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Consumer Reports' Annual Reliability Survey Finds Narrowest Gap Yet Between Domestic, European Makes

    YONKERS, N.Y.--March 12, 2002--

Japanese makes once again have lowest average number of problems per 100 cars; Most common complaints overall in '01 were squeaks, rattles and leaks HOW CONSUMERS REPORTS (CR) TESTS CARS:

    - CR maintains its IMPARTIALITY by buying all the cars it tests
    from dealers, just as consumers do, accepting no ads, and
    barring the commercial use of its reports.
    - CR automotive EXPERTS test all cars at our track and on public
    roads, for performance, convenience, and comfort, with safety
    in mind.
    - CR surveys its subscribers to provide RELEVANT information on
    auto reliability, dealer satisfaction, and more.
    - CR is published by Consumers Union, an INDEPENDENT, NON-PROFIT
    champion for consumers.

    In compiling a snapshot of 2001 brands and models, Consumer Reports annual auto reliability survey has found the narrowest margin yet between domestic and European nameplates. European- and American-branded vehicles averaged 23 and 24 problems per 100 vehicles, respectively. Models made by Japanese companies averaged only 15 problems per 100. The average for all 2001 models was 21 problems per 100 vehicles.
    CR's most recent survey recorded our readers' experiences with 512,000 vehicles, spanning model years 1994 through 2001.
    Among domestic brands for 2001 models, Chrysler was best with 22 problems per 100, followed by GM (23) and Ford (26). Some Chrysler cars had few problems when new but became troublesome over time. The 2001 300M, for instance, was the most reliable American vehicle, but the 1999 version is on Consumer Reports' Used Cars to Avoid list.
    Among the 2001 models, the most complaints were for items that Consumer Reports groups as body integrity: rattles, squeaks, and leaks. Among middle-aged and older (1998 and earlier) models, electrical components -- the battery, charging system, wiring, and lights -- prompted the most complaints.
    Among Japanese manufacturers, the best were Toyota and Subaru, with 12 problems per 100, followed by Honda and Nissan, with 14. Among European makers, Saab had the fewest complaints, 14 problems per 100, but on the strength of only one model, the 9-5.
    The most reliable vehicle in the survey was the Nissan-made Infiniti QX4 sport-utility vehicle, with a rate of only 4 problems per 100 vehicles. Another SUV, the Toyota-made Lexus RX300, was second, with 5 problems per 100. The most reliable passenger car was the Infiniti I30, with just 6 problems per 100.
    Of the 142 new vehicles for which Consumer Reports had sufficient data, the midsized Audi A6 2.7T was the worst car (and second-worst vehicle overall), with 42 problems per 100 vehicles. The two-wheel-drive Ford Explorer Sport Trac was the worst vehicle in the survey, with 44 problems per 100 vehicles.

    Trouble Spots

    Consumer Reports refined the 2001 survey to reflect the changing automotive landscape. Body rust, for instance, has ceased to be a major problem, so Consumer Reports eliminated it as one of the 14 separate trouble spots asked about and grouped it with paint and trim. In its place, Consumer Reports added power equipment (such as power windows, locks, seats, and audio systems) as a new entry. Manually operated equipment is still included in the body-hardware category.
    For the past few surveys, Consumer Reports has asked about air-bag problems, including malfunctions not related to accidents. The problem rate has been reassuringly low. Consumer Reports will keep tracking this to see how well air-bag systems hold up.
    The April Auto Issue ($4.95) goes on sale March 19th through June 19th and is generally available where magazines are sold. It may also be ordered online at
    To subscribe to Consumer Reports, call 1-800-234-1645. Information and articles from the magazine can be accessed online at

    Yonkers, NY - Several Consumer Reports April issue stories and corresponding news releases are accessible to journalists via fax on demand. To request instructions, send an e-mail to or call 914-378-2430. Available stories: Crash Test, Top Picks, Best & Worst Used Cars, and a fact sheet, "Anatomy of a Rating."