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Domestics, Germans Fare Poorly In Latest CU Survey

Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,482
Once again, using their most extensive survey methods to date, Consumer Reports have given most domestic makes and most German cars rather dismal reliability ratings.

The new report covers a number of areas (see April 2007 issue).

1. How Well Do Various Cars Age?

One survey claims to predict the RATE of INCREASE in problems as a car ages up to ten years (10). In that survey, VW cars fared the worst as they aged (175 problems per 100 vehicles), with GM and Chrysler close behind (160/100), then Hyundai, Ford and the least problems as cars aged going to Nissan, Honda and finally Toyota as the "best of the old cars".(60/100)

2. Predicted Reliability of 2003-2006 Makes and Models

Another survey covers reliability of makes and models using this criteria:

"based on the three most recent model years' data for models whose design hasn't changed since 2007"




Cadillac/Jeep/Jaguar/Hummer/Land Rover/ Mercedes Benz (Mercedes was the worst of the worst, with a predicted 35-200% below average reliability rate).

No American or German make scored above average IN TOTAL, with all their models averaged in, but a few American and German MODELS were individually above average.

3. Most and Least Reliable 2007 model cars

(a few examples posted here. There are actually TEN categories)

BEST SMALL CAR: Fit/Yaris/Corolla

WORST SMALL CAR: Cobalt/Jetta/Aveo

BEST LUXURY CAR: Infiniti M/Lexus LS

WORST LUXURY CAR: Cadillac STS/MB-CLS/MB E-class/ BMW 7 series/ Jaguar S type

Where did domestics do well for 2007 models?

The domestics scored well in only three of ten categories:

BEST LARGE CARS: Lincoln Zephyr (in same group as Lexus 350, Acura TSX

BEST FAMILY CARS Ford Fusion (in same group as Prius, Accord, etc.)

BEST LARGE SUVs: Chevy Tahoe/Yukon (in same group as Land Cruiser, Sequoia, etc


Looks like Japan ran away with it all across the board.

Most domestics fell in the middle to low-middle, and with the exception of Mercury, all domestics were in a negative mean percentile (that is, below average mean reliability).

German cars also fell into negative mean percentiles, with VW, Mini, Porsche and Mercedes in the bottom ten.

Worst domestic overall for 2003-2006?


Second worst: Jeep

Third Worst: Cadillac


Vehicle reports included: 1,302,575 samples (i.e., 1.3 million vehicles)

Models surveyed across ten years: 2,200

Most responses from any one model: 7,763 from Toyota Camry

Minimum responses required to include a model in the reliability survey: 100


Anything you are surprised to see, or does this survey more or less match your expectations?

Visiting Host


  • british_roverbritish_rover Posts: 8,457
    Minimum responses required to include a model in the reliability survey: 100

    Whoa that stands out?

    Has CR always had 100 responses as the minimum? From what I remember of my stats classes in college you need a minimum of 300-500 responses on a truly random survey in order to get accurate results. I just don't think 100 responses is enough to get a truly accurate survey result and I doubt CRs survey methods are random enough that the bare minimum of 300-500 responses works. They probably need more then 500 responses for a truly accurate survey result.
  • 1stpik1stpik Posts: 495
    Edit the title to read "... Fare Poorly ..."

    fare - noun, verb

    7. to experience good or bad fortune, treatment, etc.: He fared well in his profession.
  • gagricegagrice Pahrump, NevadaPosts: 31,450
    No surprise to me. Just what I would expect from CR :sick:

    Too bad CR does not have a result that shows how the Japanese cars have taken the joy out of driving. Last Japanese car I drove that was fun. The Honda CRX :)
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,482
    Are you suggesting CR manipulated the data for some agenda?

    You are right about one thing you said though---there is no room in CR for a "fun factor".

    But--they did title it a "reliability" survey, so I guess the best criticism would be on the limited nature of the survey.

    People buy cars IN SPITE OF the reliability ratings all the time.

    The survey does seem to imply that American manufacturers are still behind the curve, and that the Germans haven't solved their quality control issues.

    My impressions were...yeah, it's about what I expected from the Japanese and Americans (the "best" and "mediocre" respectively) but I really didn't expect to see Mercedes in the toilet.

    Kinda sad how the domestics couldn't even score in the Pickups category. You'd think......

    Visiting Host
  • gagricegagrice Pahrump, NevadaPosts: 31,450
    How many MB owners do you think would bother with CR? I am surprised that they got 100 of any model MB except the cheapo models that compete with the cheapo Lexus.

    It also surprises me they got so few Camry surveys. 7000 over 4 years, with close to 2 million sold. Maybe CR is losing subscribers and or no one bothers with the survey.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,482
    I think 7000 surveys is a pretty good statistical base for trends on a particular model. Not sure 100 minimum surveys for a particular model is valid though.

    It does seem though that CR results roughly mirror what you see here in the Edmunds forums.

    The part I found intersting was the rate of decline as each car aged. This would be more useful to used car buyers rather than new car buyers I'd guess.
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    CRX was fun, certainly, but you must not have driven an S2000 if you can't think of a single fun Japanese car.

    How 'bout a Miata? G35? 300ZX? :confuse:

    You gotta get out more and drive more Asian cars if you're gonna talk about 'em like that. ;)
  • jeffmcjeffmc Posts: 1,742
    Pretty much results as expected. Nice to see a couple of the newer American products took best in their category.

    One little beef I have with CR's wording:
    "2. Predicted Reliability of 2003-2006 Makes and Models...
    ...TOP SIX: Toyota/Honda/Scion/Acura/Lexus/Subaru"

    Maybe it's just me, but I've always thought of a "make" as the manufacturer, not the brand. Scion, Acura & Lexus are brands. With CR's terminology, things get muddy. If you're in Canada, for example, buying an Acura that's really a re-badged US Honda, is your new vehicle rated #4 in reliability, or is it rated #2? CR's Top 6 really reads as a top 3 to me: Toyota, Honda, Subaru. Who cares which badge the manufacturer slaps on?

    Even defining it by manufacturer is getting harder now, for example having Camry built at the Subaru plant in Indiana... is it really #1 in reliability or #3 (or #6?) because it's not built in a Toyota factory?)
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    Valid points, I think it's fair to say Toyota, Honda, and Subaru are the top 3.

    The rest are just divisions.

    Scion isn't really even a stand-alone division, they are models within the Toyota franchise. Notice how the stores are contained within Toyota dealerships.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,482
    Well the American models didn't "take" best in certain categories...they shared it with other automakers. Sorry for the confusion. No one model was "best" as a stand-alone I don't think. I'll check that and correct it if necessary.
  • anythngbutgmanythngbutgm Posts: 4,277
    I'm glad to see the company near the top. Combined with their new "wildlife sanctuary" campaign and their commitment to the green movement, I am proud to support them. They've quickly become one of my favorite brands from a business as well as a product perspective.
  • gagricegagrice Pahrump, NevadaPosts: 31,450
    I have not driven the S2000. I would like to. I think it is the best looking sports car in that class. I liked the early Miata. The new ones just do not look right to me. The G35 looks ok, the 300ZX is just weird looking. So there are exceptions to to rule.
  • 210delray210delray Posts: 4,721
    Dear geo9,

    FYI, Buick and Lexus tied for #1.
    Cadillac is #3.
    Mercury is #4 (but badge-engineered Ford is below average -- go figure).
    Honda is #5.
    Toyota is #6.
    Subaru is #9.

    All other GM brands -- Chevy, GMC, Pontiac, Hummer, Saturn, and Saab were below average (Saturn and Saab especially so, with Saab being 4th worst). So why do the old folks' GM cars of choice score so well, but those purchased by younger buyers fare much more poorly? Any ideas?

    Not that I put much stock in old JD anyway, but what GM product do you drive?
  • bumpybumpy Posts: 4,435
    So why do the old folks' GM cars of choice score so well, but those purchased by younger buyers fare much more poorly? Any ideas?

    There is the old saw about GM's expensive cars with old-person appeal being better-designed, better-built, and better-cared-for than the less expensive cars aimed at a younger, poorer demographic less likely to sink cash into regular maintenance and upkeep.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,482
    Well somebody is right and somebody is wrong. We know that much anyway.
  • sls002sls002 Posts: 2,788
    They can both be right based on their samples. Reality may be completely different. I think one thing to consider is that an old car (say 10 years) will have some problems, and the number of problems may depend on the care that it got in the first 9 years.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,482
    Well sure that makes sense.

    You'd think though that if it were based on the care given the older cars, that the cheapest cars would fare the wors in reliability, but apparently that isn't the case in all instances. VWs do poorly, as do Chrysler products, but not Toyota.

    As for the sampling, CR seems to have the edge here because they test cars and drive them, whereas JD Powers are desk people, not car people. They are more like statisticians. So I'd venture that CRs database is more historical and hands-on.

    But again, these are just speculations or impressions as I look at the data.
  • boaz47boaz47 Posts: 2,751
    Never cared for CR test results. Any subscription based results are suspect to me. I picture CR as promoting someone from washing machine tester to car tester depending on who was sick at work that day. But I did see a blurb on the news last night that said Buick was the top rated car for dependability for the first time in 12 years. Yes it was tied with Lexus but sill it was ahead of Toyota and Honda and the rest of the japanese brands. Hardly a Japanese sweep. But it did put Porsche in its place for a change.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,482
    I dunno....somehow I have a hard time shirking off 1.3 million survey results. That's an impressive data base from CR. The researcher in me has a hard time dismissing them with a wave of the hand.

    Upon what basis might you conclude that the news story source is any less suspect than CR in your mind? The survey I *think* you saw states the following:

    "The 2007 survey is based on the responses of 53,000 owners of 2004 model year vehicles. The survey gives all problems equal weight."

    Soooo....given that CR does 1.3 million responses and weights the answers, I'm still leaning toward CR as more indicative.

    Why the results are so radically different, beats me! Maybe a statistician can explain for us how this happens?
  • sls002sls002 Posts: 2,788
    this Consumer Reports website:

    is recommending Buicks, so is there really much discrepency?
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,482
    I think the problem with comparing JD Power to CR is that CR works in a way that you can have a model that is "recommended" but still won't necessarily score as the "best" in a category. Why that happens I don't exactly know. That would be a good question to ask CR if anybody's game.

    Also, CR doesn't recommend all Buick models, and that might explain why Buick gets dragged down in the "older car reliability" chart---which just lumps GM all together. So the "older car reliability" chart is more or less corporate.

    I guess this would happen say with Cadillac, too, where the Catera and the STS are more typical of the bad GM rating for older car reliability, rather than every Cadillac model.

    And I guess it works in reverse as well, where the occasional turkey made by Toyota isn't weighted enough to give the whole company a bad name.

    Maybe what all this really means is that VW and GM make more worse cars than they make good ones?
  • boaz47boaz47 Posts: 2,751
    My problem is that CR takes their results from people that believe like they do and so subscribe to their magazine. It is like taking a survey of republicans as to who would be the best president. The mindset of CR subscribers is likely to be more alike than different and that might be one reason their results are different. Not that all CR subscribers think alike but they already have something in common because they place a value on what CR represents and that is one reason they are willing to subscribe in the first place. I don't place much value to a article by C&D testing trucks either. After all they are not Truck and driver.

    When I used to ride motorcycles one of the magazines I happened to subscribe to had a tongue in cheek article that stated that CR would ding any motorcycle it tested for not having four wheels to make it more stable. More seats to make in more family friendly. More cargo space for weekend trips and a roll cage to make it safer. Maybe true but then that is pretty much how CR tests cars. The goal of CR "seems" to be to find the perfect generic vehicle or transportation pod.
  • british_roverbritish_rover Posts: 8,457
    Does CR actually weight the answers I always thought they didn't.

    That is another problem is that CR doesn't really explain how they come up with a lot of the results. You don't get much of an idea about the RAW data. They have changed how they report reliability what two times now? They had to change the previous methods because cars were getting so reliable that all of them earned full dots. They don't tell us the difference between a full dot and a half dot. If it is only say half a problem per 100 cars that frankly I don't car that is close enough to a statistical tie to me.
  • sls002sls002 Posts: 2,788
    One other difference is that J. D. Power wants only original owners in the longer term survey. CR does not care (I think) if you are the first owner or the 12th owner. Perhaps one problem with the domestics' is that they last too long even if they do require frequent repair.

    CR also does not recommend every Toyota or Honda. Only Acura and Subaru had a recommendation for each listed model.
  • sls002sls002 Posts: 2,788
    I think that getting a data dump from your subscribers (as CR does) is not quite the same thing as randomly surveying all of the owners of a make. In principle the subscribers to CR that own a particular make should have the same problems on average as all owners do. However, do all CR subscribers turn in a survey? Or do only those who have a problem to report turn in surveys? The subscribers are probably mostly the same people year after year. Which means that the cars are the same year after year for the most part.

    J. D. Power, for the initial quality survey, has a new set of people every year. I got a J. D. Power survey for my 2007 SRX which I bought in April. I have also gotten two other surveys to fill out.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,482
    Well about all I can say is that ANY form of anecdotal evidence is suspect, no matter which source we rely on. There's no reason to suppose that CR responders are any more or less reliable than JD Power responders.

    I personally rely on resale values to tell me what people think of various cars, because in that case they are voting with their checkbooks.

    Resale values do not, of course, CORRESPOND to reliability, but I think they CORRELATE to reliability.

    How do I relate the "resale value" theory to results in CR?

    Well for one thing I think it shows that number of complaints is not the same as gravity of complaints.

    While I do not doubt for an instant that Lexus cars have fewer incidents per 100 than Mercedes, I don't believe that a Benz is 200% worse than a Lexus....probably any number of incidents with the Benz are annoying but not important.

    As for the low resale value of most domestics, I think that relates mostly to their mediocrity (as in "average-ness"), their large numbers dumped by rental fleets, and their inability to measure up in most comparos with foreign makes. (in spite of their dollar value).

    As for the high resale value of Toyotas, that seems to be a direct result of 25 years of solid "brand equity", something the domestics and even other Japanese cars cannot get a handle on.

    Anyway, just musing here with some alternative ways of assessing the results.
  • sls002sls002 Posts: 2,788
    Resale values depend on supply and demand. Demand will be lower if the customer suspects that the domestic brand is less reliable. A lot of people want a Mercedes and will buy a used one if the price is right->high demand. I think most Toyota Camry owners are quite pleased with their car. I started out looking for a program SRX, but finally decided that a new one was affordable, and if I could get everything I wanted, then new would be worth it. I had hoped to get the program one for about $20,000 under list. I had also tried to sell my Seville too, which did not work out.

    I have to say that the FWD domestics that I have owned (86 Buick Electra, 91 Reatta, 90 Riviera, 95 Riviera, 98 Olds Aurora and lastly 2002 Seville LS) have been good cars, but the last three were very similar and all would drag their noses on the pavement on a steeper than usual driveway. I have yet to find a driveway steep enough to drag the SRX's nose, but the SRX has a lot more ground clearence. Of the last three, the Aurora was supposed to be a good handling car, but my SRX is really better even though it has a higher center of gravity. The 86 Electra T-type was the best in the list.

    When I was in need of a new dishwasher I realized that I did not have any idea of what there was, so I went to the library to see what CR had to say. Then I talked with a salesperson to see what they thought. CR said one brand was worst, but saleperson said that brand had been completely updated and was actually quite good. :surprise: I ended up buying something in the middle of CR's ratings.

    I think that CR's rating, to the extent that they depend on the subscribers surveys, are based on "stuff" that is ageing on average, and therefore not up to date.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,482
    I don't rely on CR ratings either but I will say if they totally slam a product or car, I do pay attention to that.

    Maybe CR and Power really use an axe instead of a scalpel as they should?
  • sls002sls002 Posts: 2,788
    With J. D. Power I wonder if there is any difference in a major failure (like the transmission or engine) compared to something minor (like a battery failure). CR does (or did) list the category that were problem areas for each model.

    J. D. Power is giving the manufacturers the information they want. What they are giving the public is leftovers (or unclassified information).
  • british_roverbritish_rover Posts: 8,457
    The overall JD powers problems per 100 do not make an distinction between a failure that leaves a car stranded or a minor failure that does not leave someone stranded.

    They also include perceived design flaws into their problem per 100 rating. That was why the MINI scored so low on many of the JD Powers survey. People don't like the cup holders or thought the ride was too rough. :confuse:
  • sls002sls002 Posts: 2,788
    Well, my SRX with 20 inch 255/50 tires does not ride a softly as my Seville did, but it does handle better, so I am happy. One would think most people would have understood that the ride would be firmer if they did a test drive. A test drive is not the same thing as living with the car for a longer term though. So, the cup holders may escape one's consideration on a test drive.

    I did not test drive my SRX. The dealer did not have the optional 20 inch wheels in stock in any case.
  • british_roverbritish_rover Posts: 8,457
    That is exactly what MINI/BMW complained about when the results were reported. JD Powers did not tell in the wider results what the proportion of "design Flaws" to actual mechanical breakdowns were.

    MINI actually redesigned the shock absorbers for late 2003 MY to make the ride softer and sacrificed some handling in the process.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,482
    Well perhaps that explains the CR/JD differences. One panders to the consumer, the other to the auto industry.
  • makigrlmakigrl Posts: 19
    I find the J.D Power car surveys to be funny. Cause around 2004 the top rated full size car in initial quality was a Buick LeSabre. The top mid sized family car was the Buick Century. Both of these are highly reliable cars but the both have poor build quality with many plastic interior parts.
  • british_roverbritish_rover Posts: 8,457
    That is not poor build quality that is poor build materials. I have been in those cars and the assembly/build quality tends to be fairly good but the actual materials are low rent.
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    When I used to ride motorcycles one of the magazines I happened to subscribe to had a tongue in cheek article that stated that CR would ding any motorcycle it tested for not having four wheels to make it more stable. More seats to make in more family friendly. More cargo space for weekend trips and a roll cage to make it safer. Maybe true but then that is pretty much how CR tests cars. The goal of CR "seems" to be to find the perfect generic vehicle or transportation pod.

    Quite humurous, thanks for that. :D

    Not really fair, though, as CR rates the Boxster very highly, as well as the S2000 and other roadsters. They compare cars within each class. The overall score for the Boxster is higher than their score for some minivans.

    So that's not how their scoring system works.

    The theory is worth a good laugh, at least, but it's otherwise worthless.

    What I have observed, interestingly enough, is that the biggest critics of Consumer Reports seem to know little or nothing (emphasis on the latter) about them.

    I've heard people say they use vague terms like "peppy" to describe engine performance yet they conduct instrumented tests just like others do. In fact for trucks they even do acceleration tests with trailers, which is more useful than 0-60 any day.

    Yet it's funny how often people who have not read an issue since 1987 think they know everything about how CR tests cars.

    This rant is not aimed at boaz47, of course, it's just me venting about often vague and meritless dismissal of CR completely.
  • sls002sls002 Posts: 2,788
    CR has changed a lot since the 70's, when those comments were more or less true. I think that they do a reasonable job. They are not trying to do a J. D. Power sort of survey. They are also not trying to do a Motor Trend type of test either. CR is very good if you are looking for a used car and want to get some idea of what might be good to avoid.
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    I some times feel like they target people like me - a middle aged family man with a couple of kids and a dog.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,482
    Actually I think dogs should be allowed to vote in CR surveys.
  • british_roverbritish_rover Posts: 8,457
    They would probably do better then some owners.

    I swear my dog is smarter then some of the people I meet on a daily basis.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,482
    Yes but a 15 year old dog is actually 75, so there's a wealth of experience about life.

    You'd be surprised how many people base a car purchase decision according to the dog's needs!
  • british_roverbritish_rover Posts: 8,457
    Regular people might but I sure wouldn't. I have had people trade out of a car and lose thousands of dollars because their dog didn't like the car, got sick in the car, didn't really fit in the car etc.

    Just a couple of months ago I had a woman trade out of a fully loaded 2007 Lexus IS250 into a 2004 Land Rover Discovery...

    because her dog didn't really fit in the back of the Lexus. :surprise:
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    My dog likes the Sienna because it's the 8 seat model, so he gets his own seat.

    He also loves watching Lassie, Benji, and K-9 on the 12" DVD player. :D
  • sls002sls002 Posts: 2,788
    I know someone who bought a 99 deVille because the back seat was big enough for his dog (a lab I think). He also considered a Chrysler LHS, but when I suggested looking at a program DeVille, he liked what he saw. This same person has had to replace the engine because, after the water pump failed (with engine overheating), the head gasket(s) failed. This was not discovered until the leaking coolant damaged the block beyond repair (or so I understand, as I did not talk with the service people myself).

    What he should have bought is a minivan of some sort. I suggested that too...
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,482
    GEEZ--there is a huge disconnect between what I hear in the media about Cadillac and what I hear about owners' experiences. Maybe the defects per 100 ratio on Cadillac is good, but when they fail, it always seems to be quite spectacular.
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    Same here. My wife's family loves them and have owned several, and they always fall apart.

    To be fair they buy low cost, high mileage samples.

    Still, without exception, they die a horrendous, expensive death.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,482
    I think like most luxury cars these days, you ditch 'em as soon as warranty is over. Maybe if you are the first owner of a Lexus LS, you can keep going without too much worry. Perhaps this decision should be based on the luxury car's behavior while in warranty.
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    Good point, but I care more about the data after the warranty period.

    Think about it, if something breaks in JD Power's 90 day study, so what? It's fixed for free. It was a minor aggravation that cost you nothing except maybe a bit of time and some pride.

    Something breaks after the warranty, and it's coming out of your pocket. The time and pride costs are still there, just add money.

    So I tend to look at the longer-term studies, durability 5+ years from new.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,482
    Well if you believe CR, then the Japanese are a run-away in long term reliability and VW is a real turkey.
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    That tends to match up with my observations from friends and family.

    VW is funny, though. VW owners are either fiercely loyal and absolutely love their GTIs, or it's the other extreme - you could not pay them to drive another one ever again even if it were for free.

    That's enough to scare me off from any VW.
This discussion has been closed.