I designed TrueDelta’s Car Reliability Survey to provide information an average of ten months ahead of the established annual surveys. Early last December we shared with TTAC readers that ”Early data on the Ford Fiesta is not good.” Then, in early March, we stated about the 2011 Fiesta and the 2010 Taurus that ”Ford does not appear to have tested either model thoroughly enough.” The late February release on the TrueDelta site went a step farther, asking, “Is Ford slipping?” The answer last week from Ford: “Yes, but we’re going to fix it.”
Thanks in part to the help of people from TTAC, TrueDelta received a record number of responses to April’s Car Reliability Survey—over 22,000. Updated car reliability stats have been posted to the site for 559 cars, up from 534 three month ago. There are partial results for another 418. These stats include car owner experiences through the end of March 2011, making them at least eleven months ahead of other sources.
Thanks in part to the help of people from TTAC, TrueDelta received a record number of responses to January’s Car Reliability Survey—over 21,000. Updated car reliability stats have been posted to the site for 534 cars, up from 488 three month ago. There are partial results for another 378. These stats include car owner experiences through the end of December 2010, making them at least eight months ahead of other sources.
Having been a long time reader of TTAC, I now pose a question to the Best and Brightest:
Should one who likes the driving experience offered by German brands, but abhors their reliability and maintenance expense, seek safety with an extended warranty? Or will purchasing one of those warranties be an utter waste of money?
Considering I’m about to embark on a weekend roadtrip in a 12-year-old M Coupe, I’m hoping the answer to this question is “no.” At the same time, I’m willing to admit that I bought the car I wanted and that a little bit of risk was part of the deal. But then, I’m just a callow youth with no kids to worry about… I’ll let TTAC’s Best and Brightest bring their wealth of experience to this question while I pray that Mr M doesn’t blow a gasket this weekend.
The other day, when a popular blog mentioned that the Porsche Boxster was judged to be the car most likely to last 200,000 miles I did a double take. You don’t have to spend very much time in the comment sections of the major car blogs or on enthusiast forums to know that German cars have, at least to enthusiasts, a reputation for being prone to frequent and expensive maintenance and repair. Likewise, a simple internet search for [porsche boxster engine problems] puts paid to any notion that the average Porsche owner has an 85% chance of his or her car lasting to the 200K mark.
Thanks in part to the help of people from TTAC, TrueDelta received a record number of responses to October’s Car Reliability Survey—nearly 19,000. Updated car reliability stats have been posted to the site for 488 cars, up from 459 three month ago. There are partial results for another 370. These stats cover through the end of September 2010. Other sources of car reliability information will not cover the third quarter of 2010 until the summer or even fall of next year.
Among early 2011s, we now have full results for the Hyundai Sonata and Kia Sorento. Though in its first model year, the thoroughly redesigned Sonata has been better than average. This is not a given for Hyundai—the Genesis sedan with tech package and the Genesis Coupe both had glitchy first years. The Sorento has been about average so far.
In Part 1, we found that, despite its large overall sample size, Consumer Reports’ has serious gaps in its coverage. But what about the reliability ratings they can provide? An FAQ asserts CR’s ability to split results by engines, drive types, and so forth. At first glance, this appears valuable, as CR’s reliability scores often differ from powertrain to powertrain. But are these differences valid? Should you avoid the V6 in the Camry or insist that your Flex be EcoBoosted?
Last week Jack Baruth reviewed the press release that attended Consumer Reports’ latest auto reliability survey results. But don’t run out and buy a Porsche for the sake of reliability just yet. And it might even be safe to buy a Chrysler.
Jack was surprised that Porsche ranked second among makes. On top of this, the Boxster was reported to be the most reliable car. What CR didn’t include in the press release about its coverage of Porsche models:
Number of 2009s with enough responses: 1
(a solid black blob for the 911)
Number of 2010s with enough responses: zero
Consumer Reports’ response to virtually any critique has long been the large size of their sample. Yet their coverage of recent Porsches is almost nonexistent. CR’s predictions are based on however many of the three most recent model years they have sufficient data for. The prediction for the 2011 Boxster is entirely based on the 2008, because that’s the only year they have enough data for. Yet the 2009 included significant revisions. They have no reliability ratings for the Panamera or the all-new Cayenne. So they have little basis for ranking the entire Porsche’s 2011 line. Even so, they rank Porsche second from the top.
Data limitations don’t end with Porsche. CR also did not receive enough responses for…
- Most 2009 and 2010 Audis. For the A8 they can rate only the 2004. For the S4, only the 2005.
- Many 2009 and 2010 BMWs, including the 135i and 535i singled out as unreliable in the press release. Consequently, BMW’s brand score is heavily based on the 2008 model year.
- Most 2010 Cadillacs.
- Six 2010 Chevrolets.
- Many 2010 Hyundais, Kias, and Mazdas.
- Any 2009 or 2010 Land Rover, including the new LR4.
- Five of the last eight model years of the Merecedes S-Class.
- The 2009 or the 2010 Mercedes GL-Class. Based on the 2008 alone they predict that the 2011 will be the least reliable SUV.
- Any 2010 Mitsubishi. And among the 2008s and 2009s, they can rate only the Outlander.
- Any 2009 or 2010 Saab.
- The 2010 Scion tC and xD—even with Toyota products their coverage isn’t complete.
- The 2010 Subaru WRX. They still single the WRX out as the one Subaru to avoid. From TrueDelta’s survey and forums I’ve learned that the engines in early 2009 WRXs have been prone to failure. But this problem was fixed during the 2009 model year, and should not affect the 2010s, much less the 2011s. Unfortunately, CR’s predictions don’t factor in known common problems that have been fixed.
- Any 2010 Suzuki, including the new Kizashi.
- Any 2010 Volvo aside from the XC60. And most 2009 Volvos. But the press release still mentions Volvo as one of the two consistently reliable European brands.
In general, coverage of recent model years is much less complete than for 2008 and earlier. The severe downturn in car sales two years ago appears to have severely impacted Consumer Reports’ ability to gather enough data on the 2009 and 2010 model years. As a result, they make predictions for many 2011s based entirely on the 2008 model year, but do not clearly note this. In these cases any improvements (or declines) over the last two years have no impact. And yet they still conclude that some manufacturers have improved over the past year, while others have not.
Chrysler allegedly falls in the latter camp, with the press release reporting that it “remains the lowest-ranked manufacturer.” Chrysler has responded that, based on warranty claims,the quality of its products has greatly improved over the past two model years. Who’s correct? According to CR’s own results, quite possibly Chrysler. By CR’s count, Chrysler offers 28 models.
Number of 2009s with enough responses: 14
Number of 2010s with enough responses: 7
The problem, once again: CR’s coverage is far less complete than their overall sample size (1.3 million) suggests it should be. Chrysler’s rating is heavily based on the 2008 model year. And their products were mostly unreliable that year.
In two cases for which CR has enough data, the minivans and the Dodge Journey, the ratings improve from “much worse than average” for the 2009s to “about average” for the 2010s. This said, if other models have similarly improved, and if CR had had enough data on them, it still wouldn’t have been enough. The predicted reliability formula (which is confidential) appears to equally weight the model years, even though the most recent year is most likely to predict the current year. So a bad 2008 and 2009 can easily outweigh a much better 2010, and do for the minivans and the Journey. Even when CR does have enough data for all model years it often takes three years before an improvement is fully reflected in their predictions. When they don’t have enough data on the most recent years, it can take forever.
With such sparse data on the 2009s and 2010s, and some indication that the reliability of Chrysler’s products has improved while at least one Porsche has gone in the other direction, Consumer Reports probably should have reported that Chrysler’s and Porsche’s relative positions are currently unclear. Instead, they applied a formula that doesn’t take trends into account and that ignores substantial holes in their data. Porsche benefits. Chrysler does not.
Coming in Part II: Should you EcoBoost?
The new CR reliability reports are out, along with their projected reliability for 2011-model-year automobiles. Some of the results won’t be news to most of you: the Big Three from Japan are all near the top, Ford’s ahead of the other domestics, and the Koreans are climbing the charts.
If, on the other hand, you’re choosing between a Porsche and an Audi, you might want to take a moment to hear CR’s opinions…
Thanks in part to help from TTAC readers, TrueDelta received a record number of responses to last month’s Car Reliability Survey—nearly 18,000. Updated car reliability stats have been posted to the site for 458 cars, up from 404 three month ago. There are partial results for another 351.
These stats cover through the end of June. Other sources of car reliability information will not cover the most recent months until the summer or even fall of next year.
If German cars had a stellar reputation for reliability, Lexus would not be where it is today. TrueDelta’s latest Car Reliability Survey results, based on owner experiences through the end of March 2010, provide some evidence that a corner has been turned, but other evidence that work remains to be done.
With strong new auto safety legislation being debated in congress,the role and scope of government regulation in the auto industry is becoming a hotly-contested issue. But one important consideration is being left out of the discussion: the role of private “regulation” of the auto industry. Even as the new legislation was being drafted, we were treated to an object lesson in non-governmental regulation when the non-profit Consumer Reports issued a “do not buy” warning for the Lexus GX after it exhibited lift-off oversteer on a test course. Because CR performs independent testing on a wide variety of dealer-example vehicles, it was able to detect this error, which prompted Toyota to stop sales and production of the model until a fix was released. Throughout the incident, NHTSA played second fiddle to CR, merely checking the non-profit’s work. The lesson: a subscriber-based, non-profit is the real front line of US auto regulation. But, as the Wall Street Journal [sub] reports, Consumer Reports is being shadowed by another organization called Consumers Digest… and you don’t want to make the mistake of confusing the one with the other.
I conduct a car reliability survey at TrueDelta.com. Since we promptly update our results four times a year, we can report on new models ahead of anyone else. Last year, we announced that the 2009 Jaguar XF was faring poorly. This provoked a blistering backlash from owners at a particular Jaguar forum. In the end, threads on reliability were deleted and future ones all but banned in the interest of preserving what remained of the UK auto industry.
TrueDelta has once again updated the results of its Car Reliability Survey. Based on over 15,000 responses for the first time, the new results cover owner experiences through December 31, 2009. Elsewhere, results continue to be based on an April 2009 survey. Thanks to these prompt quarterly updates, TrueDelta can provide reliability stats on new or redesigned models sooner, and then closely track cars as they age.
ADAC is who responds to essentially every automotive Panne (breakdown) in Germany. And with the Germanic proclivity for thorough record keeping, they have kept them all, and analyzed them more thoroughly than any of Freud’s patients ever were. Did your mother have a flat in 1983? ADAC knows. And they’ve been using it to publish annual best and worst reliability rankings since 1978. If you caught the Toyota Starlet CC, you’ll know that it was the queen of the ADAC numbers, and the bane of Mercedes and the other (once) proud builders of the world’s most presumably durable iron. Since ADAC doesn’t have an easy way to see all thirty year’s worth of the good and naughty, my Germanic side kicked in and I spent a chunk of last night transcribing them unto a spreadsheet, because…well, that’s just how Germanic I am. (Read More…)