Chrysler, Buick make top 10 in Consumer Reports' auto brand ranking

Kalea Hall
The Detroit News

Detroit — Two Detroit auto brands, Chrysler and Buick, made major improvements in Consumer Reports' Brand Report Card Rankings, placing them in the top 10 out of 32 brands, the organization said Thursday.

Stellantis NV's Chrysler brand came in 8th place and Buick followed in 9th. Their rankings marked only the second time two Detroit auto brands made the top 10. Both brands moved up 10 spots from last year after improving reliability and owner satisfaction. Meanwhile, the Ford brand ranked 25th and Lincoln fell 15 positions to 28th since the redesigned Aviator and Corsair had far below average reliability.

Despite the improvement in brand rankings for some, a Detroit Three vehicle did not make the annual Consumer Reports' "Top Picks" list of the 10 top vehicles in 2021. 

2021 Top Picks

Consumer Reports, a nonprofit, consumer research and advocacy organization, selects the year's top models from hundreds of current models in its ratings.  Top Pick cars have some of the highest overall scores in their categories for road test performance, predicted reliability, owner satisfaction and safety. 

The 2021 "Top Picks," sorted by price, are:

  • Under $25,000 category:  Toyota Corolla (small car) and MAZDA CX-30 (subcompact SUV)
  • $25,000 to $35,000 category: Subaru Forester (small SUV), Toyota Prius (hybrid) and the Toyota Camry (midsized sedan)
  • $35,000 to $45,000 category: Subaru Outback (SUV/wagon), Kia Telluride (midsized, three-row SUV) and the Honda Ridgeline (compact pickup truck)
  • $45,000 to $55,000 category: Lexus RX (midsized SUV), Tesla Model 3 (electric car) 

Consumer Reports on Thursday launched Green Choice, an initiative to make auto emissions information more accessible to consumers. The organization will use a new green leaf icon to show which cars and trucks produce among the lowest amount of greenhouse gases and smog-forming emissions, based on Environmental Protection Agency data. 

Among the "Top Picks," the Toyota Prius, Corolla, Camry, and Tesla Model 3 are all Green Choice products.

Brand Report Card Ranking

A total of 32 brands were included in Consumer Reports' 2021 Brand Report Card Rankings. Consumer Reports tests various new models at its 327-acre Automotive Test Center in Connecticut for the rankings. The organization conducts more than 50 tests on each vehicle, including braking, handling, comfort, convenience, safety and fuel economy. It then forms an overall score that includes input of owner satisfaction based on member surveys.

With newer products "growing pains" can occur, said Jake Fisher, senior director of automotive testing at Consumer Reports, so Chrysler is benefiting from having "an aged product line."

"If you look at the Chrysler 300 and the Dodge Charger ... these are pretty old vehicles. They haven't been really redesigned for about a decade, and even then they had some carryover components from older vehicles," Fisher said. "There's not a lot of new technologies in these vehicles that could be trouble for them. And that's not to say these are bad vehicles at all. They're fundamentally very nice vehicles that do well in our tests."

Dodge placed 14th, up seven spots from last year mainly because its score held while other brands ahead fell behind.

"We have made a number of improvements in our quality processes and the data reflects a movement in the right direction," Mark Champine, head of quality in North America for Stellantis, said in a statement. "Our customer-first attitude and quality performance is creating greater confidence in our vehicles and brands."

Cadillac scored 22nd place, a seven spot gain. Chevrolet came in at 24th place, GMC was 26th, and Jeep was 29th.

Cadillac's improvement comes after releasing vehicles "that drive really well," Fisher said. "When it comes to ride and handling and comfort Cadillac really knows what it's doing. If they can continue to improve reliability, they really could do quite well."

Cadillac and Lincoln perform as well as Mercedes-Benz and better than the Japanese luxury brands in Consumer Reports' testing, but the brands need to improve their reliability among consumers, Fisher said. 

"We are committed to delivering high-quality products and services for our Ford and Lincoln customers," Ford spokesman Dan Barbossa said in a statement.. "To that end, we have taken additional steps to further improve quality and have been pleased by our recent progress, including four vehicles in the Top 3 of their respective segments in this year’s J.D. Power and Associates Vehicle Dependability study, and with the continued improvement from Lincoln, which is ranked above premium average."

Mazda claimed the top position in this year’s rankings for the first time. BMW, Porsche, Subaru, Honda, Toyota, Lexus and Hyundai also made the Top 10. 

Among Japanese and South Korean automakers, Nissan Motor Co.'s Infiniti brand placed 12th, and the Nissan brand came in at No. 13. Kia fell 10 spots to 19. Hyundai Motor Co.'s Genesis brand fell 13 spots to No. 15. Mitsubishi continued to rank among the worst-performing brands placing at No. 30. 

European brands' performance was "lackluster," according to Consumer Reports. Audi fell five spots to No. 11; Mini dropped seven positions to 17th; Volvo came in 20th place; Mercedes-Benz took 21st place; and Alfa Romeo slid five spots landing in last place due to worsened reliability, but some Alfa Romeo models also performed poorly in CR’s road tests.

Tesla's rank fell five spots to number 16 because of reliability issues with the Model S, Model Y and Model X, Consumer Reports said. Tesla continues to have remarkably high scores, though, for owner satisfaction and in Consumer Reports' road testing, but only the Model 3 has a high enough overall score to be recommended by the organization.

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