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Seven Car Brands With Bad Reputations For Quality

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2012 Fiat 500

2012 Fiat 500

Quality means different things to different car buyers--everything from reliability to fuel efficiency to utility. It's nebulous, but it can make or break the launch of a new vehicle or the success of a car company, affecting everything from positive press to negative word-of-mouth reviews.

Some brands still rise to the top of the charts when shoppers get asked about the quality of different automakers' new vehicles--and some brands sink to the bottom based on those factors.

ALG, an automotive data company specializing in setting residual values for leased vehicles, sets out twice a year to see which brands fare better in the minds of consumers, and which fare worse. Polling between 3000 and 4000 consumers, the company comes up with ALG Perceived Quality Score, which rates auto brands on the "emotional connection" buyers have to the brands, based on a possible score of 100.

The most recent survey gives many automakers a reason to cheer: Toyota and Lexus, despite their recent strings of recalls, still sit at or near the top of the quality charts. As ALG points out, bad press can take years to detach itself from an automaker's reputation, but Toyota seems to have made it through charges of unintended acceleration without much damage. Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Honda and Ford continue to fare very well, as well.

For other automakers, the most recent survey isn't much good news. A trio of struggling brands is now tied up with the new cellar dweller for perceived quality, while two others fight visibility problems. One brand with a relatively poor showing is on the way up, though.

Which ones rank at the bottom? They start with the newest brand on the American car market:


Italy's Fiat hasn't even been back on the U.S. market for long, but it's starting in the basement. As ALG points out, the brand will have to erase distant memories of terrible vehicles from the 1970s before it can convince legions of American buyers that the stylish, entertaining 2012 Fiat 500 subcompact is worth its $15,500 base price. Fiat earned the lowest score in the most recent PQS, at 37.5.

2011 Smart Fortwo

2011 Smart Fortwo


Struggling Smart, with a score of 39.8, hasn't had a great 2011 thus far. Its U.S. dealers are being reabsorbed into Mercedes-Benz, and plans to sell a Nissan-based four-door have been cancelled. The very small Fortwo is selling slowly probably because its lack of utility and gas mileage that's lower than some larger, gas-engined cars. Is a fix in the works? Smart USA says yes, and points to electric Fortwos and other future products as its ticket out of the doldrums.


2011 Dodge Journey

2011 Dodge Journey


The first of Chrysler's three brands in the survey, Dodge's score of 45.5 doesn't come as much of a surprise, since reliability ratings regularly fall behind those of the other domestics. Significant improvements to its best sellers--the 2011 Grand Caravan, 2011 Journey and the Avenger--could have a dramatic effect on its showing down the road, though.

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Comments (12)
  1. This is sad. i hope dodge/Chrysler drops off this list soon. i really love my 04 dodge and my 11 avenger. my 04 has been awesome so far! 66k and going!

  2. As a life long owner of Chrysler products I have to wonder who and how these statistics were aquired. My experience has been absolutely outstanding for over 40 years and I will always buy Chrysler based on this experience. In my extended friend/family network my Chrysler products have faired much better than imports like Lexus and BMW, way better. Bad science,theirs or mine?

  3. I'm not sure it's bad science, Bill--I think it's more a reflection of what people perceive, unscientifically. Maybe they have lingering sentiments against Chrysler for the federal loans, or maybe they had a bad Cherokee back in the day? Either way, that just surfaces indirectly here, for better or worse.

  4. I don't think that the chrysler products are that stable in the consumers mind. they went broke in 1979.they have tried renault,mitsibushi,mercedes,and now a sleep in with fiat. how about a real american car that mopar was so good at producing since the 40's? get rid of the japanese motors and go back to american parts,if I wanted a rice burner I would go out and buy a honda or toyota. make your cars rear wheel drive and just see how many you sell.I own 10 car's and they are all rear wheel drive.I cant stand the wheel pull of a fwd,or vauge power steering feel trying to hide it. its not good when all the stress is put on one end of the car.brakes struts ect wear quicker.

  5. What about Land Rover? I have heard that they are bad, but they aren't on this list. Does that mean that it is just talk, and that they really are quality vehicles?

  6. From what I've heard and experienced, you have to pick and choose with chysler products. On one hand the 300, dodge Ram, and Jeep patriot seem to do very well. But others like the neon, sebring, and cherokee have lots of issues. Chrysler has tried to solve this by moving most production to Canada, but I guess Detroit gives better commercials.
    By the way, people need to give Fiat a chance, its been a long time since Americans last experienced them, not that anyone would forget how bad they were.

  7. I can always tell who the liberals are on any car bulletin board because the comments are always outstanding as to their favorite piece of colored sheet metal, put together occasionally by people who (according to the REAL news outlets, not the liars in the Liberal media) smoke weed and drink during work breaks, and who take off Mondays and Fridays, because it was the same way back in 1969, and I have yet to see an automobile or truck made by the Big Three which doesn't have rust around the rear fenders, after only a few winters in the rust belt. I don't get it.

  8. DragonKing, Land Rover was the lowest-scoring luxury brand on the list, but in the 60s, just above this batch of brands.

  9. Up until '06 or so, I wouldn't have considered a Chrysler product, but I love my '09 Challenger R/T. It's quite possibly the best built car I have ever owned. 375 HP and 23 *real* MPG, in mixed driving?! Who'd have thought..? Dodge and Chrysler have something that other brands don't. Enthusiasm! They're all car guys, building cars they like.

  10. @ Chippy55 - I about as far from a liberal as you can get. I don't smoke weed, haven't missed a day of work in about 10 years, and I LOVE AMERICAN STEEL! You said, "I have yet to see an automobile or truck made by the Big Three which doesn't have rust around the rear fenders, after only a few winters in the rust belt. I don't get it".... well, when was the last time you looked? 1978? 1980? I see old american steel running around the midwest every day with no rust. I also jap crap and german metall running around the same streets with fenders and quarter panels flapping in the breeze; and some american stuff too, to be fair. The difference is some owners wash the salt out occaisionally and others don't. But you know that, you just want to bash America some more for some slight you think you recieved at some point. I get really tired of reading the incessant posts on Autoweek from the America haters just as you apparently do from the America lovers. Okay, I'm done now, go back and drink some more saki or Heiniken or whatever.

  11. TO CHIPPY55
    This website is dedicated to talking about car related topics, not about who you voted for. There are literaly thousands of websites for that trash to be dumped. If you want to discuss car manufacturing, do so without the personal attacks on people.

  12. Everything is poor quality unless it's a GM vehicle. Even though nobody knows this but me, A typical GM vehicle is made of 24 karat gold, has the finest fabrics known to man, plastics reinforced with platnum and engines that spew scented oxygen instead of CO2.
    They will run for hundreds of thousands of miles and never ever have a single problem while everything else is just crap that goes to the junkyard once the warranty expires.
    And buying anything else but a GM vehicle is both unpatriotic and unAmerican. So think about it next time you buy a vehicle. It's GM or nothing.
    Buy American. Buy GM. Everything else is just junk.

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