Ford Drops; Lexus, Mazda and Jeep Improve in Latest Consumer Reports Survey

Ford Drops_11_03_11_pic

Ford Drops 11 03 11 picFord’s dashboard doldrums persist. The automaker’s buggy MyFord Touch multimedia system, rolled out in summer 2010, contributed toward a steep decline in J.D. Power and Associates’ 2011 Initial Quality Study. Now it has become a sore spot for Ford owners responding to Consumer Reports’ latest reliability surveys.

Problems with the dual-clutch automatic transmission in the Fiesta and Focus also tarnished the brand, which tumbled 10 spots in overall reliability to 20th among 28 major carmakers. Ford’s Lincoln division, whose MKX SUV uses a variant of MyFord Touch, improved one spot to 14th place. Other movers included Lexus (up seven spots to second place), Mazda (up eight spots to third) and Jeep (up seven spots to 13th).

The survey, based on responses from the magazine’s 1.3 million subscribers, covered cars from the 2002 to 2011 model years, from which Consumer Reports predicts reliability for 2012 models. Consumer Reports says other Ford models, most notably the Fusion Hybrid sedan, remain as reliable as ever. And Ford appears committed to MyFord Touch, with plans to introduce it in the 2013 Taurus.
While acknowledging it still has some bugs to work out, the automaker told us last June that four-fifths of users would recommend the touch- and voice-operated system to other shoppers considering a Ford. Andrew Friedman, a Ford owner and father of three from the greater Washington, D.C., area, tells us the voice controls in his 2011 Explorer Limited “all work very well without ever taking your eyes off the road, once you learn the basic commands. We use them all the time. The touch-screen and the controls below work well, too.”

Still, a lot of Consumer Reports subscribers found the interface irksome. A sentiment we share. Such is typical of cars that lay on the high-tech features: “After all, a lot of the problems we see are electrical issues and power equipment,” Jake Fisher, a Consumer Reports senior engineer, told us.

Japanese brands Scion, Lexus, Acura, Mazda and Honda topped Consumer Reports’ latest survey. Korean brands Hyundai and Kia ranked 11th and 12th, respectively, while Buick, Cadillac, Audi, Porsche and Jaguar comprised 24 through 28. Chrysler improved 12 spots, but only two vehicles — the midsize 200 and Town & Country minivan — were surveyed. The full-size 300 sedan is too new for reliability data, CR said.

Porsche fell 25 spots largely because of the Cayenne SUV, which has always had dismal reliability. That’s in contrast to the 911, which is a “pretty reliable” car, Fisher says. The redesigned Cayenne didn’t make last year’s survey, bumping the German sports-carmaker way up, albeit briefly.

Here’s how the automakers rank from best to worst (last year’s rank):

1. Scion (1)
2. Lexus (8)
3. Acura (3)
4. Mazda (12)
5. Honda (4)
6. Toyota (6)
7. Infiniti (5)
8. Subaru (7)
9. Nissan (14)
10. Volvo (8)
11. Hyundai (11)
12. Kia (13)
13. Jeep (20)
14. Lincoln (15)
15. Chrysler (27)
16. Volkswagen (16)
17. Chevrolet (17)
18. Mercedes-Benz (22)
19. BMW (23)
20. Ford (10)
21. Dodge (24)
22. GMC (21)
23. Mini (25)
24. Buick (18)
25. Cadillac (19)
26. Audi (26)
27. Porsche (2)
28. Jaguar (not rated)