After results of Consumer Reports Annual Auto Reliability ratings were released Monday, there appeared to be a crack in the dominance of Japanese brands over automotive reliability.
Two of America’s most popular cars, the V-6-equipped Honda Accord and the Nissan Altima, no longer have the consumer-advocacy publication’s coveted “recommended” rating, according to the report.
The 2014 Subaru Forester was the highest-scoring vehicle overall in predicted reliability. Worst-rated was the Ford C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid. The Dodge Dart 2-liter was the top domestic model.
Most European manufacturers improved, including Audi, which rose to fourth place.
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The annual survey tries to highlight the most reliable 2014 vehicles by evaluating past years’ models.
After performing poorly in the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s new, more stringent, small overlap front crash test, the Audi A4, the Toyota Camry, the Toyota RAV4 and the Toyota Prius V were also absent from the list.
The report is based on data from 1.1 million 2004-13 model-year vehicles leased or owned by Consumer Reports subscribers. Subscribers were asked whether, in the past year, they had had a serious problem with their vehicle that required a visit to the dealer.
To determine predicted reliability, the publication averages the overall reliability scores for the most recent three model years, assuming a given model has not changed during that period and was not redesigned for 2013. If it were, Consumer Reports may use one or two years of data to calculate a rating.
At first glance, the slipping reliability stances of Japanese vehicles do not seem significant. Seven of the top 10 places in the brand rankings are still held by Japanese brands, with Lexus in first place, followed by Toyota, Acura, Mazda, Infiniti, Honda and Subaru. That is only one less than last year.
But the slip emerges upon closer inspection of the data. Along with the rankings of the Accord V-6 and Altima, the twin models shared by Scion and Subaru, the Scion FR-S and Subaru BRZ, scored below average in predicted reliability and were responsible for Scion falling from first place last year to 11th this year, and for Subaru falling from fifth to 10th.
“On the whole, Japanese brands are still more reliable than Europeans or Americans,” Jake Fisher, director of automotive testing for Consumer Reports, said in a telephone interview. “But we are talking about an Accord, Altima, Pathfinder, FR-S and BRZ, all below average. That’s something that’s kind of new.”