Japanese brands, led by Lexus, Subaru and Mazda, claim eight of the top-ten places in Consumer Reports' 2013 annual Car Brand Report Cards, with Audi (8th) and Mercedes-Benz (10th) the only non-Japanese nameplates to make it into that upper echelon.
Toyota, Acura, Honda and Scion claimed places four through seven, with Infiniti ninth. Kia (11th) was the highest-ranking Korean brand and Cadillac (14th) was tops among the North-Americans.
Lowest-ranked were Chrysler, Ford, Lincoln, Jeep and, in last place, Dodge, with a score of 46. Top-ranked Lexus scored 79 in CR's rating system.
Consumer Reports calculates each brand's overall score using an equally weighted combination of its own road-test scores and reliability data for each of the models it has tested.
Reliability scores are based on information provided by CR subscribers during the organization's Annual Auto Survey.
For a brand to be included, both sets of information must be available for at least three separate models within the brand umbrella. For that reason, Fiat, Jaguar, Land Rover, Mitsubishi, Porsche, Ram, and Smart are not included in the rankings.
Each had too few models for which CR had adequate reliability data. Several sell fewer than three models.
In 2013, for the first time, Consumer Reports graded each automaker's individual brands rather than determining a single score for all the brands – for example, Ford and Lincoln were scored separately rather than being combined in one overall Ford score.
Subaru scores points for the sportiness of some models, while Mazdas are among the most reliable cars.
Also noteworthy, Honda's and Toyota's scores were aided by significant improvements in their redesigned Accord and Camry, respectively. And Honda's 2013 refresh of the Civic put it back on CR's Recommended list.
Audi topped the European brands primarily because it was the only one of the group to achieve very good reliability as well as excellent road-test scores. Audi was tied with Acura for having the highest average road-test score.
Mini had the worst overall score of any European brand, placing 20th among the 26 brands ranked.
Ford continued to suffer from CR's disdain for its MyFord Touch interface and related electronic problems, as well as what the organization calls "unrefined" dual-clutch automated manual transmissions and a new lineup of EcoBoost turbocharged engines that don't deliver the performance and fuel economy of some competitors' larger engines.
The complete report and scores for all 13 automakers in Consumer Reports Car Brand Report Cards for 2013 are available in the April issue of Consumer Reports.