For Reliability, Some Older Models Shine

By Jeffrey Bellant December 24, 2019


DETROIT - Getting the hot new model or technology might not be the best move when it comes to cars, according to the 2019 Annual Auto Reliability Survey from Consumer Reports released during the Automotive Press Association November meeting.

Although the report is focused on reliability of current models, the results also reveal an open secret about reliability of new models and new platforms.

“One theme that you’re going to see throughout this data,” said Jake Sherman, director of auto testing, “is that when a car gets redesigned or when there is an introduction of new technology, that is when reliability takes a dive.

“Sometimes it takes years to work out those bugs and bring it back.”

Fisher pointed out the example of the BMW X3 through current data.

“In 2011, the previous generation was launched,” Fisher said. “Even now, that model is much worse than average.”

Fisher said the previous models were actually quite good, but they had problems when they redesigned it.

“It was not until recently that the reliability actually improved,” he said. “So, the 2016 and 2017 models benefitted from them working out the problems and bugs of the previous models and learning how to build the vehicle better.”

But when BMW redesigned the vehicle again in 2018, the drop- off returned.

“Today’s data of 2018 models - not as good, comparatively, as they were in 2017, which was the end of that previous generation.”

Fisher said if consumers are looking for a brand-new redesign, they might want to see if a dealer has the last year of the previous redesign on the lot.

“Because inevitably you’re going to wind up with a more reliable vehicle because it has benefitted from the years of working out the bugs,” Fisher said.

However, he added that it doesn’t always take multiple years for a manufacturer to get improve the car after a bad launch.

In the case of the 2017 BMX X5, the automaker was able to improve it the following year and 2018s had better reliability, Fisher said.

“It also depends on the extent of the changes,” Fisher said.

There were other examples of this trend. The Hyundai Santa Fe in 2018 was rated “above average” on CR’s scale of reliability.

“In 2019, they redesigned the Hyundai Santa Fe, it definitely took a hit,” Fisher said. “It went from ‘excellent’ down to ‘average.’”

Another example was the Toyota RAV4. It had excellent reliability in 2018 as did the Acura RDX.

“Both of these models were redesigned,” Fisher said. “The RAV4 fell to only ‘average.’ The RDX was rated much worse than average.”

The Chevrolet Silverado 1500 and Subaru Forester both saw their reliability ratings rocked after redesigns.

There are exceptions to this rule.

CR’s survey also revealed a small group of vehicles that have above-average reliability, even though they are brand-new or redesigned for 2019. The list includes the Ford Ranger compact pickup and the Toyota Avalon large sedan.

However, those were the exceptions.

According to this year’s survey from CR, a nonprofit organization, nearly half (45 percent) of new and redesigned for 2019 models have ‘below-average” predicted reliability.

Model runs typically last between five and seven years, according to CR.

Independent dealers can use this information when they are buying cars for their stores, taking trades or making recommendations for customers.

Using that information to price out vehicles they intend to buy or using it to consider potential repair issues may be critical.

The latest CR reliability survey gathered information from Consumer Reports members who collectively owned or leased more than 400,000 vehicles from model years 2000 to 2019. The survey, which is the largest of its kind, covers more than 300 models.

“So, we have data that we acquired as late as September of this year,” Fisher said. “It allows us to have a lot more data of 2019 and 2020 models.”

CR had double the data at this year’s release.

“It allows us to make much more robust predictions,” he said.



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Last modified on Tuesday, 24 December 2019 16:41