Consumer Reports Survey: Hybrids Most Reliable, Pickups Worst

DETROIT (AP) – Gasoline-electric hybrids were the most reliable vehicles sold in the U.S. last year, while large pickup trucks and all-electric cars fared worst in Consumer Reports’ annual reliability survey.

Hybrids are generally proven designs with few frills, while automakers stuff faulty electronic features into expensive new pickups and electric vehicles, the nonprofit group says.

Hybrid technology has been around for more than two decades, and while the vehicles alternate between electric and gasoline powertrains, they don’t have much of the technology or complex multi-speed transmissions that have caused problems in other vehicles, said Jake Fisher, executive director of auto testing.

“Hybrids are very conventionally built vehicles,” Fisher said. “They are aimed at practical buyers looking for reliable, efficient and safe vehicles, not the latest technology.”

With high gas prices and skyrocketing new car costs, people are keeping their vehicles longer, making reliability and fuel economy more important to buyers, the group’s annual survey found. “A hybrid can provide years of trouble-free mileage and is a good defense against rising fuel prices,” Fisher said.

The survey found that reliability was extremely or very important to 94% of prospective car buyers, and 80% said the same about fuel economy, according to Consumer Reports.

Plug-in hybrids, which can travel a relatively short distance on battery power before switching to both gas and electric, don’t have the same level of reliability as hybrids, Fisher said.

It helps that most hybrids are sold by Toyota and its luxury brand Lexus, the top two brands in rankings by Consumer Reports released Tuesday at a meeting of the Automotive Press Association in Detroit.

Germany’s BMW jumped 10 places to third, while Mazda and Honda completed the top five.

Mercedes-Benz was the least reliable of 24 brands in the survey, followed by Jeep, Volkswagen, GMC and Chevrolet.

Tesla, maker of the top-selling electric vehicles in the US, rose four spots to 19th, although there are still quality issues, Fisher said.

Owners reported few problems with Tesla’s batteries and motors, but the company had issues with paintwork, trim, heating and cooling, and suspension systems, Fisher said. Tesla’s Model 3 had average reliability, but the S, Y, and X were all below average.

Ford luxury brand Lincoln had the biggest improvement in reliability, moving up 14 places to 10th and becoming the only US-based brand in the top 10. The brand’s SUVs are older models that have been around for more years and allow Ford to train the bugs, Fisher said.

Full-size pickup trucks, Fisher said, have become luxury vehicles with large touchscreens and multi-speed transmissions. They’re popular, so the market is competitive, and buyers are looking for the latest infotainment and other technologies, he said. The survey found problems with Ford’s F-150 trailer controls and power liftgates, while Chevrolet’s Silverado had some engine issues, Fisher said.

Only seven of the 17 pickup models in this year’s survey had average or better reliability.

In theory, electric vehicles should be more reliable than internal combustion engine vehicles, Fisher said. But in addition to Tesla’s problems, electric vehicles from other automakers have had charging and battery problems, as well as problems with the electric traction motor. Of 11 EVs for which Consumer Reports had sufficient survey data, only four had average or better reliability.

Consumer Reports based its ranking on a survey of owners of more than 300,000 vehicles from the 2000 through 2022 model years, including some new models from 2023. The ranking is based on problems with vehicles over the past year. Consumer Reports Survey: Hybrids Most Reliable, Pickups Worst

Dais Johnston

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