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Consumer Reports: Honda rules

By Claes Bell ·
Wednesday, March 2, 2011
Posted: 10 am ET

This month, Consumer Reports released its 2011 "Automaker report cards." The report cards grade automakers based on a combination of their models' projected reliability and road test scores. The results are interesting mostly for what hasn't changed -- after a year of tumult for Toyota and rebirth for the American auto industry, the rankings are relatively unchanged.

Japanese automakers Honda, Subaru and Toyota rounded out the top scores. Ford did the best of any of the American automakers, jumping into fifth place behind Chinese-owned Volvo. General Motors and Chrysler, in contrast, were the bottom two in the rankings, coming in at 12th and 13th on the list, respectively, just under luxury automakers Mercedes-Benz and BMW.

Solid models like the Accord got Honda top marks on Consumer Reports' automaker report cards.

Solid models like the Accord got Honda top marks on Consumer Reports' automaker report cards.

The full rankings are below. For a more complete list of the criteria the graders used, see Consumer Reports' excellent website.

  1. Honda
  2. Subaru
  3. Toyota
  4. Volvo
  5. Ford
  6. Hyundai
  7. Mazda
  8. Nissan
  9. Volkswagen
  10. Mercedes-Benz
  11. BMW
  12. General Motors
  13. Chrysler

There are a couple of interesting points to take from Consumer Reports' conclusions. One is just how deep a hole GM and Chrysler had dug for themselves in terms of quality and design before going into bankruptcy.

Even though both automakers are currently making headlines releasing much-improved models, significant portions of their lineups still need to be overhauled, and doing so is both expensive and time-consuming. It may be that in a few years, their efforts will yield lineups as consistently excellent as their Japanese rivals', but that's not the case right now. Fortunately for them, car buyers will ultimately pick a single model, not an entire lineup, but it still weighs on their bottom lines and brand images to carry outdated, frumpy models like the Chevy HHR and the Dodge Caliber.

The other thing that struck me was how badly luxury automakers Volkswagen (which makes Audi), Mercedes and BMW do on these types of rankings. You'd think for a premium of thousands of dollars, the least you could expect would be bulletproof quality, but these German stalwarts can't seem to provide that, at least in Consumer Reports' tests.

It just goes to show that one of the most dangerous things a car buyer can do is judge a car by its price. For the life of me, I can't understand why luxury car buyers stand for poor reliability. If I spent in excess of $70,000 on a BMW 740 and it didn't last longer than my friend's Honda Accord, I'd be pretty darn annoyed.

What do you think about Consumer Reports rankings? Why do so many luxury car buyers put up with spotty reliability?

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