Toyota, Lexus Lead Consumer Reports Reliability Survey

Tesla Model 3 shows “Promising Signs”

DETROIT, Michigan—Toyota and Lexus were the top brands in this year’s Consumer Reports 2017 Auto Reliability Survey, and the Kia Niro was the best model, while Cadillac and its Escalade, along with the Tesla Model X scored lowest reliability.

Consumer Reports headlined its survey of about 640,000 new car and truck owners among its reader-membership that the results show “promising signs for Tesla Model 3 reliability.”

“We predict the Model 3 to be average, based on four years’ survey of the Model S,” Jake Fisher, CR’s director of automotive testing explained, at his announcement of the Auto Reliability Survey results at a meeting of the Automotive Press Association.

The Tesla Model S scored an “above-average” in 2017, for the first time in four years of being included in the survey. Fisher acknowledged Tesla’s problems in getting the Model 3 assembly line up and running, saying they were not taken into account in the magazine’s prediction.

“The Model 3 is the simplest Tesla model to date,” Fisher said.

Tesla has produced about 260 Model 3s so far, despite promises by CEO Elon Musk that the Fremont, California electric automaker would reach production of 20,000 per month by the end of the year. As of last week, Tesla’s production line for the Model 3 was not yet in place in the former NUMMI Toyota/General Motors joint-venture plant.

The Tesla Model 3 has many of the same components, including the basic battery-powered electric motor drivetrain as in the Model S, which showed improved reliability data for 2017. And the Tesla Model 3 doesn’t have the S’s electric door handles, which have hurt the latter car in past surveys. The Model X is at the bottom of the list because of seat mechanism problems, and its troublesome falcon rear doors.

Electric vehicles are inherently more reliable because they do not require as many moving parts, nor the cooling systems, fuel delivery, and transmissions of an internal combustion engine, CR asserts.

“Electric vehicles are inherently less complicated than gasoline or hybrid alternatives,” Fisher said. The number-one model in CR’s survey, however, is the gas and full parallel electric hybrid Kia Niro, launched early this year.

While Chevrolet placed 17th among 28 brands surveyed, the Chevy Bolt “certainly is one of the most reliable vehicles in the General Motors fleet.”

Consumer Reports’ survey is distinguished from such reports as JD Power & Associates’ Initial Quality Survey in that the magazine asks readers to report only reliability problems. The two biggest problems remain new, seven- to ten-speed automatic, and dual-clutch transmissions, and infotainment systems.

While JD Power asks new car owners to include disappointment with the way a car or truck is designed and engineered, CR is only interested in such problems that require a fix, and potentially, downtime at the dealership.

New models typically drag down auto brands, especially when they try to be more innovative and less conservative about mechanical and electrical systems.

CR predicts the Volvo XC60, just launched, will receive a below-average reliability score because it’s based on the XC90, a model rated low in the survey, and not on the previous-generation XC60.

The Buick brand’s score was dragged down by the introduction of the new LaCrosse, which now comes with an eight-speed automatic. The new CX-9 pulled down Mazda, because the midsize crossover/utility has “lots of equipment” and a small turbocharged engine, while the new Pacifica helped the Chrysler brand move up.

The top five brands in Consumer Reports’ Auto Reliability Survey are Toyota, Lexus, Kia, Audi, and BMW. The bottom five brands are Volvo, Dodge, Ram, GMC, and in last-place, Cadillac.

Buick is eighth, just ahead of Honda, and Mazda is 12th, ahead of Porsche. Tesla is 21st, behind Jeep and ahead of Lincoln.

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