Consumer Reports Annual Reliability Survey – Car Pro Commentary

Listeners to my radio show know that, in general, I disagree with pretty much everything Consumer Reports says about cars. It is my opinion that since they do not accept advertising dollars and rely on subscription fees, they do their best to grab headlines and sensationalize issues.
Now comes the 2012 Consumer Reports Annual Reliability survey. The big story in this year’s headline is “Ford drops to near bottom, Japan dominates”. The question is, whom do you believe?
In the latest Consumer Reports survey, Jaguar was dead last on the list. However, in the 2012 J.D. Power Vehicle Dependability Study, Jaguar was #2 on the list, beaten only by Lexus. On the other hand, Toyota’s Scion brand was #1 on Consumer Reports list and 26th out of 32 on the newest J.D. Power study.
So why the huge disparity? I suspect the answer lies in Consumer Reports own information. According to their website:
Consumer Reports’ expert team of statisticians and automotive engineers used the survey data to predict reliability of new 2012 models. Predicted reliability is Consumer Reports’ forecast of how well models currently on sale are likely to hold up.
WAIT! This is a prediction, not an actual study of reliability like the Power & Associates study? Consumer Reports looks at problems with vehicles over the past 3 model years, or in other words 2010, 2011, and 2012 models. This is the basis for their predictions of 2013 models.
So let me get this straight….we all know that Ford had problems with their Microsoft Sync system in 2010 and 2011, and we also know that the problem was corrected in 2012. So that means the 2013 Fords should be near the bottom of the list? This is a HUGE flaw in the Consumer Reports method and makes the entire list bogus.
Predictions are not science. Let’s call it what it is: A GUESS. I have seen cars that start out with a few problems, many very minor, that turn out to be some of the best vehicles ever made, and the opposite is true as well. Again, these things make the Consumer Reports list a joke.
One issue I have with both Consumer Reports and the J.D. Power surveys is that they are not weighted by severity. A blown engine counts the same as a broken ashtray. Given that, why pay attention to either of them?
I have no doubts that Toyota deserves to be at or near the top of any list dealing with reliability. I drive a lot of cars and talk to a ton of people who listen to my radio show, and having Ford at the bottom of the Consumer Reports list is ridiculous, and that is completely unbiased.
Consumer Reports panned the 2012 Honda Civic, which has turned out to be a great car and a favorite of car buyers nationally. Then they turned around and bashed the Toyota Prius C, which the dealers can’t keep on the lot because they sell so fast. According to Consumer Reports own surveys of their paid subscribers, the Prius C got the best rating of any car made, yet Consumer Reports stands by their poor review of the Prius C. Doesn’t make a lot of sense, does it?
Given the huge differences between the ratings of Consumer Reports and J.D. Power & Associates on many cars, what kind of conclusion can a consumer come to? In my opinion, it is simple. Consumer Reports should stick to refrigerators and toasters, seems to me they actually understand those.

  1. Steve Jackson 6 years ago

    Jerry is right on. I have felt the same way about Consurmer’s Report for 25yrs. Results with
    real statistics tell the tale. I also have big problems with good ole’ Carfax as well. Just try to remove a mistake [proven mistake] from a Carfax report!!!

  2. William Malone 6 years ago

    I gave up reading/relying on Consumer Reports for auto years ago. They just can’t seem to get it right.
    Their reviews didn’t track with what I observed in the real world on several new autos. Have a Jag XKR and Audi S6 that are both super. Really like your newsletter and encourage negative as well as positive comments on tested vehicles.

  3. John Mills 6 years ago

    I agree with Jerry. The Consumer Reports car buying guide is a joke. Check out the models they list and you will see that they are “evaluating” a 2012 model vehicle and they will provide technical statistics, reliability ratings, safety ratings and mileage estimates. Then read the description carefully as they often are evaluating a current model BUT basing their evaluation on a model year up to 5 years earlier! To follow their logic there is no difference between a 2008 and 2013 model – except in many cases complete changes from the frame up! Save yourself some time and money and avoid the CR car advice. LIsten to the Car Pro not the Dishwasher Pro.

  4. Linda Raphael 6 years ago

    I used Consumer Reports to purchase my 1996 Buick Regal in 2000. It has turned out to be exactly the reliable and comfortable car they said it would be, and 33% the price of a Honda.
    I will continue to use Consumer Reports as a source of information.

  5. KSMoody 6 years ago

    I had relied on CR for years until our recent research for a new minivan.

    I was not even considering Chrysler when we began, and after seeing years and years of solid black dots in CR’s survey, and watching their video review of the post-2011 Town and Country, I was even more set against the brand. But three recent rentals of the ’12 and ’13 T&Cs have it now on the top of our list and I have to wonder what the CR people were smoking when they ran it down in their review. (MotorWeek in conjunction with did a comprehensive minivan survey that seems dead-on with our family’s findings.)

    I wish they could be more specific about what mechanical and/or body issues they have fault with. Every chance I get lately I ask T&C and Caravan owners how they like their rides and if they have had problems and in most cases they not only love their rides but they are 3rd or 4th or 5th gen buyers.

    What gives?

  6. Leon Macha 6 years ago

    After watching JD Power recommendations and awards for years, my opinion is that their opinion can be and is often bought. Consumer Reports does have problems, too. I see CR problems when they are doing the evaluating. The reliability survey from subscribers based on their actual experience with their auto has been good.

    • Jerry 6 years ago

      Thanks for listening to the show Leon. You may be correct, but I have not seen any evidence that JD Power is biased or able to be bought off. I see all sorts of issues with Consumer Reports and everyone in the industry has the same issues with them. Sometimes they seem so far off base that you question yourself for a moment.

      Always let me know if I can help you!

      Jerry Reynolds “The Car Pro”
      President, Car Pro Radio Networks

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