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Newer audio and infotainment systems continue to create headaches for consumers and hamper the reliability of many vehicles, according to the annual Consumer Report’s Auto Reliability rankings released Monday.
Ford Motor Co., General Motors Co. and Honda Motor Co. saw the reliability of many of their vehicles suffer because of unresponsive infotainment systems and faulty voice recognition commands, said Jake Fisher, director of auto testing at Consumer Reports, during a presentation at an Automotive Press Association event.
Overall, only one domestic brand — GM’s GMC brand — finished among the top 10 on this year’s list. Japanese brands Lexus, Toyota and Acura scored highest on this year’s survey; Audi and Volvo vaulted into the top 10.
Consumer Reports annually queries new-car buyers to determine the predicted reliability. The survey is considered to be the largest and most influential of its kind.
Infotainment obstacles are likely to continue, Fisher said, based on results from a smaller follow-up survey of about 5,000 consumers. Younger drivers reported a higher instance of problems — the systems simply don’t work — while older drivers said the systems were more complicated.
Fisher said the fact that older drivers may become frustrated and stop using infotainment system signals that “some of these problems may actually be under reported.”
Among brands that were hammered by poor sentiment regarding infotainment systems were Ford (ranked 26th) and Lincoln (27th), which finished ahead of only the cellar-dweller Mini brand. Both of Ford’s brands have been continually hampered by problems with their MyFord and MyLincoln Touch infotainment systems.
Fisher said Monday that most of Ford’s problems are software-related — instead of a nuts-and-bolts hardware issue — which means the Dearborn automaker should have an easier time fixing glitches.
Mark Schirmer, a Ford spokesman, said the automaker has reduced the number of infotainment-related problems by 50 percent since its 2010 launch and added that Ford continues to work on software fixes to improve the usability of MyFord and MyLincoln Touch.
Ford, however, wasn’t alone in its infotainment troubles, which it has doggedly tried to fix.
Consumer Reports said that of the 17 problem areas that it questioned during the survey, the category including in-car electronics generated more complaints from owners of 2013 models than for any other.
GM’s Cadillac, which fell 14 spots on this year’s survey — the most of any brand — finished 25th. Cadillac’s fall was blamed partly on its CUE infotainment system and the recent launch of new vehicles. New vehicles generally have poorer reliability ratings than they did during the previous generation; those ratings generally improve as consumers get adjusted to new technology, design and powertrains.
Cadillac’s redesigned 2014 CTS sedan also is too new to be recommended and that hurt its performance, said Mike Hardie, GM’s director of global quality and customer experience strategy.
Hardie said some early XTS customers had problems with Bluetooth pairing and voice recognition with the new CUE infotainment system and that GM earlier this year provided customers with a software update.
“The current products are far better than the initial ones that came out,” Hardie said. “We should be able to regain our ranking hopefully next year.”
Auburn Hills-based Chrysler Group LLC, overall, finished below average, though the automaker’s Chrysler and Ram brands both improved their scores.
Chrysler jumped five spots from last year, to No. 18; Ram climbed six to No. 19. Jeep fell four spots to No. 23 and Dodge remained 24th.
Melissa Burden contributed.