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In Consumer Reports reliability study, Toyota brands earn top three spots

DETROIT — Toyota's three brands — Scion, Toyota and Lexus — swept the three top spots in Consumer Reports' annual reliability survey, which analyzes subscribers' experiences with 1.2 million new vehicles to predict future reliability.

Ford's reliability took its biggest hit yet as complaints about its MyFord Touch infotainment system and a new transmission continued to hurt the automaker, causing its ranking to fall to 27th out of 28 brands, down from 20th in last year's study.

Cadillac, at 11th, was judged the most reliable domestic brand, improving from 25th last year.

Asian brands took nine of the top 10 spots. Audi, at No. 8, was the only German automaker to rank in the top 10. This year, Mazda was ranked fourth, followed by Subaru, Honda, Acura, Audi, Infiniti and Kia.

The drop for Ford comes three years after Consumer Reports praised Ford as the only domestic automaker with "world-class reliability." Two years ago, the Ford brand also cracked the top 10. Now, only Jaguar is ranked lower.

Despite efforts to improve MyFord Touch — the smartphone-style screen on which drivers can control everything from their phones to temperature settings to entertainment options — the system continues to confuse some customers, said Jake Fisher, director of testing for the magazine.

Fisher said customers say that at times the touch screens go blank, settings disappear or the system needs to be rebooted. Customers also continue to complain about rough shifting with Ford's six-speed, dual-clutch PowerShift transmission, Fisher said.

"They've put out some updates to try to address some of those problems for both the transmissions and the infotainment controls, but it doesn't seem to be enough," Fisher said.

Chrysler also had a disappointing showing. Three of its four brands ranked near the bottom. Jeep, the automaker's top-ranked brand, finished 19th, six spots lower than last year.

Inconsistent reliability for Chrysler was caused by problems with optional power trains and issues with features found in higher-priced versions, the magazine said.

Fisher said Chrysler's problems stem from overhauling so many vehicles so quickly. Those changes included new engines and other new technology.

"Chrysler seems to be a victim of its own improvements," Fisher said. "They have actually improved a lot of their vehicles quite a bit, but when you make so many changes, it is hard to maintain your reliability."

In addition to Cadillac's much-improved showing, Buick, Chevrolet and GMC all climbed several spots.

The Cadillac brand was the first to receive substantial changes and upgrades from GM after it came out of Chapter 11 bankruptcy and has been steadily improving in recent years, Fisher said.

Consumer Reports is often accused of favoring Asian automakers over domestic automakers, but Fisher said, "We are basically just taking data that the consumers and subscribers are providing to us. We often have people tell us they really love their domestic cars."

How they ranked

The top 10 automakers, according to Consumer Reports magazine's reliability rankings, as well as where U.S. brands ranked:

1. Scion

2. Toyota

3. Lexus

4. Mazda

5. Subaru

6. Honda

7. Acura

8. Audi

9. Infiniti

10. Kia

11. Cadillac

12. GMC

15. Chevrolet

19. Jeep

21. Buick

23. Chrysler

24. Dodge

25. Ram

26. Lincoln

27. Ford

In Consumer Reports reliability study, Toyota brands earn top three spots 10/29/12 [Last modified: Monday, October 29, 2012 10:36pm]
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