Consumer Reports has published its car brand report card for 2021, and it holds some surprises. This report card issues rankings based on a combination of factors — road-test performance, predicted reliability, owner satisfaction, safety and how “green” an automaker’s range is — to award an overall score.
Taking the top spot this year is Mazda, the Hiroshima-based manufacturer swapping places with Porsche, which finished first last year but sinks to fourth this time around. BMW sees an impressive gain of six places to finish second behind Mazda, while Subaru stays constant at third, rounding out the podium.
Moving further down the list, the biggest overall improvements are reserved for Honda, Chrysler and Buick. Each managed to gain a full 10 spots compared with their 2020 finishing positions. Honda nabs a very impressive fifth place, while those two American brands finish eighth and ninth, respectively.
Tesla didn’t have a great year, losing five positions to wind up 16th, just behind Genesis, which lost 13 spots. The all-electric carmaker still displays very good marks for satisfaction and road-test performance, though, so this seems mostly due to a combination of reduced reliability and stronger showings from competitors on the list.
The final three places are occupied by Mitsubishi, Land Rover and Alfa Romeo, in that order. Alfa Romeo can actually claim generally solid owner satisfaction and road test scores, but its reliability cratered — like a more extreme version of what appears to have happened to Tesla. You can check out an abbreviated breakdown of each automaker’s score at Consumer Reports’ website, even if you’re not a member.
To qualify for placement, Consumer Reports says a brand “must have at least two models that [it has] tested.” Unsurprisingly, the better performing brands tend to have a greater number of “recommended” cars among their tested fleet. For example, all seven Mazdas that Consumer Reports tested in the past year were recommended, while the organization recommended only one Tesla of the four it evaluated, the Model 3. Consumer Reports has been hot and cold on the smallest Tesla before, mind you.
Most brands either stayed constant or remained stationary in the owner satisfaction column, though two in particular fell: Infiniti and Nissan. Both also finished right next to each other, at 12th and 13th, nearly smack dab in the middle of this list. It’s a bit surprising to see Nissan slide in satisfaction, as it’s taken considerable measures to freshen its lineup in the past 18 months. Granted, its products still don’t lead very many segments, but a revitalized fleet should have helped it gain ground. Of the 12 Nissans that Consumer Reports examined, just six were recommended.
If you’re wondering about Ford and General Motors brands that aren’t Buick, they landed quite low, with Chevrolet at No. 24 and the Blue Oval at No. 25. Both show drops in predicted reliability and stagnant owner satisfaction ratings.