Honda vehicles are the best and Chrysler vehicles the worst. It is nice to see Ford appears to be producing better vehicles. Unfortunately, my two prior Fords were, in a word, crap. I will stick with Honda/Accura. With them at least I know I have a fair chance of success.