Consumer Reports: Toyota Quality Sees "Cracks in its Armor"By Michelle Krebs October 16, 2007
DETROIT -- After years of sterling reliability, Toyota is showing cracks in its armor, according to data from Consumer Reportsâ 2007 Annual Car Reliability Survey revealed Tuesday before the Automotive Press Association in Detroit.
By contrast, Fordâs domestic brands have made considerable improvements. Consumer Reports said 93 percent of Ford, Lincoln, Mercury models in the survey scored average or better.
âFord continues to improve,â said David Champion, senior director of Consumer Reportsâ Auto Test Center. âThe reliability of their cars has steadily improved over the years, and is showing consistency.â
He added, âWe believe Toyota is aware of its issues and is trying to fix problems quickly.â
Despite the problems, Toyota (including Lexus and Scion) still ranks 3rd in reliability among all automakers, behind only Honda and Subaru.
Toyotaâs Quality Cracks Revealed
Considered by many to be the bible on product quality, Consumer Reports said the V6 version of the top-selling Toyota Camry and the four-wheel-drive V8 version of the Tundra pickup, both redesigned for 2007, now rate below average in Consumer Reportsâ predicted reliability rating. The all-wheel-drive version of the Lexus GS sedan also received a below-average rating.
Because Consumer Reports does not recommend models with below-average reliability, these models no longer make the magazine's âRecommendedâ list.
The four-cylinder and hybrid versions of the Camry and rear-drive version of the GS scored above average in reliability and will continue to with their Recommended rating.
No More Automatic Recommendations for Toyota
Because of its findings, Consumer Reports will no longer recommend any new or redesigned Toyota-built models without reliability data on a specific design. Previously, new and redesigned Toyota models were recommended because of the automakerâs excellent track record, even if the publication didnât have sufficient reliability data on the new model. If Toyota returns to its previous record of outstanding overall reliability, Consumer Reports said it may resume this practice.
Typically, the publication will only recommend a vehicle if the magazine has at least one year of reliability data for that specific model.
Improved Odds for a Reliable Ford
Consumer Reportsâ 2007 survey shows that the odds of getting a reliable new vehicle from Ford are the best the magazine has seen in years. Of 44 Ford, Lincoln and Mercury models, 41 (93 percent) in Consumer Reports' survey scored average or better in predicted reliability.
The Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan are among the most reliable cars. They and the two-wheel-drive Ford F-150 V6 make up three of the only four domestic models on Consumer Reportsâ âMost Reliableâ list.
In addition, new-for-2007 SUVs such as the Ford Edge and Lincoln MKX, as well as the freshened Ford Expedition and Lincoln Navigator, were all average or above.
U.S. Brands Still Dominate âLeast Reliableâ List
Despite Fordâs improvement, U.S. brands account for almost half the models -- 20 of 44 -- on Consumer Reportsâ list of âLeast Reliableâ models. Of those, 13 are from General Motors, six from Chrysler, and one from Ford.
Not all models carrying Asian nameplates are reliable, either. The Hyundai Entourage, Infiniti QX56, Mazda CX-7, Nissan Armada (4WD), Quest and Titan (4WD), and Toyota Tundra (V8, 4WD) are all on the âLeast Reliableâ list.
Besides the three Toyota-built models, other notable models with declining reliability include the Chevrolet Tahoe, GMC Yukon and Volkswagen Passat (V6).
European makes account for 17 models, including six each from Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen/Audi, on the âLeast Reliableâ list.
Still for European brands, signs are pointing to an overall improvement. The Audi A3, A4 and A6 are now all above average or better, as are some or all versions of the BMW 3, 5 and 7 Series. The Volvo S60 is also above average. The Porsche 911 is above average and is now recommended.
For the first time in recent years, the Mercedes-Benz C-Class (V6 RWD) is no longer below average, although an all-new C-Class has been introduced for 2008. Despite this, Mercedes-Benz still hovers near the bottom in Consumer Reportsâ predicted reliability scores comparison.
Consumer Reports has added 19 domestic models to its "Newly Recommended" list. They include the new GMC Acadia and Saturn Outlook, in their first years, and the Dodge Charger, which was not recommended in last yearâs survey because of below-average reliability. Of the domestic models for which CR had sufficient data in the 2007 survey, 93 percent of Ford, 49 percent of General Motors and 67 percent of Chrysler models had average or better predicted reliability.
Of the 39 âMost Reliableâ models, 34 are Asian -- 17 are from Toyota (including Lexus and Scion); seven are from Honda (including Acura); three each from Hyundai and Nissan (including Infiniti); 2 are from Subaru; and one each from Mitsubishi and Mazda.
When ranked by make, Honda and Acura have the highest average scores of the 36 brands. Closely following are Scion, Subaru and Toyota. Buick is the highest-ranked domestic brand.
Among the 36 makes, Land Rover is the least reliable, on average.
How Findings Are Performed
Findings are based on responses on almost 1.3 million vehicles owned or leased by subscribers to Consumer Reports or its Web site, www.ConsumerReports.org. The survey was conducted in the spring of 2007 by Consumer Reportsâ National Survey Research Center and covered model years 1998 to 2007.
Consumer Reportsâ statisticians and automotive engineers used the survey data to predict reliability of new 2008 models. They average the overall reliability scores (used car verdicts) for the most recent three model years, provided that the model remained unchanged in that period and also didnât substantially change for 2008. If a model was new or redesigned in the past couple of years, one or two yearsâ data may be used, or if thatâs all thatâs available.
Consumer Reports annual reliability survey is used in determining which makes and models are recommended to consumers. Consumer Reports recommends only models that have performed well in tests conducted at its 327-acre Auto Test Center in Connecticut, and that have average or better predicted reliability based on its annual survey. In addition, vehicles must perform well in government or insurance-industry crash and rollover tests, if tested, in order to be recommended.
Occasionally, Consumer Reports may recommend a new or redesigned model too new to have compiled a reliability record if the previous generation, or the manufacturerâs reliability track record has been consistently outstanding, and if the model scores well in tests.
Complete ratings are available in the Consumer Reports issue on newsstands.