The results are in from the Consumer Reports 2013 Annual Auto Reliability rankings, and many motorists may be surprised by the list. For the past 10 years, Japanese brands have dominated this report. However, this year, automakers from the U.S. and Europe, including Audi, Volvo and GMC, took the top slots for most reliable cars.
How the rankings were determined
According to The New York Times, CR subscribers were asked whether they experienced a serious issue with their automobile over the last year that required them to seek an auto repair from the dealer. These problems could range from faulty brakes to poor traction on the tires.
Then, the publication averaged the reliability scores for the last three model years to calculate the overall predicted reliability. A major problem area for consumers in the CR survey involved in-car electronic features, such as screen freezes, touch control lag and other bugs in the navigation, audio and communication systems. More complaints were reported about this aspect than any other category regarding the 2013 models.
Audi demonstrated impressive improvement, climbing four places this year to claim the fourth spot, making it the top European brand in the rankings. Meanwhile, Volvo moved up 13 places to the seventh slot, and GMC jumped three places to ninth. Furthermore, every single model from these three automakers earned an average or better score for reliability.
Electric cars and hybrids received good rankings in the CR survey. In fact, the Lexus ES 300h, Toyota Prius and Prius C, Honda CR-Z and Nissan Leaf electric car all performed well. However, the Ford C-Max and Fusion hybrids did not.
Additionally, CR predicted poor reliability ratings for a few of Ford's EcoBoost turbocharged V-6 models this year.
"In every example where there is a non-EcoBoost engine, the models with the EcoBoost engines tend to have worse reliability than the ones that don't have those engines," Jake Fisher, director of automotive testing for Consumer Reports, told The New York Times. "That is true throughout their lineup."
Still, three Japanese manufacturers, Lexus, Toyota, and Acura earned the leading spots in the survey. In fact, seven out of 10 of the top spots were taken by Japanese brands. Every Lexus and Acura model was awarded an above average reliability score. Additionally, all Infiniti, Toyota and Mazda models earned a score of average or better reliability. Out of nearly 100 Japanese models, 33 percent received top scores, while 90 percent received average or better marks.
Though the redesigned Honda Accord V6 and the 2013 Nissan Altima are both popular models, they garnered poor marks in the CR survey. These results are unexpected considering the fact that CR had forecast the vehicles to achieve a score of at least average reliability. Mazda also dropped in reliability ranking, moving from the fourth slot to the fifth. However, the latest Mazda6 was awarded above average reliability. Though Scion and Subaru usually receive good scores, their sports cars, the Scion FR-S and Subaru BRZ, both ranked below average, tanking their overall slot.
"On the whole, Japanese brands are still more reliable than Europeans or Americans," Fisher explained to The New York Times. "But we are talking about an Accord, Altima, Pathfinder, FR-S and BRZ, all below average. That's something that's kind of new. We aren't used to seeing Japanese nameplates being that low on the list."
So which model garnered the top score? The redesigned 2014 Subaru Forester SUV, which had just hit the market when CR completed the survey, ranked the highest. Conversely, the Ford C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid was given the lowest score, with the standard C-Max Hybrid also receiving a poor ranking.