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Consumer Reports’ Recommendations – How Good Are They?
This article examines Consumer Reports’ 2007 car model recommendations for the Chevrolet, Toyota, Honda, Hyundai and Kia brands to see how their reliability fared just 3 years later. It addresses the questions: (1) What is the quality of CR recommendations? and (2) Is US-based Consumer Reports biased in favor of US-based General Motors Corporation?
consumer reports reliability ratings are highly valued by many consumers as they are statistical studies of reported serious problems, or lack of such problems, for hundreds of thousands of vehicles, as collected from its subscribers as part of an annual survey. However, if its annual report recommendations enjoy the same respect? To answer this question, I examine some of the CR’s 2007 recommendations.
In the April 2007 issue of Consumer Reports, the magazine recommended three models of Chevrolet automobiles – a wagon, a sedan and an SUV. They were:
Chevrolet HHR, the station wagon
Chevrolet Impala, the sedan
Chevrolet Tahoe, the sport utility vehicle.
Since there were only 3 Chevrolet models that were recommended, consumers could have reasonably anticipated that they were worthy of consideration and could make a purchase with confidence from any of the models. However, before all three 2007 models were 3 years old, all three made it to Consumer Reports’ 2010 Worst Cars list, a list based on reported serious problems.
The question arises: were these recommendations simply bad or awful, or are they evidence of a bias in favor of the American company General Motors Corporation, owner of the Chevrolet brand, by Consumer Reports, based in the United States. United ?
Evidence suggesting a bias in favor of US-based General Motors comes from Toyota, Honda and Hyundai model recommendations. For the Toyota brand, Consumer Reports’ 2007 recommendations were:
Toyota 4Runner, a mid-size sport utility vehicle
Toyota Avalon, a large sedan
Toyota Camry, a mid-size sedan
Toyota Camry, a convertible or a coupe
Toyota Corolla, a small sedan
Toyota Highlander, an intermediate SUV
Toyota Matrix, a small family
Toyota Prius, a hybrid 4-door sedan
Toyota RAV4, a small SUV
Toyota Sequoia, a large SUV
Toyota Sienna, a minivan
Toyota Tacoma, a mid-size pickup truck.
And for the Honda brand, CR’s 2007 recommendations were:
Honda CR-V, a small sport utility vehicle
Honda Civic, a coupe or a sedan
Honda Civic Si, a coupe or a sedan
Honda Element, a small square SUV
Honda Fit, a small 4-door sedan
Honda Odyssey, a minivan
Honda Pilot, an intermediate SUV
Honda Ridgeline, a mid-size pickup.
And for the Hyundai brand, CR’s 2007 recommendations were:
Hyundai Entourage, a minivan
Hyundai Sonata, a sedan
Hyundai Tucson, a small sport utility vehicle.
Of those 23 recommended models in 2007, none made CR’s Worst Cars of 2010 list.
Further evidence that US-based Consumer Reports may be biased in favor of GM is in its own 2007 list of Worst Cars (Used Cars to Avoid). General Motors made up a whopping 37% of that list, suggesting that recommending a GM product was misguided.
However, proof that these were simply bad recommendations can be found in Kia’s CR recommendations. In 2007, Consumer Reports recommended the following Kia models:
Kia Amanti, a sedan
Kia Sedona, a minivan
Kia Sorento, a small sport utility vehicle.
Three years later, the 2007 Sedona and 2007 Sorento made CR’s 2010 list of worst cars.
In summary, it is difficult to conclude that Consumer Reports’ recommendations unduly favor US-based GM; however, it is clear that the consumer should be cautious about a CR recommendation. And it may be better for him to throw such a recommendation to the wind when planning to buy a car and rely only:
(1) On CR reliability ratings, in the 10-year reliability tables if longer term ownership is sought or anticipated, or alternatively on the online automatic reliability GPAs, and
(2) On CR’s specific comments regarding usability of various components, CR’s tested stability, and CR’s crashworthiness summaries.
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