Toyota, continued its dominance in this year’s annual survey, which was based on 470,000 reports from owners. Five of the 15 Toyota models rated by the magazine received the highest possible grade. Only one, the Toyota Tacoma, received an average rating.
Fisher believes the differences stemmed from choices made by both manufacturers over the years. “Toyota has doubled down, not on making the sexiest vehicles, but on making vehicles that are very, very reliable,”
Reliability Versus Performance
The tradeoff – reliability for performance – is one that Toyota refused to make, Fisher said. For the most part, it introduced new concepts in conservative fashion, first dipping a toe in the water before offering any new high-tech feature across the board. The upshot, however, was less-than-stellar scores on the magazine’s test track. As a company, its average score on the track was 68, placing it in the bottom third of all automakers. Many other makers, meanwhile, received a 76 – a mid-level score. In contrast, Porsche received a 90, while BMW scored an 87.
Consumer Reports blamed high-tech features for some of the reliability issues in the other brands. In particular, the magazine found that small-displacement turbocharged engines, along with eight- and nine-speed transmissions, tended to have more reliability issues than some time-tested designs. Similarly, automakers that moved too quickly to state-of-the-art in-car electronics, such as Apple CarPlay, also had problems, the magazine found.
In many cases, high-tech features have been known to give a manufacturer an initial boost. Honda, for example, went to a small-displacement turbocharged engine on the 2018 Accord sedan, resulting in great reviews and winning it the 2018 North American Car of the Year Award.
But such moves don’t always help, particularly in reliability ratings. A case in point was Cadillac, which landed three vehicles in the worst ten on Consumer Reports’ 2019 reliability list. The Cadillac Escalade, for example, received poor grades for transmission and drive-system reliability, as well as for in-car electronics, power equipment, and body hardware.
To be sure, Honda did better than many manufacturers in its reliability scores. The Honda Fit, for example, got a “much better than average” rating. But the company’s across-the-board grades were not what they were a decade ago, Fisher said. “It’s not just the Odyssey,” he told us. “We’ve seen issues with a lot of their vehicles, both Honda and Acura, in electronics and even transmissions. They seem to have taken their eye off the ball in terms of reliability.”