The 10 Least Reliable Automotive Brands

Take a peek at the 10 most unreliable vehicle brands, as judged by the owners of more than 640,000 vehicles.
  • Like an illness, poor reliability can be contagious. It spreads throughout a corporation, its brands, and its products.

    That’s why, every year, Consumer Reports publishes a survey, not only of the vehicles, but of the automotive brands. The magazine contends that brand reliability, for better or worse, is a reflection of corporate philosophy. Companies that nickel and dime their suppliers and those that roll out new technologies too quickly tend to have reliability issues.

    “Reliability is about taking a conservative approach to new technology,” Jake Fisher, director of auto testing for Consumer Reports, told Design News. “If you take a conservative approach, reliability is better. If not, it’s worse.”

    Decisions on such matters are often made at the corporate level, causing good or poor reliability to be a corporate-wide phenomenon. That’s why, this year, the top two automotive brands operate under the same corporate umbrella. Not coincidently, so do the bottom two.

    Here, we offer a peek at the 10 most unreliable vehicle brands, as judged by the owners of more than 640,000 vehicles. Scroll through the slides to see the least reliable nameplates. 

  • Cadillac

    General Motors’ luxury brand was named least reliable by Consumer Reports and the 640,000 readers who responded to the magazine’s annual survey.

    The Cadillac CTS, XRS, and XTS received below average marks, but the well-known Escalade SUV was the worst of the bunch, the magazine said. The biggest problems areas were in-car electronics and power equipment.

    “We saw Cadillac coming in low in a lot of areas,” Jake Fisher, director of auto testing for Consumer Reports, told us. “They use a lot of new technologies. It’s a little bit of a test bed for General Motors. It’s disappointing because the vehicles drive so well.”

    (Image source: General Motors)

  • GMC

    General Motors’ truck division was named the second most unreliable brand, with the Acadia getting tabbed as its worst vehicle. The Acadia’s biggest problem areas were its climate controls and suspension.

    The Acadia was hardly alone, however. The GMC Canyon, Sierra and Yukon also received poor marks.

    (Image source: General Motors)

  • Ram

    Fiat Chrysler’s Ram trucks moved up two notches in this year’s survey, but that still put them in 25th place out of 27 automotive brands.

    The Ram 1500, 2500 and 3500 trucks received “much worse than average” evaluations, mostly as a result of unreliable in-car electronics and power equipment.

    (Image source: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles)

  • Dodge

    Fiat Chrysler struck again with its Dodge brand, which was tabbed the fourth most unreliable.

    Consumer Reports named the Journey as Dodge’s worst, but a quick look at the survey results indicates that the Caravan minivan wasn’t much better.

    Dodge problems included brakes, noises and leaks.

    (Image source: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles)

  • Volvo

    The only European carmaker in the bottom 10, Volvo got ripped by its owners for a variety of reliability issues.

    Problem-areas included power equipment and in-car electronics.

    The XC60 and XC70 received low marks, but readers named the XC90 as Volvo’s worst.

    (Image source: Volvo Group)

  • Lincoln

    Ford Motor Co. fared slightly better this year, but its Lincoln brand still came in 22nd of the 27 brands evaluated by Consumer Reports.

    The Lincoln MKC, MKS and MKZ received low marks, but the magazine named the MKX the worst of the bunch.

    In-car electronics were a universal problem for Lincoln vehicles.

    (Image source: Ford Motor Co.)

  • Tesla

    The electric carmaker was the seventh most unreliable brand name, based mostly on the performance of its gull-winged Model X.

    Problem areas for the Model X included body hardware, power equipment, in-car electronics and climate system.

    Consumer Reports went out of its way to attest that the reliability of the Model S had improved, but that improvement still wasn’t enough to pull Tesla out of the bottom 10.

    (Image source: Tesla, Inc.)

  • Jeep

    The well-known SUV maker landed in the 20th spot among the 27 brands rated by Consumer Reports.

    The Jeep Renegade was the brand’s most unreliable vehicle, according to the magazine. But the good news is that some of Jeep’s stalwarts have matured and their ratings have begun to climb, Fisher said.

    “They’re getting more experience with some of their vehicles and working the bugs out,” he told Design News. “The Jeep Cherokee has finally improved. It has average reliability now.”

    (Image source: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles)

  • Acura

    The luxury brand continued its downward slide, becoming the only Asian automaker to be relegated to the bottom 10. The Acura ILX was considered the brand’s least reliable vehicle, but the RDX also exhibited problems, mostly with its suspension system.

    Consumer Reports engineers said the 19th place finish was not a surprise, unfortunately.

    “They’ve been declining for a few years now,” Fisher said. “We first saw the big shift when they launched the TLX – two new transmissions and neither one worked well. And their infotainment systems have been abysmal.”

    (Image source: Honda Motor Co.)

  • Chevrolet

    Consumer Reports named Chevrolet the 10th most unreliable brand. The magazine singled out the Camaro as Chevy’s least reliable vehicle.

    Others, however, weren’t far behind. The Chevy Suburban, Tahoe, Volt, and Corvette all received weak reliability evaluations.

    In-car electronics and climate systems were problem areas for all those vehicles.

    (Image source: General Motors)

 

 

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Senior technical editor Chuck Murray has been writing about technology for 33 years. He joined Design News in 1987, and has covered electronics, automation, fluid power, and auto.

 

 

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