1980 Auto Brand Quality Ratings and Rankings
by James Bleeker
This page provides two rankings of the brands of automobiles sold in North America
from model year 1974 to 1979. Each ranking employs a different method of computation.
The statistics used in the computations for rating and ranking the brands are those found within the April 1980 issue of Consumer Reports. The two sections providing the necessary statistics are CR's
Some-Used-Car-Models-To-Avoid list and its reliability charts. Reliability is defined by the magazine as the infrequency of serious problems, which it measures annually by a subscriber survey.
The first ranking of the car brands is based on each brand's infrequency of trouble-prone models. This ranking provides a measure of how well each brand's models successfully avoided the bottom end of the model-quality spectrum.
The second ranking of the car brands is based on the average of the overall reliability ratings of each brand's models. The second ranking provides a measure of how well a brand's models performed over the entire model-quality spectrum.
1980 Auto Brand Quality by Infrequency of Trouble-Prone Models
To form a brand-quality measure from the 1980 list of Some Used Car Models To Avoid, the first step is to count each brand's entries on the list. Each model year of each model is treated as a separate entry.
Next, as the number of automobile models sold under a brand name varies greatly from brand to brand, it is necessary to take account of the fact that a brand with more models has a greater opportunity to have more model years of low quality. To compensate for a possibly inflated, or deflated, frequency of trouble-prone model years within a brand, as well as a variability in model data sufficiency, the number of a brand's entries in CR's 1980
Some-Used-Car-Models-To-Avoid list is divided by the total number of overall reliability ratings for the brand found in the reliability charts of the same issue of Consumer Reports. The overall reliability ratings are found in the
Overall-Record row of the 1980 reliability charts.
By the method of computation, this quality measure begins with 0 and may run to a value some greater than 1. The value of 0 is the highest quality rating attainable by a brand and is achieved only when a brand has no entry on the
The quality ranking of the car brands by the foregoing computations, together with their quality ratings,
is given in the first bar graph below. Only those brands with at least 5 overall CR reliability ratings are included.
1980 Auto Brand Quality by the Average of Overall Reliability Ratings
To compute brand-quality ratings and assemble a brand-quality ranking using Consumer Reports' overall reliability ratings, a number is associated with each rating. A +1.0 is ascribed to a rating of Much Better Than Average, a +0.5 to a rating of Better Than Average, a 0 to a rating of Average, a -0.5 to a rating of Worse Than Average, and a -1.0 to a rating of Much Worse Than Average. Then an average is taken over all of the brand's model years and models offering an overall reliability rating. CR's 1980 overall reliability ratings are found in the
Overall-Record row of its reliability charts.
For this measure of quality, the range is from -1.0 (the worst possible) to +1.0 (the best possible).
The quality ranking of the car brands by this set of computations, together with their quality ratings,
is given in the second bar graph below. Only those brands with at least 5 overall CR reliability ratings are included.
The Bar Graphs of 1980 Brand Quality
In both of the graphs that follow, the order of the car brands is with the
best on top.
When two or more auto brands have no entry in CR's list of Some Used Car Models To Avoid, the
brands are listed in descending order of number of overall reliability ratings (a
brand with a greater number of overall reliability ratings appears above a
brand with fewer ratings), as those brands with a greater number of ratings would have a greater opportunity for a trouble-prone model year to be found.
Summary and Analysis
Some interesting points exhibited by the graphs above are:
1. For lower volume models, say, luxury
models, use of the Used-Cars-to-Avoid list to rank brands by
infrequency of trouble-prone models may be less accurate in the
early 1980s. Note that Consumer Reports terms this list "Some
Used Car Models to Avoid" in 1980 and "Some Used
Cars to Avoid" in 1985, suggesting that list may be less
comprehensive at that time.
2. Even at this relatively early period
(1974-1979) of more modern cars, the Toyota brand was among the
best, if not the best.
3. Mercedes-Benz still retained its mantel
of engineering excellence in model years 1974 to 1979.
4. Although General Motors' Chevrolet brand
was in the bottom half of the quality spectrum, nonetheless, in
1980, it was still in the average range.
My experience with my 1976 Chevrolet, purchased new, was
hopefully less than average, although I don't know whether it
was less than average, average, or better than average. The
vehicle could easily stall until it was "warmed up," and it took
about 20 minutes to "warm up," in both summer and winter.
To view the graphs showing the 1980 ratings and rankings of the
manufacturers of automobiles, click
For a Google Knol that summarizes the changes in auto-brand and auto-manufacturer ranking by these quality measures from 1990 to 2010, click
AutoOnInfo.net: The auto-quality website with the
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