Another ding to Japanese car maker struggling to
maintain its stellar quality reputation
By Christina Rogers, The Wall Street Journal – Consumer Reports has pulled its recommendation for the Honda Civic after owners of the popular compact car reported many reliability issues, representing yet another ding to the Japanese car maker which in recent years has struggled to maintain its stellar quality reputation.
The influential product-review magazine pointed to several problems on the redesigned Civic – ranging from electronics failures to entire dashboard consoles needing replacement – as reasons for withdrawing its coveted stamp of approval for the second time in five years.
Jake Fisher, head of auto testing for Consumer Reports, said this is the first time in recent memory the magazine has yanked its recommendation of the Civic for poor reliability scores, a surprise given Honda’s long record for finishing near the top of the magazine’s quality rankings.
Honda slipped two notches to number 10 in Consumer Reports’ latest reliability study released on Monday, while rival Toyota Motor Corp. held steady with its Toyota and Lexus brands topping the list of most reliable brands.
Honda, in a statement, said it values both customer and third-party feedback and will continue “working diligently to enhance the usability and functionality of these in-demand technologies in our unrelenting effort to create new value for our customers.”
General Motors Co.’s Buick brand jumped four spots to number 3 in the latest rankings, making it the first domestic brand in more than three decades to break into the top three for reliability. Nissan Motor Co.’s luxury Infiniti brand climbed 16 notches to land in the top 10.
“We see across the board as auto makers introduce complex electronic systems they’re having more problems,” Mr. Fisher said.
Honda made extensive design changes when it overhauled the Civic for the 2016 model year, increasing the chances of problems occurring, he added.
Whereas Honda once took a more conservative approach to model redesigns – phasing in major changes over several years rather than all at once – it has become more aggressive in recent years in moving quickly to introduce new technology, Mr. Fisher said.
In 2011, Consumer Reports dropped its recommendation for the 2012 Honda Civic, citing “lower interior quality” and “a choppy ride, long-stopping distances and pronounced road noise.”
Honda has also encountered other quality woes in recent years related to problems with faulty Takata Corp. air bags and multiple recalls on its subcompact Fit.
GM continues to improve in Consumer Reports’ reliability rankings with its Chevrolet brand climbing five spots to number 15. The Detroit car maker, however, continues to struggle with its large trucks and sport-utility vehicles, Mr. Fisher said, with the Cadillac Escalade ranking among the least reliable vehicles in this year’s study.
Ford Motor Co. fell one spot to number 18, mostly because of problems with the dual-clutch transmissions in the Focus and Fiesta small-car models, while four brands owned by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV – Ram, Fiat, Chrysler and Dodge – ranked at the bottom of the pack in reliability.
Consumer Reports restored its recommendation for Tesla Motors Inc.’s Model S sedan after yanking the accolade last year due to problems ranging from battery charging issues to leaky sunroofs.
Tesla’s overall score, however, landed it fifth from the bottom as continued reliability problems with its Model X sport-utility vehicle continue to dog its quality performance.