Confusing and malfunctioning controllers, balky Bluetooth and unresponsive touch screens are driving drivers around the bend and hurting the ratings of Infiniti, Jeep, Fiat, Ram, Cadillac, Ford, and Honda in this year's Consumer Reports reliability survey.
But while in-car electronics top the list of irritants, they're likely to be a sign of other problems.
“Infotainment system problems generally don’t exist in a vacuum,” said Jake Fisher, director of automotive testing at Consumer Reports, “A close look at the results suggests that cars with a lot of in-car electronic issues usually have plenty of other troubles, too.”
Lexus again took top spot in the magazine's annual reliability survey, which was released at a press conference yesterday before the Automotive Press Association in Detroit.
Consumer Reports Annual Auto Reliability Survey polls CR’s subscribers, who indicate any serious problems in 17 trouble areas that they have had with the cars they own in the proceeding 12 months.
Consumer Reports gathers enough data on 248 models to predict which new cars will likely be reliable or troublesome, as well as provide insights and standings of major brands and spot trends. The survey is the largest of its kind; the 2014 edition generated information from about 1.1 million vehicles.
The worst first-year infotainment offender in this year’s survey was the Intouch system in the new Infiniti Q50 sedan. More than one in five owners reported a problem with it. That, when combined with the poor reliability performance of the QX60 SUV, was enough to drop Infiniti’s reliability rank 14 points to 20th overall — the farthest drop of any of the 28 brands this year.
The survey did show signs some carmakers are finding ways to alleviate infotainment problems. While hardly trouble-free, updates and changes to Ford and Lincoln’s notorious MyTouch systems have made them less troublesome year after year. When introduced, the 2011 Ford Explorer had a 10% infotainment complaint rate and peaked at 28%. The 2014 Explorer’s revised system has a 3% complaint rate for the same trouble areas.
Honda seems to have fixed a glitch with its HondaLink that contributed to Consumer Reports not recommending the redesigned Accord V6 last year; the vehicle is now recommended. Chrysler Corp’s UConnect touch-screen system was buggy in its first iteration but recent software revisions may be ironing out the wrinkles.
Perennial best-in-reliability front-runners Toyota, Mazda and Honda, finished right behind top-rated Lexus in Consumer Reports’ overall brand rankings in that order. Subaru, Scion and Kia helped Asian brands take seven of the top 10 spots. With the exception of Infiniti, most Japanese and Korean brands improved their reliability average score. Nissan continues to lag behind other Japanese brands with core models like the Altima, Pathfinder, and Sentra all scoring below average reliability.
Buick was the only domestic brand to finish in the top 10, and moved into 6th place from 16th last year. All six of its models included in CR’s annual survey scored average or better reliability including the CR Recommended Buick LaCrosse (V6).