Those Other Red Dot Awards

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.

Reader Comments

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November 13, 2006 8:59 PM

Ummm... Buick's portholes a "product of unrestrained mimesis"? Not to stereotype mainstream media for giving American automakers the short end of the stick, but Buick's had portholes for roughly sixty years. I can't find any reference to them ripping off Maserati.

BEA

November 14, 2006 4:20 PM

Previous poster didn't want to "stereotype mainstream media for giving American automakers the short end of the stick". OK, I will.

Once again - when the media is forced to say something good about an American car - because the Fusion and Milan scored better than the Japanese competition - it still comes with a snarky caveat "exterior styling tends towards the anonymous".

The funniest part of the whole statement is that one of the most "anonymous-looking" cars for the last, oh, 20 or so years is the Toyota Camry - if there ever was an automotive equivalent of the toaster - this it it. Many of the other fawned over Japanese vehicles also share this same blandness - sometimes it's hard to tell them apart. But this is never mentioned as the media is in too big of a hurry to regurgitate the latest press release from Honda or Toyota.

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