Yesterday, Consumer Reports magazine presented its list of manufacturers with the most reliable and least reliable vehicle lineups in the industry. To the surprise of many, accustomed no doubt to seeing the names Toyota and Lexus show up at the top of the annual Auto Reliability Survey, Mazda has taken top honours in 2020.
This is quite a big, colourful feather in the Japanese automaker’s cap.
According to Consumer Reports, one of the reasons Mazda was able to take top spot was thanks to its powertrains, which use solid and durable 6-speed automatic transmissions instead of continuously variable transmissions, which are generally more fragile. Mazda also didn't rely on overly sophisticated multimedia systems. Rather, it has ignored industry trends by proposing systems that discourage the use of touchscreen functions while driving. Rather, the controls are operated using thumbwheels on the centre console, and this can largely be done without taking one’s eyes off the road.
The Mazda model with the best reliability record was the MX-5 with a score of 98 out of 100, followed by the new CX-30, CX-3 and CX-5. In all cases, models received scores of 85 points or higher.
Overall, Toyota and Lexus still ranked well above average, taking second and third place respectively; Mazda's arrival at the top of the heap ended a six-year domination by those brands. Lexus was affected by problems with the new LS, though Consumer Reports didn’t specify the nature of those problems.
Buick was the most improved brand, gaining 14 spots to place 4th. The American premium brand can thank it Encore for that, the SUV having earned a score of 91 points. Honda moved up 7 spots to complete the top 5, a nice reversal for the company that’s had a few setbacks in recent years. The automaker did get penalized by the by poor results earned by its Passport and Odyssey models (between 30 and 40 points each).
Among European brands, Porsche did best with a 9th place. BMW moved up 5 rungs to 12th place, while Audi maintained its midfield position in 14th. And Mercedes-Benz? 20th.
As usual, we can’t help but take a gander at the other end of the list. The bottom feeders this year are Ford, Mini, Volkswagen, Tesla and Lincoln. In the latter case, Ford's luxury division actually dropped 11 places this year to sit dead last. To be fair, the end of production of the Continental and MKZ sedans, two models that generally performed well on the reliability test, hurt it. At Ford, the Explorer struggled to score many points at all. The problems that have dogged the latest edition after its launch, which ranged from the engines to the body, electrical equipment, electronics and transmission, made for a woeful performance on Consumer Reports’ appraisal system. Ford assures us all the issues have been resolved. If that's the case, things should right themselves for the automaker in next year’s ranking.
At Tesla, meanwhile, the new Model Y dragged the electric carmaker down to second-to-last place among brands. Owners of Model Y, which went into production in January, reported problems with misaligned body panels that needed to be repaired and mismatched paint, including, in one case, human hair caught in the paint, according to Consumer Reports. The Model Y finished with a reliability rating of "much worse than average".
Consumer Reports' rankings are established annually based on a survey of 300,000 consumer-owned vehicles. The results are tabulated based on the number of complaints received; the lower the number of complaints, the higher the score.
It should be noted that the more vehicles a manufacturer has, the more stable its ranking is likely to be, as its entire lineup (averaged out) is used to establish its score. If a firm offers only two or three models, it can move up the ranking quickly if they do well, but it can quickly fall to the bottom end of the ranking if their vehicles generate complaints.
As for Mazda, it's the crowning achievement of years of work, as we've gradually seen the reliability bonafides of several of the firm's models grow in recent years. The 2020 result is a consecration of the company’s efforts. Now, the hard part will be to maintain its position at the top.
Here is the full Consumer Reports ranking.
1 – Mazda 83
2 – Toyota 74
3 – Lexus 71
4 – Buick 70
5 – Honda 63
6 – Hyundai 62
7 – Ram 58
8 – Subaru 57
9 – Porsche 55
10 – Dodge 54
11 – Infiniti 54
12 – BMW 52
13 – Nissan 51
14 – Audi 46
15 – Kia 45
16 – GMC 43
17 – Chevrolet 42
18 – Volvo 41
19 – Jeep 41
20 – Mercedes-Benz 40
21 – Cadillac 38
22 – Ford 38
23- Mini 37
24 – Volkswagen 36
25 – Tesla 29
26 – Lincoln 8