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FCA, Honda Civic Struggle in Reliability Survey

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Consumer Reports just released its 2016 Annual Auto Reliability Survey at an Automotive Press Association luncheon in Detroit. This influential publication ranks vehicle manufacturers based on the predicted reliability of their product lines.

As expected, Lexus and Toyota topped the chart in first and second place, respectively. On a 100-point scale, Lexus earned an industry-best 86, while Toyota drove off with a rating of 78.

In recent years, GM’s Buick brand has done very well in this study, but for the first time ever this division has made it to the top echelon, reaching No. 3, thanks to its reliability score of 75. This is the first time a Detroit brand has earned a podium finish like this in more than 30 years.

The 2016 Annual Auto Reliability Survey is based on information gathered from more than 500,000 Consumer Reports subscribers that bought or leased a new vehicle between model-year 2000 and 2017. It includes more than 300 individual nameplates.

“General Motors does deserve a lot of credit,” said Jake Fisher, Consumer Reports’ director of automotive testing. He added that they build good cars, but their trucks leave much to be desired when it comes to reliability. Part of Buick’s strong performance is that it doesn’t have any problem-prone pickup-based vehicles in its lineup.

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Even though the Chevrolet Cruze is Consumer Reports’ top-rated small car, the Cadillac (32), GMC (29) and Chevy (45) divisions all suffered from troublesome trucks. According to Fisher, the least reliable vehicle is the Escalade luxury SUV, which has been plagued by transmission and electronic issues.

Like Buick, Audi has been on a roll lately, coming in fourth place with an overall score of 71. Its Q7 and Q3 crossovers have proven to be very reliable.

Following the four-ring company is Kia (69), Mazda (68), Hyundai (66) and Infiniti (62). “Kia builds cars that are slightly better than Hyundai,” noted Fisher, likely because they introduce models a little bit later than their corporate sibling, once many initial bugs have been ironed out.

As for the worst-performing brands in this latest study, many of them are part of FCA. Surprisingly, Ram came in last place with a rating of just 16. It was bettered slightly by Fiat (17), then Chrysler (26), Dodge (28), Tesla (28) and GMC (29). Not a single vehicle from either Ram or Fiat earned even an average reliability rating.

Still, not everything is bad at FCA. Fisher praised Chrysler’s redesigned minivan noting, “[The] Pacifica is a very, very good vehicle.” Hopefully this product’s magic will rub off on the rest of the firm’s vehicles in the future.

SEE ALSO: Consumer Reports Calls Tesla’s AutoPilot ‘Misleading and Potentially Dangerous’

Aside from Buick’s success and the lackluster performance of FCA, Honda turned out to be something of a mixed bag, making do with a score of just 57. Historically, this automaker is a blue-chip brand, but it only managed to land in the No. 10 spot on this list, falling to BMW (57), which finished one place ahead despite earning the same average reliability score.

Several of Honda’s new products have been unexpectedly troublesome, including the Pilot crossover, which is rated average by Consumer Reports. But there’s even more distressing news for this brand.

Fisher said that for the first time ever, “We’re not recommending the Honda Civic because of its poor reliability.” Owners reported issues with faulty in-vehicle electronics as well surging engines, among other things.

When asked why they aren’t doing as well as they have in the past Fisher responded, “I think Honda is kind of [moving] away from the Toyota playbook,” by making a lot of changes all at once. The Civic is completely new, with a new engine, new infotainment system and plenty of other new features. Whenever a car company makes a slew of major alterations they open themselves up to quality issues. Because of this, Fisher described Honda as “not a conservative company [anymore].”

Subaru also took something of a tumble, landing in 11th place with a score of 54. “[The] Legacy and Outback have gone down to average,” explained Fisher. Electronic gremlins plus issues with steering and suspension systems caused them to stumble and ultimately the brand’s ranking to drop.

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Volvo also had a poor showing, landing in 19th position out of 29 different brands. Fisher said they were “really hurt by the XC90,” which has proven to be very unreliable.

As for Dearborn, Fisher said, “Ford has pretty much stayed on track.” Infotainment woes aren’t plaguing them as much these days since Sync 3 launched, but they’re still hamstrung by transmission issues in their Focus and Fiesta small cars, something that’s “really hurting the brand.” Ford landed in 18th place with an average reliability score of 44, about half of Lexus’.

For years, issues with infotainment technology have been a major sore spot for automakers and this continues to be the case. But Fisher also said that new transmissions are causing plenty of headaches as well. Dual-clutch gearboxes, eight- and nine-speed automatics as well CVTs have all been introduced in recent years to improve efficiency, but in many instances, they’re causing reliability to suffer.

While improvements have been made in numerous areas, the industry is still facing plenty of challenges. For these reasons Fisher said, “Overall problem rates are not going down.” Improvements in certain areas have been offset by newfound woes.

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