Lexus, Toy­ota and Buick top re­li­a­bil­ity sur­vey

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - BUSINESS - By Dee-Ann Durbin AP Auto Writer

DE­TROIT » Lexus, Toy­ota and Buick are the most re­li­able brands in Con­sumer Re­ports’ lat­est sur­vey, a re­ward for their con­ser­va­tive ap­proach to new tech­nol­ogy.

It’s the fourth straight year that Lexus came in first and Toy­ota came in sec­ond. Two of their hy­brids — the Toy­ota Prius and the Lexus CT 200H — were named the most re­li­able ve­hi­cles. But Buick — Gen­eral Mo­tors Co.’s near-lux­ury mar­que — is the first do­mes­tic brand to crack the top three since the magazine be­gan track­ing ve­hi­cle re­li­a­bil­ity in the early 1980s.

Audi and Kia rounded out the top five brands. Dodge, Chrysler, Fiat and Ram — all owned by Fiat Chrysler Au­to­mo­biles — were the worst per­form­ers. Elec­tric car maker Tesla Mo­tors also fared poorly.

The magazine re­leased its an­nual re­li­a­bil­ity sur­vey Mon­day. It’s closely watched by the in­dus­try, since many buy­ers look to the magazine for rec­om­men­da­tions.

Con­sumer Re­ports pre­dicts the re­li­a­bil­ity of 2017 model-year brands and in­di­vid­ual ve­hi­cles based on sur­vey re­sponses from its sub­scribers. The magazine col­lected sub­scribers’ com­ments on ve­hi­cles they own from the 2000-2017 model years. Around 500,000 sub­scribers re­sponded to this year’s sur­vey.

Jake Fisher, Con­sumer Re­ports’ di­rec­tor of au­to­mo­tive test­ing, said the best per­form­ers have some­thing in com­mon: They tend to add new tech­nol­ogy slowly, and bit-by-bit, rather than all at once. When Lexus in­tro­duced its new 2016 RX SUV, for ex­am­ple, it used an older en­gine and an eight-speed trans­mis­sion that had al­ready been used in an­other Lexus ve­hi­cle. When Buick in­tro­duced the En­core small SUV in the U.S. in 2012, it was built on a small-car plat­form used in prior ve­hi­cles and had a six-speed trans­mis­sion, rather than the eight- and nine-speeds com­ing into vogue.

By con­trast, Honda fell in this year’s sur­vey partly be­cause of its 2016 Civic small car, which has two new en­gines, a new steel un­der­body and a new con­tin­u­ously vari­able trans­mis­sion. Cue the prob­lems: Shortly af­ter the Civic went on sale, it was re­called for en­gine fail­ure. Con­sumer Re­ports said Civic cus­tomers also have re­ported prob­lems with the car’s in­fo­tain­ment sys­tem.

“It’s the choice of mak­ing such a big change,” Fisher told The As­so­ci­ated Press. “They pay the penalty for try­ing to get it all right.”

Fisher said GM has been im­prov­ing its cars and small SUVs for sev­eral years now. The Chev-

ro­let Cruze was the top-per­form­ing small car in the sur­vey, while the Chevro­let Trax was the top-per­form­ing small SUV. But the com­pany con­tin­ues to strug­gle with pick­ups and larger truck-based SUVs, which gets low marks for steer­ing and sus­pen­sion is­sues.

The Cadil­lac Es­calade large SUV is the worst per­form­ing ve­hi­cle in the magazine’s sur­vey due to its com­bi­na­tion of trans­mis­sion prob­lems and its dif­fi­cult-to-use in­fo­tain­ment sys­tem. Buick has no truck­based ve­hi­cles.

Tesla — which was added to this year’s sur­vey be­cause the magazine had enough re­sponses from own­ers — suf­fered mul­ti­ple prob­lems with its new Model X SUV, in­clud­ing wa­ter leaks and is­sues with cli­mate con­trol.

Fisher said Tesla should per­form bet­ter than av­er­age, since elec­tric cars have fewer me­chan­i­cal parts than gaso­line-pow­ered cars. But it gets tripped up by flashy fea­tures like the Model X’s glitch-prone fal­con-wing doors.

THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

The 2017 Buick En­core is dis­played dur­ing a me­dia pre­view March 22 in New York as part of the New York In­ter­na­tional Auto Show.

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