Ford Drops; Lexus, Mazda and Jeep Improve in Latest Consumer Reports Survey

Ford Explorer
Ford's dashboard doldrums persist. The automaker's buggy MyFord Touch multimedia system, rolled out in summer 2010, contributed toward a steep decline in J.D. Power and Associates' 2011 Initial Quality Study. Now it has become a sore spot for Ford owners responding to Consumer Reports' latest reliability surveys.

Problems with the dual-clutch automatic transmission in the Fiesta and Focus also tarnished the brand, which tumbled 10 spots in overall reliability to 20th among 28 major carmakers. Ford's Lincoln division, whose MKX SUV uses a variant of MyFord Touch, improved one spot to 14th place. Other movers included Lexus (up seven spots to second place), Mazda (up eight spots to third) and Jeep (up seven spots to 13th).

The survey, based on responses from the magazine's 1.3 million subscribers, covered cars from the 2002 to 2011 model years, from which Consumer Reports predicts reliability for 2012 models. Consumer Reports says other Ford models, most notably the Fusion Hybrid sedan, remain as reliable as ever. And Ford appears committed to MyFord Touch, with plans to introduce it in the 2013 Taurus.

While acknowledging it still has some bugs to work out, the automaker told us last June that four-fifths of users would recommend the touch- and voice-operated system to other shoppers considering a Ford. Andrew Friedman, a Ford owner and father of three from the greater Washington, D.C., area, tells us the voice controls in his 2011 Explorer Limited "all work very well without ever taking your eyes off the road, once you learn the basic commands. We use them all the time. The touch-screen and the controls below work well, too."

Still, a lot of Consumer Reports subscribers found the interface irksome. A sentiment we share. Such is typical of cars that lay on the high-tech features: "After all, a lot of the problems we see are electrical issues and power equipment," Jake Fisher, a Consumer Reports senior engineer, told us.

Japanese brands Scion, Lexus, Acura, Mazda and Honda topped Consumer Reports' latest survey. Korean brands Hyundai and Kia ranked 11th and 12th, respectively, while Buick, Cadillac, Audi, Porsche and Jaguar comprised 24 through 28. Chrysler improved 12 spots, but only two vehicles — the midsize 200 and Town & Country minivan — were surveyed. The full-size 300 sedan is too new for reliability data, CR said.

Porsche fell 25 spots largely because of the Cayenne SUV, which has always had dismal reliability. That's in contrast to the 911, which is a "pretty reliable" car, Fisher says. The redesigned Cayenne didn’t make last year's survey, bumping the German sports-carmaker way up, albeit briefly.

Here's how the automakers rank from best to worst (last year's rank):

1. Scion (1)
2. Lexus (8)
3. Acura (3)
4. Mazda (12)
5. Honda (4)
6. Toyota (6)
7. Infiniti (5)
8. Subaru (7)
9. Nissan (14)
10. Volvo (8)
11. Hyundai (11)
12. Kia (13)
13. Jeep (20)
14. Lincoln (15)
15. Chrysler (27)
16. Volkswagen (16)
17. Chevrolet (17)
18. Mercedes-Benz (22)
19. BMW (23)
20. Ford (10)
21. Dodge (24)
22. GMC (21)
23. Mini (25)
24. Buick (18)
25. Cadillac (19)
26. Audi (26)
27. Porsche (2)
28. Jaguar (not rated)

2011 Annual Auto Reliability Survey: New Models Tarnish Ford's Reliability

Comments 

Dan

Careful, you're mixing quality and reliability here, but they are not the same thing. In fact, they are very different.

There have been no significant reliability problems with the Ford Touch for example, people just don't like the design. That makes it lower quality, not less reliable.

CR is careful to call this an "initial quality" survey very intentionally. People tend to interpret it as a "reliability" survey though. This is why CR often disagrees with other reviewing/ranking organizations with very different rankings. (for the most extreme example, research Porsche)

Ken L.

So if every automaker comes out with simple cars that are high in quality, comfortable and reliable, they'd all be recommended and #1. See, that wasn't so hard...

Derrick G

CR doesn't call this an initial quality survey. They call it a reliability survey. And there have been reliability issues with the MyFord and MyLincoln Touch systems, including constant self-reboots and the need for software updates. Those aren't just ease of use issues. Those are definitely issues of not being able to rely on the system. As for Porsche, CR did admit that one reason they did much better last year is that they didn't get enough Cayenne results to include it in the survey while this year they did.

Amuro Ray

A few things that I find interesting (and long term nightmare):

(1) Problematic dual clutch trannies for Ford's Focii & Fiestas (which drag down the scores a lot, in addition to MFT). Long term maintenance nightmare to service this sophisticated, aka expensive tranny, when warranties out and the car worth very little by then.

(2) CR cited very poor reliability on the Cruze! Wonder if this will come back to haunt GM, just like the Cobalts & Cavaliers...

(3) Almost all Asian models (87 out of 91) get passing grades, but not the case for Americans (62 out of 97). Top 12 brands are all Asians (including Volvo). Domestics were, as many of the fanboys have pointed out, going "up." What happened that caused this dramatic fall?

(4) Curious 'bou why AWD Sienna didn't do well, when its 2WD siblings did fine...

Derrick G

It's 87 of 91 Japanese cars. There are also 3 S. Korean cars below average.

For the Cruze, both versions are at least 50% worse than average, so GM definitely has some issues. But the complete chart hasn't been published yet, so can't say what the issues are. Can say the major stuff looks OK, so maybe it's stuff GM can fix easily enough.

Nothing in the major category stands out for the Sienna AWD, either. That may well mean it's power equipment issues. That's often the case because AWD models tend to have more power stuff to break. Some AWD models of other cars have in the past suffered from brake issues, presumably due to increased weight. Guess we'll find out in a few weeks when the new charts are finished.

Highdesertcat

Quality&Reliability: a buddy of mine bought a 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee 4X4 V6 Laredo a couple of weeks ago, and I was pleasantly surprised. He had been ogling our 2008 Toyota Highlander and had expressed a preference for the Honda Pilot. He said he bought the Jeep because it beat the other two on price and that the Jeep's legendary 4X4 system weighed in its favor. And the Jeep shares its underpinnings with the Mercedes ML-class which gives it a smooth ride with competent handling. Now the only thing he worries about is the Jeep's reliability and only time will tell how that works out with the 5-year/100,000-mile warranty.

Jordiie

It's weird how quickly korean cars in the last 10 years have moved ahead of american brands that have been around for well over half a century...

Bowrider

CR provides a disservice to consumers. Average consumers don't differentiate between a 2WD and a AWD model, so in their minds, a Sienna is low ranking, not just the AWD model. They also ranked the CT200H number one in their survey. The car hasn't been available for a full year yet. Ranking VW ahead of Chevy is a joke. VW dashboards light up like a Christmas tree with all their warning lights, common to barely used VWs. These lights lead to costly electrical repairs that are common to VW.

sheth

More nonsense from CR. These are not "reliability" issues. The fact that people choose to buy MFT products and then complain about the way it works or the interface design should not be reported as a "reliability" problem for Ford. On top of that, DSGs operate differently (and often not as smoothly) as standard automatics and yet CR is noting that Ford's small cars scored low due to the "reliability" of their transmissions. DSGs on cheaper cars are just not as refined in low speed operation as torque converter automatics. That doesn't mean they dont work. And CR NEVER explains why it rates AWD vehicles separately from 2WD vehicles that are exactly the same aside from number of driven wheels. How can the vehicles rate differently unless the problems are related to the drivetrain? I also want to know how many vehicles CR needs to get a reasonable sample. They often rate very low volume vehicles (Lexus HS/CT come to mind) after one year which suggests they dont need many responses to make up their minimum sample size. No matter what happens, no matter what vehicles are on sale their results are ALWAYS the same. Their message is unchaged- buy a Japanese car if you want reliability.

sheth

Jordie:

There is a direct correlation between what CR says and how it rates cars and how owners respond. CR has noted the great improvement in Korean cars over the past few years and is rating them higher than ever in their road tests. Its not a coincidence that their ratings amongst owners are also on the rise. Conversely, CR continues to rate even much improved American cars considerably lower than their Asian rivals (with a few exceptions like CTS) and shockingly their readers continue to rate those same American cars lower in reliability. Bottom line is CR has a fixed sample of people that likely have long held views on the brands being rated. If you're a CR reader you know they dont generally rate American cars well in comparion to imports. If you subscribe you have been reading year after year of rankings showing American cars doing poorly in reliability. That affects how you rate a car. I think its interesting that the complex Volt is rated highly while far simpler American cars are rated lowly. I'd wager that has a lot to do with the type of people who own a Volt and how much they like the car. If you notice, hybrids almost always get top reliability marks in CR even if the gas powered trim lines of the same car do poorly. That tells you that owner enthusiasm towards a particular is VERY critical to how they rate it in reliability. Furthermore, if you look at many of their poorly rated American and European cars they actually do well in terms of owner satisfaction. The Vette is an example of this- CR rates it poorly in reliability every year but it has one of the highest owner satisfaction scores.

Derrick G

AR,

To follow up on previous post, read a blog on MT yesterday about a talk David Champion gave and he apparently said most of the Cruze's problems are power equipment/electrical and squeaks and rattles. Hopefully GM can fix those reasonably quickly and cheaply.

sheth

Squeaks and rattles arent reliability problems. CR's survey is far too broad and ANY complaint is basically counted as a reliability issue. CR could make things much easier if they provided some ppv data or more specifics on what owners are actually complaining about. They chose not to do that because they want the public and media to focus strictly on reliable vs unreliable.

Mike

No wonder Ford suffered because of My-Touch. It's a Microsoft product for heaven's sake!!! Everything Microsoft makes is complete and utter sh*t! They should have made it Apple based.

Derrick G

First, squeaks and rattles are a reliability problem because no one wants to drive around with them. They're not just annoying but fatiguing. And they often take a lot of time and effort to find and then fix, during which time your car is not in service. Even if you get a loaner, you've got to schedule to go get it and take it back.

Secondly, an overview of such data is available to all subscribers and those who subscribe to their full car buying service get more specifics. Also, it's not like squeaks count the same as crankshaft issues.

We go through this prattle every year of how this and that is unfair, but truth is owners get this say and it's by far the best we got even though obviously it's not perfect.

Anyone who wants something better should lobby to have warranty claim data publicly released and stop harping on CR because a specific car didn't do well.

That said, I'd also say that most Cruze owners reported being satisfied, so GM for now has a big opportunity to impress as much as it has a problem--at least for now.

Jeff AL

I don't think that there is a limited and predisposed or prejudiced pool of respondents to the CR survey. I don't think the stereotyped CR advocate would buy a Porsche, period. I drive a 2010 Buick LaCrosse as a company vehicle, leased, driving about 44K a year. I have never returned it to the dealer despite some issues I would categorize as quality related - the weather seal around the sunroof pops out at one end and flaps in the breeze periodically (I stuff it back in) and the interior powered cover for same no longer completely closes,leaving about a 1/2" gap at the front. The power steering has been sometimes startingly loud at start up and initial use since day one. I assume somehow it pulls air after sitting. These are nuisances, and I'm not going to waste my time carrying it back to the dealer and incur the expense of renting a car to let them either fix or make excuses for this stuff. The manufacturer wouldn't specificlyknow about any of this (not that they've asked), and the dealer didn't even bother pulling the plastic off the seats or the mats out of the trunk as it was a lease delivery and they made nothing on it. They didn't even wash it or remove the delivery stickers LOL. But I have reported this on an independent survey. There are some things I would categorize as design deficiencies, but I wouldn't confuse that with quality and reliability.

Belly

Squeaks and rattles arent reliability problems.
-Shet, only a moron would say this. I also think its funny that you think this is an acceptable thing.

Derek G. - agreed. Year after year, time and again, CR is the devil because it won't give GM a pass.

When you don't like the message and can't beat it on truth, the next best thing is to try and attack the messenger - try and argue credibility. Its a load of bull, bush league Fox news tactics.

The constant attacks on Consumer reports, the Cars.com staff, and anyone who expects more from the biggest automaker is so tired and useless.

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