Consumer Reports Wrecks Volvo

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Volvo is, based on its promotion materials, the ideal luxury car for the 21st century. Its cars are ultra-safe. It is a leader in designing cars that give drivers both comfort and high-end command of their vehicles. It is a leader in the movement toward self-driving cars. Undermining most of this, Consumer Reports rated Volvo the least reliable car brand of the 29 it measured.

The Consumer Reports Annual Auto Survey collected data on over 500,000 cars from information taken from its members. Japanese manufacturers did particularly well, taking the top four spots. Lexus, the luxury brand of Toyota, ranked first with a reliability score of 78 on a scale of 0 to 100. The Toyota brand ranked second with a score of 76. A much smaller Japanese brand, Mazda, took third place with a score of 69. Another small Japanese brand, Subaru, had a score of 65, which put it in fourth.

Three of Germany’s luxury brands did well. Volkswagen’s Audi was in seventh place with a score of 60. BMW had a score of 58, which put it in eighth place. Porsche ranked 11th with a score of 54. Volvo scored a 22, well below the brand above it, which was Cadillac at 32. Volvo cars compete with all of these.

Consumer Reports summed up its evaluation of Volvo:

Our members told us that the XC60 SUV suffered from display screen freezes; problems with the climate system and interior cabin rattles. Complaints were still numerous on the XC90 SUV’s infotainment system, mainly screen freezes and blank display. The S90 sedan shared those problems in addition to complaints about engine knocking or pinging.

In reality, Volvo does very poorly in the United States based on sales. It is barely a niche manufacturer. Its September sales were 8,715, up 10% from the same month the year earlier.

Anders Gustafsson, president and CEO, Volvo Car USA, commented on the company’s U.S. sales: “In a challenging market, Volvo’s sales remained strong. Our award-winning SUV range has driven our overall growth to nearly 30 percent year-to-date.”

The Consumer Reports study eroded some of that “award-winning” market positioning.