DETROIT — And the winner is ... Japan.
Toyota, which scored high marks in Consumer Reports’ reliability survey, is shrugging off a sales plunge in China set off by a territorial dispute and says it is headed to a record year on the back of strong growth in the rest of Asia and the U.S.Toyota Motor Corp. executive Yukitoshi Funo acknowledged Monday that achieving the company’s target of 9.76 million vehicle sales this year will be harder because of the problems in China. Violent protests and a call to boycott Japanese goods erupted after Tokyo nationalized tiny islands that are controlled by Japan but claimed by Beijing.Toyota’s sales in China the last couple of months have fallen to about half of what they were a year earlier. Initially, Toyota had expected to sell 1 million vehicles in China this year. Achieving that is now unlikely. Associated Press
Japanese brands took the top seven spots in Consumer Reports’ annual reliability rankings, pushing aside their U.S. and European rivals. Toyota Motor Corp.’s Scion, Lexus and Toyota brands took the top three spots and the Toyota Prius C, a subcompact hybrid, got the best overall score. Mazda, Subaru, Honda and Acura were close behind.
The rankings, released Monday, predict the reliability of 2013 model-year vehicles based on surveys of Consumer Reports’ readers. This year, 800,000 people submitted information on 1.2 million vehicles from the 2010 to 2012 model years. The rankings are critical for auto companies, since Americans frequently cite Consumer Reports as a main source of car-buying advice.
Ford and Lincoln, once top performers, plummeted to the bottom of this year’s rankings because of persistent problems with glitchy touch screens and bumpy transmissions. Ford was also hurt because three normally reliable models — the Ford Escape, Ford Fusion and Lincoln MKZ — are all new for 2013, so Consumer Reports couldn’t predict their reliability.
Also near the bottom were Chrysler Group’s Chrysler, Dodge and Ram brands, which have been getting a fast makeover since partnering with Italy’s Fiat three years ago. Consumer Reports says models with more features and more powerful engines, like the V-8 versions of the Chrysler 300 and Jeep Grand Cherokee — had the most issues.
The best-performing U.S. brand was Cadillac, from General Motors Co.
Volkswagen AG’s luxury Audi brand made the biggest strides in this year’s survey, climbing 18 spots to No. 8. It was the best-performing European brand. Glitch-free new models like the A7 sedan got high marks from Jake Fisher, Consumer Reports’ director of automotive testing.
“They’re out-BMWing BMW, easily, in terms of the driving dynamics,” he said.
Electric cars also got impressive results. The all-electric Nissan Leaf was Nissan’s best performer, partly because its electric motor has fewer parts than a gasoline engine, Fisher said. But the Chevrolet Volt — an extended-range electric car that has both an electric system and a conventional engine and transmission — also got the highest GM score.
“GM took a lot of painstaking time to develop that car,” Fisher said.
The Volt was recalled earlier this year because vehicles crash-tested by the government showed a risk of fire when coolant leaked from the battery. But Consumer Reports’ rankings don’t reflect that, since the magazine only asks respondents to note issues that have happened on their own vehicles.