Reliability Suffers as Automakers Push Technology Envelope

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Assembly Of Tesla Model S Electric Automobiles  At  A Tesla Motors Inc. Factory
Jasper Juinen/Bloomberg via Getty ImagesA Tesla Model S automobile during final assembly at the Tesla Motors factory in Tilburg, Netherlands.
By Joseph White

DETROIT -- Owners of vehicles with advanced fuel-saving technology and digital multimedia systems, including the Tesla (TSLA) Model S sedan, are hurting reliability, Consumer Reports magazine found in its annual survey of vehicle reliability.

There is "an emerging trend of increased troubles" with many vehicles that use new transmission technology to boost mileage, the magazine said Tuesday. The latest reliability survey was to be presented by the magazine's editors at a meeting of Detroit's Automotive Press Association.

One of the most technologically adventurous cars on the market, the Tesla Model S, registered a worse than average reliability score based on survey responses from 1,400 owners, Consumer Reports found. The battery-powered Model S P85D was recently lauded by the magazine's editors for racking up the best scores ever in its performance tests. But owners complained of rattles, leaks and problems with the charging equipment, drivetrain and center console displays, the magazine said.

Complaints about balky multimedia "infotainment" systems continue to plague several major automakers, including Ford (F), Nissan, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCAU) and several prominent brands, including General Motors' (GM) Cadillac luxury line, the magazine found.

Honda's (HMC) Acura luxury brand fell seven places to No. 18 in the magazine's ranking of 28 brands because of problems with transmissions and in-car entertainment systems, the magazine said.

Overall, Toyota's (TM) Lexus brand was the top-ranked brand in the magazine's reliability survey. The highest-ranked Detroit brand was Buick, at No. 7.

Fiat Chrysler's Fiat brand came in last.

Consumer Reports said its 2015 reliability survey took into account data on 740,000 vehicles.
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