Car Industry

Tesla, other domestics falter in 2018 Consumer Reports reliability survey

Once again, Asian automakers reign supreme.

Tim Stevens/Roadshow

Every year, Consumer Reports runs its Annual Auto Reliability Survey, which gives an owner-based overview of vehicle reliability. There are only a few small surprises in its 2018 survey, and sadly, those surprises aren't great for domestic automakers of all flavors.

Lexus and Toyota have once again topped Consumer Reports' Annual Auto Reliability Survey. Last year, Toyota was on top and Lexus was in second place, but the roles have reversed in 2018. Mazda, Subaru and Kia finish out CR's top five, respectively. Infiniti, Audi and BMW aren't too far behind.

The less-great surprises reflect lowered scores for a number of domestic automakers. Buick has it the worst of all, dropping 11 places to 19th overall. Lincoln and Dodge were the only domestic automakers to improve (2 and 3 places, respectively), while Jeep, Chevrolet, Chrysler, Ram and Cadillac all went down in this year's rankings, occupying a solid chunk of the lower half of the survey's rankings -- in fact, every domestic automaker was in the bottom half of the survey this year.

Volvo, though, leapt past all the aforementioned automakers to take the last-place spot overall. CR mentions that much of its low positioning can be pinned on Sensus Connect, the infotainment system that's now standard on a wide swath of Volvo's new cars. If you want to dive deep into the entire ranking, head on over to Consumer Reports' site and check it out.

And then there's Tesla. Tesla fell six spots to 27th place this year. Consumer Reports also announced that the Model S has lost its "Recommended" status after its individual reliability fell into the "Below Average" range. The Model X retained its "Much Worse Than Average" individual reliability ranking, which it also earned in 2017. The Model 3 fared much better than either larger Tesla, with owner feedback predicting an "Average" reliability ranking.

Many Tesla owners are diehard fanatics, so it wouldn't surprise me if they just called this "fake news" and moved on quickly. 

Tim Stevens/Roadshow

"Just as we've seen with many other automakers, major changes and updates can cause reliability to slide. It can take a year or two for them to work out the kinks with new technology," said Jake Fisher, director of auto testing at CR. "Making air suspension and AWD standard in the 2017 model has added more complexity and more things that could potentially falter."

Of course, Tesla's not exactly chipper at the news. "Suspension issues for Model S have improved 65 percent since last year, and we continue to make further improvements," a Tesla spokesperson said in an emailed statement. "The suspension issues that some Model S customers experienced primarily in 2017 were due to a supplier-related issue that did not pose any threat to vehicle safety or drivability, and presented itself only when the car was parked."

The automaker also had something to say about its Model X rating: "While the earliest production Model X cars encountered some quality inconsistencies, this is simply not a concern for Model X cars being built today, and it hasn't been one for quite a while," a Tesla spokesperson said in the same statement.

Implementing new tech is listed as a possible reason for many of the lower rankings seen on this year's survey. CR notes in its press release that new powertrains and transmissions introduce additional complexity that different automakers handle differently. Some -- CR mentions Honda, Lexus and Porsche -- are building reliable turbocharged engines, for example, while others -- CR lists Hyundai and Mini -- are having more problems.

The Model S wasn't the only vehicle to lose CR's recommendation. CR also stopped recommending the BMW X1, BMW X3, Chrysler Pacifica, Ford Fusion, Genesis G90, Honda Clarity, Honda Odyssey, Kia Cadenza, Lincoln MKZ, Mazda CX-3 and Mercedes-Benz E-Class.

That said, a number of vehicles were added to the list this year, too. CR now recommends the Cadillac XTS, Chevrolet Cruze, Chevrolet Suburban, Chrysler 300, Dodge Charger, Infiniti QX60, Lincoln Continental, Mazda CX-9, Mazda MX-5 Miata, Mini Cooper, Mini Cooper Countryman, Nissan Armada, Nissan Maxima, Subaru Impreza, Volkswagen Golf and Volkswagen Tiguan.

If you want to see CR's individual rankings for the cars it deems the most and least reliable, check out the gallery below.

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