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Product Quality Rankings of Detroit's Big Three and Five Japan-Based Auto Manufacturers
by James Bleeker

Content Summary

This page provides two charts that plot the quality ranks of Detroit's Big Three and 5 Japan-based automobile manufacturers - General Motors Corporation, Ford Motor Company, Chrysler Group, Toyota Motor Corporation, Honda Motor Company, Nissan Motor Company, Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd. (maker of the Subaru), and Mazda Motor 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 8 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 8 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 eight 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 eight 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 and 5 Japan-Based Auto Manufacturers by Infrequency of Trouble-Prone Models

Quality Ranks of Detroit's Big Three Auto Manufacturers and 5 Japan-Based Auto Manufacturers by Overall Reliability

Summary and Analysis

Some important points from the foregoing graphs are:

1. By the quality ranking based on the infrequency of trouble-prone models, Detroit's Big Three were scattered among the Japan-based manufacturers in 1980, but in 1995, 2000, 2005, and 2010 all of Detroit's Big Three fell below Toyota Motor Corporation, Honda Motor Company, Nissan Motor Company, Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd., and Mazda Motor Corporation.

2. By the quality measure based on overall reliability, Ford Motor Company alone has approached the quality ranks of the Japan-based automobile manufacturers, and only in the years 1975 and 2010.

3. By both quality measures, General Motors Corporation and the Chrysler Group appear to be vying for worse product quality.

4. By both quality measures, Ford Motor Company's quality rank plunged until the early 1990s, but since then has nearly recovered to what it was in earlier years.

5. By both quality measures, GM's and the Chrysler Group's quality ranks plunged until the mid-1990s and have remained at about those levels.

6. By both quality measures, in 2010 Ford ranks much higher than GM and Chrysler, but lower than 4 of the 5 Japan-based auto makers.

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.

AutoOnInfo.net: The auto-quality website with the Open Directory Cool Site Award.

 

Additional Resources

Detailed information on auto reliability and car, truck, brand, and manufacturer quality, as well as changes in U.S. car and light vehicle market shares, are given in the car guides below. These are available as Kindle ebooks and may be purchased for a small fee on Amazon.com. Links to the Amazon pages offering the books are provided.

Icon for AutoOnInfo.net’s Car Quality Series, Volume 3: Car Guide and Shopping Companion: The 2012 Reliability GPAs and Grades of the 6-to-10-Year-Old Cars and Trucks from Model Years 2002 to 2005

AutoOnInfo.net’s Car Quality Series, Volume 3: Car Guide and Shopping Companion: The 2012 Reliability GPAs and Grades of the 6-to-10-Year-Old Cars and Trucks from Model Years 2002 to 2005

Volume 3 of AutoOnInfo.net’s Car Quality Series offers quality ratings on car and truck models, brands, and manufacturers using Auto Reliability Grade Point Averages (GPAs) and Grades. With these measures of performance, this e-guide brings to the aid of auto consumers a convenient, anywhere, anytime source of automobile information on enduring reliability. As a further aid, this book provides graphs depicting both automobile brand and manufacturer spectral signatures and density functions.

Ratings and rankings of vehicle models, brands, and manufacturers are for North American model years 2002 to 2005 when the cars and trucks were between the ages of 6 and 10 years old. Used car buyers may use the Reliability GPAs and Grades as a valuable shopping tool for earlier and later model years as well. New car buyers looking for models and lines that have withstood the test of time may use the GPAs and grades as a guide for what runs well over a multi-year time span. Motor vehicles graded and ranked include small cars, family cars, upscale cars, luxury cars, sport cars, small SUVs, midsize SUVs, large SUVs, minivans, and pickup trucks. For each of these body styles, the best and the worst are listed in separate chapters.

Icon for AutoOnInfo.net’s Car Quality Series Volume 2: Brand Quality for Model Years 1985 to 2006 and Effect on Brand Market Shares from 1985 to 2009

AutoOnInfo.net's Car Quality Series, Volume 2: Brand Quality for Model Years 1985 to 2006 and Effect on Brand Market Shares from 1985 to 2009

This volume of AutoOnInfo.net’s car guide series offers consumers and researchers an historical summary of the reliability and durability of car and truck brands and examines how these brands have fared in their U.S. market shares. It uses 6-year-old model entries in Consumer Reports’ Used Car to Avoid – also termed Vehicles to Avoid and Worst Cars, Year by Year – and CR’s reliability charts to ascribe quality grades to automobile brands for model-year groups 1985 to 1989, 1990 to 1994, 1995 to 1999, 2000 to 2004, 2005 to 2006, and 1985 to 2006. In addition to ascribing quality grades to each brand, it provides a chart that plots the number of the brand’s 6-year-old model entries in CR’s vehicles to avoid. To examine the effect that a brand’s reliability and durability has had on sales, two or more charts depicting the brand’s U.S. market shares for calendar years 1985 to 2009 are given. These grades and charts and the author’s comments impart an historical perspective that sheds light on the present condition of surviving vehicle lines and their future prospects, individual and institutional shortcomings, and what effect these may have on the U.S.

Icon for AutoOnInfo.net’s Car Guide and Shopping Companion: The 2009 Reliability GPAs and Grades of the 6-to-10-Year-Old Cars and Trucks from Model Years 1999 to 2002

AutoOnInfo.net’s Car Guide and Shopping Companion: The 2009 Reliability GPAs and Grades of the 6-to-10-Year-Old Cars and Trucks from Model Years 1999 to 2002

AutoOnInfo.net’s Car Guide offers quality ratings on car models, brands, and manufacturers using Auto Reliability Grade Point Averages (GPAs) and Grades. With this guide, GPAs and grades, familiar by common-place use in educational settings, are brought to the aid of car consumers seeking a convenient, any-where, any-time source of automobile information on enduring reliability. Car models rated are from North American model years 1999 to 2002 when the cars were between the ages of 6 and 10 years old. Used car buyers may use the Reliability GPAs and grades as a valuable shopping tool for earlier and later model years as well. New car buyers looking for models and lines that have withstood the test of time may use the GPAs and grades as a guide for what runs well over a multi-year time span. Motor vehicles graded and ranked include convertibles, coupes, sedans, wagons, hatchbacks, minivans, SUVs, and pickup trucks.

Also visit www.CarsOnInfo.net and www.CarQualityInfo.net for more car and truck quality tables, charts, graphs, and information.