It’s that time of year again, when Consumer Reports pulls together data collected from owners of more than 300,000 vehicles and presents its annual Automotive Reliability Survey. The 2020 investigation sees a significant reshuffle of the usual suspects in the nonprofit’s findings, including a new reliability top dog. Mazda is making headlines in this important survey for the first time, while respondents to the CR survey have their knives for Tesla and Lincoln – these two American brands were rated as the least reliable automakers in the survey.
CR credits Mazda’s first to the Japanese automaker’s conservative approach to transmission and infotainment technologies. Avoiding significant and unproven changes year after year, Mazda has continued to hone its reliability and, by sharing many of its technologies and components across its fleet of vehicles, these reliability improvements are shared across the brand.
The second and third highest places are respectively held by frequent Toyota reliability darlings and. The story here is similar to that of Mazda; Toyota, after all, wrote the book about quiet, conservative reliability. All current Toyota models received ratings of “average or better reliability” in the survey and most Lexus models boasted “outstanding reliability” – the only exception being the new LS sedan with a “good” score. below average ”.
The most improved award goes to Buick… sort of. The most trusted domestic automaker has climbed 14 spots to place fourth overall this year. However, the irony is that its most improved ranking is due to the least improvement in its smaller, older lineup. thehas been virtually unchanged since 2012 and the is two years old, so Buick has had plenty of time to experience many of their gremlins.
also saw a big improvement, climbing seven places to place fifth despite reported issues with his SUV and minivan. In ninth place overall – five places less than last year – is the highest ranked European brand.
FCAThe brand managed to place seventh overall, despite very different ratios for its two models. Respondents reported “below average” reliability for the new , citing a myriad of electronic problems. At the same time, the heavy-duty Ram 2500 – which has been redesigned alongside the 1500 and should boast similar, if not identical electronics, scored “well above average.” Go figure it out.
On the opposite end of the spectrum is, dragged by the recently redesigned Escape and Explorer SUVs – the latter of which saw and CR called this year “one of the worst performing models of any manufacturer – domestic or foreign”. Sharing platforms with Ford, Lincoln suffers in the same way. However, without the recently canceled Continental and MKZ sedans to bolster its score, Ford’s luxury arm falls to the bottom of the 26-brand list.
The second from the bottom of the barrel is Tesla. The electric carmaker’s new Model Y SUV is seeing more than its fair share of the first model year problems, with owners reporting misaligned body panels, unsuitable paint and “even human hair stuck in the paint.” And it’s not just Model Y: Model S and Model X have dropped to “below average” ratings this year, losing CR’s recommendation in the process. In fact, the only Tesla that has earned CR’s recommendation is the Model 3 sedan.
This is of course a list of the “most trusted brands”, not a list of the “best” cars. New models tend not to do well among those surveyed, with around 44% of completely new or redesigned 2020 models getting “much worse than average” reliability ratings. With new engines, suites and infotainment components, automakers are faced with new quirks, new problems and new problems. Over time, these models should solve their launch year problems and reliability should improve. For now, it seems like it doesn’t pay to take risks.
I’m not going to spoil the whole list here. To see where your favorite automaker has landed, check out the rest of Consumer Reports’ Guide to Car Reliability.