With weeks of recall coverage and with Lexus’s GX460 snagging a rare Consumer Reports “do not buy” warning, you’d think that at least one of CR’s recent “worst-made cars on the road” [via Forbes] would be made by Toyota. But you’d be wrong. Dodge Nitro, Jeep Wrangler, and Ford F-250 join four GM products (Cadillac Escalade, Chevy Aveo, Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon) as the seven worst cars CR could come up with. And though this hometown sweep for Detroit goes a long way from separating facts from fiction, it’s nowhere near as instructive as the responses from each of the Detroit automakers to the charge of making crap vehicles. Let’s take a look, shall we?
Chrysler took the least credible tack in addressing CR’s charges of unreliability, essentially arguing that three-year-old vehicles aren’t representative of what’s on sale today. Or what may or may not be on sale tomorrow. Why isn’t CR testing those cars, anyway?
Consumer Reports’ and J.D. Power and Associates’ assessments of new vehicles are based on the previous three years of reliability and durability, respectively. Chrysler Group has taken aggressive actions to improve the quality and reliability of our vehicles over the past three years, and those efforts have shown significant progress. Internal data shows that warranty claim rate per 1,000 vehicles sold is cut in half from 3 years ago. Additionally, more than 75% of our product line will be refreshed by the end of the year. We look forward to demonstrating the numerous quality advancements we’ve integrated into the design, development and building of all Chrysler Group vehicles.
Ford’s response: as long as people are buying, how bad can it be? Since consumers are perfectly rational, there must be something wrong with CR’s methodology, right? Right?
We appreciate the opportunity to respond. F-250 is part of our Super Duty lineup–that is our heavy-duty F-Series truck–and that is probably the most complicated vehicle line in the entire Ford Motor Company. The theme that we are seeing with Super Duty in general and F-250 specifically is that we are seeing very marked improvement in terms of durability and reliability over the last couple of years. We always start with the customer point of view, and they vote with their purchase decision and with their pocket book. We’ve been the best-selling truck for 33 straight years, and Super Duty’s a big part of that. If our sales position and our market position continues to dominate the segment, and if reliability and durability are at the forefront of the customer’s mind, that tells us that at least in the near term, the last couple of years, the track record we see of reliability improvement is certainly ringing true with the customer as well, otherwise they wouldn’t be buying our truck.
Improbably, GM’s response is actually the most honest of the bunch. Rather than putting down, or trying to punch holes in CR’s testing, GM aknowledges the importance of third-party testing, and pledges to learn from its mistakes in order to score better on future tests. The General’s results may have earned it a solid D this time around, but we give their answer an A for attitude.
We put a lot of value in these surveys, because they in many cases do line up with reality. And that’s why we have put forth a very aggressive customer-focused quality initiative over the past three years. Since 2007, the volume of dealer claims on a per-vehicle basis has dropped 45% across our portfolio. We have seen literally hundreds of thousands fewer claims in the U.S. market, so we’re not saying we’re perfect and we’ve got a lot of work to do, but we have substantially cut our warranty claims.
Now the Aveo has been a very low performing scorer in Consumer Reports, but we have a new one coming. It’s going to start being built next year at our Orion Township plant in Michigan and it has the same type of engineering capability as the Equinox, Camaro, the Malibu–all of our fresh products. So expect that to be a knockout from a performance perspective.
The Escalade is a tough one because that is one of our lowest warranty vehicles that we have today, and it’s a pretty good vehicle. The Colorado and Canyon are cars that are going to have to be refreshed at some point. They’re not the premium vehicles like you see launched today, but we’ve got a plan for that as well.We got past the debate three years ago in the company about whether or not we were going to listen to this survey or that survey, whether it was Consumer Reports or J.D. Power. And we decided we better win them all. We won’t rest until absolutely every product is at the top.
When we build our cars today, we actually take Consumer Reports test procedures and we integrate them into our vehicles as we build them, so we’ve changed our whole philosophy on how we design and build cars over the past few years, which I think is one of the reasons that we’re selling them. Because we’ve listened to [the test reports], and now it’s starting to pay off.