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CR and FCA quality

by David Zatz on

Many people regard Consumer Reports as the last word in car reliability, despite problems with CR’s methods and an attitude which leads to cease-and-desist letters for posting pages like this one.

The current guide was headlined by Buick’s rise to #3, but the secondary story was FCA brands anchoring the bottom, along with Tesla.

What happened?


FCA can counter CR with good scores in J.D. Power’s listings; Ram was in the top ten automakers in the Dependability Study, and fourth among non-premium brands in J.D. Power’s APEAL. Several cars ranked high in initial quality, the Town & Country and Caravan headlining minivans.

To break the tie, we went to TrueDelta; their methods resolve some of CR’s shortfalls. There, Ram, Consumer Reports’ worst brand, is ranked far higher, at #10. That beats Ford, GMC, and Chevrolet.  Still, out of thirty brands, with Toyota at the top and Tesla anchoring the bottom, Jeep stands at #24, Fiat at #25, Dodge at #26, and Chrysler at #28 — if we look at the 2013-2015 model years.

CR uses a 2014-16 model year range, so we checked that out. Now, Ram dropped to #12 — still far from last. Dodge, Fiat, and Jeep were clustered towards the bottom, but beat Mercedes and a few other brands.


Expanding our range to go from 2008 to 2016, we find that Ram was #4, and the FCA brands all bounce up. (Tesla doesn’t.)  Other than Ram and Jeep (#16), though, FCA still doesn’t do particularly well.

Over at industry trade magazine Automotive News, Larry Vellequette blamed the way FCA develops its vehicles, with a heavy reliance on executive sign-offs, cost-reduction, and a mix of last-minute changes and vehicles released “before they were fully cooked.” This is hard to dispute.

The good news is that, recently, it seems that cars have been left in the oven to bake longer, with the financial crisis easing up. Without any word from FCA, we can only hope and assume that there are fewer last-minute changes, more testing, and less of an insistence on building things now versus building them right.

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