Buick only top 10 reliable domestic brand in Consumer Reports study

Toyota Motor Corp.’s Lexus luxury brand topped Consumer Reports’ 2021 Auto Reliability Report with Buick finishing at No. 5 as the only domestic brand to make the top 10 of 28 makes.

The results, released on Thursday before the Automotive Press Association, highlight the reliability of hybrid and plug-in vehicles, though problems persisted particularly with advanced technology in electric vehicles and with transmissions in traditional international combustion engine vehicles.

The report is based on survey data from more than 300,000 vehicles that comes as customers are having to pay record vehicle prices amid a global microchip shortage and other supply-chain bottlenecks that have stifled production.

“The cost of the vehicle is going up, and supply-chain problems impact new vehicles and parts,” said Jake Fisher, senior director of auto testing at Consumer Reports. “It’s one thing if a vehicle is under warranty or you’re leasing a vehicle, you’re not going to pay for repairs. If you have a vehicle that needs a component and that component is not available, though, that can be a big problem.”

At Buick, the Encore and redesigned Envision were above average, though transmission, drive system and blank in-car electronic screen issues dropped the Enclave to below average.

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Aside from Buick, General Motors Co. had Chevrolet finishing at No. 14, Cadillac at No. 16 and GMC at No. 22. For Stellantis NV, problems with the Pacifica minivan dropped Chrysler to No. 12, issues with brakes and emissions on the Ram Classic pickup put its brand at No. 21 and the Wrangler’s steering and suspension issues extended to the Gladiator truck at Jeep, which was No. 26. Ford finished at No. 18 with Lincoln in dead last, just below Tesla Inc. at No. 28.

Ford and Lincoln “had a lot of very big redesigns very quickly,” Fisher said. “It tends to be cyclical with Ford and Lincoln. As that product ages, the reliability ages. We would expect improved reliability from Ford and Lincoln as they slow down the cadence of introduces.”

The Lexus GX SUV topped reliability, while the Subaru Ascent SUV finished last. Detroit automakers, however, had an unusually strong showing in their vehicles’ segments:

— Buick Envision topped luxury compact SUVs

— Chevrolet Trailblazer was most reliable of subcompact SUVs

— Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD and GMC Sierra 2500 HD topped full-size pickups

— Chrysler 300 beat out other midsize and large cars

— Ford Bronco Sport was most reliable of compact SUVs

— Ford Mustang Mach-E beat out other electric SUVs

— Ford Ranger topped midsize pickups

The results showed fully electric SUVs were some of the least reliable vehicles. Although Chevrolet took a hit from the recall for battery fire risks in the Bolt EV and EUV, the high rate of problems for electric SUVs weren’t for electric powertrains but climate controls, in-car electronics, and power equipment.

“It’s not just a way to save fuel and money at the pump,” Fisher said of the electric EVs. “It’s about being an early adopter and having the latest tech. There’s new ways of opening doors and electric actuated vents. Adding all that equipment adds to that complexity, and those are the type of things that are going wrong.”

Credit: Charles Krupa

Credit: Charles Krupa

That’s in contrast to hybrids and plug-in hybrids like the Honda Insight, Kia Niro and the Toyota Prius, Prius Prime, RAV4 Prime and Venza. They were some of the most reliable models, despite the complicated drivetrains. But even the new-for-2021 Venza uses a tried-and-true powertrain, Fisher said.

“They are very practical vehicles,” he said. “There’s not a lot of the new technology.”

As for internal combustion engine vehicles, transmissions were a problems for brands like Kia and Lincoln, Toyota’s Corolla hatchback, Chrysler’s Pacifica minivan and Jeep’s Cherokee crossover. Transmissions with eight or nine ratios or continuously variable transmissions are more complex and had more issues.

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