Ford Plunges, Toyota Tops Consumer Reports Survey on Cars

Ford Motor Co. (F), plagued by nagging problems with its electronics systems, tumbled further toward the bottom of Consumer Reports’ annual auto-reliability survey as three Toyota Motor Corp. brands topped the rankings.

Ford’s namesake brand fell seven spots to second-to-last place, and its luxury nameplate Lincoln plunged twelve spots, the biggest drop in the U.S.-based magazine’s survey this year. Toyota’s (7203) Scion topped the standings for a second straight year, the Japanese automaker’s namesake brand moved up four spots to No. 2 and its premium Lexus line was the third best.

Ford’s rankings suffered because of problems with its MyFord Touch and MyLincoln Touch audio, entertainment and navigation systems and defects with models such as the Explorer sport-utility vehicle and Fiesta and Focus cars, according to Yonkers, New York-based Consumer Reports. No U.S.-based automaker placed a brand in the survey’s top ten this year.

Ford is “bringing in some new technologies that aren’t really all worked-out,” including the touch-screen systems, Jake Fisher, director of automotive testing for Consumer Reports, said yesterday in an interview. “They’re taking that system and putting it in more and more vehicles, so there’s really not an indication that even next year things are going to get better.”

Japan-based automakers dominated the rankings this year. Mazda Motor Corp. (7261)’s Mazda, Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd. (7270)’s Subaru, and Honda Motor Co.’s namesake brand and premium nameplate Acura rounded out the top seven of the survey, in which the magazine asks its more than 8 million subscribers to report serious problems they’ve had with their vehicles in the prior 12 months.

‘Nothing New’

“Toyota being at the top is really nothing new,” Fisher said in an interview before announcing the results yesterday at an Automotive Press Association event in Detroit. “The Japanese have always been up there. They kind of shuffle positions.”

Sixteen of the 27 models in the Toyota City, Japan-based automaker’s lineup earned the highest rating, Consumer Reports said. The subcompact Toyota Prius c earned the top score overall, and the hatchback Prius, the larger Prius v, and the new Prius plug-in also rated above average.

Volkswagen AG (VOW)’s Audi premium brand surged 18 spots, the survey’s biggest gain, to rank No. 8. Nissan Motor Co. (7201)’s Infiniti and Kia Motors Corp. (000270)’s namesake rounded out the top ten, shutting out all three major U.S. automakers.

GM Improves

General Motors Co. (GM) placed its Cadillac luxury nameplate No. 11 and its GMC line of light trucks No. 12. GMC climbed by 10 spots, led by the Terrain SUV. Cadillac, boosted by the CTS coupe, moved up in the ranks by 14 levels. The Detroit-based automaker’s Chevrolet and Buick brands also improved.

Chrysler Group LLC’s Jeep was the company’s only brand to place in the top 20. The SUV line for the Auburn Hills, Michigan-based automaker dropped six spots to No. 19. The namesake Chrysler brand dropped eight places to No. 23, and Dodge and Ram followed in the next two spots.

Fiat SpA-controlled Chrysler’s performance within its brands were mixed, with the V6-engine version of the 300 sedan ranking as its namesake brand’s most reliable, and the V8 version of the 300 the worst. The Dodge Charger had “well- below-average” reliability, and the Jeep Grand Cherokee scored average with a V-6 and below par with the V-8.

Findings from Consumer Reports’ survey this year are based on subscribers’ experiences with 1.2 million vehicles. The reliability scores are based on the most recent three model years of data, and vehicles that have been redesigned for the 2013 model year are excluded.

Ford Models

The exclusion of recently revamped models hurt Ford, which has redesigned its Ford Escape SUV and Fusion and Lincoln MKZ sedans, because the three have historically scored as reliable, Consumer Reports said.

“Ford had a pretty mature product line up until just a year or two ago,” Fisher said. “When you drop those out and start replacing them with new models, new technology and new platforms, this is something that happens.”

The namesake brand of Hyundai Motor Co. (005380) dropped six spots to No. 17, dragged down by the turbo version of its Sonata car. The Sportage SUV was the best model for Hyundai’s affiliate Kia. Both of the automakers are based in Seoul.

German automakers Daimler AG (DAI) and Bayerische Motoren Werke AG (BMW) both made small improvements. Daimler’s Mercedes-Benz brand moved up four spots to place No. 14, and BMW rose three notches to No. 16.

Volkswagen’s namesake brand slipped two spots to No. 18. The Wolfsburg, Germany-based automaker’s redesigned Passat (PSAT) scored well, and its CC, Eos, and diesel Jetta cars improved. The redesigned Beetle car, the Touareg SUV, and four- and five- cylinder and sporty GTI edition Jetta performed below average, Consumer Reports said.

Rechargeable cars performed well, with the all-electric Leaf surveying as the best model for Yokohama, Japan-based Nissan. GM’s plug-in hybrid Chevy Volt had above-average reliability for the second-consecutive year, Consumer Reports said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Craig Trudell in Southfield, Michigan at ctrudell1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jamie Butters at jbutters@bloomberg.net

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