Foreign cars top annual reliability list

WASHINGTON — WASHINGTON -- Foreign automakers dominate the market for reliability and design in the eyes of Consumer Reports, while a Detroit model cracked the magazine's top picks for the first time since 2005.

In its annual automotive report, the influential magazine last week applauded Ford Motor Co. and General Motors Corp. for making improvements.


The lone Detroit model to win a category was the Chevrolet Silverado in pickups. The reviewers lauded Ford for improving quality, and praised some of GM's newer models, such as its midsize sedans.

But the highest honors were still dominated by Asian brands. Toyota Motor Co. captured four of the 10 top picks, while Hyundai came away with two - the first time the South Korean automaker has claimed the honor. Honda Motor Co. was listed as the best overall automaker, as Consumer Reports recommended all of its models, as well as the entire U.S. lineup of Subaru Motor Corp.


And Chrysler LLC came under renewed criticism, as Consumer Reports ranked it tied for last (with Suzuki) among automakers, saying its newest models tested poorly and quality was an issue.

"General Motors and Ford have been making significant progress recently," said David Champion, senior director of auto testing for Consumer Reports, in a speech to the Washington Automotive Press Association. "Chrysler has dropped considerably. Chrysler's the one sort of area that really needs work."

Automakers closely watch the magazine's annual auto issue, whose recommendations carry more sway than any other independent source, thanks to more than 7 million print and Internet subscribers. Detroit auto executives have long complained that Consumer Reports' judgments fail to note improvements in their vehicles, but the performance gap between Detroit and foreign makes has closed little over the past few years.

GM spokeswoman Janine Fruehan said the automaker pays attention to Consumer Reports' opinions. "As a company, we know we're not where we need to be, we know we need to make further improvements, but our new products are doing well in the marketplace," she said.

Ford spokeswoman Anne Marie Gattari noted the automaker's scores improved in several categories. Chrysler spokeswoman Mary Beth Halprin said the report was one of several Chrysler used to measure customer feedback.

To earn a top pick in a category, the vehicles have to do well in tests, have at least average reliability according to owner surveys and garner good crash-test scores. For this year's report, Consumer Reports also required top picks to offer electronic stability control either as standard equipment or as a readily available option.