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Old 10-26-2005, 07:11 PM
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New Car Preview 2006: Consumer Reports Survey Predicts Subpar Reliability for Some Asian Models; Survey also finds Continued Reliability Problems for some European and Domestic Models

10/26/2005 6:00:00 PM

To: National Desk

Contact: Douglas Love of Consumer Reports, 914-378-2437 or dlove@consumer.org; Russell Datz of Brandware Group, 516-599-0062 or rdatz@brandwaregroup.com

YONKERS, N.Y., Oct. 26 /U.S. Newswire/ -- Consumer Reports' latest annual reliability survey predicts widely disparate records for some Asian automakers including Nissan and Hyundai. The survey also finds continued troubles for European and domestic automakers with some 2006 vehicles. For the second year in a row, European automakers did not have even one entry on CR's list of models with the best predicted reliability ratings.

Four models from Nissan and its luxury brand, Infiniti- Nissan's Quest. Armada and Titan, and the Infiniti QX56-are on Consumer Reports' list of 2006 models with the worst predicted reliability. But the new Infiniti M35 and M45 are among the most reliable models. Other Nissan models, such as the Murano and Sentra, have above-average predicted reliability. Historically, Nissan and Infiniti have done well in CR reliability surveys; many vehicles from the automaker have had above-average reliability over the years.

CR predicts that reliability for 2006 models from Hyundai is likely to be spotty. For example, the Hyundai Tucson is predicted to have poor reliability while the Santa Fe and Elantra are predicted to have average reliability. Reliability for the new- for-2006 Sonata remains unknown.

"The message to consumers is clear: You can't gauge reliability based only on a nameplate. Some automakers do have a better track record but individual models-especially newer ones- can have problems," said David Champion, senior director of Consumer Reports' Auto Test Center in Connecticut. "New-car buyers should always check our reliability rating for the model they're buying."

Champion noted that the difference between models with the best and worst predicted reliability in the survey is striking. For example, among large SUVs, the least reliable model, Infiniti's QX56, is likely to have about eight times as many problems as the most reliable model, the Toyota Land Cruiser.

Consumer Reports' New Car Preview 2006, on sale now, includes a first look at CR's latest reliability findings. The publication, which costs $5.99 in the U.S. and $6.99 in Canada, is part of the respected Consumer Reports Cars series of special automotive publications. More detailed results and analysis will be presented in Consumer Reports Annual Auto Issue next April.

Findings are based on Consumer Reports' 2005 survey of subscribers to both its magazine and web site, http://www.ConsumerReports.org. This year, the survey reached a milestone as CR gathered reliability information on more than one million vehicles in total-the most ever received. The survey was conducted in the spring of 2005 and covered 1998 to 2005 models. The total number of vehicles included is up from 810,000 in 2004 and 675,000 in 2003. (Consumer Reports has a total of roughly six million paid subscribers to its magazine and web site.)

Among the other findings in New Car Preview 2006:

-- Of the 31 cars that earned Consumer Reports top rating for predicted reliability, 29 were Japanese and two were domestic models. There are no European models on that list. Of the 29 vehicles from Japanese manufacturers, about half-15-are from Toyota and its Lexus division and eight are from Honda. The two domestic models making the list are the previous generation Chevrolet Monte Carlo (redesigned for 2006) and the new-for-2005 Mercury Mariner.

-- Of the 48 cars that are on Consumer Reports list of vehicles predicted to have the worst reliability, 22 carry domestic nameplates, 20 are European, four are from Japan, and two are from South Korea. The Japanese models are all from Nissan and its Infiniti division, specifically, Nissan's Quest, Armada, and Titan, and the Infiniti QX56. The two South Korean models on the list are the Hyundai Tucson and the Kia Sportage.

-- CR's list of sedans with the worst predicted reliability includes some of Europe's most expensive nameplates such as the Audi A8, BMW 7 Series, and the Mercedes-Benz S-Class. Other sedans making the list of "Least Reliable" cars include the Jaguar S-Type, Mercedes-Benz E-Class, Saab 9-3, and the V8- powered BMW 5 Series. The rest of the bottom-rated small cars and sedans were from domestic manufacturers and included the Chevrolet Cobalt, the V8-powered Chrysler 300 and the Lincoln LS.

-- Despite their complex mechanical drivetrains, hybrids from both domestic and Japanese manufacturers continue to have above- average reliability. Those hybrids include the Honda Accord and Civic Hybrids, the Toyota Prius, and the Lexus RX400h-all of which received top scores. The Ford Escape Hybrid had above- average reliability.

Consumer Reports' expert team of survey researchers and statisticians used the survey data to predict reliability of new, 2006 model-year vehicles. To calculate predicted-reliability ratings on currently-available models, CR averages the overall reliability scores for the most recent three years, provided that the vehicle remained substantially unchanged in that period and also didn't change for 2006. If a vehicle was new or redesigned in the past couple of years, one or two years' data may be used, if that's all that's available.

Toyota, along with its Lexus division, makes more than half of the sedans and small cars that earned Consumer Reports highest reliability rating. All the others that earned this rating were also Japanese, including the Honda Accord and previous-generation Civic; the 2006 Infiniti M35/45; and nonturbo models of the Subaru Impreza.

SUVs from Asian manufacturers were the most reliable overall, with a few notable exceptions. Large SUVs with the worst reliability were the Infiniti QX56, Nissan Armada, Hummer H2, and Lincoln Navigator, in that order. Two small SUVs from South Korea the Hyundai Tucson and Kia Sportage, also rate among the worst. European brands anchored the least reliable list in midsized SUVs. Unreliable models include the V8 BMW X5, Land Rover Range Rover, Land Rover LR3, Porsche Cayenne, Volkswagen Touareg, and Volvo XC90. Notable exceptions were the BMW X3 and the six- cylinder X5, which improved to average.

American SUVs continue to produce mixed results. While the Mercury Mariner was the best of the domestic group of SUVs, the Ford Explorer, Mercury Mountaineer, and Jeep Grand Cherokee were among the least reliable. With the exception of the Chevrolet Tahoe and Suburban; the GMC Yukon and Yukon XL; and the Cadillac Escalade, large American SUVs have subpar reliability.

Among minivans, the Chrysler Town & Country and Dodge Grand Caravan dropped to below average in reliability. The Toyota Sienna is the only minivan that rates better than average. GM's minivans-the Buick Terraza, Chevrolet Uplander, Pontiac Montana SV6, and Saturn Relay-joined the Nissan Quest at the bottom of CR's list.

Looking at pickups, the Toyota Tundra and the new Honda Ridgeline earned the top ratings. The redesigned 2005 Toyota Tacoma V6 rated just average, but the four-cylinder Tacoma was above average. The Nissan Titan dropped from average and is now on the worst list. The Ford F-150 continued to score below average.

Consumer Reports annual reliability survey is used in determining which makes and models are recommended to consumers by CR. Consumer Reports recommends only models that have performed well in tests conducted at its Auto Test Center in Connecticut and that have shown average or better reliability in its annual survey. In addition, vehicles that perform poorly in government or insurance industry crash tests and rollover tests will also not be recommended. Occasionally, Consumer Reports may recommend a new or redesigned model that's too new to have compiled a reliability record if it scores well in CR's tests and if previous generations or the manufacturer had consistently outstanding reliability.

The New Car Preview 2006 ($5.99 U.S./$6.99 Canada) is available everywhere magazines are sold. It includes reviews and information on 260 models; an exclusive list of CR-recommended vehicles; comprehensive test results and ratings; and the first appearance of CR's revised, easier-to-understand reliability history chart presentation. Other feature stories include cars to watch in 2006 and 2007, tips on how to avoid overcharges for maintenance and repairs, and a list of five steps for getting the right car at the best price.

Consumer Reports is one of the most trusted sources for information and advice on consumer products and services. CR has the most comprehensive auto-test program of any American magazine or web site; CR's auto experts have decades of experience in driving, testing, and reporting on cars.

http://www.usnewswire.com/

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/ 2005 U.S. Newswire 202-347-2770/

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