European auto brands score low on reliability

European brands are the least reliable vehicles sold in the U.S., according to rankings for the 2011 model year.

So if these vehicles all perform so poorly in the reliability ratings, why do people continue to buy them, often paying the price of two cars for one vehicle?

“Snob appeal,” said David Champion Sr., director of Consumer Reports’ Automotive Test Center in East Haddam, Conn.

Champion, who drives hundreds of car models annually, concedes that many of these brands also share another quality. “They can be really nice cars to drive,” he said.


But that doesn’t mean they will be reliable.

According to Consumer Reports, Volkswagen, Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Mini, Audi, Porsche and Jaguar all scored in the second half of its rankings. Japanese models, the South Korean manufacturers Hyundai and Kia and the Jeep and Lincoln brands dominated the most reliable list.

The Jaguar XF had the poorest reliability of all 246 vehicles rated. Jaguar also was the lowest-rated brand. Audi and Porsche rounded out the bottom three.

Champion believes part of the reliability issue with European cars is caused by a cultural gap, with the Old World on one side and the United States and Asia on the other.


“When you look at the problems these vehicles have, they are mainly electrical or electronic issues,” he said. “I believe that the Japanese and the Koreans have a leg up on these technologies because they have a lot of experience designing and building consumer electronics.”

European makers also don’t appreciate the size of the U.S., the lack of public transit available to use while someone is having their car fixed and the effort required to take a car to the dealership for repairs.

“We really see this when we talk to people from the home offices of these companies about the ratings we are giving their cars,” Champion said.

The domestic carmakers had overall ratings slightly better than the Europeans, but not as good as the Japanese and South Korean car companies.