Consumer Reports smacks Ford Explorer, Fiesta and FocusS

Although in recent years Ford has made a serious attempt at being the model of American reliability, competing well against Japanese makes that have dominated for decades. But according to Consumer Reports, three models — the new Explorer, Fiesta and Focus — are blemishing that record.

The new Explorer, Fiesta, and Focus all received below-average reliability in their first year. As a result, Ford's overall reliability rank among 28 major car makes slipped from the 10th spot to 20th this year — the biggest drop for any major nameplate in this year's Consumer Reports Annual Auto Survey.

"We have often found that new or revamped models have more problems in their first year than in subsequent model years. Ford's problems illustrate why we recommend to our subscribers to hold off buying a first-year model," said David Champion, Sr. Director of Consumer Reports' Automotive Test Center.

To be fair, this is an initial reliability survey, so Ford's drop can probably be attributed to problems with new technology and infotainment systems: the new MyFord Touch infotainment system and the new automated-manual transmission used in the Fiesta and Focus.

We see that confusion over technology at Lincoln too, which, despite basically at this point being nothing more than a trim-and-finish level for FoMoCo, finished above Ford. But the freshened Lincoln MKX, a cousin of the Edge, suffered thanks to that confounding MyLincoln Touch system. On the bright side, the Ford Fusion Hybrid sedan remained outstanding, and other Fusion versions were above average. Of course that's also because it's been around a few years.

But Ford's injury seems to have been Chrysler's gain. It turns out that lipstick on a pig really does work sometimes — as long as the lipstick's really pretty-looking.

Jeep moved up seven spots to 13th in reliability, becoming, amazingly, the most reliable domestic brand, and all its models for which Consumer Reports has sufficient data scored average in predicted reliability. Chrysler and Dodge moved up 12 and three spots in ranking, respectively.

Chrysler had better results with its new models, including the newly-refreshed Chrysler 200/Sebring sedan and the redesigned Dodge Durango and Jeep Grand Cherokee. The Chrysler brand moved up in Consumer Reports survey, but its rank is based on just two models: the 200, which was well above average, and the refreshed Town & Country minivan, which tanked.

The remaining model, the 300, is too new for Consumer Reports to have sufficient data.

We've also learned that BMW had a bad year, with five of 11 models now scoring below average. Although the BMW M3 topped the sporty cars category, the 1, 3, and 5 Series models with the 3.0-liter, turbocharged engine had high problem rates related to the fuel system, among other issues.

Mercedes-Benz had the least reliable vehicles in three categories. Six of its 13 models were below average, and the GLK SUV was far below average this year. The redesigned E350 sedan was above average, but the new E-Class coupe, a wholly different car, was a disappointment.

Almost three-quarters of the Audi models we analyzed were below average. Volkswagen did better, with its Golf (formerly Rabbit) doing very well and the various Jetta models doing average or better.

And speaking of Volkswagens, Porsche plummeted 25 spots, from No. 2 last year to No. 27 this year.