Car Brand Report Cards

Ranking the brands based on road-test score and predicted reliability

Think of reliability and road-test performance as a dating couple: often seen together, but not always. That’s the way it can be with cars, too: A top score in our tests doesn’t mean a car will be reliable; conversely, reliable cars can—and do—score poorly in our road tests.

To take full measure of how the automakers stack up, our brand Report Cards provide a composite of the average road-test score and predicted reliability across their lineup. The overall scores show which automakers get it right in performance and reliability.

This year Lexus again topped our list, thanks to very good road-test performance and solid reliability across the board. Next up was Mazda, which is all the more impressive because half of its models have been introduced or redesigned within the past three years. Rounding out the top five were Toyota, Audi, and Subaru.

Buick’s improved reliability helped it take top honors among all domestic brands for the second year running. In addition, it moved up several spots in our overall rankings, even passing Honda.

Our Annual Reliability Surveys have found that redesigned models often come with teething problems. Mercedes-Benz was the biggest loser, taking a major hit due to a drop in reliability from several models and the low-scoring and unreliable new CLA. Acura and Infiniti also fell from grace. Acura’s once-stellar reliability has declined in recent years, and the unimpressive RLX redesign fell short in our tests. Infiniti is an example of how one low-scoring and unreliable model—here, the new Q50—can hurt a carmaker with a small lineup.

The Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, and Fiat brands all scored near or at the bottom, the result of poor reliability and a variety of new or redesigned models with low road-test scores.

Full report card and brand profiles available to online subscribers.

Editor’s Note: This article also appeared in the April 2015 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.
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