Buick ranked highest U.S. brand by Consumer Reports

Melissa Burden
The Detroit News

General Motors Co. Buick brand soared in Consumer Reports annual auto reliability rankings, moving up four spots to finish third behind Lexus and Toyota.

The GM premium brand was praised by the influential magazine for its best showing by a domestic brand in 35 years.

“Buick’s achievement is commendable and sure to be a wake-up call to other manufacturers,” Jake Fisher, Consumer Reports’ director of automotive testing, said in a statement. “One reason why the brand has been able to leapfrog others in the General Motors’ stable has been its limited vehicle lineup — with none of the pickups and truck-based SUVs that have negatively impacted Cadillac and Chevrolet.”

Tesla for the first time is ranked, coming in No. 25 out of 29 brands studied. This year, Tesla was included because it met the criteria of having at least two vehicles to evaluate with the launch of the Model X SUV. Consumer Reports says the Model X had a number of problems with its launch, including malfunctioning falcon-wing doors, leaks, infotainment and climate control issues.

It did move the Model S from worse-than-average to average reliability. Last year, the magazine had pulled its “buy” recommendation for the electric luxury car after downgrading its reliability from average.

The 2016 Annual Auto Reliability Survey was shared Monday at the Automotive Press Association in Detroit and will be included in the magazine’s December issue.

The survey includes responses from Consumer Reports subscribers who owned or leased more than half a million vehicles. The vehicles include more than 300 models and date from model year 2000 to 2017. The brand rankings are based on an average predicted reliability score given to each of brand model.

Subscribers are asked to share experiences in the past year in 17 trouble areas such as engine and transmission, climate control and audio systems to noises and faded paint and/or rust. Major issues are weighed more heavily in scores.

The study found Audi, Kia, Mazda, Hyundai and Infiniti, which jumped 16 spots to land at No. 8, to also to be among the more reliable brands.

Most domestic brands continued to have problems, though Chevrolet and Ford are considered among the reliable brands in the survey.

GM’s Chevrolet brand was the only other U.S. brand to crack the top 15, moving up five spots from last year to No. 15 as it was helped by the 2016 Cruze, the most reliable compact. The Cadillac luxury brand improved four spots but finished at No. 21 and was among the less reliable brands, while GMC also fared poorly, falling five positions to No. 24.

Ford Motor Co.’s Ford brand also was plagued by problems with the dual-clutch automatic transmission in the Focus and Fiesta, dropping its score one spot to No. 18, while its Lincoln luxury brand finished No. 20, down four positions from a year ago.

Four Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV brands (Dodge, Chrysler, Fiat and Ram) finished in the bottom four spots in this year’s rankings and among the less reliable brands, with Ram finishing last. Consumer Reports said all Fiats and Rams were ranked below average for reliability.

Fiat Chrysler’s Jeep brand jumped four spots, but it still finished among the less reliable brands at No. 23.

Lexus and Toyota finished in first and second place, respectively, for the fourth consecutive year. Consumer Reports said all of Lexus’ nine models had better-than-average reliability and most Toyotas did, too, except for a below-average ranking on the redesigned Tacoma pickup.

Honda, which in the past has been known for its reliability, fell two positions to finish at No. 10. Consumer Reports said it had trouble with launches of the redesigned Civic and Pilot. The Civic, which was the North American Car of the Year for 2016, was found to have “much-worse-than-average” reliability because of problems with power equipment and infotainment systems.


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