* Magazine drops Camry, Prius v, RAV4 after poor crash test
* Toyota, Lexus brands top new-car reliability survey
* Subaru Forester rated most reliable vehicle
By Ben Klayman
DETROIT, Oct 28 Toyota Motor Corp's
reputation for quality took a hit on Monday when influential
magazine Consumer Reports pulled its recommendation on three of
the Japanese automaker's vehicles, including its popular
flagship Camry sedan, due to poor crash test results.
While Toyota's luxury Lexus and namesake brands were ranked
most reliable in the U.S. auto industry in Consumer Reports'
annual new-car reliability survey, the magazine said it will no
longer recommend the Camry, Prius v model or RAV4 sport utility
vehicle because they received "poor" ratings in a crash test
started last year by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
"We're a year into it, we've got over 50 vehicles tested and
there's enough that are doing adequately on this test that now
we're making the shift and pulling recommendations from any car
that gets a poor" rating, Jake Fisher, director of auto testing
at Consumer Reports, said of the IIHS test.
"Honestly, we don't take this lightly, but virtually every
vehicle now in the family sedan category has been tested and the
only one that has gotten a 'poor' is the Camry," he added. "At
this point, we don't feel we can continue to recommend people
buy a Camry when there's other good choices out there that do
better on the test."
Consumer Reports is one of the most widely trusted names for
consumers shopping for cars, and companies try to ensure their
vehicles earn the magazine's coveted "recommended" rating.
Last year, the IIHS, a non-profit group funded by the
insurance industry, increased the rigor of its tests to include
crashes that involve only a front corner of a vehicle. Consumer
Reports waited to adjust its buyer recommendations until it saw
how the entire industry was affected by the test.
The magazine does not recommend consumers buy a car that
fares poorly in any crash tests.
In the first nine months of the year, the Camry was the
third-most-sold vehicle in the United States, behind two
full-size pickup trucks. Its sales were up 1.3 percent from the
year-ago period to 318,990 cars, compared with an increase of
almost 14 percent by rival Honda Motor Co's Accord
Toyota has made changes to the Camry to improve its
performance in the crash tests and IIHS is planning to retest
the car in December, IIHS spokesman Russ Rader said. Companies
that have modified a vehicle design sometimes seek a retest.
Last December, when IIHS gave the Camry its "poor" rating,
it said the company's engineers had "a lot of work to do to
match the performance of their competitors."
Toyota officials said on Monday they "are looking at a range of
solutions" to address the car's performance in the crash test.
Last month, Toyota's Corolla small car, which was redesigned
for the 2014 model year, received a "marginal" rating on the
IIHS crash test.
In addition to the three Toyota vehicles, Consumer Reports
also dropped Volkswagen's Audi A4 car from its
recommended list due to a "poor" rating on the IIHS test, Fisher
Ten other vehicles also lost their recommended status, but
that was due to the overall quality of vehicles in their
segments and not related to their crash test performances, he
The IIHS, which continues to score vehicles on side, rear,
roll-over and front-end crashes, added an overlap test because
nearly one-fourth of U.S. front-of-vehicle crashes that result
in serious injury or death involve a single corner that strikes
another vehicle or an object like a tree or utility pole.
In the overlap test, IIHS crashes a vehicle at 40 miles per
hour into a 5-foot-high barrier on the driver's side that
overlaps one-quarter of the vehicle's width.
LEXUS TOPS RELIABILITY SURVEY
In its annual reliability rankings, Toyota's Lexus was at
the top, followed by the Toyota brand. Rounding out the top 10
were Honda's Acura, Audi, Mazda, Nissan's
Infiniti, Volvo, Honda, General Motors Co's GMC truck
brand and Subaru.
The vehicle with the top predicted reliability score was the
2014 Subaru Forester SUV, while Ford Co's C-Max Energi
plug-in hybrid vehicle received the worst score, Consumer
Two popular models, Honda's redesigned 2013 Accord with a V6
engine and the 2013 Nissan Altima, scored too poorly for
Consumer Reports to continue recommending them.
One of the main problem areas in the survey was in-car
electronics, including infotainment systems. Of the 17
categories tracked, the area generated the most complaints,
including buggy systems with screen freezes, touch control lag
or a reluctance to recognize a cell phone or other device.
For instance, last year, Ford tumbled to nearly the bottom
of the survey due to flaws in its touch-screen navigation and
entertainment system, MyFord Touch.
This year, continued problems with the infotainment system,
as well as several EcoBoost turbocharged V6 models having poor
reliability, left Ford's namesake and Lincoln luxury brands
ranked No. 26 and 27, respectively, ahead of only BMW's
Mini. Of the 31 Ford models in the survey, only one, the F-150
pickup with the 3.7-liter V6 engine, was above average, while
seven scored average.
GM's Cadillac brand fell the most in the survey, dropping 14
spots to No. 25 as its CUE infotainment system suffered from
issues similar to Ford's. The GM brand also lost the benefit of
older cars that typically have fewer problems than newer models.
GM's Buick and Chevrolet brands ranked No. 12 and No. 17,
Smaller U.S. rival Chrysler ranked No. 18, while
its Ram truck, Jeep SUV and Dodge brands were No. 19, No. 23 and
No. 24, respectively.
Tesla Motor Inc's Model S electric sedan performed
well enough in the reliability survey to earn a recommendation
for the first time.
Consumer Reports said the findings in its survey are based
on subscribers' experiences with 1.1 million vehicles. It uses
the findings to compile reliability histories on vehicles and
predict how well new cars will hold up.