Detroit Expected To See Quality Setback from Consumer Reports

Posted by: David Kiley on February 28, 2006

jeep2.jpg

Sources tell me that when Consumer Reports releases its newest ratings for automobiles tomorrow, Detroit is going to see some setbacks with a declining number of CR recommendations.

It comes at a bad time for the domestic automakers as General Motors and Ford are struggling with their finances and are working overtime to change public perceptions that their vehicles are less reliable and trustworthy than Asian competitors, especially Toyota and Honda.

Consumer Reports ratings are based on surveys filled out by its readers. Usually when the domestics fare badly, they point to the readership of CR as skewing younger, more liberal and predisposed to imports. Of course, when they improve, they usually say CR’s readers are a perfect representation of America.

Judging from the domestic cars I get to drive as a journalist, it’s hard not to think that quality is improving at GM, Ford and Chrysler. Not only do they seem to break less often, but the interiors and fitments of exterior panels are much better than they used to be. Of course, it’s not as if Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Mazda, et al are getting dumber about such things, so comparisons remain tough for Detroit.

In the last J.D. Power and Associates Vehicle Dependability ranking, which measures reliability over three years via surveys of car owners, the domestics did pretty well. General Motors models earned eight segment awards and Ford Motor Company models received five segment awards —a record for both GM and Ford in VDS. Toyota Motor Corporation models received four awards.

Some of the category winners in JDP’s rankings, though, perennially raise eyebrows: i.e. the Buick Regal and Century (both now discontinued) rank as top mid-sized cars. If you have seen driven these cars and seen the demographic of owners, one can only conclude that the owners are disproportionately GM employees and old enough to have diminished hearing and eyesight.

The CR rankings are influential because CR subscribers are, by their nature, perhaps the most persnickety consumers around. They may not be a perfect reflection of American carbuyers, but are probably the toughest graders. So, car buyers are not wrong to take the CR rankings and ratings seriously.

Reader Comments

douglas mcintyre

March 2, 2006 7:50 AM

The Consumer Reports evaluation does differ significantly from the J.D. Powers analysis and also a lot of the comments from consumers at Edmunds.com and other sites. A longer article on how the consumer impression of these brands is built by the comments and analysis of all these magazines and websites might be very refreshing.

Marshall King

March 3, 2006 9:06 AM

An article I found interesting:

Tri- County Times published this article:
Some things never change
There's a Toyota ad running currently that brags about the fact that they have eight manufacturing plants in the U.S. building more than a million vehicles a year. The ad then finishes with some patriotic music and the statement "Toyota - a company that has created over 200,000 U.S. jobs - a company proud to do its small part to add to the landscape of America." ( Pass the barf bag please.) Take just four or five minutes to read this article. Read some actual facts about the U.S. auto industry, not the spin put out by those wiley Japanese. In terms of quality, of Toyota's eight plants, their best quality ranking is 16th. Of the top 10 plants for quality, GM has eight of the top 10 and four of the top five. And then there's the myth of the happy, teamwork-oriented worker who labors in a unionless paradise surrounded by caring Japanese employers who only have his or her best interest at heart. Fact: Toyota workers work for less money and are five times more likely than a GM worker to sustain an on-the-job injury and 10 times more likely to be injured seriously enough to lose work days. Toyota likes to propagate the myth of their commitment to the environment as evidenced by the standard set by the Prius. What you don't hear about are the scores of Prius owners who are extremely unhappy with the performance and mileage of their Prius. Ads claim 60 mpg - the reality is that many Prius owners get about half that mileage - about 36 mpg. GM has five models that get similar mileage to the Prius and carry no price premium like the Prius - but you never read about that. If GM had a vehicle that advertised 60 mpg but actually delivered 36 mpg, you can bet that it would be front page news, plus a nice segment on 60 Minutes. But I digress. My point is that there is an incredibly unfair double standard in the media these days. Inexplicably, U.S. bashing has become the fashionable thing to do. There's no better example than the constant warm fuzzy stories churned out regularly about Toyota's legendary teamwork, safety and quality. And yet, the facts simply don't bear this out. The fact is that Toyota gets a free ride from our lazy and complicit media. But it's time to separate fact from fiction. Toyota is, and has been, waging a very successful PR war with way too much assistance from our media. This results in a skewed viewpoint that dramatically affects how buyers perceive a new car purchase. For instance, how many of you know that Chevrolet was the best selling passenger car brand in the U.S. last year? How many of you know that for three years in a row, Cadillac has sold more luxury cars than anyone else - including Lexus and BMW? How many of you are aware that, according to J.D. Power, GM was the number one multi-line manufacturer in Sales Satisfaction last year? Where was Toyota (including Lexus)? Seventh place. GM was ranked second in the critical Customer Service Satisfaction index in multi-line manufacturers last year. Where was Toyota? Fifth place. GM's lowest quality-rated vehicle is the Pontiac Vibe, assembled in California by - you guessed it - Toyota. While Toyota is wrapping itself in the American flag with paid advertisements and help from our incompetent media, GM, Ford and Chrysler manufactured over 75 percent of all vehicles built in the U.S. last year. And their average domestic content is 82 percent. Toyota's is 40 percent (Lexus is 3 percent). Every 100 GM, Ford or Chrysler vehicles produced in the U.S. supports the livelihood of 23 full-time workers. Conversely, every point share gained by Toyota represents 18,000 lost American jobs and countless profit dollars that are shipped overseas to Japan. I am not suggesting that GM, Ford or Chrysler needs your charity, but I am suggesting that you should know the facts before you buy. In the book "Ghost Soldiers," the author recounts the story of the Bataan Death March. When the Americans arrived at their destination with over half of them dead due to unspeakable cruelties from their captors, the camp commander stood on a box and shouted, "You Americans are the enemy, you will always be the enemy, one hundred years from now we will still be enemies." What has changed since then?

Terry Brown

March 8, 2006 1:50 AM

It's nine out of ten in for the Japanese. Lexus, Toyota's luxury brand, is ranked as the most reliable nameplate, followed by Honda and Toyota's Toyota brand. Only one U.S.-based brand, Ford Motor Co.'s Mercury, made the top 10. Here’s the list of Consumer Reports’ top ten ranked brands:

1. Lexus
2. Honda
3. Toyota
4. Mitsubishi
5. Subaru
6. Acura
7. Scion
8. Mercury
9. Mazda
10. Suzuki

Joel A

March 10, 2006 3:39 PM

Interesting article, King. A bit old. And while the facts may be true, the issue is perception, which rarely relies just on facts. Like Mr. Kiley, I've noticed a dramatic change in the quality of domestic vehicles and am considering several myself as future vehicles. But when I talk to many 20, 30, and even 40 year olds about them, their reactions are nearly the same: "GM? Ford? I, uh, need something that's reliable."

It took the Japanese automakers years to establish their rep. And the German automakers have other perceptions (i.e., wealth) working in their favor. The domestic have neither. Only time, and continual push of high-quality, low-cost, products will help Ford and GM. Unfortunately, the public may not give them a chance.

Strike

March 21, 2006 6:12 AM

That speak and all we shall soon go by the Chinese cars. Russia was already captivated with Chinese cars Great Wall Hover.
Great Wall
http://www.china-motors.ru
Here look here it is written that in the USA import of the Chinese cars, Russia factory on manufacture of pickups and jeeps Great Wall will soon begin is under construction.

Rob

April 1, 2006 11:07 PM

Everyone wants to cite CR in ranking vehicles, but a look at J.D. Power tells a different story, as does Edmonds. Taken together, it's safe to say that domestic cars have improved dramatically since the 70s (hello, free market competition). Improve or die is their mantra, and the difference between foreign and domestic are statistically insignificant. However, the Big 3 earned their poor reputation decades ago, and it will take more time for them to regain the public's trust. And they will.

Taggart

April 4, 2006 7:42 AM

Joel, I have to agree with you. GM and Ford - less so with DC, have created their mess. Neither of them cared about the products that were sold to the general public (one of the biggest complaints of the DeLorean) and still give that impression. The average consumers are sophisticated and discerning. The car buyer remembers years of poor quality cars since the 70's from U.S. manufactures and it will take time for them to win their confidence back. I wish all the best for GM and Ford. I just don't see any type of leadership coming out of GM or Ford. I have said many times on my postings that Wagoner and GM's board need to be removed. Once again the insular environment of GM has caused it to implode...again.

Matt

April 13, 2006 6:52 PM

GM & Ford have to stop stealing money from their company in the form of CEO salaries and perks!!

Dimitriu

May 4, 2006 3:58 AM

It took the Japanese automakers years to establish their rep. And the German automakers have other perceptions (i.e., wealth) working in their favor. The domestic have neither. Only time, and continual push of high-quality, low-cost, products will help Ford and GM. Unfortunately, the public may not give them a chance.

Dimitriu

May 4, 2006 4:04 AM

It took the Japanese automakers years to establish their rep. And the German automakers have other perceptions (i.e., wealth) working in their favor. The domestic have neither. Only time, and continual push of high-quality, low-cost, products will help Ford and GM. Unfortunately, the public may not give them a chance.

Post a comment

 

About

Want the straight scoop on the auto industry? Our man in Detroit David Welch, brings keen observations and provocative perspective on the auto business.

BW Mall - Sponsored Links

Buy a link now!