October 26, 2010 / 6:58 PM / 9 years ago

GM vehicle reliability up in key U.S. consumer study

DETROIT (Reuters) - General Motors Co GM.UL has made rapid gains in improving vehicle reliability while Chrysler Group LLC ranked at the bottom of the industry for a second straight year, according to an annual Consumer Reports survey released on Tuesday.

As in recent years, Asian automakers led the pack, with Honda Motor Co Ltd (7267.T) the top-ranked mass-market brand at No. 4 followed by Toyota Motor Corp (7203.T) at No. 6.

The annual survey by Consumer Reports is seen as a major factor in influencing the decisions of American car shoppers, and automakers compete hard for placement on the magazine’s annual list of recommended models.

Ford Motor Co (F.N) was the highest-ranked U.S. auto brand at No. 10 in the reliability rankings, ahead of Hyundai Motor Co (005380.KS) (No. 11), Mazda Motor Corp (7261.T) (No. 12) and Hyundai affiliate Kia Motors Corp (000270.KS) (No. 13).

About 90 percent of Ford models have at least average reliability, a “quality renaissance” led by the high quality of Ford’s Fusion family sedan over the past five years, Consumer Reports said.

The Fusion ranked ahead of the perennial top-selling mid-size sedans in the United States, Toyota’s Camry and Honda’s Accord.

The Consumer Reports study was based on a survey covering ratings for 1.3 million vehicles from readers and covers both reliability and owner satisfaction.

The non-profit magazine also conducts road tests and scores individual vehicles in compiling its list of recommended models.

The release of the closely watched annual survey marks something of a report card on the progress of GM and Chrysler, the two U.S. automakers put through government-directed bankruptcies in 2009.

Including all four of its brands — Chevrolet, Buick, Cadillac and GMC — 69 percent of GM models had average or better reliability scores, Consumer Reports said.

For Chevy, GM’s mass-market brand, 83 percent of its models scored average or better for reliability, up from just 50 percent a year earlier.

Cadillac, GM’s luxury brand, showed the most improvement of all auto brands in the survey, climbing seven spots in the rankings to No. 19, just behind Chevy and Buick.

GM’s gains came from the introduction of highly rated new models like the Cadillac CTS-V and the Chevy Camaro and Equinox.

By contrast, older GM models like the much-criticized Chevy Aveo subcompact and the Buick LaCrosse sedan were rated as the worst performers in the automaker’s line-up.

“Some of GM’s redesigned vehicles have sold well. The company has also dropped many of its below-average models,” David Champion, Consumer Reports test director, said in a statement.

By contrast, Chrysler was the lowest-ranked auto brand in the survey, unchanged from 2009 and hurt by the decision of former owners Daimler AG (DAIGn.DE) and Cerberus Capital Management to slow or suspend vehicle development programs as sales began to drop in 2008.

Toyota’s Scion brand with its limited line-up was the best performing brand overall, followed by Porsche SE and Honda’s Acura luxury line.

European luxury auto brands with the exception of Porsche took a hammering in the Consumer Reports survey.

Nearly three quarters of models from Audi — Volkswagen AG’s (VOWG.DE) luxury brand — were ranked below average. A version of the A6 sedan with a supercharged V6 engine tied the Jaguar XF for the worst new car reliability score, Consumer Reports said.

In addition, six of 13 models from Daimler’s Mercedes-Benz were below average, along with five of 11 models from BMW AG(BMWG.DE).

Consumer Reports is published by the nonprofit Consumers Union and does not accept advertising. The publication’s “predicted reliability” study for new model vehicles is based on an average of consumer ratings of the same model in the recent years.

Reporting by Kevin Krolicki, editing by Gerald E. McCormick

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