DETROIT >> Toyota continues its winning streak atop Consumer Reports’ annual reliability rankings.
The company’s Toyota and Lexus brands top the survey, while its Scion brand is in the top ten. It’s the eighth year in a row that a Toyota brand has led the rankings.
"Toyota has a strategy that emphasizes reliability over excitement," says Jake Fisher, Consumer Reports’ head of auto testing. "They take a conservative approach to redesign and roll out new features slowly. The risk is they may not have the latest bells and whistles, but the reward is world class reliability."
Also Monday, Toyota released sales numbers that showed it is on track to be the world’s top-selling automaker this year. Toyota beat out General Motors and Volkswagen in sales for the first nine months.
Japanese brands generally fared well in Consumer Reports’ survey, which predicts the reliability of 2015 model year cars and trucks based on a survey of subscribers who own 1.1 million vehicles from current or prior model years.
Mazda, Honda and Subaru joined Toyota in the top ten. Audi was the highest scoring non-Japanese brand, while Buick was the only domestic brand in the top ten.
Infotainment systems generated the most complaints from Consumer Reports’ readers and hurt many brands with new models, including Infiniti, Fiat and Cadillac. The most common problems were unresponsive touch screens and trouble with pairing up phones.
Younger car owners tended to be the most impatient with glitchy electronics.
"They expect the same connectivity level when they’re in the car," says Doug Love, a spokesman for the magazine.
Ford’s luxury Lincoln brand moved up 12 spots in the survey, the most of any brand, after fixing bugs in its touch-screen dashboard. Hyundai gained eight spots, mostly because it had few new vehicles. New cars and trucks tend to have more problems, and the magazine recommends waiting a year or two after a new model comes out before buying it.
Truck buyers complained about new full-size pickups from Chevrolet and GMC, which were plagued by squeaks and rattles. Mercedes-Benz fell the hardest, by 11 spots in the rankings, because of quality issues with its new lower-priced CLA sedan and complaints about the electronics in the higher-end S Class.
The recently merged Fiat Chrysler Automobiles fared worst in the rankings, with its Dodge, Ram, Jeep and Fiat brands in the bottom four spots. The new nine-speed transmission in the Jeep Cherokee was among the company’s headaches.
Toyota vehicles were also the most highly recommended in 10 of the 18 model categories, including hybrids (the Lexus CT 200h), compact cars (the Scion xB), midsize SUVs (the Toyota Highlander) and small and large pickup trucks (the Toyota Tacoma and Toyota Tundra).
But Japanese brands don’t have a complete lock on quality. The magazine isn’t recommending the 2015 Honda Fit subcompact, for example, since it will be the first produced in Mexico and its quality may not match those previously made in Japan.
Consumer Reports’ annual survey is closely watched by the auto industry, since many potential buyers follow the Yonkers, N.Y.-based company’s recommendations.