By on April 14, 2010

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.

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31 Comments on “Quote(s) Of The Day: Good Losers Edition...”

  • avatar

    Kudos for GM for improving their vehicles.

    Unfortunately my worst experiences owning a GM car came from GM dealers, parts, and service.
    Hopefully those will be improved as well. Otherwise, no more GM for me.

  • avatar

    From the article (F250):

    Segment: Pickup Truck
    CR Predicted Reliability Score: Poor
    CR Value Score: Rated among the worst in overall value
    CR Safety Score: Rated among the worst in overall safety performance
    CR Overall Score: 37 out of 100
    J.D. Power Dependability Score: 3 out of 5 Power Circles
    MSRP: $28,020

    Leaving aside that everyone I know who buys Ford 3/4 tons did so because of CR*, what F250 are they talking about? Gas? Diesel? If diesel, how can they predict that the new in-house oil burner will have poor reliability? What makes an F250 unsafe? Did CR take it out on a slick test track and perform power slides a la GX460?

    Did they test the truck for its intended purpose? Are they aware that the vast majority of these vehicles take a beating in fleets or on farms? Does CR know which end of the vehicle you stick a Class V receiver into?

    The mind boggles.

    *the preceding may have been sarcastic in nature. Viewer discretion is advised.

    • 0 avatar

      CR truck reviews are always a laugh.

      They will complain that a heavy duty truck handles ponderously, or that the ride is stiff, and a whole other list of complaints that just come with the territory when you are talking about BOF heavy duty trucks.

      I will concede to them that the F250 had poor reliability with the 6.0 diesel, and that the first year of the 6.4 diesel wasn’t stellar either. The 6.8 liter gas V10 also had some teething problems. By the 2010 model year though, all of these problems have been adressed and the F250 is one of the most reliable trucks on the road. The upcoming 2011 will take that even further.

      As for poor value – how the hell is that? If you need what the truck can do, you get your money’s worth right there. Not to mention the Super Duty trucks have some of the best resale values of any trucks on the market. A couple months ago we paid somebody $10,500 for a 9 year old Super Duty diesel duallie with 115K on the odometer. Holding onto a full 25% of its value with that kind of miles and age is in the top echelon of resale value.

    • 0 avatar

      If I’m planing to purchase a blender, or maybe a toaster, I’m going to check with C.R. If I’m in the market for a medium,or heavy duty pick up, I’m talking with the farmers,and the Hard hats that use them everyday.

  • avatar

    Well funny thing is:

    Kelley Blue Book is honoring the 2009 Jeep Wrangler in its Best Resale Value Awards as the leader in the sport-utility vehicle (SUV) segment.

    The Kelley Blue Book Resale Value Awards were created to recognize automakers’ achievements in producing vehicles that best retain their value. The vehicles honored are expected to retain the greatest proportion of their original retail price after five years of ownership.

    Isn’t CR the same publication that ragged on Jeeps for being “truck-like”!

  • avatar

    Ford’s answer is the least forthcoming.

    Chrysler acknowledges that warranty claims have been reduced starting after 2007, and I believe they previously provided charts and figures to back that up.

    GM’s is refreshingly candid, and tellingly conversational in style. I’ve noticed a lot of GM’s more recent communication efforts have been transparent. They’re very responsive on Twitter, have reached out to the enthusiast community, and have had more web-based chats with high-level company officials (completely open to the public) than any major corporation that I know.

    Sadly, the products can’t change as fast as corporate attitude.

    The only GM car on my shopping list this year is the Volt. However, I’m confident that as this decade plays out, GM’s full might will be realized.

    • 0 avatar

      @Buick61: I’ve noticed the same thing also with GM communications. More of it and a better quality than the old “form letters online” kind of responses. I think we’ll see a different GM in several years from now.

      Sadly, the Chrysler response seems the most like the “form letter online” of all of them.

    • 0 avatar

      I don’t know which part of the Ford reply was more embarassing, the arrogance or the incoherence.

  • avatar

    Wrangler is worrying. Is this because of the “new” V-6? Or just general collapse of Chrysler? Jeep never was a leader in reliability, but it was a reasonably dependable vehicle.

    • 0 avatar

      Historically the Wragler, Cherokee and Grand Cherokee with the 4.0L AMC I6 have had reliable drive trains. They have had plenty of other issues like faulty power door locks, window regulators and electrical gremlins.

      The 3.8L V6 in the new Wrangler is a step backwards in terms of low-end torque.

      CR does not really get the vocational and off-road aspect of trucks. The front axle that makes the Wrangler great off road just kills it on a road test track.

    • 0 avatar

      You would think a Jeep would be a no-brainer. They are not cheap for what you get, and you don’t get much in the way of anything but supposed ruggedness. And, after all, that is what they are supposed to be–rugged. My god, it’s not like they’ve not had time to improve on a classic design. I’ve owned two Jeep Wranglers. The first had electrical ignition gremins. But, hey, who needs something as basic as an ignition? The second was in the shop 5 times within the first year for a variety of mechanical and electrical problems. I finally had to get rid of it because of “death wobble” the dealer couldn’t isolate. Their only solution: buy new tires every 15K. I should have known better than to give Chrysler my money.

    • 0 avatar

      They make Wranglers that use electricity in their interiors now? And people buy them?

    • 0 avatar

      The basic flaw in some of this methodology is what they consider a “problem”. For example, a complaint about wind noise in a Wrangler would be considered a “problem”. The vehicle is shaped like a brick and has a folding top that rivals the complexity of some camping tents – if it were quiet, that would be a revelation.

      It also doesn’t help that the new 4-door Wrangler undoubtedly brought in some “non-traditional” customers that don’t understand the shortcomings of a solid-axle soft-top vehicle – it’s simply not going to be as refined on road and for “daily driver” type use as any number of CUVs. The good news is that these “poseurs” trade them in quickly and ensure a steady supply of clean, low mile Wranglers that have never been off-pavement for true enthusiasts who can’t afford a new one.

      And to mpresley: any vehicle with a solid front axle can suffer from “death wobble” – leaf sprung designs are inherently less prone than coil sprung designs, but it can still happen. I even experienced death wobble in my old 1976 F-150 at one point. The real problem is that most dealer technicians don’t really understand the dynamics of what makes it happen and how to methodically identify and correct the contributors. A 4×4 specialty shop that does custom fab work probably would have been a better choice, even though you would have had to pay out of pocket to get it corrected. Another solution, while it’s a band-aid and doesn’t address the root cause, is to add a heavy-duty steering stabilizer. It will cure/control it until the stabilzer eventually wears out, so a lifetime part warranty would be helpful in this case.

    • 0 avatar

      I see, thanks. My problem was that I’m in the market and it pretty much came down to either FJ or Wrangler, and my jeep club is pretty much all jeeps (some are modded with Chevy axles and such). FJ is so yuppie that I was willing to cut Chrysler some slack at least, and now this. Blasted CR, always confuse me with facts.

    • 0 avatar

      Honestly Pete, I think you’ll do fine with a new Wrangler. The manual trans is more robust than the automatic, but if you have to go auto add an external cooler and it will help longevity.

      The soft top was completly redesigned for 2010 and it fits much better than before and is quieter and less potentially leak prone as a result. The real problem is with the fiddly multi-piece hardtop with all of it’s various seals and latches. If you follow the installation intructions to the letter and tighten all the latches in the proper order, they’re generally fine – problem is that most people can’t be bothered with reading/following instructions that precisely, and so it leaks or makes wind noise.

      The basic engine, while somewhat underpowered and crude, is a generally robust design…it’s served duty in the minvans for many years. It doesn’t feel too underpowered in a 2-dr model, especially a stick-shift Rubicon with 4.10 axles, but add two extra doors, an automatic trans and higher gears like 3.07’s and it’s no fun.

      If 4 doors aren’t needed, you could also go with the previous generation (known by Jeepers as the TJ) made from 1997-2006. If extra room is needed, they had the longer wheelbase model (still 2 doors though) available from ’04 though ’06. These older Wranglers are stone-axe simple and reliable thanks to the old AMC straight-six and Dana axles. My ’02 Wrangler has stood up to lots of serious off-road use and has not needed any repairs other than normal maintenance. Nothing compares to the feel of one of these vehicles on a sunny day. It’s the most fun I’ve ever had going the speed limit or less.

    • 0 avatar

      As a former (or current depending on how you look at it, the vehicle is just 1,000 or so miles away sitting in a barn until I figure out what to do with it) Jeep Wrangler YJ owner I can attest to the robust nature of the 4.0 straight six.

      My Jeep (a ’91 Islander with the 4.0) was always reliable mechanically while I owned it. The only real issue that was remotely a build defect was that the fuel gauge stopped working back in ’98 or ’99, and after being replaced it was fine. OF course, it was a pretty bare-bones example, no AC, audio was the basic AM/FM radio, soft top with zip-out windows, etc. But to me, that is what a Jeep should be.

      I’d be happy to have it down here with me, but my biggest issue, silly as it may seem, is that I live in an area that has a spider problem, more specifically, a black widow problem, and being a bit of an arachnophobe, the idea of an unsealed vehicle sitting in the backyard letting those evil little buggers in just waiting to pounce on me when I drive it, well, it scares me. Maybe I need to look into possible pest control solutions, I’m sure somebody makes something I could spray it with inside and out to keep the spiders out…

  • avatar
    Darth Lefty

    The Chrysler one is the only one that reads like it was written by a corporate entity. Strange.

  • avatar

    Will the guy who penned GM’s credible response get canned for neglecting to mention the perception gap?

    As far as the Escalade, I can’t see how a tarted-up version of the practically-Jurassic Suburban can be all that unreliable. I wonder if owners are being a bit harsh due to buyer’s remorse for buying a tarted-up Suburban, now that the SUV craze is subsiding.

  • avatar

    GM’s response is solid.

    Ford – wtf??? Did Ford PR have to fire all editors/proofreaders to budget & develop the 5.0 Mustang?
    Redundantly painful:
    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.

    And this…. Please, please, please, Ford!!! buy some an effen periods!!!

    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.

  • avatar

    I saw the Forbes article.But I seem to recall that Forbes (or Fortune) tries to correlate buying an import with intelligence? They seem to be pro-German in every “automotive” article they write.

  • avatar

    If you’d like a taste of just how delusional Ford and the local Detroit press is regarding Ford quality, watch this:

    “Habits” with Bennie Fowler, Group VP, Global Quality, Ford, Bryce Hoffman, The Detroit News, Brent Snavely, Detroit Free Press. Topic: Ford Quality.

    It’s scary these people can be so completely and totally detached from the reality of what is still being pushed, shoved, and dragged out of the Ford plants. Ford will never have first tier quality with Bennie in his own dream world. And what’s with the fawning press???

    • 0 avatar

      I couldn’t be bothered to listen to that whole thing, so to cut to the chase, what exactly is the problem you have with it?

      Overall the quality of engineering and design in current Ford products is equal or superior to that of any of the import brands, and improved practices (or ‘habits’) in the actual build can’t do anything but help, so what’s the issue?

  • avatar

    CR knows even less about trucks = especially HD models = than they do about cars. The more narrow focus the vehicle’s intended market, the worse the toaster testers rate it. HD trucks, Wranglers, etc are very narrow focus and as such will rate poorly if the metric used is an Accord. Of course this is not an excuse for poor reliability but a heavy duty truck is used in a much different fashion than a car. Simple mileage is not really relevant. It is not uncommon for work vehicles to idle for 6 hours a day. This does not show up on the odometer but it is wear nonetheless. Some work trucks end up in the scrapyard with 40,000 miles on the clock but with hours logged and stresses that would have a Camry bent in two. Interesting to note that “modern” Ford police cars have an hour meter that considers an hour of idling to be 33 miles.

  • avatar

    “we have substantially cut our warranty claims.”

    Dear GMC, I can only wonder if that boast includes the 2004-2007 period when your so-called warranty was so useless to me and you and your dealers obviously made no attempt on numerous occasions to identify and repair what were obvious defects with your Silverado pick-up.

    As one who was involved with long-haul trucking including maintenance and repair of the rolling stock, one who was involved with the used auto/truck parts industry including numerous interactions with repair shops, mechanics AND dealership service/repair facilities and who received various levels of education regarding mechanics, electronics etc. AND who performed maintenance and basic repairs on my own vehicles for decades when I was confronted by GMC/Chevy’s and its dealer’s not honoring your warranty your “Unable to replicate” mantra that you used to deny honoring your warranty not only grew extremely tiresome but eventually cost me a LARGE amount of money due to time lost from work and having to rent cars while the truck sat (for the few times the problem was so OBVIOUS that your “Can not replicate” excuse could not be used.

    “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.”

    From my viewpoint the above statement could merely be an intended after-effect by continue and perhaps expanded use of selective honoring of demands for warranty-covered repairs.

    As I have since ascertaining there was something very very wrong with the so-called warranty coverage with that newly-purchased Silverado I have made consistent never-ending attempts to warn other consumers of the fate that may befall them if they buy any GMC/Chevy?whatever brand vehicle.

    GMC, you were not even on-the-ball enough to instruct (if that was what you did though I am unable to prove it though I believe the evidence is there) your dealers to not repeat the SAME mantra heard at the numerous dealers I sought warranty coverage from…. “Unable to replicate the problem.”

    The same wording at each dealer. Mental flags were raised.

    And, having spoken with MANY service writers over the years, especially when I was procuring used auto parts for dealerships, the word “replicate” is a mighty high-falutin’ term when other simpler words would also convey the message.

    After numerous occurrences of warranty coverage denial it seemed to me as if, perhaps, I was hearing a recital of a memorized internally-distributed memo to be used to minimize the costs of warranty coverage though that can only be conjecture on my part.


  • avatar
    John Horner

    Wow, maybe some things are changing at GM. That is the most direct response to a result of this kind I’ve ever seen from any company. Sure, GM tries to put the best face on things, but at least they have the cojones to admit that the current Aveo is indeed a pretty crummy car.

  • avatar

    What a concept for Government Motors… “Nothing else has worked, may as well try the truth.”

    I give them credit, too, for being so forthright… but I’ll really change my perception of GM when they issue another truthful statement — “Hey America, want to know how much of your tax dollars we’re wasting keeping the likes of Docherty and Fritzie still employed? MILLIONS!”

  • avatar
    Jerry Sutherland

    I’m trying to follow the ball juggling here on the CR credibility issue but I think it goes something like this:
    Don’t believe CR when they label a Toyota as dangerous, but do believe CR when they label various Jeeps as crap.
    Don’t believe Chrysler-ever.

  • avatar

    If you buy a Ford truck you’re going to replace the spring hangers because they rust away. Get a Chevy/GMC.

    As for CR, it’s a poor value. Dodgy analysis, silly little circles and half circles in different colors, recomendations that don’t line up with what they’ve said about a product, best buy recomendations w/o even testing (Toyota). Tarot cards are just as accurate, and more entertaining.

  • avatar

    “The Colorado and Canyon are cars that are going to have to be refreshed at some point.”

    I thought they were getting the axe altogether?

    Anyway, I don’t mind CR, but their assessment of the Wrangler was ridiculous. A bit like saying “The F430 does a lousy job towing my pop up camper.”

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