According to Consumer Reports:

The overall top five — Honda, Subaru, Toyota, Volvo and Ford — all received reliability ratings of Better Than Average. No automaker earned the highest rating, Much Better Than Average, and none the lowest, Much Worse Than Average. {…}

Subaru was awarded an overall score of 73. Only one model, the sporty Impreza WRX, was cited for below-average reliability.

Subaru is probably helped by the fact that they release only a few different models and so can focus on making the best of what they have. It’s the upshot to the downside that they only participate in a relatively niche market: no minivans, no fuel-efficient compacts, and so on. I’m still not sure what Subaru is going to do when the CAFE standards go up. According to some market information I got in the run-up to purchasing the Forester, they’re working with Toyota (which has a stake in Subaru and a business partnership that has Camrys being made at a Subaru plant) to roll out some more fuel-efficient vehicles. Hard to do with standard AWD, though.

Clancy comes from a Toyota family and I come from a (mostly) Ford one, so it looks like we are well-represented across the board. When I was younger, we came from a Chrysler family. They didn’t fare so well:

For the third consecutive year, Chrysler earned the lowest overall score, with a 43. Despite Mr. Champion’s affinity for the company’s new products, he cautions that “reliability is still going to be an issue.”

Which is a shame, because for my money Chrysler makes the best looking cars on the market.

Curiously omitted were Mitsubishi and Suzuki. Kia was also excluded, but they may have been rolled in with Hyundai, which it is partially owned by.


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9 Responses to Woohoo! Subaru is Number Two!

  1. David Alexander says:

    Subaru is probably helped by the fact that they release only a few different models and so can focus on making the best of what they have.

    Yet, Honda has a wide slate of vehicles, and still managed to do very well. It’s possible for a make to have a wide slate of vehicles that do well if they’re all designed properly and manufactured well.

    I’m still not sure what Subaru is going to do when the CAFE standards go up.

    Some have argued that Subaru will simply upgrade their engine designs for more fuel efficient designs, but I suspect they’ll simply “cheat” by introducing either small displacement engines and diesel engines which are both seen in other markets, and admittedly, I’d prefer the latter. Ultimately, it remains to be seen if Subaru will retain the use of standard boxer engines and AWD while trying to meet increased CAFE requirements. FWIW, I’m not a fan of CAFE, and it’s an absurd substitute for a tax on gasoline and diesel.

    Which is a shame, because for my money Chrysler makes the best looking cars on the market.

    Really? Their stuff looks like it’s been hit by an ugly stick. I would never buy anything from them.

    Curiously omitted were Mitsubishi and Suzuki.

    I suspect it’s because both have too few sales worth nothing. Hell, I suspect that either or both will pull of out North America.

    I come from a (mostly) Ford one

    In our case, given the fact that my dad drove Town Cars for business and pleasure for nearly twenty years, one could argue that we’re a Ford family. Mind you, I’m on my second Saturn and my brother is currently driving a Toyota Celica, and given the choice, I’m tempted to look at a Mazda 3 or a used Mazda 6 or Subaru Legacy. Previously, my dad had a Dodge Colt, Nissan Maxima, and a Toyota Tercel.

  2. trumwill says:

    Yet, Honda has a wide slate of vehicles, and still managed to do very well. It’s possible for a make to have a wide slate of vehicles that do well if they’re all designed properly and manufactured well.

    Sure. But Subaru is somewhat unique on this list as a relatively small car-marker and a car-maker that makes easily affordable vehicles (as opposed to the smaller German makers). A lot of people don’t know who they are (or would confuse them with Suzuki). Yet they did remarkably well. I suspect that, with their limited brand recognition in large pockets of the country and limited capital, that they would have a much harder time than Honda or Toyota if they tried to expand their market. Which is a shame, because I’d probably give any van of theirs a good lookover.

    FWIW, I’m not a fan of CAFE, and it’s an absurd substitute for a tax on gasoline and diesel.

    Agreed.

    Really? Their stuff looks like it’s been hit by an ugly stick. I would never buy anything from them.

    Disagreed. Obviously. It seems that half the time a car grabs my attention in a good way, it’s either a Chrysler, Volvo, or luxury make.

    I suspect it’s because both have too few sales worth nothing. Hell, I suspect that either or both will pull of out North America.

    Wouldn’t surprise me about Suzuki went the way of Isuzu. I would have expected Mitsubishi to be above some of the listed makers, though.

  3. David Alexander says:

    A lot of people don’t know who they are

    One should note that I’m biased as I live in a part of the country where Subarus are somewhat popular, and I’m in an ethnic group from a country known for poor roads which leads to stories of foreign SUVs being somewhat popular when compared to their American counterparts*, which does extend itself to Subarus being popular. So, to me, I would be surprised if anybody would confuse them with Suzuki or didn’t know who they were.

    *My dad drove a Land Rover Defender in Haiti when he was working for the Catholic radio station. My aunt uses a Toyota Land Cruiser to get around. My maternal grandfather had a Pajero and my cousin drives an old Subaru Leone…

    that they would have a much harder time than Honda or Toyota if they tried to expand their market

    Toyota and Honda seem to have a somewhat impenetrable force field that keeps them somewhat isolated from the rest of the industry. People view them as reliable cars that “can’t fail”, and even with some recent recall issues, people will still continue to buy them because it’s seen as the safe choice. Subaru is great as a brand for people that want AWD in something that isn’t a luxury car, or they’re interested in something that isn’t Toyota or Honda or even Nissan, but want to stay Japanese. Arguably, Mazda fills that niche as well. Mitsubushi was once that choice, but some questionable marketing decisions have lead to them falling off the face of the earth in the US market.

    Which is a shame, because I’d probably give any van of theirs a good lookover.

    It’s interesting to note that Subaru doesn’t even have a van on offer in it’s home market. Given that Subaru has ended independent kei-car (micro/city car) development and will now offer rebadged models fromToyota’s Daihatsu portfolio, I suspect that it’s highly unlikely that Subaru will offer a traditional van to sell in the short to medium term in the United States. They do offer the Exiga in Australia, a market that isn’t too dissimilar to ours, but that’s more of a Mazda 5 style vehicle, a car that sells in somewhat lowish numbers because Americans seem to want a giant minivan or a CUV or SUV.

    Volvo, or luxury make

    It’s interesting that you didn’t list Volvo as a luxury make. FWIW, it really isn’t, but their pricing ends up leaving them to compete in that category. Arguably, the same could be said for Saab and to a lesser extent, Acura. FWIW, I suspect I’m immune since nearly all of my neighbours have some type of luxury make.

    OTOH, I’ve never been fond of anything that has come out of Chrysler’s design studio. I’m far more enticed by the design language of the Mazda 3 and the non-USDM Mazda 6.

    Wouldn’t surprise me about Suzuki went the way of Isuzu.

    I’m amazed that they still bother. Mitsubushi, OTOH, is dying and may join Isuzu. FWIW, based from some anecdotes from my dad, Mitsu has just never been on the same level of quality as Toyota or Honda. Some have argued that the Chrysler sourced parts have caused some of their reliabilty issues. I suspect that they weren’t listed due to the lack of sales and responses from consumer surveys.

  4. trumwill says:

    One should note that I’m biased as I live in a part of the country where Subarus are somewhat popular,

    Yeah, and I come at it from a very different place. I didn’t know what a Subaru was until I moved to Cascadia. I’d heard of the Outback, but if you’d asked me who made it, I would as likely have answered Suzuki as Subaru, if not Nissan.

    Arguably, Mazda fills that niche as well. Mitsubushi was once that choice, but some questionable marketing decisions have lead to them falling off the face of the earth in the US market.

    When I think Japanese, I think Toyota, then Honda, then Nissan. After that it sort of went off a cliff for me until I started looking for a car.

    Mazda is another interesting case. When I started looking at cars, I had to remind myself that they exist. That didn’t used to be the case. I might have named them before Nissan, once upon a time.

    It’s interesting that you didn’t list Volvo as a luxury make.

    I considered it. It’s sort of an in-between. They’re expensive, but they’re expensive in good part because of their sturdy reputation rather than their luxuriousness, as with other European brands.

    Mitsubushi, OTOH, is dying and may join Isuzu.

    That would really be a shame. The Outlander impressed me. And I’ll always have a soft spot for the Lancer due to the Colt being the first car I could consider “mine”.

    Fun fact… when I was looking at vehicles in Cascadia, the Mitsubishi dealer spent more time talking about the Kia Sportage (in a complimentary way) than the Mitsubishi Outlander. I hadn’t actually taken the Kia seriously up to that point. Worst salesman ever.

  5. David Alexander says:

    Yeah, and I come at it from a very different place.

    Yeah, you grew up in what’s arguably pick-up truck country with little snow or anything in the way or curvy roads or even a large import tuner scene. I can see why you’re immune to that effect. In contrast, out here with have somewhat curvy roads, winter, a small import tuner scene, and some esoteric people that want to stand out, things that admittedly help with a quirky brand like Subaru. The WRX and Sti are popular with boy racers, the mainstream models are popular with average people looking for a small AWD vehicle, and some models had the LL Bean trim which really appealed to aspirant classes.

    FWIW, Suzuki will always be a company that makes motorcyles and small foreign SUVs for me. Mind you, there was a small motorcycle shop on the way to my elementary school…

    When I think Japanese, I think Toyota, then Honda, then Nissan.

    Admittedly, that’s what most people tend to think. For all intents and purposes, that’s the Japanese Big 3, and Mitsubushi has slowly fallen from consideration. Mazda and Subaru will probably remain niche brands that depending on market circumstances can remain profitable presuming demand for cars by consumers that want Japanese but don’t want the Big 3. If they can produce vehicles that standout and justify the premium of not buying from the big three, they can survive, but if they don’t, they may join Mitsubushi in the land of misfit toys.

    Mazda is another interesting case.

    Growing up, Mazda was tainted as the bad Japanese brand, but I like their styling and the praise for the Mazda 3 seals the deal for me. I’m less enthusiastic about the 6, but it’s the best alternative short of paying for a Acura TSX. Admittedly, if I was cross-shopping for a car now, I’d probably look at the Mazda 3 and Subaru Impreza or the Mazda 6, Kia Optima, Subaru Legacy, and Buick Regal.

    The Outlander impressed me.

    I’ve seen a few around, and it wasn’t terribly popular, but you’d see one once in a while to remind one of it’s existence. Otherwise, the Lancer and the Eclipse were the other models that you’d see, and those slowly became less and less popular over the past five years or so. Those zero payments for sixty month deals destroyed the brand by giving the brand a bit of a “trashy” buyer, and destroying the Eclipse didn’t help either with the boy racers that loved it for its handling characteristics.

    the Mitsubishi dealer spent more time talking about the Kia Sportage

    That’s scary. I’ve been in customer service, and I’ve never seen any example of when anybody talked up another brand in such a positive manner. Either he was trying to get fired or he moonlights at another dealer.

  6. Meadowlark says:

    Suzuki isn’t going anywhere. They sell a lot of motorcycles and offroad vehicles, so they have a built-in distribution network. Even if they lose all of their legit dealers in a particular state, a dealer with off-road vehicles can still act as a storefront for online sales. Isuzu didn’t have that, neither does Mitsubishi.

  7. trumwill says:

    Yeah, you grew up in what’s arguably pick-up truck country with little snow or anything in the way or curvy roads or even a large import tuner scene.

    Yet there are three Subaru dealers in Colosse. I don’t know why anyone down there would get one, except off-roading I guess. My father-in-law sheepishly mentioned that he didn’t even look at Subaru the last time he was looking for a light-SUV. I told him that he just saved himself some time.

    Mazda and Subaru will probably remain niche brands that depending on market circumstances can remain profitable presuming demand for cars by consumers that want Japanese but don’t want the Big 3.

    What exactly is the niche of Mazda?

    I’ve seen a few around, and it wasn’t terribly popular, but you’d see one once in a while to remind one of it’s existence. Otherwise, the Lancer and the Eclipse were the other models that you’d see, and those slowly became less and less popular over the past five years or so.

    I almost never see Lancers or Eclipses. What I see most are Monteros, which kind of goes to your point because they stopped making those a while back. I also see Galants periodically. The Outlander actually gets pretty good reviews. Hopefully, if Mitsu goes under, they’ll enter a new agreement with Dodge and it will become the new Nitro.

  8. trumwill says:

    Come to think of it, Lark, there actually is a Suzuki dealer in Alexandria that seems to deal mostly with the off-road stuff but says to call them if you are interested in a car. My initial thought was that they would simply refer you to another dealership, but maybe they make some side money just selling cars straight-up.

    That brings up an interesting possibility. I have commented in the past that some automaker ought to really make use of the Internet as the primary distribution tool. The historical problem has been dealership contracts and the federal law. My idea was to hook up with car rental places as the state-licensed dealers, but with Suzuki even that wouldn’t be necessary. At least not in some states.

    I think the time is ripe for a no-haggle, buy-from-the-Internet car company. I was originally thinking that Indian automakers try this, but Suzuki could be a better bet.

  9. David Alexander says:

    Yet there are three Subaru dealers in Colosse.

    In contrast, we have 5 dealers in Nassau County, and 4 in Suffolk County…

    I don’t know why anyone down there would get one, except off-roading I guess.

    That’s the thing. They’re not the type of car that one would buy if they’re off-roading. They’re designed more so for winter driving or “questionable” roads. If you’re going off-road, get a Jeep or a Toyota Hilux or Land Cruiser.

    What exactly is the niche of Mazda?

    I’d argue that the Mazda 3 and to a lesser extent Mazda 6 represent sportier alternatives to the models offered by the Big 3. The Mazda 5 is a smaller minivan for people that don’t want a full size van, but their CUVs are just there for market share purposes.

    What I see most are Monteros

    I remember those. They were semi-popular with Haitians who didn’t want the more popular Toyota 4Runner and Nissan Pathfinder. Eclipses were super popular around 2000 or so when you could buy the second generation new or the early second and first generation models used for a few pennies. Lightweight, sporty, and easy to tune were the benefits, and I really wanted one as my first car, but my dad was against the idea of my first car being some “oil-burning” race car. The third generation Eclipse was the opposite of that which lead to its increasing unpopularity with that segment, and the Lancers were riding off the halo effect of the Lancer Evolution race cars. They were popular in theory, but by then, everybody was fooling around with an old Eclipse or a Civic.

    I also see Galants periodically.

    My cousin had one and she hated it. My neighbour had one and dumped it for a Lexus ES400. Now I never see them.

    Hopefully, if Mitsu goes under, they’ll enter a new agreement with Dodge and it will become the new Nitro.

    While Mitsubushi sells that car under the names of other makes in Europe, it’s unlikely to do so with Dodge given that the partnership with Chrysler ended a few years ago…

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