I’ve posted several of responses to my July 16 Consumer Report’s auto tesing column in the comments section of this post. The actual column runs directly below.
When it comes to American cars and trucks, Consumer Reports’ ratings border on cruelty. And while I agree that CR is the gold standard of auto ratings, I’ve often wondered if American and German vehicles are that far behind their Japanese rivals. Sadly, it is so.
Here are examples (paraphrased except where quotes are used): GM’s Colorado pickup has an “unrefined” 5-cylinder engine offering no better fuel economy that a six. “The ride is unsettled and the body constantly quivers.” In five out of eight of the important circle ratings, the vehicle gets fair (half black) or poor (solid black). It’s the same for the Dodge RAM 1500 and only somewhat better for the venerable Ford F150. By comparison, the Toyota, CR’s favorite auto maker, scores big with its Tacoma, getting the prized “recommended” rating and five red circles and is only dinged for poor fuel economy and well, a truck like ride.
While the gap has closed somewhat – GM now has 15 recommended models (some overlap) to Toyota’s 17 – the Americans have trailed for decades, now.
One dubious area where the Americans dominate is poor reliability based on CR’s annual auto consumer reliability survey which I dutifully fill out. Of the 42 “bad bets” for used cars, the Americans own 21 spots. A more startling statistic comes out of the “good bets:” Japanese carmakers earned 55 out of 59 spots. Just about every Honda and Toyota model made the list. The Americans get the other four and the Europeans were aced.
CR’s web site contains in information on just about everything. The auto section now has blogs and is now looking for stories about cars with more than 200,000 miles. My Mercedes E230 is getting close, but is far still behind Irv Gordon’s Volvo P1800 which has logged 2.3 million miles. With two teenage drivers, I currently have vehicles
from Korea, Germany, the U.S. and Germany. Our 18-month old Acura TSX – a Honda product - is just an okay vehicle with a scratch prone paint job. Hey, I’m rooting for the underdog and next I buy new want to go with my countrymen.
How does CR come up with those ratings? Chuck Murray visited CR’s 327-acre test facility last month to find out why. He didn’t just report why automaker CEOs visit the track to plead their cases with CR’s small staff of engineers. To better understand the 50 performance tests vehicles undergo, Chuck rode with testing director David Champion and in one maneuver hit speeds of 130 MPH. Our intrepid reporter recorded his experiences with his trusty camcorder and produced seven videos that are on our web site. Check them out and his great story about how the track operates. Then you’ll understand why CR whose independence from the automakers is legendary gets so much respect.
What do you think of CR’s ratings? Write me at email@example.com or comment at my blog Design Engineering at Large.