Ford, General Motors and Stellantis, make some of the least reliable vehicles, customers say.

Phoebe Wall Howard
Detroit Free Press
  • The quality of vehicles build by Detroit automakers is wildly inconsistent, a well-regarded survey by Consumer Reports shows.
  • The survey reflects consumer experiences during the past 12 months with more than 300,000 vehicles from model years 2000 into early 2023.
  • Detroit automakers Ford, GM and Stellantis -- owner of Jeep and Ram -- are doing too much too fast, introducing technology and designs that, in some cases, aren't showroom-ready.

DETROIT — Wild inconsistency in vehicles built by General Motors, Ford and Stellantis brands has created endless customer headaches as they navigate problems and challenges, according to the 2022 Annual Auto Reliability Survey from Consumer Reports.

The survey, which reflects consumer experiences during the past 12 months with more than 300,000 vehicles from model years 2000 into early 2023, was released Tuesday and shows the Detroit Three are doing too much too fast, introducing technology and new designs that, in some cases, aren't showroom-ready.

"It's not that the domestics can't build reliable vehicles," said Jake Fisher, senior director of auto testing at the nonprofit Consumer Reports since 1999. His team of statisticians, researchers and testers base reliability predictions on consumer data and potential for serious repair bills.

Brands that do really well have a handful of platforms, similar architecture if you will, that is refined and improved year after year. Stellantis and Buick, for example, are challenged with product lines from various parts of the world, which contributes to quality control issues, Fisher said. Even the high-profile Mustang Mach-E is spotlighted for woes.

Toyota and Lexus come in as the top two most reliable brands, while Mercedes ranked dead last in reliability because Mercedes owners so often had their dashboard screens freeze or go blank and need replacement, the survey showed.

Lincoln is the only Detroit Three brand to make a Top 10 list of reliable vehicles — surging from last place at 24th just one year ago. Buick plunged from Top 5 to not even the Top 10 from a year ago.

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Pictured is the 2020 Cadillac XT5 Sport.

Consumer Reports is an independent nonprofit organization, established in 1936, that does rigorous testing on products and services based on scientific analysis of surveys of millions of consumers. Its work is intended to help save consumers money and assist in their buying decisions.

Problems with Cadillac, Ram, Mustang

Here's a snapshot of issues that dropped the Detroit Three in reliability rankings. Vehicles were from various years:

  • The Cadillac XT5 fell to below average because of problems with electronics, brake and drive systems.
  • Chevrolet skidded 10 spots to No. 20. The Bolt and Bolt EUV are having battery problems and electric drive failures. The Silverado 1500 is having major engine problems that require a rebuild or replacement in addition to electrical, brake and drive system failures.
  • GMC Sierra 1500 has engine, fuel and drive system problems.
  • The Ram 1500 has engine computer problems, freezing screens and hardware issues requiring replacement.
  • The Ford Bronco Sport has issues with brakes, engine, noises and leaks.
  • The Mustang Mach-E is having its display screen freeze, battery and charging issues.
  • The Lincoln Aviator saw problems with the temperature control system, steering and suspension, power equipment, body hardware, paint and trim.
  • The Jeep Gladiator pickup has issues with steering and suspension, as well as drive and electrical systems.
  • Jeep Wrangler owners are having electrical, fuel and temperature system issues, as well as engine problems.
  • The Grand Cherokee and Grand Cherokee L have electronics, power and steering and suspension problems.

On the bright side, the Chevy Blazer and Trailblazer fared well in the survey. The all-new Ford Maverick and Ford Maverick Hybrid, Edge and F-150 Hybrid also did well.

Consumer Reports ranking

Automakers said they valued the Consumer Reports scoring and analysis.

Stuart Fowle, GM spokesman, said, "Quality and reliability are top priorities for GM and our job is never done to deliver the best vehicles to our customers. Along with our own internal data, we value the hard work third parties like Consumer Reports do to gather and report findings and look forward to further analyzing these latest findings."

The Ford Mustang Mach-E electric SUV. Ford closed the order bank on the Mach-E because the automaker was unable to meet demand. Now it's the subject of a federal lawsuit, recalls.

Maria Buczkowski, a Ford spokeswoman, said, "We’re rapidly bringing innovative new Ford and Lincoln vehicles and services to market and customers love them. With some, there have been challenges for customers and we’re doing what’s necessary to make them right. We’re committed to giving customers great quality and experiences. That includes preventing problems in the first place, and quickly detecting and resolving them when they do occur."

Eric Mayne, a Stellantis spokesman, said, "We regularly consult third-party survey information for greater insight into our vehicle performance. As such, we are constantly monitoring and responding with actions to improve customer experience. However, we also compile data from multiple internal sources. We rely more heavily on this information, which may conflict with third-party results."

Toyota Corolla hybrid is most reliable

Early adopters love new things but now, more than ever, with industry changes, problems must be expected.

"Every time they do a new vehicle, they make huge changes," Fisher said. "If you want to buy a domestic, don’t buy the first one of new design. You have to look for ones where they've worked out all the bugs. It's all about timing. When they redo a product, you'll see radical changes."

"Reputation is almost everything when it comes to purchasing a car. When we look at nationwide surveys, what people are looking for in cars, the top things are reliability, efficiency and safety. It might be nice to have a car that goes around a corner fast, accelerates quick and has soft seats. Reliability is a lot about reputation," Fisher said.

Meanwhile, domestic automakers are focused on the future and electric vehicles.

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2023 Toyota Corolla Cross SUV hybrid

"They're doing a lot right. Moving forward, things will be more evolutionary than revolutionary," Fisher said. "But the most reliable car is a Toyota Corolla Hybrid."

Don't avoid the word 'hybrid'

In the end, if a buyer is confused about what to do, Fisher says to buy a hybrid. Not a plug-in hybrid but a traditional hybrid that maximizes fuel efficiency by using both a battery and gasoline with a system that recharges while driving.

"Get a hybrid. A hybrid is the sweet spot," Fisher said. "We should all be talking about hybrids right now. They are more reliable than conventional cars. They are more comfortable than ever. They deliver far better fuel efficiency. They're available in more vehicle types than ever — a pickup truck, minivan, three-row SUV, luxury SUV. They deliver on reliability, efficiency and safety."

(L to R) The 2022 Ford Maverick Lariat FX4 (EcoBoost engine) and XLT Hybrid models shown off to the media at a studio in Detroit on Wednesday, June 2, 2021.

Hybrids are for regular people. They are not for the early adopters who want sexy trendy new stuff, Fisher said. "One day, it may be the EVs will really truly go mainstream and not cater to early adopters. Right now, the smart buyer goes with a hybrid."

While companies such as Mercedes-Benz roll out fancy tech systems, which seem to be glitchy based on consumer feedback, Tesla changes little with its body design and focuses on system improvements, Fisher said. Still, Tesla has problems related to body hardware, steering and suspension, paint and trim and temperature control in its Models S, X and Y. The electric powertrains have few problems, consumers said.

The Tesla Model X in the showroom at Somerset North in Troy on October 26, 2017.

"Our job at Consumer Reports is about laying out the facts. Consumers make their own decisions," he said. "Just because the Jeep Wrangler is noisy and rides bad, if you know that going in, you might be very happy with your purchase. Look at the F-150 and Silverado. They’re not the most reliable vehicles on the market but a lot of people buy and enjoy them."

The auto industry's technology shift is moving faster than regulators, reviewers or consumers can grapple with, Fisher said. "This is an exciting time. Everyone is going through a transition now."

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Consumer Reports list of best to worst

Brand Reliability in order of best to worst:

1. Toyota

2. Lexus

3. BMW

4. Mazda

5. Honda

6. Audi

7. Subaru

8. Acura

9. Kia

10. Lincoln

11. Buick

12. Genesis

13. Hyundai

14. Volvo

15. Nissan

16. Ram

17. Cadillac

18. Ford

19. Tesla

20. Chevrolet

21. GMC

22. Volkswagen

23. Jeep

24. Mercedes-Benz

Follow Phoebe Wall Howard on Twitter: @phoebesaid.