Consumer Reports' Reliability Survey: Ford, Lincoln Continue to Plummet

Consumer Reports' latest reliability survey has dropped Ford and its Lincoln subsidiary to the bottom tier in the magazine's 2012 Annual Auto Reliability Survey, which predicts reliability for 2013 models. Among 28 brands ranked, Lincoln ranked 26th; Ford placed 27th.

Six out of 10 Fords had below-average reliability, as did half of all Lincolns, the New York-based magazine said. Recent Ford redesigns — like the Explorer SUV, Focus compact and Fiesta subcompact — continue to experience reliability issues, and Ford's much-maligned MyFord/MyLincoln Touch continue to have problems. As the magazine focuses on reliability for new cars, several reliability stalwarts — the Ford Escape, Ford Fusion and Lincoln MKZ — were excluded because of 2013 redesigns. All three, however, gained Ford's controversial multimedia system in their overhauls.

This comes after Ford pledged renewed efforts to work the bugs out of MyFord Touch and MyLincoln Touch, tweaking the system for faster response times on many 2013 models. Consumer Reports' reliability findings appear to encompass only Ford's first-gen system. Still, we've driven thousands of miles with MyFord Touch 2.0, and it remains as buggy as ever, and Consumer Reports isn't the only publication to document real owners — not just journalists — taking issue.

On the other end, Toyota and its subsidiaries, Scion and Lexus, earned top reliability scores. Mazda, Subaru, Honda and Acura followed. Big movers included Cadillac (up 14 spots), Audi (up 18), GMC (up 10) and Volvo (down 10). Jaguar remains the least reliable brand.

We should note that the reliability survey assesses only reliability, as opposed to Consumer Reports' seasonal Automaker Report Cards, which combine reliability surveys with the magazine's editorial evaluations. Case in point: The magazine slammed quality and drivability in the new Toyota Prius c — a viewpoint we disagree with — but it turns out the Prius c is darn reliable, or so says Consumer Reports’ reliability survey.

What's more, the rankings appear to ignore sales popularity. We checked some of Consumer Reports' aggregate rankings against reliability for individual cars, and it appears the publication compiles a straight average among the cars any given brand sells, without any extra weight given to the more popular ones. That means if a brand sells six models with four popular nameplates that have above-average reliability and two low-volume sports cars with dismal reliability, the overall results would trend below average.

Chrysler's Ram brand appears to have been torpedoed by that math. The magazine says the Ram 1500 has average reliability, but the Ram 2500 HD is a reliability nightmare. Chrysler didn't return emails seeking a sales breakout (the automaker groups all Ram sales under one figure), but if’s national inventory is any indication, the Ram 1500 is more popular than the 2500 by a 3-to-1 ratio. Adjusted for that, Ram's composite reliability for the models Consumer Reports ranked ought to be around 20% below average, which would place the brand considerably higher.

"We're basically looking at the manufacturer's ability to bring a reliable car to market," said Jake Fisher, director of auto testing at Consumer Reports. "Whether or not one of those models sells at higher volumes or not is somewhat immaterial to that. We're looking at the chances of their ability to bring a new car to market."

Here's how the magazine ranked the brands:

  1. Scion: 72% above average (no change vs. last year)
  2. Toyota: 47% (up four spots)
  3. Lexus: 47% (down one spot)
  4. Mazda: 40% (no change)
  5. Subaru: 37% (up three spots)
  6. Honda: 36% (down one spot)
  7. Acura: 26% (down four spots)
  8. Audi: 16% (up 18 spots)
  9. Infiniti: 14% (down two spots)
  10. Kia: 11% (up two spots)
  11. Cadillac: 10% (up 14 spots)
  12. GMC: 6% (up 10 spots)
  13. Nissan: 5% (down four spots)
  14. Mercedes-Benz: 4% (up four spots)
  15. Chevrolet: 3% (up two spots)
  16. BMW: -2% (up three spots)
  17. Hyundai: -3% (down six spots)
  18. Volkswagen: -9% (down two spots)
  19. Jeep: -12% (down six spots)
  20. Volvo: -14% (down 10 spots)
  21. Buick: -29% (up three spots)
  22. Mini: -42% (up one spot)
  23. Chrysler: -43% (down eight spots)
  24. Dodge: -46% (down three spots)
  25. Ram: -55% (first year)
  26. Lincoln: -58% (down 12 spots)
  27. Ford: -59% (down seven spots)
  28. Jaguar: -141% (no change)

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Senior Consumer Affairs Editor Kelsey Mays likes quality, reliability, safety and practicality. But he also likes a fair price.  Email Kelsey