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‘Consumer Reports’ Rates List of Top ’14 Vehicles

Detroit — Luxury brands scored highest in Consumer Reports’ annual car brand report card, released last week, while problems with infotainment systems continue to plague some brands, including Ford and Cadillac.

The publication once again named Lexus as the best all-round brand, followed by Acura and Audi, based on the publication’s road tests, reliability survey data and independent safety tests.

“A lot can go wrong when building cars packed with luxury features,” said Jake Fisher, director of Consumer Reports automotive testing. “It’s impressive to have three luxury brands score top marks when reliability is one of the defining factors.”

Of General Motors’ four brands, Cadillac scored lowest and dropped six places from a year ago to land in the bottom five.

Japanese automakers took seven of the top eight spots, while Ford and Jeep tied for the lowest score at 50. Most domestic brands were in the middle of the pack. Dodge and Chevrolet were also in the bottom five.

The standings were largely mirrored in another closely watched list: the models that Consumer Reports recommends to its readers.

Only five of the 17 Ford models tested are recommended by the magazine, the same number as last year. Much of the reluctance to recommend individual Ford vehicles stemmed from problems with the MyFord Touch infotainment system.

“Ford outscored Toyota and was even with Honda on road test scores, but reliability is killing Ford and a lot of that is from MyFord Touch,” said Rik Paul, Consumer Reports’ automotive editor.

Ford will stop using Microsoft Windows in the next generation of its Sync hands-free connectivity product, to be offered in 2016. Instead, the automaker will work with Blackberry’s QNX operating system. Paul said he is hoping that helps Ford’s scores; other automakers who use the QNX system do well in electronics reliability.

For General Motors, the magazine recommends 10 of of the 22 models tested, down from 13 models in 2013. Cadillac’s Cue infotainment system was cited as problematic by owners of the XTS, magazine editors revealed today at an event at the National Press Club in Washington.

Chrysler has two of 14 models tested on the recommended list. Toyota received recommended buys on half of the 28 vehicles test. Honda has an impressive 11 of 16 making the grade.

Paul said the magazine tightened its recommendations in the last year.

“We raised the score required (to earn recommended status) so it is more meaningful to buyers when we give them the red check,” he said, referring to the symbol that will appear next to the recommended buys in the April edition.

The only Tesla vehicle tested — the Model S — was cited as the best overall vehicle among the magazine’s 10 Top Picks.

The Model S was one of four new vehicles to gain a top spot, along with the Subaru Forester, Hyundai Santa Fe and the Ram 1500, the first time in 16 years that a Chrysler vehicle earned a spot on the list.

Among the Top Picks Ford and GM were shut out. Honda and Subaru had two each. Toyota, BMW, Audi, Hyundai had one each.

“The competition in the marketplace has grown fierce. There was a time when a handful of brands dominated our Top Picks list, but in recent years we’ve seen a more diverse group make the cut,” said Paul. Some models are not eligible for a Top Pick because they are new — such as the 2014 Chevrolet Silverado which has no reliability data yet or many Ford models that did not make the cut because of their low reliability scores.

For all vehicle tested Lexus earned a score of 79, the highest mark for the second straight year. Acura rose to second from fifth place in 2013 with a score of 75, barely beating Audi at 74. The German luxury brand also had a huge jump from 8th place a year ago.

Korean brands Hyundai and Kia ranked in the bottom third.

There were no reports cards for Ram, Lincoln, Fiat, Jaguar, Land Rover, Mini, Mitsubishi, Porsche, Scion, Smart and Tesla because the magazine didn’t test more than two of their models or lacked sufficient reliability data on them.

Consumer Reports buys new vehicles once they are on the market to conduct its independent road tests. The reliability surveys are sent to subscribers to rate their ownership experience.