Toyota Tops, Fiat Flops in AutoGuide’s 1st Annual Lemon List

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Toyota Tops, Fiat Flops in AutoGuide’s 1st Annual Lemon List

Vehicle reliability studies have been around for decades, but for the first time ever, the AutoGuide Group has undertaken a study to showcase how brands fare when it comes to building cars and trucks with the most serious of issues.

Colloquially known as “lemons,” these are vehicles with serious reliability concerns, either relating to one major issue, or a longer list of less severe problems.

For the sake of clarity, this study is intended to be a report of consumer sentiment, rather than an outright list of actual lemons. The information gathered is provided by users in conversations with other members across the AutoGuide Group’s 500-plus forums. Using proprietary software designed to hone in on keywords and sentiment, the data is collected and then further sorted to determine legitimate complaints.

Toyota Tops

The results of the list contain some surprises, but certainly not at the top. Known for building long-lasting and reliable cars, Toyota ranks first among brands with the least number of reported lemons. According to the Lemon List, Toyota averages just one reported lemon per 11,655,566 vehicles produced. In fact, Toyota’s numbers are so good that reported instances of lemon Toyotas occur at one-quarter the rate of the next brand, Honda. Toyota’s numbers skew the overall industry average significantly, so that just five brands emerge as above average. Those include Honda (2nd), Mercedes (3rd), BMW (4th) and Buick (5th).

Fiat Flops

Ranked at the bottom of the list with the most reported lemons per vehicles produced is Fiat, averaging one reported lemon per every 76,808 vehicles produced. This is followed by Cadillac, averaging one reported lemon per 103,167 vehicles produced and Porsche with one reported lemon per 126,376 vehicles produced. Jeep ranked fourth from the bottom, averaging one reported lemon per 131,574 vehicles produced. Jeep, a volume brand, also reported the highest number of overall complaints.

lemonlist3

Methodology

The first annual Lemon List is comprised of all legitimate complaints of a lemon for vehicles in North America from the 2010 model year and newer. Complaints included on the Lemon List are only those made between January 1, 2015 and December 31, 2015.

Reported instances of lemons per brand are then normalized using the total production for that brand within the timeline of the survey. Automaker sales total data is provided by GoodCarBadCar.net. 23 out of 43 brands monitored appear on the list and brands with zero reported lemons are not included on the list.

“By normalizing the data based on overall vehicle production statistics, we believe we’re giving more reliable statistics,” says Colum Wood, VP of Content at Verticlascope Inc. “This formula helps to give some real-world relevance to the numbers and makes sure that higher volume brands, which are statistically more likely to have more reported lemons, aren’t penalized. Less critical are the actual numbers, and more important is the ranking.”

About AutoGuide

The AutoGuide Group forum network is comprised over over 500 make and model related websites with 17.6 million registered members, 39 monthly visitors and 235 million pageviews. Independent audience measurement agency comScore Media Metrix ranks the AutoGuide.com #1 in automotive audience size.

  • Rickers

    Fascinating list.

  • Felix James

    Yet another reason NOT to buy a Fiat.

  • Kyle

    If you take Toyota out of the mix the industry average drops pretty significantly to around 706k, since they’re kind of an outlier for the purpose of statistics. You also have to consider which of these auto-makers are producing how many vehicles. As was stated, Jeep is a mass volume producer, so that number is abysmal. But Porsche, who ranks below them, produces considerably less vehicles / year, so finding one in a smaller sample size is still a small percentage of total yearly problems. At least that’s how I interpret it.

    The median is Mazda, with around 535k, and the median of automakers is Acura at 516k if you discount Toyota, at around 409k, which means most automakers are well below industry average on a 23 manufacturer list, regardless of outliers, which is kind of interesting to note. Also interesting that Scion, which is a Toyota sub-company, has so many problem vehicles in their line-up, while their big brother has so few.

    Just some mental math and typing, I find this list intriguing.

  • ColumWood

    You got it pretty much spot on Kyle. Toyota skews the numbers dramatically and we debated leaving them off entirely to better highlight the rest of the brands. However, in the end we chose to simply report the story the numbers are telling.

  • MD

    Where’s Lexus?

  • Pesobill

    Good question , unless they are joining them together and Toyota would rank higher because of that … strange .. Go Honda !!

  • ColumWood

    Not on the list at all. We had zero reports of anyone with a Lexus complaining that their car was a lemon.

  • Jay Zackery

    Well, then my mother must be a proud Lexus owner….

  • http://chrisarella.com/ Chris Arella

    First off, Acura and Honda are the same manufacturer, they’re just branded differently here in the US. Same goes for Toyota and Scion. Put those brands together and you knock the leaders off the top quick. Ram/Dodge/Chrysler/Jeep… all Mopar. I could go on and on. I am then going to call BS on the time range for determining these. For instance, anyone who knows anything about BMW & Mercedes knows they’re only good for a few years at best before cost of ownership skyrockets or they head to the scrap yard, and their life-span is plagued with constant repairs. I cannot wrap my head around them being above the industry average.

  • Manfred Pfeiffer

    You are absolutely wrong, I have owned owned three Mercedes SEC 500, S430 and S500 for up to fifteen years and 200k miles,besides regular maintenance very few repairs and the cars ride great after many miles. The key is proper maintenance. Do not complain if you need a new trans, steeringpump or differencial if you never change the oil.

  • http://chrisarella.com/ Chris Arella

    Congratulations. Even a broken watch is correct twice a day 😛 Seriously though, you’re driving their upper echelon of cars and caring for them. That is not the norm, but the exception. I’m sure there are a lot of CLA/C-Class owners aren’t so lucky. I can say this because I was a mechanic at a dealer who sold high-end used cars along-side it’s new ones and spent countless hours repairing said Mercs and Bimmers. One persons positive experience doesn’t supersede a long-standing history of other people’s issues. But I’m glad you’re happy.

  • rdclark

    So if you look at the methodology, this is a list of “most whined about” cars. The accepted industry definition of “lemon” has no relevance. One person posting 100 times about Subaru oil consumption would have 100 times the impact of one person posting once about the Ford that ended up being irreparable. Is this correct?

  • ColumWood

    That is not correct. But you make a great point. We cross reference complaints and eliminate these sorts of repeated posts you’re talking about. We would count 100 complaints by the same user on the same vehicle as 1 lemon.

  • Pesobill

    Toyota’s customer service should be “Lemon rated” pathetic robots and mindless recall letters … Though they do make reliable cars be careful …

  • Ji Dosha

    Conclusion: Most Toyota owners don’t use the internet to talk about their cars.

  • ColumWood

    Not a bad assumption, although I’m sure the hundreds of thousands of registered members on our 17 Toyota forums would disagree with you. http://www.autoguide.com/forums.html

  • DClark

    At least seven of those forums don’t fit the criteria as the MR2, Supra, and Celica haven’t been made between 2010 and 2015. I could also argue that the cars with older buyers (like the Toyota Camry) will likely be underrepresented while cars with younger buyers will be overrepresented based on a general likelihood that a younger buyer with an issue is more likely to complain on the internet versus an older buyer. The results saying that there are 31 times fewer Toyota lemons than Scion lemons (even though they’re made in the same manufacturing plants) tells me there is something wrong with the data.

  • ColumWood

    You’re not wrong about seven of the forums. Still, the rest make up a significant bulk. Also, there are a lot of conversations of other cars on other forums. We came across numerous instances of people complaining the car they just traded was a lemon, but now they’ve moved to a different brand and are posting on that brand’s forum. As for older vs younger buyers complaining, I can’t say there’s any data to back that up. It does make me wonder if I could track down the ages of the forum users though. . .

  • Bug S Bunny

    Not long ago when Fiat announced their pending return to the U.S. market, I remember making comments about Fiat “quality” and their cars from the 70’s and 80’s. Everyone said: “give em a chance”, “they’ve changed”, “that was then, this is now”.

    I should have taken bets.

  • roundthings

    Fix
    It
    Again
    Tony

  • timothyhood

    Somehow, creating a list from user forum comments seems highly unscientific and seriously subject to flaw. Without knowing more about the data or methodology, this might have been just as accurate as a poll asking users what brands they thought were or were not lemons.

  • ColumWood

    Good point. To be clear, there was no poll. This is just raw data from the largest auto audience online, where users believe their actually bought a lemon. It’s people talking about their own cars, not just flippant comments like “all Chevys are lemons” written by some Ford guy.

  • Data Checker

    Where is Nissan? That have 7% share of the industry but they are not in your list. You have Infiniti but no Nissan. I have to question the accuracy of these numbers if OEMs are missing.

  • Bruce Bruski Snave Evans

    I count 4 brands missing (off the top of my head, perhaps more) -Alfa Romeo, Audi, Lexus, Nissan. And, the basis for this is hardly noteworthy -User Forums? Really? Also, your “definition” of a “Lemon” is suspect. I believe I’ll stick with the JD Power surveys and Consumer Report -they’re doing things right -with real surveys, not forums.

  • ColumWood

    Thanks for your feedback. Every time we post a CR or JP power report on AutoGuide everyone complains that the numbers aren’t accurate and don’t tell the full story. I think that’s always going to be the case, but I feel this report highlights what real users are reporting.

  • Jeffery Surratt

    This information is useless. Tell me haw many lemons per model and then I can decide what cars to stay away from. Ford Mustang could be a great car and the Ford Focus, or Fiesta a lemon. I could do better than this article, just by putting all the model names in a hat and picking one to buy. If autoguide keeps this up I just might have to unsubscribe.

  • ColumWood

    Excellent point Jeffrey! We don’t have sufficient data on models to deliver anything meaningful. We do have strong data on a few particularly troubling vehicles. Perhaps we could run another list highlighting the five vehicles with the most issues. Everyone loves lists. . .

    As for the data itself, it’s real world info from real car owners, shoppers and buyers.

  • Neil J. Rosen

    Where’s Nissan?

  • ColumWood

    Neil. Obviously a huge omission on our part. We have the data and the graphic will be updated soon. Nissan sits just below the average line at 1,008,155 vehicles produced per reported lemon.

  • ColumWood

    The graphic has been updated to include Nissan now.

  • smartacus

    i feel like i learned something today:
    Toyota is tops…while Scion and Subaru are below even Dodge

    *No surprise FIAT and Crapillac are bringing in the rear.

  • ColumWood

    Cadillac’s numbers were really hurt by some old models that still made it into 2010. I’m betting next year we’ll see their position on the list rise considerably.

  • Ihateyourprius

    Where is MINI? I own 3 and the Countryman is a god damn expensive turd. The others are fine so far but who knows.

  • ColumWood

    Reliability surveys have consistently ranked MINI quite poorly and yet, we recorded zero lemon complaints from MINI owners across our forums, including on

    Mini2.com
    MiniF56.com
    MiniTorque.com

  • Jerry Baustian

    I’m not clear on what exactly counts as a “lemon” but it seems as though each automaker has either one or two. After that it’s basically a ratio based on how each one sold. It doesn’t appear to have anything to do with reliability.

  • Dabitz

    Where is Audi, Lexus, Buick, Lincoln, Nissan? Omitted on purpose?

  • ColumWood

    Not at all. Some were omitted by error, but have been added back in. Others had zero complaints including Audi, Lexus and Lincoln.

  • David Keller

    Where’s Mitsubishi?

  • ColumWood

    Also no reports from Mitsubishi owners.

  • David Keller

    Huh. I own a Mitsubishi, Evo X. But I’ve heard that the i-MIEV is having problems. Whatever, I beat the crap out of my car and it hasn’t had any trouble yet.

  • http://chrisarella.com/ Chris Arella

    Can I make a request…. Can we get a comparison of how each manufacturer stacks up against each other in reliability, cost of ownership, and time in the shop, all over different intervals?

  • Ed Sloan

    This data is purely based on a hardline brand loyalty bias or by laziness/unwillingness of buyers to complain.

  • Pat J Shields

    So you own a bunch of Fiats?

  • Rickers

    LOL

  • Ed Sloan

    My point was that all of this data is useless. Its not based on repair reports. Its based on the several companies that troll new vehicle owners with surveys. If your loyal to any brand you will most likely forgive any manufacturer for minor repairs in the survey. As for Fiat…I agree with the last place ranking an no I don’t/won’t own a Fiat.

  • David Keller

    Toyata should have been kept separate when determining the industry standard. Clearly the only reason it’s so high is because Toyota raised the bar so damn high it carrying the whole load for the entire industry.
    Now, speaking as someone who works for a company that manufacturers parts for Toyota, and other auto makers as well. Toyota is extremely anal about quality, more so than any other auto maker that we make parts for. With Chrysler coming in 2nd in terms of importance of quality. But apparently that isn’t helping them as much as it does Toyota.
    Edit, after reading some comments I guess there are a number of companies that have zero complaints. So…I guess my first comment isn’t really true.

  • Felix James

    Not necessarily. It’s impressive because Toyota sells so many damn cars.

  • walt501

    Apparently Toyota wasn’t so anal about airbag quality. Hint – Takata

  • David Keller

    lol, yeah. I knew they had a major issue recently but couldn’t remember what it was specifically. Well, at least where there drive train components are concerned.

  • Mark S

    I see some similarities between this listing and CR survey but also some weird stuff, like Subie’s and Mazda’s position.
    Am not sure I am reading the methodology correctly, but is this really key word search of forums vs sales numbers (goodcarbadcar is a great site). Or is it a mix of Lemon numbers per company mixed with comments and related to volume sold? Finally does the volumes account for rental fleet sales? Is lease vs purchase affecting the numbers?

  • Ron

    Buick vs Cadillac is interesting as well as they share numerous platforms and technology.

  • Always Texan

    And shows the inherent flaws and bias in the system, as others have pointed out. Other similar ‘reliability’ and ‘lemon’ series in comparison have suggested that European cars, especially Audi, Mercedes and BMW have horrible reliability programs. And really, with ANY car company, it’s a matter of blind luck. Back in ’07 I bought a brand new ’08 Mitsu Lancer (Mitsu didn’t even get on this list, how funny is that?). The one thing you’re not supposed to ever do, buy a car when it is the first year of a new version, especially one that is ‘revolutionary’ and not ‘evolutionary’. Nine years and >100k miles later, I still own the car and it’s been a champ. The only reason I’m NOT buying a Mitsu this time around is because of where I live now; the nearest Mitsu dealer is an hour’s drive away.

    Oh, and I’m keeping the Lancer. I ‘loaned’ it to my daughter on the provision that I get it back when she’s ready to buy a new car. I’ll keep that Lancer for a very long time indeed.

  • Always Texan

    Says it right there in the article “this study is intended to be a report of consumer sentiment, rather than an outright list of actual lemons”. So this is more a gauge of how consumer feel about purchasing the car than whether they actually bought a lemon.

  • Bug S Bunny

    Since lemon laws vary between states and consumer sentiment varies with individual, this list is essentially/virtually meaningless.

  • FAAQ2

    i have owned Toyota’s since 1971 – never regretted buying one. 1971-76-81-1993-1997-2000-2006-2015 !

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