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The Quality Ranks of North America's 6 Major Automobile Manufacturers
by James Bleeker

Content Summary

This page provides two charts that plot the quality ranks of North America's six major automobile manufacturers - Toyota Motor Corporation, Honda Motor Company, Nissan Motor Company, Ford Motor Company, the Chrysler Group, and General Motors Corporation. Each chart employs a different method for computing the quality rank of the manufacturers.

The statistics used in the computations for ranking the car makers are those found within the April issues of Consumer Reports. The two sections providing the necessary statistics are CR's Used-Cars-To-Avoid lists 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 graph provides the ranks of the above 6 car makers based on each manufacturer's infrequency of trouble-prone models. These ranks provide a measure of how well each manufacturer's models successfully avoided the bottom end of the model-quality spectrum for the years 1980, 1985, 1990, 1995, 2000, 2005, and 2010.

The second graph provides the ranks of the above 6 car makers based on the average of the overall reliability ratings of each manufacturer's models. The second ranking provides a measure of how well a manufacturer's models performed over the entire model-quality spectrum in each of the years 1975, 1980, 1985, 1990, 1995, 2000, 2005, and 2010.

Auto Manufacturer Quality by Infrequency of Trouble-Prone Models

To form a car-manufacturer quality measure from each of the annual lists of Used Cars To Avoid, the first step is to count each manufacturer'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 by a car manufacturer varies greatly from maker to maker, it is necessary to take account of the fact that a manufacturer 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 of a manufacturer, as well as a variability in model data sufficiency, the number of a manufacturer's entries in a Used-Cars-To-Avoid list is divided by the total number of overall reliability ratings for the manufacturer found in the reliability charts of the same issue of Consumer Reports.

Finally, the automobile manufacturers with at least 5 overall reliability ratings are ordered from best to worst for each of the years 1980, 1985, 1990, 1995, 2000, 2005, and 2010. The best manufacturer in a given year has a quality rank of 1. The worst quality rank varies from year to year and ranges from 13 to 19.

Automobile manufacturers with a rank in at least one year include American Motors Corporation, BMW AG, the Chrysler Group (previously Chrysler Corporation, the Chrysler Group of DaimlerChrysler AG, and Chrysler LLC, and presently Chrysler Group LLC), Ford Motor Company, Fiat S.p.A., General Motors Corporation, Honda Motor Company, Isuzu Motors Ltd., Jaguar, Kia Motors Corporation, Mazda Motor Corporation, Daimler AG (previously Daimler-Benz AG and the Mercedes-Benz division of DaimlerChrysler AG), Mitsubishi Motors Corporation, Nissan Motor Company, PSA Peugeot Citroën, Porsche AG, Saab, Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd., Suzuki Motor Corporation, Toyota Motor Corporation, Volkswagen AG, and Volvo.

For several of the above years, Saab was a division of General Motors Corporation and Volvo and Jaguar were divisions of Ford Motor Company; however, for all of the above years, they have been treated as separate companies.

General Motors Corporation encompasses its now bankrupt predecessor, renamed in GM's 2009 bankruptcy proceeding as Motors Liquidation Company.

The quality ranks of the above six automobile manufacturers by these computations are given for each of the above years in the first graph below.

Auto Manufacturer Quality by the Average of Overall Reliability Ratings

To compute car-maker quality ratings and compute a quality rank using Consumer Reports' overall reliability ratings, a number is first associated with each of CR's overall ratings. 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 manufacturer's model years and models offering an overall reliability rating. Lastly, the automobile manufacturers with at least 5 overall reliability ratings are ordered from best to worst for each of the years 1975, 1980, 1985, 1990, 1995, 2000, 2005, and 2010. The best manufacturer in a given year has a quality rank of 1. The worst quality rank varies from year to year and ranges from 13 to 19.

Automobile manufacturers with a rank in at least one year include American Motors Corporation, BMW AG, the Chrysler Group (previously Chrysler Corporation, the Chrysler Group of DaimlerChrysler AG, and Chrysler LLC, and presently Chrysler Group LLC), Ford Motor Company, Fiat S.p.A., General Motors Corporation, Honda Motor Company, International Harvester Company, Isuzu Motors Ltd., Jaguar, Kia Motors Corporation, Mazda Motor Corporation, Daimler AG (previously Daimler-Benz AG and the Mercedes-Benz division of DaimlerChrysler AG), Mitsubishi Motors Corporation, Nissan Motor Company, PSA Peugeot Citroën, Porsche AG, Saab, Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd., Suzuki Motor Corporation, Toyota Motor Corporation, Volkswagen AG, and Volvo.

For several of the above years, Saab was a division of General Motors Corporation and Volvo and Jaguar were divisions of Ford Motor Company; however, for all of the above years, they have been treated as separate companies.

General Motors Corporation encompasses its now bankrupt predecessor, renamed in GM's 2009 bankruptcy proceeding as Motors Liquidation Company.

The quality ranks of the above six car manufacturers by this set of computations are given in the second graph below.

As overall reliability ratings were not offered by Consumer Reports in 1995, Auto Reliability Percentrank averages were used for ranking the automobile manufacturers.

The Graphs of Auto Manufacturer Quality Ranks

Quality Ranks of Detroit's Big Three Auto Manufacturers Versus Japan's Big 3 Auto Manufacturers by Infrequency of Trouble-Prone Models

Quality Ranks of Detroit's Big Three Auto Manufacturers Versus Japan's Big 3 Auto Manufacturers by Overall Reliability

Summary and Analysis

Some important points from the foregoing graphs are:

1. Only Toyota Motor Corporation has had consistently high quality rank by both measures of quality.

2. Honda Motor Company has had consistently high quality rank by overall reliability.

3. General Motors Corporation and the Chrysler Group have a downward trend in quality standing by both quality measures. Each seems to vie with the other for poorer quality vehicles.

4. Both of Ford Motor Company's quality standings fell quite considerably in the 1970s, 1980s, and early 1990s, but have recovered greatly from their depths in the mid-1990s.

5. By both quality measures, Ford ranks much higher than GM and Chrysler in 2010, but quite a bit lower than Toyota and Honda.

Additional Resources

To view the quality ratings of all of the auto manufacturers for a given year, click the applicable year.

2010  2005  2000  1995  1990  1985  1980  1975 

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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