Ford Explorer

Until recently, Ford has been regarded as one of the more reliable American automakers, performing well in Consumer Reports reliability surveys that were dominated by competitors such as Honda and Toyota. However, in its most recent survey of 1.3 million vehicles owned or leased by Consumer Reports subscribers, the publication found that three of Ford’s new models caused the automaker’s reliability rating to slip.

“The new Explorer, Fiesta, and Focus all had below-average reliability in their first year,” writes Consumer Reports in a press release. “As a result, Ford’s overall reliability rank among 28 major car makes slipped from the 10th to the 20th spot this year—the biggest drop for any major nameplate in Consumer Reports 2011 Annual Auto Survey.”

Consumer Reports notes that new models often have reliability issues. “We have often found that new or revamped models have more problems in their first year than in subsequent model years,” says David Champion, senior director of Consumer Reports’ automotive test center. “Ford’s problems illustrate why we recommend to our subscribers to hold off buying a first-year model.”

General Motors also took a hit in the publication’s survey. Falling six spots each, Buick and Cadillac brands fell to 24th and 25th place, respectively. The Buick LaCrosse, all-wheel drive Buick Enclave and the Cadillac SRX were all considered reliable last year, but now fell to below-average ratings.

However, not all domestic automakers suffered in the latest survey. “Jeep moved up seven spots to 13, becoming the most reliable domestic brand,” notes Autoweek. “Chrysler moved up 12 spots on the list, but its ranking was based on just two models: the 200 sedan (formerly the Sebring), which ranked well above average, and the Town & Country minivan, which received poor ratings.”

Predictably, top honors for reliability were earned by Japanese brands. “Taking the top nine spots in the magazine’s Annual Auto Reliability Survey, released on Tuesday afternoon, were Toyota’s youth-oriented Scion brand, which led the pack, followed by Lexus, Acura, Mazda, Honda, Toyota, Infiniti, Subaru and Nissan,” says The New York Times. “Of the 91 Japanese models for which Consumer Reports had sufficient data, 96 percent received ratings of Average or Much Better than Average in predicted reliability.”

The survey found European vehicles finishing just below domestic brands, with 64 percent achieving a score of average or better. “Volvo’s S60 helped rank it the highest among the European brands at the 10th spot, while Volkswagen stayed steady at number 16,” writes Motor Trend. “Both Mercedes-Benz and BMW yielded mixed results.”

The worst-performing automakers of the bunch were Porsche and Jaguar. Consumer Reports notes that the redesigned Porsche Cayenne had a terrible debut, while the Jaguar XF and XJ were the least-reliable cars surveyed.

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