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1995 Auto Brand Quality Ratings and Rankings
by James Bleeker

Content Summary

This page provides two rankings of the brands of automobiles sold in North America from model year 1987 to 1994. 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 issues of Consumer Reports. The two sections providing the necessary statistics are CR's 1995 Used-Cars-To-Avoid list and its reliability charts in the April 1995 to April 2002 issues. 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 each brand's reliability percentrank averages for model years 1988 to 1994. The second ranking provides a measure of how well a brand's models performed over the entire model-quality spectrum.

It should be noted that the second rankings for 1985 and 1990 are based on the average of the overall reliability ratings of each brand's models found in the Trouble-Index row of CR's reliability charts. However, in 1995, this overall reliability rating was not offered by Consumer Reports; consequently, the reliability percentrank averages for model years 1988 to 1994 are used.

1995 Auto Brand Quality by Infrequency of Trouble-Prone Models

To form a brand-quality measure from the 1995 list of Used Cars 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 1995 Used-Cars-To-Avoid list is divided by the total number of overall reliability columns for the brand found in the reliability charts of the same issue of Consumer Reports.

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 Used-Cars-To-Avoid list.

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.

1995 Auto Brand Quality by the Average of the Brand's Reliability Percentrank Averages

This brand quality measure is a simple average of the brand's reliability percentrank averages for model years 1988 to 1994. The brand reliability percentrank averages for these model years may be found at  CarsOnInfo.net: 1988 to 1998 Car Reliability Percentrank Averages for Car Brands. Cars on Info is a sister site to Auto on Info.

For this measure of quality, the range is from 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.

The Bar Graphs of 1995 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 Used Cars 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.

Automobile Brand Quality in 1995 by Infrequency of Trouble-Prone Models Automobile Brand Quality in 1995 by Average of CarsOnInfo.net's Reliability Percentrank Averages for Model Years 1988 to 1994

Summary and Analysis

When these rankings are compared with those of 1990, it seems clear that General Motors made an effort to improve the quality of the Buick brand. From the first graph, it may be seen that GM took the Buick brand out of the very bottom end of the quality spectrum (in 1990, the Buick brand was 5th worst by frequency of trouble-prone models and 3rd worst by overall reliability), and from the second graph, it succeeded in putting it rather in the middle of the overall quality spectrum.

Possibly the most interesting point that may be gathered from the pair of graphs is that a brand with few models and with one bad model year may have very different rankings by the two measures of quality. Note that Honda's Acura is ranked 2nd by the broader quality measure, but 24th by the quality measure focusing on trouble-prone models.

For a Google Knol that summarizes the changes in auto-brand and auto-manufacturer ranking by these quality measures from 1990 to 2010, click Go.

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