The latest Jeep Cherokee, Ram pickup and Fiat 500L dragged Fiat-Chrysler Automobiles to the bottom of the list of this year’s Consumer Reports survey of new-model vehicle reliability. In the luxury segment, the 2014 Infiniti Q50’s reliability was call “abysmal,” while the Tesla Model S electric car was considered “average.”
According to the 78-year-old periodical published by the nonprofit Consumers Union, new small and compact American cars produced by Detroit automakers General Motors, Ford and Chrysler were the main culprits in keeping the manufacturers from reaching the top end of the list dominated by Japanese automakers Toyota, Mazda and Honda.
This year’s survey released Monday took special aim at automakers’ infotainment interfaces, the software that powers the touchscreens that are replacing knobs and buttons. The magazine said these control systems were a leading factor that brought down reliability scores. For example, Chrysler’s introduction of its Uconnect interface in the 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee was one of the recent changes that sent the model’s reliability into a “tailspin” compared with previous models.
It seems automakers just aren’t very good software developers and that they rely on trial and error to finally get things right. This suggests that early adopters are likely to be disappointed and that consumers who wait for the 2.0 version or beyond are less likely to be disappointed.
“These systems remain the leading source of trouble among new cars, especially if it is a brand-new design,” said the report. “The good news: Improvements in previously trouble-prone systems such as MyFord Touch and HondaLink show that automakers can typically work the bugs out of the systems as the years tick by.”
More disconcerting to U.S. automakers is important pickup truck models were targets. Chrysler’s Ram was called “below average” while GM’s Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pair of pickups was called “a problem-child for the company, suffering from many early bugs.” The Chevrolet Cruze, GM’s bestselling sedan, was called “trouble-prone.”
Mercedes-Benz was also knocked, especially the sub-$30,000 entry-level CLA. “You get what you pay for with this baby,” the report said. It also targeted the top end Mercedes-Benz S-Class for being so “hyper-complex” that it has “lots of problems.”
Ford was given the best accolades among the U.S. manufactures, with the Fusion sedan and Explorer SUV showing improvements. Ford’s entry-level luxury Buick brand was the only U.S. presence on the top 10 most reliable new cars survey, given thumbs up for above-average reliability across the brands' current new offerings.
Here are the results of the survey. (Click here for an explanation of how Consumer Reports came up with the data below.)