Car Reliability Survey Results, 48th Round

At the end of August we updated our car reliability stats for the 48th time. The stats now cover through the end of June, 2018, putting them over a year ahead of the car reliability information you’ll find elsewhere. These stats include the Tesla Model 3 plus the redesigned Accord, Camry, and Equinox, among others. Which have been reliable?

With a calculated repair frequency of 115 repair trips per 100 cars per year, Tesla Model 3 has required repairs over four times as often as the average 2017-2018 car. The larger Model S, introduced back in 2012, used to require as many repairs, but lately has required repairs only about twice as often as the average car. The Model 3’s reliability should similarly improve in future years.

Most of the reported repairs involved cosmetic and trim issues, which is usually the case for nearly new cars. Looking only at powertrain and chassis repairs, the Model 3 required 23 repair trips per 100 cars per year, which is over three times the average. As always, we post the description of every reported repair.

Both the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry were fully redesigned for 2018. The new Honda Accord’s requires repairs 67% more often than the average new car. Nearly half of the problems involved body and trim, including rattles. The new Toyota Camry? Just 43% of the average, far better. Honda, like much of the industry, doesn’t often launch a glitch-free car. A common problem with the new CR-V is especially worrisome: gasoline has been leaching into the engine oil, diluting and overfilling it. Both the Accord and Civic use the same 1.5T engine, but for some reason members have reported this problem only for the CR-V.

Toyota isn’t the only car maker of launching a new model without glitches. The fully redesigned Chevrolet Equinox and GMC Terrain have been faring as well as the redesigned Camry, with repair frequencies about less than half of the average. This is a big improvement over the previous generation. But, while the stat for the 2018 is promising, sometimes GM models do start out well then require repairs after they’ve been on the road for a year or two. We saw this happen model year after model year with GM’s large crossovers. Hopefully the new Equinox won’t follow in their footsteps.

Looking at other models redesigned for late 2017 or 2018, the Mazda CX-5 has had an oustanding start, the Honda Odyssey has had an about-average first model year, and the Audi Q5 has been running double the average (though with no obvious problem areas). The Audi Q7, which had a good start in 2017, then worsened, appears to be doing much better in its second model-year, with no repairs reported yet. We have a somewhat small sample size for the Atlas, but VW’s new large crossover appears to be having problems. The Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid requires repairs much more often than the regular Pacifica. Finally, the Volvo XC90 remains far worse than average even in its third model year.

For reliability stats on these and many other cars, go here.

The End of the Quarterly Car Reliability Survey, and of Free New Memberships

A big thank you to everyone who has helped with TrueDelta’s Car Reliability Survey. We’re proud of what we’ve accomplished together. Over the past twelve years we’ve helped countless people.

Unfortunately, maintaining traffic and revenue (on top of operating the site) has become far too much work for two people. So we’ve made the difficult decision that the July 2018 round of the quarterly survey, the 48th, will be the last for a while, and likely ever.

What Is Changing, What Is Not

We’ll also no longer update the site’s car features and pricing section after the 2018 model year.

All other parts of the site will continue. You’ll still be able to maintain a car maintenance and repair record, track fuel economy, write reviews, and ask and answer “My Next Car?” questions.

Even without additional rounds of the survey, the site’s car reliability information will remain relevant for years. You’ll continue to find information here you can find nowhere else. And stats based on our July 2018 survey will remain more recent than you’ll find elsewhere through at least October 2019. (Some other sites rely on repair data that’s many years old.)

We’re also still going to add a new area to the site, to report which problems are most common.

New Memberships

Have friends and family who might be interested in the site’s information, but who have never joined? They have until mid-June to join for free. Starting around June 15th, all NEW members will have to purchase a subscription for full access to the site’s information.

How to Keep Your Free Membership

You can retain your free membership by responding in the upcoming JULY 2018 round of the survey (which will actually run from June 26 through August 26). Since the resulting stats will have to last, let’s make participation the highest ever!

Unlike in the past, all models and model years will be included in the July 2018 round, so it will then (but not yet) be possible for everyone to respond.

Might the Survey Resume in the Future?

We have explored various ways to keep the survey going. We’ve talked with many potential buyers, and one could still come through, but we do not expect this. It is also possible that so many people will purchase subscriptions that we can hire specialists to do the work we could not do sufficiently ourselves, but we also do not expect this.

If one of these unexpected events occurs, then the survey could resume–so keep your email address current. Until then, and for as long as we continue to operate the site, participants in the upcoming July 2018 round will retain free memberships.

Car Reliability Stats–Now Covering Through March 31, 2018

We’ve posted the 47th update of our car reliability stats. These cover through March 31, 2018, so about 11 months ahead of those you’ll find elsewhere.

Some quick observations:

The redesigned Chevrolet Equinox and GMC Terrain rarely required repairs. Congrats to GM for a clean launch.

The Chrysler Pacifica has worsened in its second model year. I’ve been meaning to split out stats for the hybrid, but haven’t yet. A higher percentage of hybrids could be the cause.

Limited data on the redesigned Toyota Camry indicate an about average number of repairs.

Limited data on the new VW Altas, redesigned Audi Q5, redesigned Honda Accord, and redesigned Honda Odyssey put them all in the red zone. We’ll have more solid stats on these in three months.

A very small amount of data on the Tesla Model 3 suggest it’s having problems, but not as many as the Model S and Model X did early in their runs. Instead, the Model 3 appears to be having about as many problems as the more mature models have been having lately. But–a very small amount of data. More in three months.

Among 2017s no repairs at all were reported for the following models:

Hyundai Sonata
Toyota Prius

Almost no repairs were reported for a few more:

Toyota Camry
Subaru Impreza (impressive for a redesign, though owners are having software issues with the infotainment system)
Toyota 4Runner
Mazda CX-5 (impressive for a redesign)

For all of our car reliability stats, check here.

First Domestic Chinese Auto Maker to Sell Cars in the U.S.?

You can already buy a few Chinese-made cars in North America, including the Buick Envision, Cadillac CT6 hybrid, and Volvo S60 Inscription, but not yet any from a Chinese company. Which of the many Chinese auto makers will be first?

Based on a presentation at NAIAS (the Detroit Auto Show), GAC now seems to be the leading contender.

Who’s GAC? They’re based in (and controlled by) the city of Gaungzhou, the capital of Guangdong, a province in southern China that happens to be the country’s largest and most economically productive. Westerners used to refer to Guangdong as Canton. It once included Hong Kong and Macau. Continue reading “First Domestic Chinese Auto Maker to Sell Cars in the U.S.?”

Most Disappointing New Car at the 2018 NAIAS

Most disappointing new car at NAIAS: the 2018 Ford EcoSport.

Ford dragged its feet on importing this small crossover from India (a first for the U.S. market). But the segment has become so hot that, like Chevrolet with the Trax, it decided it had to offer it.

Ford claims to have thoroughly upgraded the EcoSport to make it suitable for North America. Even so, I found some extraordinarily cheap, loose, and/or poorly fitting interior pieces inside both cars on the show floor, including the overhead sunglass holder, the visor mirror covers, and the door trim.

Hopefully the bits that cannot be seen are better designed and sturdier.

The Best Car Reliability Information Hardly Anyone Sees

Much of TrueDelta’s car reliability information is only accessible by members. But do members know this information exists?

With the following types of reports do you:

–not realize (or forget) it exists

–know it exists, don’t see the point

–know it exists, see the point, but never visit the pages

–use this information

The reliability reports:

1. reliability stats that only include powertrain and chassis repairs (things that can make the car undriveable)

2. repair-odds stats: percentage of cars with no repairs and percentage of cars with 3+ repair trips in the past year (because averages don’t provide this information)

3. reliability trends (displayed, make it easier to compare model years and see where a car might be heading)

No one else does any of the above. But tree, forest. etc.

The pages with these stats aren’t used much. To what extent is this due to poor communication, both on the site and elsewhere?

All are accessible through the menus on the reliability home page.

Most Common Repairs — Half Fly Under the Radar

We asked visitors to TrueDelta’s Facebook page to guess the 20 most commonly reported repairs. Ten were guessed, another ten have been flying under the radar. Is there any pattern to the way perceptions don’t match reality, of the car parts most likely to need work?

One note before getting to the list: none of the most commonly repaired parts are internal to the engine or transmission. And now, the list, with items not guessed marked with a **.

1. wheel bearing
2. struts**
3. water pump
4. tie-rod (usually just an end)**
5. stabilizer bar end links
6. A/C recharge (usually indicates a leak)
7. shock absorber**
8. suspension control arm**
9. O2 sensor
10. brake caliper**
11. CV joint / axle
12. engine mount**
13. ignition coil
14. catalytic converter
15. alternator
16. exhaust flex pipe**
17. headlight bulb**
18. A/C compressor
19. ball joint**
20. thermostat**

“Headlight bulb” probably wasn’t guessed because most are cheap and easy to change, so many people barely think of them as a repair. But an increasing number are difficult and, with labor, can be expensive to change.

Same with thermostats. Some are cheap and easy. Some are far from it.

Exhaust–why did no one guess this? Maybe because exhausts last much longer than they used to. Back in the day there were car repair chains that focused on exhaust systems, there was so much work in the area.

Brake calipers–while I didn’t count pads and rotors, which may have led people to ignore the braking system completely, there are brake parts other than pads and rotors. Calipers seize up and require replacement fairly often, especially since they’re not maintained as thoroughly as they used to be. I think this is because calipers have become cheaper to replace once every few years than to maintain annually.

Motor mount–no one thinks of motor mounts until they have to replace one.

Now for the final five–they’re all suspension parts. People focus on the engine and transmission, which don’t often fail, while much more common suspension repairs fly beneath the radar.

People might have ignored struts and shock absorbers as wear items, but their failure isn’t nearly as predictable as tires and brake pads, so we include them.

But what about tie-rod ends, control arms, and ball joints? I’m especially surprised no one guessed the first.

And control arms? Combined with ball joints, which often cannot be replaced separately, they’d be #2. Combined with both ball joints and control arm bushings, which cannot or at least are not replaced separately on many cars, they’d be #1–the most commonly repaired part of the car.

J.D. Power IQS 2017: Who Did Best, And What Does It Mean?

J.D. Power presented the results of its 31st annual Initial Quality Study (IQS) today at the Detroit-based Automotive Press Association. For the second year in a row domestic brands scored better than the imports, though Hyundai-Kia did best of all. Lexus, which used to have the top score, for the first time ranked below the average. Most other Japanese nameplates were also below average. Subaru and Mazda (both popular with TrueDelta’s members) ranked near the bottom. Should you now be most worried when buying a Japanese car? Not really, but to understand why you’ve got to understand what the IQS measures.

For the IQS J.D. Power surveys owners after they’ve had their cars for 90 days–hence the “initial” before quality. This isn’t a severe limitation, as there’s a strong correlation between initial quality scores and those on a separate survey covering the third year of ownership. (And beyond the third year? J.D. Power collects no data on how reliability cars are after the warranty ends.)

Anything car owners consider to be a problem counts as a problem. Even if the problem involves a third-party app or a non-compliant cell phone that won’t link up, it counts. Such problems probably aren’t a large percentage of the total. More of a potential methodological weakness: this approach opens the door wide for subjectivity, and car owners’ perceptions vary greatly. (Consumer Reports shares this weakness, compounding it by asking participants to only report problems they considered serious.)

If the above were the only limitations to the IQS, the rankings probably would still serve as a good indicator of reliability. But, as I’ve noted repeatedly in the past, IQS combines two very different types of problems: repairable mechanical issues and non-repaired design issues (especially ease of use). This wasn’t always the case, but as mechanical reliability improved J.D. Power redesigned the survey three times, each time broadening the scope of what counts as a problem. This year about two-thirds of all problems were the latter, non-repairable sort, with infotainment systems (including Bluetooth and voice recognition) the chief culprits.

Japanese cars continue to have the best mechanical reliability. But their infotainment systems too often are difficult to use. For example, Honda’s and Acura’s systems often include two separate screens, but too few physical knobs, while Lexus has been failing to make a mouse-like interface work. The systems in Hyundais and Kias tend to be much simpler. Meanwhile, Detroit-based manufacturers have improved their infotainment systems to the point that they’re often the easiest to use. Ford’s score improved a massive 16 points this year because it replaced the problematic MyFord Touch system with an all-new, much more easily operated SYNC 3. Even Cadillac’s CUE infotainment system, the worst in Detroit, has improved.

With the usability of infotainment systems finally improving (for most auto makers anyway), collision avoidance and autonomous driving systems could become a larger concern. Slightly more problems were reported with such systems this year than last year, partly because more cars are being purchased with such systems. It’s unclear what proportion of these problems are also a matter of usability. I almost always turn lane departure warning systems off because most are far more annoying than helpful.

Dave Sargent, who oversees the survey at J.D. Power, acknowledged that the domestics now outscore the imports due to their more usable infotainment systems rather than their mechanical reliability, though the latter has also improved. J.D. Power bases assembly plant rankings on mechanical reliability alone, Here Toyota plants won five of the nine awards. Three went to European Plants and one went to a domestic brand plant (for GM’s large pickups).

A final caveat: most brands score within a dozen points of the average. Only a few outliers score well below the average.

The IQS would be far more useful if it provided two separate sets of scores rather than combined scores. As is, it’s not possible to tell whether low scores are due to reliability or to usability. More often than not reported problems involve the latter. Luckily, it’s easier to avoid design issues than mechanical issues: just take thorough test drives before deciding which car to buy.