Janesville64.5°

Redesign hurts GM reliability

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JAMES P. LEUTE
October 18, 2007

While Toyota is showing cracks in its ironclad reputation for vehicle reliability and Ford is improving its status, a major consumer magazine has stamped almost half of the models made in the United States as “least reliable.”


The latter category includes the full-size sport utility vehicles made at the General Motors assembly plant in Janesville.


The Chevrolet Suburban and Tahoe and GMC Yukon XL and Yukon were named the least reliable in their category in Consumer Reports’ 2007 Annual Car Reliability Survey.


The Toyota Land Cruiser topped the large-sport-utility segment.


Findings are based on responses on almost 1.3 million vehicles owned or leased by subscribers to Consumer Reports or its Web site, www.consumerreports.org. The survey covered model years 1998-07, and a team of Consumer Reports statisticians and automotive engineers used the data to predict reliability of new 2008 models.


The Janesville-made products were redesigned for the 2007 model year, and the typical growing pains associated with the launch of a new product could have knocked the SUVs down, said Jon Linkov, Consumer Reports’ managing editor for autos.


“The big fall for those SUVs came in the parts and trim area,” he said. “They did very well in the area of major drive systems.”


Despite problems with its V6 Camry, the four-wheel-drive V8 version of the Tundra pickup and the all-wheel-drive version of the Lexus GS sedan, Toyota still ranks third in reliability among all automakers, behind only Honda and Subaru.


The survey shows the odds of getting a reliable new vehicle from Ford are the best that CR has seen in years. Forty-one of 44 Ford, Lincoln, and Mercury models scored average or better in predicted reliability.


“Ford continues to improve,” said David Champion, senior director of Consumer Reports’ Auto Test Center. “The reliability of their cars has steadily improved over the years and is showing consistency.


“We believe Toyota is aware of its issues and is trying to fix problems quickly.”


Detroit automakers have long complained the Consumer Reports surveys of more than 1 million owners understated their quality improvements. Thanks to a base of 6 million subscribers, the magazine has made itself into the highest-profile critic of new cars and trucks, with recommendations that carry more sway than any other publication.


The survey was more mixed for GM and Chrysler. While both picked up some “recommended” ratings, some of their scores worsened. Outside of Buick, the only GM brand to hit average was Saturn, while Cadillac and Hummer beat only Land Rover for reliability.


Bob Ottolini, GM’s executive director of product development and quality, said the report “tells us we’re on the right journey.


“It tells us that we need to remain vigilant and really force consistency ... so that products that we bring out will stay recommended,” he said.


Material from Gazette wire services was used in this story.


More information

Full reliability history charts and predicted reliability on hundreds of 2008 models, plus a list of what’s up and what’s down, best and worst models, and a comparison chart of brands can be found at www.consumerreports.org.


The information is also available in the latest Consumer Reports CARS publication, Best & Worst for 2008, which goes on sale Tuesday, Nov. 6.



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