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Consumer Reports slams expensive European cars in reliability ratings

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European brands are the least reliable vehicles sold in the U.S. and often the most expensive.

Consumer Reports is out with its annual reliability ratings and has yet again found that 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.

PHOTOS: Auto reliability ratings 2011

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 different car models annually, concedes that many of the cars 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.

Consumers are helped by the fact that most of the European models are premium vehicles that carry warranties that last four years, or 50,000 miles, and that helps blunt the cost of problems.

Champion believes part of the reliability issue with European cars is caused by a cultural gap between the Old World and the United States and Asia.

“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 people make to take a car into 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.

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PHOTOS: Auto reliability ratings 2011

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-- Jerry Hirsch

Twitter.com/LATimesJerry

Photo: The Jaguar XF was the poorest performing model in Consumer Reports' annual reliability rankings. Credit: Jaguar

 
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