By on October 20, 2017

2018 toyota camry xse

Consumer advice is one way informed shoppers like to make a decision, and few buying choices are bigger than your next car. Every year, Consumer Reports surveys its subscribers to see how they’re getting on with their personal vehicles. While the metrics may have changed over the years, its annual reliability report is one people and automakers pay particularly close attention to.

However, this year, some automakers were paying closer attention than others. Tesla, irritated that CR was so hard on the Model X — while predicting the Model 3 would possess “average reliability” — fired back at the publication with a press release calling shenanigans. “Time and time again, our own data shows that Consumer Reports‘ automotive reporting is consistently inaccurate and misleading to consumers,” the automaker wrote in a release.

While Consumer Reports exists as a nonprofit organization providing consumer advice, Tesla has accused it of making the electric automotive brand a target to bolster attention. Whether or not that’s true is debatable, but it did use predictive reasoning to assess the Model 3’s probable reliability — rather than data collected from testing and customer surveys. 

It would be easy to chalk this up to a mistake, but CR had little to go on. Since there are still so few Model 3s on the road, the magazine made its best guess on how the new EV would stack up based on how poorly the Model X had performed and how much better the Model S has gotten over time.

“Electric vehicles are inherently less complicated than gasoline or hybrid alternatives. The Model 3 is the least complicated Tesla yet, and should benefit from what Tesla has learned from the Model S,” said Jake Fisher, director of auto testing at Consumer Reports, in a statement.

In this instance, it may have been better for the organization to wait on Tesla to furnish society with more examples of its new sedan. But, as CR specified this was a predictive analysis, it’s difficult to fault them for any grotesque wrongdoing.

Of course, Tesla wasn’t the only brand who ended up on the business end of some unfavorable comments. General Motors took some abuse after the publication placed Chevrolet, Cadillac, and GMC in the bottom third of its reliability rankings. For Chevrolet, the Bolt is an all-star in terms of reliability but complaints about the Cruze and Volt helped drag it down the board.

GMC and Cadillac sit at the bottom of Consumer Reports’ brand rankings, however. The Acadia debuted with below-average reliability, while every model from Cadillac fared rather poorly. A lot of this comes down to in-car electronics and how customers interface with them.

In fact, unreliable and difficult to manage tech was one of the primary reasons the survey had so much movement on the board this year. Consumer Reports said new infotainment units and nine-speed or continuously variable transmissions were a fairly consistent sore spot for surveyed individuals. In fact, complaints related to all manner of in-car electronics doubled for first-year models in 2017.

“These new technologies can add features and improve fuel efficiency, but are more prone to have issues. More often than not, our data suggests it’s prudent for consumers to wait for the technology to mature,” Fisher said.

Some of automakers have addressed the issue head on. For example, Honda and Hyundai both changed some of their digital interfaces for the current model year. While this wasn’t enough to move Hyundai up the board, Honda did creep up a single place to spot number nine.

Further down the board FCA brands also made marked improvements. According to CR, Jeep has remedied some of the transmission problems that plagued its earlier models. Dodge’s Grand Caravan remains the only model in its fleet to garner a score better than “below average,” but its models received fewer complaints overall this year. It was enough to move both Jeep and Dodge up the board a few spaces. Ram also improved, but remains among the least-reliable brands currently in existence.

Chrysler performed much better. Making the biggest improvement of any manufacturer this year, it jumped up 10 places and slotted itself in the middle of the pack between Volkswagen and Chevrolet.

Meanwhile, at the top of the board, we find the usual suspects. Toyota is followed closely by Lexus as the two most reliable brands on the market, followed by Kia and Audi. BMW took fifth place, pursued closely by Subaru and Infiniti. Buick is next, having lost marks for the redesigned LaCrosse. Fortunately, the rest of its lineup continues to perform well in the reliability survey.

Glossing over the middle of the pack — which includes the likes of Nissan, Mazda, Porsche, Mercedes-Benz, Ford, and Volkswagen — we move to the bottom. Performing slightly worse than Tesla, Lincoln saw its score weighted down by the MKC and MKX and took 21st place overall. It is followed by Volvo and the previously mentioned Dodge, Ram, GMC, and Cadillac.

This year’s survey contacted roughly 400,000 subscribers to compile data on over 640,000 vehicles. Consumer Reports said the takeaway for 2017 is that updated and brand-new models are more likely than older ones to have an unreliable engine, quirky transmission, or high-tech features that fail outright. Its recommendation is to consider models that have proven themselves and have been around for a few years, rather than opting for the first installment of a new model.

“Car companies test their prototype vehicles, but mass production and a wide range of real-life driving scenarios multiply the number and nature of problems that can arise in a new model,” said Fisher.

In other words, the devil you know is often times better than the devil you don’t. Even a company earning subpar markings may have a proven platform in its lineup. But it’s difficult to uncover that diamond in the rough before it’s had time to prove itself on the streets.

[Image: Toyota]

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

56 Comments on “Which Brands Fared Best in 2017’s Consumer Reports’ Reliability Survey?...”

  • avatar

    Chrysler made a reliable minivan, go figure…

  • avatar

    This is the first time I’ve thought this but from that angle the Camry looks way too much like a Maxima.

  • avatar


    Average Reliability Score of #27 Cadillac = 26 versus #1 Toyota = 80

    Garbage Cadillac & GMC (and General Motors) products!

    “Cadillac IS AT THE VERY BOTTOM of Consumer Reports’ list, partially because of issues and problems with drive systems, power equipment, and climate systems” (and for many more’reasons).

    General Motors rolling garbage dumpsters – some things never change,








  • avatar

    That’s quite a fall for Acura.

  • avatar

    Cue a chorus of “oh tech issues are not the same as a drivetrain failure or mechanical fault etc etc” ….. bah, I say it is.

    if manufacturers insist on forcing this rubbish upon us with half baked tech then they can feel the wrath in the QA scores.

    most touch screen interfaces are absolute shite of the highest order, knobs justy fucking work. They just do.

    • 0 avatar

      Tell that to the expensive Nav system in my Highlander. the volume knob doesn’t work for crap. turn it up and the volume will go up and down whatever it feels like with no real change. the buttons on the steering wheel however, work as expected.

    • 0 avatar
      Big Al From 'Murica

      If some automakers don’t have these “tech issues” and you do then yes, it is an issue.

  • avatar

    Check out Kia. #1 on the JD Power IQS earlier this year and #3 on CR’s reliability list.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      My Kias have been pretty good. But a B&B staple is to disparage Kias as junk for po folks.

      I wonder if the wide difference between Kia and Hyundai is the infotainment stuff, which would be different between them (I think). Besides running gear, they don’t share much else.

      • 0 avatar
        Arthur Dailey

        Our Kia has been far more reliable (knock wood) then our Hyundai.

        It came standard with a lot of equipment that for the time would have required considerable upgrading/optioning up in vehicles from other manufacturers or that was not even available from some manufacturers.

        Active head restraints, air curtains, 4 wheel disc with ABS, traction/stability control, Bluetooth, leather wrapped steering wheel/shifter, fog lights, roof rails, heated seats, lit vanity mirrors, and a hook for purses were all standard, no extra charge equipment on the Kia.

        The Kia was manufactured in Korea, the Hyundai in Alabama.

        • 0 avatar

          If you look at the Mulroney stickers for Kia/Hyundai, the Korea-built cars literally are 99% made in Korea.

          While an Alabama Hyundai might have 33% made in USA parts. I certainly hope it’s not an American parts issue or more generous tolerances given to USA suppliers or at final assembly :(

    • 0 avatar

      off the top of my head, I know eight people with Kias–six of them Souls–and all of them are quite enthusiastic about them and none of them have had reliability issues at all, though a couple of the people with Souls complain about it having a huge blindspot in the back of the car.

    • 0 avatar

      Kia has been doing well on reliability/quality surveys, but an advantage that they have over Hyundai is that usually the new engines or transmissions debut on Hyundai models first which gives Kia more time to work out some of the kinks by the time they add them to their lineup.

      In addition, Hyundai makes greater use of the DCT thru its lineup which has hurt scores (but again, as CR noted, there have been far fewer complaints about the DCT in the ’17MY Tucson than the ’16MY as kinks have been worked out).

      Scores will generally drop as manufacturers bring new powertrains to market (a major reason why Acura’s scores have dropped precipitously and why Toyota has held up so well – as they only recently have been revamping their powertains).

      Over in Germany, Hyundai overtook Kia for the top spot in AutoBild’s long term reliability rankings so can differ based on the differing lineups/powertrains seen in different markets.

    • 0 avatar
      Big Al From 'Murica

      My wife is on her second Hyundai and we have never had the slightest issue with either. Ours are lower speced ones (she did get car play and the touch screen with the new Santa Fe), but the old school 2.4 under the hood which works here…it’s flat.

  • avatar

    You decry depressed GM ratings due to the reliable Bolt but wasn’t the Bolt the source for all the dashboard-windshield glare hoopla a few months back? I’m pretty sure that Consumer Reports factors in that kind of jumbo design goof into their ratings especially when it potentially impacts safety.

  • avatar

    Embarrassing showing by GM.

    Taking the last two spots? That sh*t wasn’t even happening in the 80s and 90s.

  • avatar

    What about that Chevy TV commercial saying they are the most reliable brand? Maybe we need to have CR go against JD Power for the most accurate data?

  • avatar

    What is a “drive system”? Outside of the obvious is it any different from a drivetrain?

    Anyways I’m not a subscriber and the 10 least reliable vehicles popped up in my regular feed and Camaro was,one of them with the drive system and transmission listed as areas of concern.

    The trans was a glaring issue in the drive system I take it?

  • avatar

    I’ll keep my old, outdated, TTAC/B&B-hated W-body Impala, thank you very much. Which, BTW, has been a rock of reliability for me, thus far. Over 5 years, 117K.

    Yes, I glance at CR’s annual auto issue, but I still don’t think they have a large enough sample size of all brands to accurately rate everything. However, it’s better than nothing.

    • 0 avatar

      Zackman. our inherited 2002 Century W has similar mileage and has been very reliable, intake gasket/Dexdeath excepted. Interior is really cheap but the body is solid, rust free, and well assembled. We will keep it until it dies.

  • avatar

    Canadian model names are sometimes different, but what I have is a Honda Fit Sport 6M (manual) painted “orange fury”, of all things. I commute about 120 kms each way (+/- 72 miles) and the Fit is perfect – as much fun as you can have on a massively overcrowded freeway, economical on both gas and insurance, and so far bullet-proof. Plus it holds my son and his humongous hockey bag beautifully – you have to see the rear space to believe it in such a tiny car. So at 10000 kms (+*- 60 miles) per year commuting plus local driving it’s going to be ready to sell in 3 years. But I am enjoying my hour and a half commute each way for a change. And I like m “orange fury”

  • avatar

    I am wondering why Mazda is pulled down 6 spots? New Cx5 and Cx9 (obviously)? Both of my Mazda3s are rock solid at 80 and 100+K (does seat bracket recall count?). But that was before Sky Active. I hope that my new ‘6 is solid because it is 4th year of production.

    • 0 avatar

      If you read what they say, you will realize that the ratings are not about reliability.

      For example, Subaru Impreza is not recommended. Why? Because its radio is buggy and its bluetooth connection is not stable.

      My old SAAB was rock solid for the last 5 years of its life and I never had any issues with engine/gearbox/clutch in the 300k+ miles I owned it. Despite racing the living hell out of it almost every weekend. CR hated SAAB.

      • 0 avatar

        Early examples of the Impreza had a rough time with the Harmon head unit and backup camera glitches. From all of the forum surfing that I’ve done people picking up late 2017 units are mostly scott free, but there are still known bugs like the radio always turning on when you start the car even if you turned it off previously. The USB interface still doesn’t do play lists and doesn’t read the metadata off of music files properly.

        But a fully patched system shouldn’t have any show stopper bugs as of the fall.

  • avatar

    “Time and time again, our own data shows that Consumer Reports‘ automotive reporting is consistently inaccurate and misleading to consumers,” the automaker wrote in a release.

    Quack, quack, quackquackquackquackquack.

    Translation: Our customers and lessees are complaining more to Consumer Reports than they do to us. Traitors!

    The only way CR could be consistently innaccurate and misleading is if Tesla owners lie.

    Musk is the master of illogic. No doubt his own complaint and repair database removes anything he deems as inconsequential or trivial. What other explanation is there for the discrepancy?

    Second lawsuit hit Tesla on personnel matters yesterday.

  • avatar

    I don’t understand, Audi is at the top of the reliability list and VW is bellow average. They share the same engines, it is the same company owner and
    Audi is basically more sophisticated VW. Audi should be as reliable as VW.
    Can I trust Audi high reliability rating?

    • 0 avatar

      If you go the “enthusiast” route and buy a 15 year old clapped out model with 150k and a sketchy maintenance history, no.

      If you buy one new/ new-ish CPO and follow the maintenance schedule, yes at least in my personal experience.

    • 0 avatar

      I suspect a lot of the rating variance is driven by the customer profile. If a brand attracts lots of old people and/or tech illiterates, then there will be complaints they don’t understand how to use that fancy touchscreen to get their favorite AM station. Upscale brands also tend to treat their customers better, so small problems like touchscreen understanding can be nipped in the bud by some added time spent with the customer at delivery or during scheduled service.

    • 0 avatar

      Mandalorian is right. When Pontiac was around it consistently scored lower in reliabity compared to Buick with the W-body (IIRC on the chassis code) despite using the same components.

      The difference being GM designed a car that worked well with your average Buick buyer ( older, retired, hardly drives ) where Pontiac attracted a younger lead foot more apt to abuse the car.

    • 0 avatar

      It’s been fairly consistent across surveys and markets.

      In Germany’s Autobild’s reliability rankings, also see Audi far outstrip VW in that dept.

  • avatar

    Elon still wants to beef with CR. Funny thing about the voice of the customer; they don’t always track the same metrics you do. Part of the value of a consumer survey is that they (if structured well) tell you not only how you’re doing on what you’re watching, but what is important to them that you’re not watching.

  • avatar

    It will be very interesting to see how reliable those early Tesla Model 3’s will be. Limited (none?) prototype testing, hand made parts, and cobbled together production lines sound like the 1970s-90s versions of TVR, Aston Martin, Bricklin, etc. that were not noted for build quality or reliability. Of course most (all) of these early cars are going to Tesla employees, so perhaps they won’t respond to CR surveys and the bad news will stay secret the way Elon likes it.

    • 0 avatar

      I think it will be a miracle if they manage to get up to average. But the early buyers won’t care, any more than the Model S owners like my buddy who despite having a car with the build quality of an early 80s GM product built after a drunken 3-day weekend, simply loves it to death.

      I think what will be REALLY interesting is how their tiny support organization manages to handle warranty issues if they ever actually get production going. Good luck, they are going to need it.

  • avatar

    I’m confused about the recent uptick in Audi reliability the last couple of years. Does this mean I can get myself an A4 and drive it 200,000 miles into the ground like a Camry now?

    • 0 avatar

      If you buy new and follow the maintenance schedule.

      • 0 avatar

        “If you buy new…”

        Ha ha ha! My friend, do you not know this is TTAC, and NOBODY (except me) on here EVER buys new?

        I have bought my last new car, so I’m in the TTAC boat, now, too.

        • 0 avatar

          Ha! Well I guess that makes two of us.

          Although I think for maintenance/reliability purposes a late model dealer serviced used such as a lease return or a CPO is the same as new.

          • 0 avatar

            “… lease return or a CPO is the same as new.”

            I couldn’t agree more. The 2015 CR-V we bought in February to replace Wifey’s old 2002 CR-V is a CPO and it’s great.

      • 0 avatar

        “If you buy new and follow the maintenance schedule.”

        This is the key for just about any brand.

        My neighbor was a Service Adviser for a GM dealer. About five years ago, he moved to a Honda dealer. He’s of the belief that the difference in reliability isn’t the vehicle. It’s the customer. Honda customers bring their vehicle in at every single service interval. GM customers bring their vehicle in when something is broken.

        Buy the brand you want, treat it right, and it will be good to you.

        • 0 avatar

          So much this.

          I managed to drive a P38 Range Rover for five years with 99% reliability. Because I did what was needed and paid attention to what it was telling me. I am pretty confident at this point that my best lady friend could kill a new Camry in five years. She is completely and utterly mechanically tone deaf in a completely stereotypically way. And my kid brother is not much better.

        • 0 avatar

          How do you make a Northstar not explode or an LS4 not emulsify its transmission?

    • 0 avatar

      You always could. It just costs more (just like the cars do up front). Worth it to me, maybe not to everyone.

  • avatar

    I have always wondered what incentive does anyone have in filling out these reliability and quality surveys. They take time to fill out. Filling out negative info about your car is like shooting yourself in the foot because come resale time its value will be lowered if CR/JD Power publish low reliability ratings. Why would anyone answer truthfully?! I just cannot fathom it.

    I would either not bother at all or fill in all 10s.

  • avatar

    I admit I check CR reliability ratings. Again, better than nothing.

    But my god I have a damn hard time believing BMW is 5th. Or that Audi is even better than that. Kia…maybe, but any H/K product I’ve driven with a lot of miles feels much more worn at the same age than products from other makers.

    And I’d still like to know what is “wrong” with the new Volt. The previous generation was one of CR’s reliability stars. Hard to believe gen 2 is that much worse.

    I still want a Jeep…

  • avatar

    smalloverlap “Does this mean I can get myself an A4 and drive it 200,000 miles into the ground like a Camry now? ” yes absolutely.The difference is that after 200k you’ll be sick of your Camry/Accord maybe less so with your Audi.
    Much “fake news” has been spread around the web about VAG reliability over the years.
    By the way I’ve spent a lot of time under and in VWs and Audis over the years (retired tech) and anyone who tries to suggest that Audis are VWs with some cosmetic upgrades knows not of what they speak.VWs are good but they’re certainly not Audis and that includes the A3 which is the terms of genetics.My 2c worth. .

  • avatar

    I hope Volvo’s low score is from their newer models as i’m about to pull the trigger on a 2016 XC70 (AWD 2.5). Yikes!

  • avatar

    It is strange that Cadillac get the best reviews and awards among American cars and finishes last here. The CTS and ATS are North American car of the year winners.

Read all comments

Recent Comments

  • Matt Posky: Fair enough.
  • Matt Posky: Yep. To clarify, as an American I 100% support everyone having the ability to be armed in NYC or anywhere...
  • akear: Why doesn’t GM concentrate on its lousy market share. It is second to Toyota in the States and 6th place...
  • Inside Looking Out: I think F35 uses system like that to predict failures and order spare parts before the failure...
  • Lou_BC: “Yes because people like you defunded them…” Ah yes, the “defund” argument. The same...

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Who We Are

  • Adam Tonge
  • Bozi Tatarevic
  • Corey Lewis
  • Jo Borras
  • Mark Baruth
  • Ronnie Schreiber