General Motors has improved considerably, though Honda and Toyota still dominate in the latest predicted-reliability ratings of new cars, according to Consumer Reports' 2010 Annual Auto Survey. Eighty-three percent of Chevrolets, GM's major brand, now have average or better scores in predicted reliability, up from 50 percent last year.
While some GM nameplates had been among the least reliable brands in past years, they now rank above some major European competitors such as Audi, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz. Two factors are aiding GM's reliability improvements. First, GM's recent introductions, such as the Chevrolet Camaro and Equinox, Buick LaCrosse V6 (FWD), and Cadillac SRX, are proving reliable from the time they were launched. In addition, GM shed many models with subpar reliability when it shut down the Saturn, Pontiac, and Hummer brands. Even some older models, such as the Chevrolet Avalanche, Corvette, and Suburban have improved to average.
As a company, GM is still a ways from the top when it comes to reliability-the major Asian automakers, including Honda and Toyota, are still out in front. Among the three domestics, Ford continues to build the most reliable vehicles. Chrysler lags behind both GM and Ford.
Still, GM made the most progress of the three domestic manufacturers in this survey. Across GM brands (Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, and GMC), 69 percent of models had average or better reliability. Cadillac improved the most, rising seven places from last year's ranking. Chevrolet had its best showing in years; 83 percent of models had average or better scores in predicted reliability, up from 50 percent.
In the new survey, based on 1.3 million vehicles, ninety percent of Fords, including Lincoln models, have at least average reliability. As a brand, Ford now outranks Mazda and Nissan and ranks just below Lexus. Its quality renaissance has been led by the Fusion, a design that has been very reliable since its debut five years ago. Ford vehicles are tops for reliability in two categories: family cars (Fusion Hybrid) and large SUVs (Ford Flex EcoBoost).
"General Motors and Ford have taken different paths to improving reliability," said David Champion, senior director of Consumer Reports Auto Test Center. "Some of GM's redesigned vehicles have scored well. The company has also dropped many of its below-average models. Ford has put its emphasis on fine-tuning existing platforms and limiting the number of new-model introductions."
Chrysler Corporation hasn't shared in the success of the other Detroit manufacturers. The Chrysler, Dodge, and Jeep brands are saddled with dated models. Twelve of the 20 models that CR had sufficient data for rate below average in reliability. None of Chrysler Corporation's models score above average. With Fiat's acquisition of Chrysler, many of its products will either be replaced or redesigned in the near future.