While Japanese automakers still hold the top five spots in the widely respected magazine's rankings, their lead is shrinking, said David Champion, senior director, Consumer Reports Automotive Test Center, as the performance of some top-selling nameplates from Asian automakers has slipped.
That said, the Detroit Three all finished toward the bottom of the pack. Ford's overall score dropped in the study because of problems with MyFord Touch and its transmissions, Chrysler remains plagued by issues with some older models and General Motors struggles to achieve consistent reliability scores.
"They've still got a long way to go," Champion said of the Detroit Three. "The biggest issue both with GM and Chrysler is they still have a lot of old products that they need to work through and get rid of."
For Subaru, the test scores of recently redesigned new models including the Legacy, Outback and Impreza helped the company improve its overall score to 75, in the study.
Mazda showed the most dramatic improvement among the 13 manufacturers, the magazine said. It climbed to second place from seventh last year and increased its overall score by nine points to 74 after eliminating two under-performing models.
Toyota remained among the top three automakers for the fifth straight year. Consumer Reports also named Toyota vehicles as its top pick in five out of 10 categories. The last time that happened was in 2003.
"They continue to build really reliable cars," Champion said.
Honda fell to fourth with an overall score of 72 after finishing first for four years in a row. Ford fell from fifth to tenth place, General Motors finished 12th and Chrysler placed last again with overall scores of 60, 56 and 51 respectively.
Consumer Reports' overall score for each automaker is on a 100 point scale. It combines the magazine's road test scores and from a customer survey that measures predicted-reliability.
Ford dropped the farthest in this year's study, from fifth place last year. Ford was hurt by the subpar reliability of some new vehicles, due largely to the trouble with MyFord Touch infotainment system and power-shift automatic transmission. Ford should be able to bounce back, Champion said.
"It is a lot easier if you have two big problems than if you have a whole list that you have to rectify," Champion said.
General Motors is hurt by inconsistent reliability scores, Champion said. The Cadillac CTS, for example, has good reliability score now, but has struggled in the past and while road test scores for older models such as the Chevrolet Suburban and Tahoe GMC Canyon and Chevrolet Colorado continue to hurt the overall score.
Chrysler is improving, Champion said, but finished last among all manufacturers with an overall score of 51.
"They are still being dragged down by their old products," Champion said, such as the Dodge Caliber, Dodge Journey, Jeep Patriot and Jeep Compass.
The Caliber has been discontinued and will be replaced by the Dodge Dart compact car this year.
"From what we've seen from their new redesigns, such as the Jeep Grand Cherokee ... those cars have improved tremendously," Champion said.
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