CARS.COM — While Japanese and South Korean automakers continued to dominate Consumer Reports’ Annual Auto Reliability Survey for 2016, Buick became the first U.S. nameplate to crack the top three in more than 35 years, finishing behind Lexus and Toyota for predicted reliability across the brand’s whole lineup. Buick also finished third in the most recent J.D. Power and Associates’ three-year Vehicle Dependability Study.
Related: Car Shoppers Focus on Reliability
Otherwise, Asian nameplates continued to dominate the list of 29 brands, with seven in the top 10. Lexus and Toyota finished first and second for a fourth consecutive year, with the nine models rated by CR showing better-than-average reliability. Toyota’s lineup did as well, except for a below-average score for the redone 2016 Tacoma pickup.
Kia and Hyundai continue to jump in the rankings, finishing fifth and seventh, and neither have a single model with a below-average score. Kia and Hyundai also shined in the most recent J.D. Power Initial Quality Study.
Chevrolet was the next most reliable domestic brand, well back at 15th out of the 29 brands scored, while GM’s other brands finished at 21 (Cadillac) and 24 (GMC).
“Buick’s achievement is commendable and sure to be a wake-up call to other manufacturers,” said Jake Fisher, Consumer Reports’ director of automotive testing, 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.”
Smaller lineups also magnified positive and negative moves for some other brands, with Consumer Reports noting that changes in reliability for one or two of their models can result in big shifts in ranking. Infiniti had the biggest improvement, jumping 16 places to rank eighth; Acura jumped six spots to 12th.
Meanwhile, three other brands that have smaller lineups dropped significantly: Subaru, Volvo and Volkswagen. CR said Subaru dropped out of the top 10 because the Legacy sedan and Outback wagon fell to just average reliability, while the WRX/STi scored below average. All VW models except the Tiguan SUV scored below-average reliability. For Volvo, CR said the redesigned XC90 SUV was “the big culprit” in the automaker’s finish in the bottom third at 19, “with its touchscreen infotainment and climate systems being particularly problematic.”
Tesla appeared at 25 in predicted reliability despite the Model S sedan’s improved average. The ranking was due to numerous problems with the reliability of its Model X SUV, including with its Falcon Wing doors.
All was not completely rosy for Asian brands, however, with some cracks in Honda’s usually top-rated reliability linked to new introductions that landed it at 10, CR said. Honda’s redone 2016 Civic scored “much-worse-than-average” reliability due to problems with its power equipment and infotainment systems, CR said, and its redesigned Pilot SUV was just average. The Civic also has dropped off CR’s list of recommended models.
For the 2016 survey, Consumer Reports said it gathered data on more than half a million vehicles, including more than 300 models from model years 2000 to 2016, plus a few early 2017s, to analyze how reliable vehicles have been and to predict future reliability.
Other survey highlights:
- Advanced transmissions continue to pose problems. CR said that while Acura TLX and Jeep Cherokee nine-speed automatics are improved, earlier models still pose problems. It also said that Ford’s dual-clutch automatic transmission continues to lower scores for the Fiesta and Focus, as did the continuously variable automatic transmissions in the current Nissan Pathfinder and related Infiniti QX60 SUVs.
- Fiat Chrysler Automobiles continues to struggle, with no Fiat or Ram vehicle scoring even average reliability, though the Fiat 500L rose from the most trouble-prone new car for the past two years to the seventh most troublesome this time. Only FCA’s Chrysler 300 sedan, Dodge Grand Caravan minivan and Jeep Patriot SUV scored average or better.
- New or redesigned models continued generally to trend lower in the scoring as initial problems remain to be addressed.
- European luxury brands showed significant inconsistency by model across their lineups, CR said, though Audi and BMW finished in the top 10 overall.
Consumer Reports’ Brand Ranking: