Consumer Reports Crowns FCA as the Four Least Reliable Brands Available

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
consumer reports crowns fca as the four least reliable brands available

Consumer Reports released its new car reliability ratings today, and one company should take a long hard look at itself in the Italian-American mirror.

The annual report covers brand reliability and includes a list of the 10 best, and worst, vehicles in terms of reliability. While there are some predicable favorites, Buick managed to hit an unexpected home run and electric vehicle manufacturer Tesla surprised everyone with reports of mechanical issues stemming from — get this — the electronics.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles should be ashamed of itself. Consumer Reports ranks Dodge, Chrysler, Fiat, and Ram as the bottom four brands in terms of reliability, calling it a “turbulent voyage.”

While Jeep fares a little better, it has nothing to brag about considering its Renegade made the “Worst of” list due to a buzzy drivetrain and subpar build quality. Also near the top of the FCA trash pile is Fiat’s 500L, which uses a long wheelbase version of the SCCS platform found in the Renegade. Faulted for possessing a slipping and seizing transmission, unreliable power equipment and failing electronics, the 500L also receives a terrible consumer satisfaction score. CR was keen to mention how poorly it did in small-overlap frontal crash tests and reminds us that the 500L was the least reliable vehicle you could purchase in 2014 and 2015. It’s now only the seventh worst.

The only models from FCA to receive an average or better reliability score are the Chrysler 300, Jeep Patriot, and Dodge Grand Caravan.

Also garnering some exceptionally low marks is Tesla. The publication lambasted the Model X for its malfunctioning electronic doors and wonky electronic interface. All of Tesla’s vehicles saw marks deducted for not meeting their claimed range in cold climates and, while Consumer Reports upped the Model S from bad to average reliability, the brand still ended up ranked as the fifth worst overall.

Underlying the assessment of Tesla vehicles is the continued worry over the company’s controversial Autopilot feature. Any reference to one of their vehicles included the following disclaimer, prominently displayed:

“This vehicle can be outfitted with a semi-autonomous driving package. Consumer Reports believes automakers should take stronger steps to ensure that vehicles with those systems are designed, deployed, and marketed safely. Please heed all warnings, and keep your hands on the wheel.”

While not maligned as a potential killing machine manufacturer, General Motors took some heat for the Chevrolet Tahoe/GMC Yukon, Suburban/Yukon XL, and Cadillac Escalade. While GM vehicles span the gamut in terms of reliability, anything on the shared extended SUV platform is noted for problematic transmissions and unreliable four-wheel-drive components. Meanwhile, the Chevrolet Cruze is billed as one of the most reliable American that cars money can buy.

Buick also receives accolades for reliability, coming in just behind the predictable Japanese favorites as the third most reliable brand. The company fared well last year but has jumped up four places to cinch the top spot for an American company. Ford fell slightly, thanks in no small part to troublesome transmissions in the Fiesta and Focus. Subaru, previously praised for their reliability, was asked to leave the VIP table and can now only be considered slightly better than average.

Out of 29 brands, Korea and Japan account for seven of the top 10 spots. Lexus placed first, with a Lexus-like reliability score of 86, followed by Toyota, Buick, Audi, Kia, Mazda, Hyundai, Infiniti, BMW and Honda. Subaru follows close behind with an overall score of 54. For the sake of reference, Fiat received a reliability rating of 17.

To clarify, that’s a 17 out of a possible 100.

[Image: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles]

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  • Frylock350 Frylock350 on Oct 25, 2016

    Anyone who considers CR's data to be scientific is delusional. Is CR's data published and subject to peer review? Is the data free from selection bias? Is it free from subjective judgement? To qualify as actual science these are three very basic principles CR doesn't hold up to. Their data is a black box; they rely on people's opinions which are hilariously flawed. They also only survey their own subscribers which is hardly a random or representative sample size. An example: One person's rattle is another person's perfectly quiet. In a rental we had I heard an annoyingly loud compressor noise when the A/C was on; the Mrs didn't hear it at all. I would have taken it back to the dealer for replacement under warranty; the Mrs would never have done so. This is how subjective judgement finds its way into CR's data collection. Another example: I'm very tech savvy; I have yet to encounter a car infotainment system that isn't easy to use for me. I wouldn't give any car negative marks for infotainment. Hell one's selection of smartphone can have a big impact as well. Mine is modern and running Android 7.1.1 I have the latest features. Someone who bought a cheap POS LG running Kitkat from an MVNO with no hope of an update will have a different experience. None of this affects the reliability of the car itself. Then you have CR's survey process. Its not randomized; there's no control; its merely sent to readership. CR readers are already invested in CR's results (literally as they've paid for them) and they're going to operate with a bit of a hive mind; there's not enough impartiality or diversity of opinion.. If I were to survey the readership of say phonearena about cell phone reliability the iPhone would shoot to the top. I could survey the readership of engadget and have an Android device take top honors. Why any discrepancy? Too many people that think alike do not make for a valid survey. An illustrative example confirmation bias in the typical CR reader: Jim is a CR reader and he buys a Charger and not a Camry because it looks cooler. He does this while having CR's Toyota=good, dodge=bad in his head. Meanwhile John buys himself a Camry and pays more over the Fusion he liked better because CR says its good. Jim experiences a dash rattle at 15k and knowing that dodge=bad complains to the dealer that his POS Dodge is falling apart and he should have gotten a Toyota. Meanwhile John's Camry experiences a rattle at 15k and he says to himself; this is a reliable car its just what cars do as they age and never acts on it. You have instances where rebadged cars perform completely differently, most famously the Pontiac Vibe and Toyota Matrix. That alone is evidence that their process is hardly scientific. CR is a circlejerk and should be taken with a boulder of salt.

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    • Psarhjinian Psarhjinian on Oct 25, 2016

      @Frylock350 "I again point to the past Vibe vs Matrix. If CR was truly scientific the results for these two would be nearly identical with any differnces being “within the noise”. They’re rebadges with no mechanical differences. " One, there aren't huge differences between CR's rankings of the two. That's been debunked. Two, the Vibe and Matrix aren't rebadges: the skin is different, the infotainment system is different, much of the trim, seats and such differ, and they're made in two different facilities run by different management teams and supplied by (some) different suppliers.

  • Scuzimi Scuzimi on Oct 26, 2016

    Love my Abarth. Problems I've had are... faulty paint area in front of sunroof, fixed by FCA replacing full sunroof. Next they fixed the Bluetooth. All under warranty. I now have 38k on the vehicles and it uses no oil. Issues for me have been the leather seats are miserably hard. Dealerships closing.