Posted by: Matthew Vella on November 13, 2006
The red dot awards may be one of the most coveted set of trophies in design. But, auto manufacturers obsessed with their reputations and bottom lines are much more interested in another set of powerful red dots – the ones doled out by Consumer Reports in its annual Reliability Survey.
The latest from CR, available here (registration required), contains a few unexpected goodies in a field solidly composed of same-old, same-old results. The highlights:
—Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan score slightly better than the Honda Accord V6 and Toyota Camry V6.
—Lincoln Zephyr scores second in predicted reliability in its class, right after the Lexus ES350.
—Buick Lucerne and Cadillac DTS score above average for large cars.
—The Lucerne ekes ahead of the Toyota Avalon.
—The Chevy Tahoe, GMC Yukon, and Pontiac Vibe also did well.
On second thought, nothing here seems out of joint. The Fusion and Milan are solidly put together even if their exterior styling tends towards the anonymous and Ford’s marketing of both isn’t nearly as juiced as it should be. Same story for the Lucerne and DTS – both take decent steps away from the early-bird special, blue hair styling of past models. (Case in point, I love, love, love Buick’s Maserati-esque portholes even if they’re a product of unrestrained mimesis.)
Reading through the rest of the results, the high wears off fast. Of the 45 cars tagged as least reliable, 44% are domestics, 42% European luxury nameplates, and a mere 11% Japanese – all of those courtesy of Nissan and Infiniti no less. Of the 47 vehicles with highest predicted reliability, 39 are Japanese. New subcompacts from Honda and Toyota outpace Chevrolet’s Aveo….and on and on.
The take-away? Domestic manufacturers may be making gains, but “slim” is still the keyword. The trick now is keeping it up year after year and letting consumers know – all while trying to expand that stable of red dots.