Consumer Reports shocks by lauding this U.S. auto brand

Buick became the first auto brand from Detroit's Big 3 automakers in three decades Monday to place in the top three in Consumer Reports' annual ranking of the most reliable automobiles.

The upscale General Motors nameplate came in third behind Lexus and Toyota in the closely watched index that predicts how well cars will hold up over the years.

Out of 29 brands, Asian nameplates accounted for seven of the top 10 spots. Lexus was ranked first, with a predicted reliability score of 86, followed by Toyota, Buick, Audi, Kia, Mazda, Hyundai, Infiniti, BMW and Honda.

Vehicles sold by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles continued to struggle in the survey with four of its brands — Dodge, Chrysler, Fiat and Ram — occupying the bottom four slots.

Consumer Reports rankings reliability rankings are based on a survey that analyzes the magazine subscribers experiences with new vehicles over the past three years. That feedback is used to predict future reliability.

Chevrolet ranked as the second-best domestic brand and is in 15th place overall among the 29 brands covered.

Buick has been performing well in the Consumer Reports survey for several years and has also emerged as a top performer in other industry studies.

In February, Buick was also the third best-ranked brand in J.D. Power's influential vehicle dependability study — which measures problems experienced by owners over a three year period.

This year, it out-distanced its past performance and was able to surge to the top of GM's stable because its few models did well. The Buick Enclave, Encore, Verano and Regal all scored near the top of their individual segments.

"GM, I would say, really does deserve a lot of credit. They are making very reliable cars," said Jake Fisher, Consumer Reports’ director of automotive testing. "Some of these are global products that have been proven overseas as well ... It's very impressive."

But while Fisher said GM's cars and crossovers have improved the automaker, along with Ford and Fiat Chrysler, struggles more when it comes to pickups and truck-based SUVs. The Chevrolet Tahoe and GMC Yukon as well as the Cadillac Escalade are ranked among the 10 worst models and the Silverado, launched in 2014, has also struggled in the survey.

Ford’s mainstream Ford brand was ranked 18th while the Lincoln brand fell four spots to No. 20. Consumer Reports said Ford continues to have problems with its nine-speed automatic transmissions, especially in the Ford Focus compact car and Fiesta subcompact car.

“This is a shame, because it’s a great car to drive,” Fisher said.

Consumer Reports released the survey results Monday before the Automotive Press Association.

Tesla, the luxury electronic carmaker, is ranked 25th, which is well below average. This is the first year that Tesla has been ranked because, until now, there was only one Tesla model. Fisher said Tesla's ranking was pulled down by the newer Model X.

In general, Fisher said, new or redesigned models perform worse on the surveys because manufacturers are still working out manufacturing kinks. The older Tesla Model S performed better, and is now recommended by Consumer Reports.

While Asian automakers continued to dominate the rankings. There was a surprising trouble in the survey for Honda.

Consumer Reports said Honda's reliability scores have become less consistent.

Honda, which normally finishes in the top ten on the reliability survey, has been hurt by spotty results on new introductions, Consumer Reports said. Honda's redesigned Pilot SUV scored just average.

Honda’s popular Civic sedan scored much-worse-than-average on reliability because of problems with its power equipment and infotainment systems, Consumer Reports said. The Civic was North American Car of the Year for 2016.

Meanwhile, Korean automakers continued to rise in the rankings. Both Kia and Hyundai finished in the top 10. Even more impressive — no Kia or Hyundai models scored below average. The Kia Forte, Optima, Soul and Sorento along with the Hyundai Azera, Accent and Santa Fe all scored among the top in their segments.

Brands sold by Fiat Chrysler have historically performed poorly on the survey. This year, Consumer Reports said no Fiat or Ram model scored average or better.

Only the company's Chrysler 300 sedan, Dodge Grand Caravan minivan, and Jeep Patriot SUV managed an average or better score. All three of those vehicles are made on platforms that are at least several years old, indicating that FCA is eventually able to work out manufacturing kinks but struggles with newer vehicles.

“(Fiat Chrysler) values all feedback from our customers and third-party evaluators, including Consumer Reports, as it helps guide our product improvements," the company said in a statement. "Our internal quality surveys and measurements continue to show positive growth toward vehicle quality and dependability across our brands."

How Consumer Reports ranked brands by reliability:

1, Lexus

2. Toyota

3. Buick

4. Audi

5. Kia

6. Mazda

7. Hyundai

8. Infiniti

9. BMW

10. Honda

11. Subaru

12. Acura

13. Nissan

14. Mini

15. Chevrolet

16. Porsche

17. Mercedes-Benz

18. Ford

19. Volvo

20. Lincoln

21. Cadillac

22. Volkswagen

23. Jeep

24. GMC

25. Tesla

26. Dodge

27. Chrysler

28. Fiat

29. Ram


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