When Americans buy cars, they often turn to car magazines and well-known research firms for reviews. Usually, these include measures of reliability, price value, acceleration, braking, MPG, and, relatively recently, electronic systems that run safety features and navigation. Among the media and research firms most carefully followed are J.D. Power, Motor Trend, Car and Driver, Edmunds, and U.S. News.
Leaving aside research and reviews, buying a car in America has become a challenge. A short supply of the chips used in car electric systems has caused many manufacturers to halt production lines. Earnings at these companies have been hurt. Most experts believe the chip shortage will go well into next year. The time between when a car is delivered to a dealer and when it is sold was about 60 days on average before the shortage. That number currently sits under 30.
That means demand will be pent up for months, if not as much as two years. What has become a difficult year for car companies could be a bonanza in the second half of 2022.
The car industry is also in the midst of a period of change which has no precedent. The electric car, barely available a decade ago, has been popularized by Tesla. Almost every major car company has started to chase Tesla with electronic cars of their own. The number of electric cars could outnumber gas powered cars sometime in the middle of the next decade.
Among the most carefully followed car research firms is Consumer Reports. The nonprofit consumer product evaluation organization recently released its annual auto reliability study. The study drew on the experience consumers had with over 300,000 cars. For car companies, the ratings are critical because they are used to make vehicle purchase decisions.
In all, the survey covers 28 brands ranked on a scale of 0 to 100. Three brands at the top of the list had scores above 70: Lexus (76), Mazda (75) and Toyota (71). Lexus is the luxury brand of Toyota. Eight of the top nine brands on the list were Japanese. Only Buick cracked the high end with a score of 66.
Several luxury models that should have high reliability because of their prices and levels of manufacturing care instead had mediocre scores. These included Porsche (52), Audi (47), Cadillac (47) and BMW (45).
Lexus also did well model-by-model. The researcher wrote:
Among the top five brands, Lexus stands out because all of its models have average or better reliability this year, led by the long-running GX SUV, which is tied with the Chevrolet Trailblazer as the most reliable vehicle this year.
Lexus and Toyota have been atop car quality lists for years. The Consumer Reports data is just an extension of that.
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