The Consumer Reports ranking of the best (and worst) car brands in America is among the gold standards of auto research. In its most recent annual study, the inexpensive, durable Subaru took first place. Fiat, which has had quality and sales problems for several years, finished last, tied with Jaguar.
Consumer Reports says it examines four factors for its evaluation. Brands are then scored from 100 to 0. The factors:
First is a vehicle’s road-test score, which assesses performance in more than 50 CR evaluations. Next, we include the latest predicted reliability and owner satisfaction ratings from CR’s exclusive Auto Survey. And last, we consider the presence of key safety features and crash-test performance (when completed).
Subaru, based in Japan, has another major distinction. All the other brands with high scores are in the luxury category. Just behind Subaru, which had a score of 81, are Genesis (80), which is the luxury division of Hyundai, Porsche (79), Audi (77) and Lexus (76), which is the luxury brand of Toyota Motor Corp. (NYSE: TM). Also tied at 76 were Mazda, another Japanese company that makes inexpensive cars, and BMW.
Fiat’s problems continue to pile up, and it is a wonder that parent, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles N.V. (NYSE: FCAU), continues to sell the brand in America. The other major car research firm, J.D. Power, also gives Fiat low marks in most of its studies. Fiat only sold 26,482 cars last year, down 41% from 2017. The brand cannot be of much help to its dealers. Whatever Fiat Chrysler spends on development and marketing has to be a waste of its money. Fiat had a score of 44, the worst of 33 brands measured, tied with Jaguar. Also near the bottom, Fiat Chrysler’s Jeep posted a poor score of 50, which put it in 29th place. Its Alpha Romeo brand was 28th with a score of 53. Dodge, another of its brands, ranked 25th with a score of 58.
Surprisingly, several luxury brands that have some very expensive models in their lineups did very poorly. As mentioned, Jaguar was at the bottom along with Fiat. Land Rover, made by the same parent as Jaguar, posted a score of 48. General Motors Co.’s (NYSE: GM) Cadillac brand ranked 26th with a rating of 57. Cadillac’s management has attempted to build cars, crossovers and sport utility vehicles to take market share from BMW, Mercedes, Audi and Lexus. That attempt has failed.
Ironically, Subaru and Fiat both compete in the low-priced, high-gas-mileage portion of the U.S. car market. The quality of their cars could not be further apart.