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Crash Tests and Technology Hurt Carmakers In Consumer Reports Study

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(IIHS photo)

(IIHS photo)

jeffgilbert Jeff Gilbert
Automotive reporter for WWJ Newsradio 950 and CBS Radio News....
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  autos arrows plug v2 Crash Tests and Technology Hurt Carmakers In Consumer Reports Study

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DETROIT (WWJ) - Several cars and trucks are being dropped from Consumer Reports list of recommended vehicles because they have technology that doesn’t work as expected, or they haven’t done well enough on tough new crash tests.

The technology issue has been brewing for several years. And, in this year’s Consumer Reports Reliability Study, the problem seems to be getting worse, not better.

“The automakers are kind of new to it,” said Consumer Reports director of automotive testing Jake Fisher. “They are not Apple, they’re not Samsung. They are stumbling.”

Fisher outlined the study in a meeting of the Automotive Press Association.

Ford, again, is being criticized for issues with its My Ford Touch system. But Consumer Reports also removed the Honda Accord Coupe and V-6 from its list of recommended vehicles because of issues with its connectivity systems.

The problems apparently run deep.

“These are actually failures,” said Fisher. “This is not working the way it is intended to.”

Older drivers, Fisher says, are more likely to report issues caused by not understanding the system. Younger drivers, who tend to want to make the systems work flawlessly with their smart phones and music players, are more likely to complain of connectivity systems that don’t work as advertised.

Ford has been very aggressive in marketing its My Ford Touch System. It says its own internal studies show it is a prime reason people buy their vehicles. The company has sent out several software updates to try to improve the system.

Consumer Reports is also taking the rare step of removing four vehicles–Toyota’s Camry, RAV 4 and Prius V and the Audi A4– from it’s “recommended” list because they didn’t pass a more stringent crash test. That test simulated a collision with a utility poll or tree.

This could be damaging to the Camry, which is currently the best-selling car in America.

“The IIHS has now tested every vehicle now in that category, in the family sedan category,” said Fisher. “The only one that’s received a poor in this test is the Toyota Camry.”

Some analysts urged caution when looking at the results. Kelly Blue Book’s Karl Brauer says these vehicles didn’t suddenly become less safe. The overall bar was raised.

“This is a tricky situation because when Consumer Reports pulls its recommendation it gives the appearance that these models are suddenly “less safe” than they used to be,” he said. “That’s not true at all.”

Subaru’s Forester finished first in the Consumer Reports reliability rankings. Lexus, Toyota and Acura were the top brands. GMC was the top domestic brand, finishing 9th. But, Fisher said General Motors did significantly better than the other domestic car companies.

“Chevy is holding their own, and Buick, interestingly enough, we have some new entries from Buick that have hit the ground running, with good reliability.”

Worst performing vehicle on the list is the plug-in Hybrid Ford C-Max Energi.

“You’ve got a hybrid powertrain,” said Fisher. “You’ve got an electric powertrain. You’ve also got an engine. You’ve also got a transmission. There’s just more things to go wrong.”

Fisher says some of the issues that Ford has seen could be the result of a product lineup that’s seen a lot of new vehicles and a lot of new engines.

“When you that to your entire product line, and turn them on brand new, you’re gonna have some growing pains.”

Connect with Jeff Gilbert
Email: jdgilbert@cbs.com
Facebook: facebook.com/carchronicles
Twitter: @jefferygilbert

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