Every year Consumer Reports tracks reliability from their readers. Consumer Reports is the only company that buys all of its own vehicles and does all its own testing. Everyone knows that American vehicles, in the past, have had a reliability problem, but some domestic cars faired well in the reliability category, and certainly better than the Europeans. For the second year in a row, not one single European automaker had even one entry on Consumer Reports list of models with the best-predicted reliability ratings.

According to Doug Love of Consumer Reports, the survey results are carefully monitored by the in-house accountants. “First, there has to be at least over 100 respondents for a vehicle to qualify. The mileage is taken into account for clean data; if the miles are too low or too high the survey is thrown out. If all problem areas are checked off the survey is thrown out. There were over 1,000,000 survey results after the clean data test. Subscribers readout magazine and see the survey and buy the best products they feel they can because of the survey. We don’t pay them to take the survey, they feel like they have been helped by previous surveys and they are doing a favor to their neighbor by filling out the survey”

The actual survey, according to Love, rates reliability from 1998-2005. Howe’ver, the 2006 reliability projection is based on the ratings from 2003-2005. If you see an asterisk beside the name it could mean that there was only one year’s data (in the case of the Range Rover) or that there will be significant changes in 2006 so the data may not be as applicable.

The interesting aspect of this study is that not all vehicles in each name brand are rated as reliable. The message to consumers is clear, “You can’t gauge reliability-based only on a nameplate. Some automakers do have a better track record but individual models especially newer ones can have problems, said David Champion, senior director of Consumer Reports Auto Test Center in Connecticut.”

There were 31 most reliable vehicles and 48 least reliable vehicles from the survey. Nissan took the biggest dive in Consumer Reports reliability ratings. Four out of five of the vehicles produced in the automakers Canton, Miss plant and they were all given poor marks. They were the only Japanese cars, of the 48, on the least reliable list. The Infiniti M35 sedan, built-in Tochigi, Japan, did quite well and made it to second in the heap of luxury cars. According to Nissan spokesperson Fred Standish, “We are disappointed. Our J.D. Powers numbers have gone up in quality. We have brought over 200 engineers from Japan to define the issues and solve countermeasures for those issues.”

While the Nissan Armada and Infiniti QX56 had abysmal ratings (151% and 297% below average, respectively) there were only three (Toyota and Lexus products) Large SUVs that were above average. Even though Love could site what people said were the problems, neither Standish nor Love could say whether the ratings were low because of the current perception of large SUVs being the epitome of everything that is wrong in our society.

Of the 31 most reliable vehicles, 15 were from Toyota and Lexus, howe’ver the Scion tC and Toyota Avalon made the least reliable list. The Ford 500 made the best list while the Ford Freestyle, built on the same platform, made the least reliable.

Hybrids from both domestic and Japanese manufacturers were in the above-average rating.

Along with cars that are recommended there are cars that are “now recommended” by Consumer Reports, due to improved reliability.

Cars now recommended are;

  • BMW 5-Series (6 cylinders)
  • BMW X5 (6 cylinders)
  • Chevy Malibu Maxx
  • Mazda6 sedan (4 cylinders)
  • Mazda6 wagon
  • Mazda RX-8
  • Mini Cooper
  • Volvo S80 – A company that is thought to be pulling itself out of the doldrums
  • Daimler Chrysler – dominated the “not recommended” list
  • Audi S4
  • Chevy Silverado 1500
  • Chrysler Pacifica
  • Chrysler Town and Country
  • Dodge Grand Caravan
  • Dodge Durango
  • GMC Sierra 1500
  • Kia Sorento
  • Nissan Titan – If you’re thinking of buying a car, spend the six bucks for Consumer Reports 2006 New Car Preview.