After a promising start to the year, the American automobile industry has taken another blow. The Detroit Free Press reports that American automakers fell sharply in the rankings of automaker reliability produced by the popular Consumer Reports magazine.
Consumer Reports reliability reports incorporates survey data from 1.3 million subscribers to the magazine and its website. Though this relies on data for current models of cars, they take this information and project it as a reliability rating by brand.
The Big Three U.S. automakers have performed better in recent years, since the American auto industry's resurgence following the collapse of 2008 and the subsequent bailout of General Motors and Chrysler. Ford in particular reached as high as 10th last year, a notoriously difficult feat given the consistent dominance of the Japanese and Korean automakers.
In 2011, however, both Ford and GM saw little positive, with Ford dropping 10 places to 20th overall. The company's fall was topped only by Italian automaker Porsche, which fell 25 places from second best to second worst, which Consumer Reports attributed to the limited number of models this year, according to The New York Times. One of the two models, the Cayenne SUV, performed poorly in its first year.
Chrysler did make some positive gains, rising eight ranks to 15th, though that left all of the American brands within the middle to lower tiers. Japanese automakers continued to top the chart, with Toyota's Scion brand remaining at the top, followed by Lexus, Acura, Mazda and Honda. Swedish automaker Volvo, at 10th, was the only non-Japanese company to make the top 10 in the rankings.
"[Japanese automakers] still lead the pack," David Champion, director of Consumer Reports' Automotive Test Center, told The Detroit Free Press. "Although the domestics have improved, they still have a ways to go to really get to the best manufacturers that are out there."
Ford's losses must be considered in light of two moderating factors, however. First, the rankings are simply a shorthand comparison of the reliability rankings for each company. Ford ranks at 20th with ratings 12 percent below average, while Volvo ranks 10th with ratings 3 percent above average, a difference of 15 percent. The top-rated Scion meanwhile boasts a rating of 53 percent above average, a difference of 50 percent from the 10th-ranked Volvo.
Second, much of the criticism of Ford centered around its new MyFord Touch debuted with many problems. Wes Sherwood, a spokesman for Ford, noted to The Detroit Free Press that the company has already been able to address many of these issues, because software can be updated in ways mechanical failures cannot.