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Detroit reliability

Living in an area so dependent on “The Big Three” automotive manufacturing companies can make one feel like a cat in a roomful of rocking chairs.

You know the pain is coming.

As my father always says: If you don't work for one of the car companies directly, your business supports them or their employees. If they go, you go with them.

With that in mind, I met Tuesday with the good folks from Consumer Reports, who braved our nippy weather, rush-hour traffic and automotive press to announce their latest reliability findings.

Good news: Ford Motor Co. is doing better.

Bad news: General Motors Corp. and Chrysler are still struggling.

While that is not what Metro Detroit necessarily wants to hear, it is the truth based on some tough criteria, said Consumer Reports Automotive Editor Rik Paul.

“People are torn whether to help their fellow citizens” in the automotive world, Paul said. “GM and Chrysler's financial problems have put them off.”

However, there is a bright side, especially when it comes to Ford. “The fact that they're competitive with the Japanese is news in and of itself,” Paul noted.

Here's the basics. Ford is the only Detroit automaker with world-class reliability, the magazine found. About 90 percent of its products have average or better scores in this key area, according to its 2009 survey.

Other than the Toyota Prius, the Ford Fusion and Milan ranks higher than any other family sedan. Both Ford products beat the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry.

Of GM vehicles, the best scores went to the Chevy Malibu, Traverse and Silverado. But only 20 of its overall 48 models had average reliability scores.

“GM is on the right path, but their overall brand reliability is being dragged down by some of their older models,” Paul said. “GM overall has to achieve a better, consistent product. They're getting there.”

As for Chrysler, more than one-third of its products rank much worse than average. Last year, Consumer Reports didn't recommend any of its products because of quality issues. One highlight: the redesigned Dodge Ram 1500 pickup made this year's list.

“Chrysler has some work to do,” Paul said, but the magazine editors note that the company has hired a “quality czar” to get it in the right place.

I'll skip the rankings for foreign vehicles – I'm snotty that way. (Full disclosure: Two members of my family work for GM, and I'd like to keep it that way.)

All of the details, ratings and related stories will appear on the magazine's Web site and in its December issue, which goes on sale next week.

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  • 1

    I can't wait to read this report. Until then, I call shenanigans!

  • 2

    The way I see it, consumer trust is a big issue at the moment. GM and Chrysler have to earn that back and that is a hard road for any business, no matter how long they have been in service. People are not happy with businesses that take and don't give back to the people that buy their products, be it in service or even in appreciation for the simple fact that they did business with them in the past and possibly business to come in the future too.

    I would like to see the auto companies survive, but I also know that if they continue business as usual they will wither and die, and the captains will jump ship and let the crew go down with them.

    When the head of a company makes 5.5 millon a year and the little people who run the company start to lose their jobs due to not enough product being sold the guy up top should look at the problem form the top down, not the bottom up.

  • 3

    Karen -

    This blog - and your writing - have been essential to my day.

    Who do I write to pass on my respect and compliments (e.g. your editor)?

  • 4

    Instead of the commercials boasting about how great they are when, as this post seems to prove, they're far from perfect, it would be nice to see GM come out with an ad that simply says: "We're sorry we let you down, we thank you for your support (and money), and we're trying our best to rebuild this company." It'd be nice to see some honesty and camaraderie because after the bailout...I think we all have a little bit of stake in this company, whether or not you're from the area.

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