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Japanese cars losing reliability edge in consumers' bible's recommendations

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 29 October, 2013, 1:38pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 29 October, 2013, 3:40pm
 

Japan’s lock on Consumer Reports’ vehicle reliability rankings is starting to ease.

Three Japanese brands – Lexus, Toyota and Acura – took the top spots in this year’s survey, and seven of the top 10 brands are Japanese.

But three non-Japanese brands – Audi, Volvo and GMC – cracked the top 10.

And the magazine announced on Monday it’s not recommending that consumers buy 2014 models of the Honda Accord V6 and Nissan Altima sedans, two of Japan’s top sellers, because of poor reliability scores.

Two other Japanese mainstays, the Toyota Camry and Toyota RAV4, won’t be recommended, because they flunked a frontal crash test from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

That’s a blow that could impact sales. Consumer Reports’ recommendations are frequently cited among the top reasons North Americans buy particular cars and trucks.

The magazine predicts the reliability of 2014 model year cars and trucks based on a survey of subscribers who own vehicles from current or prior model years. This year, the survey questioned the owners of 1.1 million vehicles.

The 2014 Subaru Forester got the top score for predicted reliability, but the magazine noted that the 2014 Forester had only been on sale for a few weeks in the spring when owners were surveyed, so there wasn’t much time for errors to crop up. The Subaru Legacy was the top-performing mid-sized car.

Electric cars and hybrids generally performed well, but the Ford C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid got the worst reliability scores.

Ford and its luxury Lincoln brand were near the bottom of the rankings, because of customer complaints about their glitch-prone touchscreen dashboard systems and lower-than-expected fuel economy numbers.

The key to reliability is a conservative approach to vehicle redesigns. The brands that do best, like Toyota and Honda, often use time-tested engines, transmissions and other parts from prior models in their newer cars, Jake Fisher, Consumer Reports’ automotive testing director, said.

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