Consumer Reports recently published a comprehensive list of used cars to avoid. The publication usually dedicates at least one issue a year to automotive reliability, but now they’ve gone even further by compiling a list of vehicles with below average reliability stretching all the way back to the 2007 model year. And you don’t even need a subscription to read the list, because they put it all on their website. There are no shocking revelations here, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t interesting.
Japanese and Korean automakers continue to produce vehicles almost as reliable as the sunrise. What they haven’t overcome is the “first model year blues.” And this extends to all other automakers as well. Generally speaking, car buyers should probably stay away from the initial examples of a completely redesigned model.
Overall, the list continues to support the assertion that American automakers continue to lag behind the Japanese and Koreans when it comes to reliability. Volkswagen also has a substantial number of models with below average reliability.
Is Consumer Reports suggesting you completely avoid vehicles from GM, FCA, Ford, and Volkswagen? Not really. In fact, the data suggests that vehicle reliability from these four companies is neither uniformly good nor bad, just extremely inconsistent.
Why do these companies produce vehicles that vary in quality from one year to the next? There is probably no definitive answer, but there appears to be a correlation between this OEM-supplier relationship index and the overall reliability rankings that Consumer Reports assigned to the American automakers. Volkswagen isn’t on the list, but if it was, I suspect it would slot somewhere between FCA and Ford.
How else can you explain only one model year of a particular generation showing up on this list? Let’s use the Ford Edge as an example. The second generation Edge was introduced for the 2011 model year and ran until 2014. Only the 2012 made the list. Was a new powertrain or infotainment setup introduced for that particular year? Nope. MyFordTouch debuted with the 2011 model year, and no new powertrains were introduced either. The 2011 and 2012 Edge are nearly identical vehicles. So what gives? Quality control issues, probably. And if you have a poor relationship with your supplier, a minor issue could turn into a big one. I suspect the Japanese automakers don’t really have this problem.
The main takeaway here is that car buyers most likely don’t have to worry about vehicle reliability if they’re looking at a Japanese or Korean model. And if shoppers want an American or German product, they have plenty of good examples to choose from, they just have to do some research in order to avoid picking up a vehicle with a bad reputation.