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Consumer Reports Rates Ford and Japanese Brands Highest Page 2

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2009 Chevrolet Malibu

2009 Chevrolet Malibu

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GM models were "a mixed bag," according to Consumer Reports. They spanned the range from above average for the 4-cylinder Chevrolet Malibu, average for the V-6 model of the same vehicle, and above-average ratings for the Buick Lucerne V-8 and four-cylinder Pontiac G6 (cousin to the Chevrolet Malibu). Chevrolet’s Avalanche has moved up to an average ranking, but a solid one-quarter of GM’s models are "still well below average." Sadly, models that performed well in Consumer Reports' testing regimen, such as the Cadillac CTS, Buick Enclave, GMC Acadia, and Saturn Outlook, rang in with reliability that was below average.

2008 Chrysler Sebring Convertible

2008 Chrysler Sebring Convertible

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But the worst reliability story come from the now Cerberus-owned Chrysler. While the newer platform-mates Dodge Caliber and Jeep Patriot small SUVs made respectable above-average ratings, nearly two-thirds of Chrysler’s products were solidly below average. The Pentastar's bread-and-butter minivans, the Chrysler Town & Country and Dodge Grand Caravan, which are claimed by many to be perhaps their most valuable products next to the new 2009 Ram pickup, earned low scores from Consumer Reports. Also scoring low for Chrysler were its Jeep Liberty, Dodge Avenger, and Chrysler Sebring V-6. Scoring abysmally low was the Chrysler Sebring Convertible, earning the worst predicted reliability score that was calculated at a whopping 283 percent lower than average--not good numbers for a car company that’s struggling for existence.

It’s a good day when we can report that an American manufacturer like Ford, whose future is at stake just like competitors GM and Chrysler, is at least turning out reliable, well-built cars that can compete on the same ground as the Japanese. Changing consumer opinion is a longer, tougher road, but with large agencies like Consumer Reports lending their support, perhaps the tides will change for Ford, which has recently seen stock prices drop to desperately low 1980s levels, leading some of its largest stockholders like tycoon Kirk Kerkorian to consider the sale of his entire holdings of Ford stock.

Fresher European-sourced products are quickly on the way for Ford, as consumers and the media have long complained about Ford’s decision not to bring the excellent European Focus platform to America. Instead, we persist with the 8-year-old Focus platform spruced up only with styling and sheetmetal changes. If they can keep up the quality story with the new European products that are sized right for the times (and enjoy commensurately smaller consumption), Ford may be poised for a slow but sure comeback as long as the stock market and credit crisis begin a resolution. And that's a big "if."--Colin Mathews

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