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Cars Lose CR Recommendation Over Reliability Issues

Consumer Reports logo Consumer Reports 2/21/2019 Jon Linkov
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Consumer Reports can no longer recommend six car models, including the Acura RDX SUV and the Tesla Model 3 sedan, because of problems identified in CR’s annual reliability survey. The survey has data on 470,000 vehicles as reported by their owners.

Some cars improved their standing. Three models from BMW, Genesis, and Lincoln saw enough change in their reported reliability that they gained a CR recommendation.

CR gathers reliability data through an online questionnaire sent each spring to members. It asks about any problems the members may have had in the previous 12 months with 17 aspects of their vehicles, including major systems such as the suspension and electrical system, as well as fit and finish issues such as paint and trim. 

For the past few years, CR has been going back to car owners later in the summer, who didn't answer the initial survey, to gather more up-to-date information and include a greater number of the newest vehicles. The responses captured through the beginning of September have been incorporated into our annual April Autos issue. The additional data allows us to make more accurate predictions on new models.

“We nearly doubled our sample size of 2018 models, including many built later in 2018, with the inclusion of responses from the summer survey, capturing more current data about the latest vehicles," says Jake Fisher, senior director of auto testing at Consumer Reports. "This has resulted in changes in recommended status for several models.” 

Predicted reliability is a key element in CR’s Overall Score, which is calculated by combining a vehicle’s performance in our road tests; reliability and owner satisfaction ratings drawn from CR’s exclusive Auto Survey; the inclusion of blind spot warning and frontal crash prevention systems with pedestrian detection; and, if available, results from government and insurance industry crash tests.

Vehicles with the highest Overall Scores in their category get a CR recommendation. 

Newly Recommended Models With Improved Reliability

Our latest predicted reliability data moved up three models in CR’s ratings to the point that they are now recommended. They are the BMW X3 SUV, Genesis G90 sedan, and Lincoln Nautilus SUV. The BMW X3 had been redesigned for 2018, and members reported some minor engine and emissions problem initially; those issues have declined. The Genesis G90 was introduced for the 2017 model year, and there have been reports of issues with body hardware, power equipment, and engine electrical problems, but fewer complaints were lodged with 2018 models. The additional 2018 model year data did not indicate the same problems. The Lincoln Nautilus (which used to be the Lincoln MKX) has seen steady improvement in recent model years, especially with the 2018 models. 

Models That Lost CR’s Recommendation

Each car that has seen its reliability fall has its own set of issues, but there are some common themes—for example, electronics are mentioned for several of them. Included below is a description of the issues that owners raised for each, as well as responses from the manufacturers.

Some of the automakers have already issued technical service bulletins (Acura, BMW, FCA, Tesla, and VW), have had multiple service campaigns, and/or have issued software updates to deal with some of these issues. These bulletins provide dealers with instructions on how to handle a known problem. If you own one of the vehicles with such a bulletin, contact your dealer. Car companies don’t notify owners about these bulletins, so you need to be proactive about getting the fix done.

Acura RDX

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The RDX was redesigned for the 2019 model year, and our members reported issues with their own vehicles, specifically with the in-car electronics, such as the navigation system.

Fisher points out that the first model year of any newly introduced or redesigned car can have significant growing pains.

“The 2019 RDX went on sale in mid-2018, and just as we’ve seen with other manufacturers, sometimes it can take a year or more for automakers to work out the kinks,” Fisher said.

An Acura spokesman told CR that the survey respondents "purchased vehicles manufactured in the earliest months of production equipped with V1 software. In the fall, we pushed an over-the-air update to these and all vehicles in the field that significantly improved system performance and addressed these issues.”

Owners must manually choose to install the update by going into the system settings; the update can also be installed by their Acura dealer. The spokesman added that “our customer relations data indicates a substantial decrease in issues identified by our own customers who update to V2.” 

See the Acura RDX road test and ratings

BMW 5 Series

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BMW’s midsized luxury sedan dropped to worse-than-average reliability. CR members told us that they experienced multiple problems with power equipment, including areas such as the keyless entry system and the lights, along with the in-car electronics systems, such as the screen going blank and the navigation system failing. BMW didn't reply to repeated requests for comment. 

See the BMW 5 Series road test and ratings

Chrysler 300 & Dodge Charger

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The 300 and Charger are sibling vehicles—both built by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA)—and both have many of the same problems, as reported to us by CR members. That caused them to fall to worse-than-average in our reliability scores. CR members who own Chrysler 300 sedans told us that they had several issues with in-car electronics, including the display screen freezing or going blank, and problems with the radio and navigation system. There are a few key differences between the two cars when it comes to problems experienced by members. For example, problems with the 300’s climate-control system, particularly the compressor and evaporator, weren’t seen in the Charger.

Members told us that their Chargers had problems with interior and exterior trim, and molding pieces.

In addition, the Charger suffered from the same in-car electronics issues, including the display screen freezing or going blank, and problems with the radio and navigation system.

An FCA spokesman told CR that “the quality and reliability of our vehicles is of the utmost importance to all of us here at FCA US. We address all issues we see in our quality indicators, and the issues referenced had been identified and resolved.”

For example, the FCA spokesman said that the automaker had changed the materials used in the interior door-trim panel to address the problem, and that owners were no longer reporting issues with this to FCA. In addition, current owners can get the same fix done to their car if they ask the dealer to replace the door panel at no charge under normal warranty coverage.

As for infotainment issues, the FCA spokesman said that vehicles  from model year 2018 and newer are getting over-the-air firmware updates. For models from 2017 or before, FCA has released a service bulletin. Owners should bring their vehicle to their dealer and let them know about radio problems, and the software will be updated at no charge.  

See the Chrysler 300 and Dodge Charger road test and ratings. 

Tesla Model 3

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The Model 3 had below-average reliability. Members told us about problems in their cars, including issues with the door handles and loose interior trim and molding, along with paint defects, and problems with the windows—including glass defects such as cracks.

A Tesla spokeswoman told CR “we take feedback from our customers very seriously and quickly implement improvements any time we hear about issues.” She added that Tesla had made improvements to correct the issues—through design and manufacturing improvements—that owners raised with CR.  

See the Tesla Model 3 road test and ratings

Volkswagen Tiguan

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The Tiguan had below-average reliability. Members who own the Tiguan, which was redesigned for the 2018 model year, told us that they experienced problems with the body control modules (which are the computers that control power components such as windows, locks, etc.), remote engine starting capability, and the headlights.

A VW spokesman told CR that they were aware of these problems and had fixed them. “They have all been addressed and should not be a concern for anyone shopping now,” he said. “The headlight issue was addressed almost immediately after launch, for instance.”

See the Volkswagen Tiguan road test and ratings

Consumer Reports is an independent, nonprofit organization that works side by side with consumers to create a fairer, safer, and healthier world. CR does not endorse products or services, and does not accept advertising. Copyright © 2019, Consumer Reports, Inc.

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