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Consumer Reports New Car Preview 2005: Survey Predicts Reliability

(ARA) - Consumer Reports’ annual reliability survey predicts continued troubles for European automakers with 2005 vehicles. Not only didn’t European automakers have even one model among the top vehicles, they dominated the list of vehicles with the worst predicted reliability ratings.
Ten of the eleven sedans with Consumer Reports’ lowest predicted reliability rating were European, including such high-priced models as the Mercedes-Benz S-Class, E-Class, and six-cylinder version of the C-Class; the Jaguar S-Type and X-Type; and the BMW 7 Series and 5 Series. Most of Volkswagen’s models, including the Golf, Jetta, and New Beetle, also rated far below average for reliability. The four-cylinder version of the Passat has been troublesome in the past, but VW seems to have gotten the bugs out of that version. Only the all-wheel-drive version of the Passat received the lowest rating in CR’s survey.

A full half of the sedans and small cars that earned Consumer Reports’ highest reliability rating are made by Toyota, including the Lexus and Scion brands. Top models were the Lexus IS300, Toyota Prius, the previous-generation Acura RL, Scion xB, and Toyota Corolla.

The only domestic cars to earn the highest reliability rating are the Buick Regal (discontinued for 2005) and the Pontiac Grand Prix (non-supercharged). For the first time, Hyundai earned a spot on CR’s list of most reliable cars with its Sonata.

Consumer Reports’ New Car Preview 2005, on sale now, includes a first look at CR’s latest reliability findings. The publication, which costs $5.99 in the U.S. and $6.99 in Canada, is part of the respected Consumer Reports’ Cars series of special automotive publications. More detailed results and analysis will be presented in Consumer Reports Annual Auto issue in April 2005.

CR’s Largest Reliability Survey Ever

Consumer Reports had the largest response to its latest annual auto reliability survey ever, allowing the nonprofit organization to compile reliability portraits on more than 810,000 vehicles, up from 675,000 vehicles in 2003 and 480,000 in 2002. This is the second year in a row that Consumer Reports surveyed subscribers to both its magazine and its web site,, a total of more than 5 million consumers throughout the U.S. The survey was conducted in the spring of 2004 and covered 1997 to 2004 models. To calculate predicted reliability ratings on currently-available models, CR averages the overall reliability scores for the most recent three years, provided that the vehicle remained substantially unchanged in that period and also didn’t change for 2005. If a vehicle was new or redesigned in the past couple of years, CR may use only one or two years’ data, if that’s all that’s available.

Consumer Reports’ annual reliability survey is used in determining which makes and models are recommended to consumers by CR. Consumer Reports recommends only models that have performed well in tests conducted at its Auto Test Center in Connecticut and that have shown average or better reliability in its annual survey. Vehicles that perform poorly in government or insurance industry crash tests and rollover tests will also not be recommended. Occasionally, Consumer Reports may recommend a new or redesigned model that’s too new to have compiled a reliability record if it scores well in CR’s tests and if previous generations had consistently outstanding reliability.

As in past auto surveys done by Consumer Reports, the most reliable vehicles were built by Japanese manufacturers. Among the 32 models with the highest reliability rating in the new (2004) survey, 29 carry Japanese nameplates, with Toyota (16) and Honda (7) claiming the most. Among the 38 models with the lowest rating, 20 are European. The survey also shows that gas/electric hybrid vehicles appear to be holding up well thus far; the Prius and Honda Civic Hybrid were among the most reliable cars.

Some new and redesigned models had teething problems. For example, the redesigned Acura TL, typically a reliability standout, only scored average because of problems with body integrity and power accessories. Likewise, both the new Cadillac SRX and the redesigned Chevrolet Malibu and Saab 9-3 scored below average.

Asian models monopolized the top ratings in the SUV segment, with the lowest ratings going to a mix of European and U.S. models. The most reliable SUVs are the Toyota Land Cruiser, Toyota Highlander, Mitsubishi Endeavor, and Toyota RAV4. One third of the SUVs with the lowest ratings are large models, including the Lincoln Navigator, Nissan Armada, Ford Excursion, Ford Expedition, and Hummer H2. Among the new or redesigned SUVs, the redesigned Lexus RX330 was above average, but the new Buick Rainier, Nissan Armada, Volkswagen Touareg, and Porsche Cayenne were all below average. There were no European SUVs in Consumer Reports’ survey that rated average or above.

No minivans earned the highest predicted reliability rating, but four -- the Nissan Quest, Chevrolet Astro, GMC Safari, and Mazda MPV -- were among the least reliable. The Ford Freestar and Mercury Monterey twins had average reliability in their debut year. Chrysler and Dodge minivans have average predicted reliability ratings following two years of sub par ratings.

The only pickup to earn the top rating is the Toyota Tundra. The new Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon both scored above average -- a rarity for first-year GM products. The country’s best-selling vehicle, the redesigned Ford F-150 pickup, also suffered from first-year reliability problems; the previous F-150 had long been Ford’s most reliable product.

The New Car Preview 2005 ($5.99 U.S./$6.99 Canada) is available everywhere magazines are sold through January 24, 2005. It includes reviews and information on 220 models; an exclusive list of CR-recommended vehicles; a look at what’s new for 2005; and the Consumer Reports’ Safety Assessment, which compares crash protection, accident-avoidance capabilities, and overall safety for 101 vehicles. Another story looks at the pros and cons of leasing.

Consumer Reports is one of the most trusted sources for information and advice on consumer products and services. CR has the most comprehensive auto-test program of any American magazine or web site; CR’s auto experts have decades of experience in driving, testing, and reporting on cars.

Courtesy of ARA Content

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