Oct. 19, 2007: Source – Consumer Reports/International Herald Tribune

Prius on Test Track

Toyota’s image was slightly tarnished this week when Consumer Reports removed its recommendations for several popular Toyota vehicles, such as the Camry sedan, Tundra pickup, and Lexus GS luxury vehicle. Meanwhile, the Toyota Prius and other hybrids were given stellar ratings for reliability.

Consumer Reports said that recent redesigns of the V6 Camry, 4WD V8 Tundra pickup, and Lexus GS luxury sedan were “bug-ridden.” Each earned an un-Toyota-like below-average reliability score and were dropped from the magazine’s list of recommended vehicles.

Moreover, the editors at Consumer Reports were so concerned about the poor showing of the three models that they decided to stop recommending new Toyota models unless their reliability was proven with a year or more of data. In the past, Consumer Reports gave Toyota the benefit of the doubt, placing new Toyota models on the recommended list before reliability data was available—based on Toyota’s strong reputation for quality.

Toyota’s slip in quality did not occur with its hybrids. In fact, Toyota’s hybrids are among the automaker’s most reliable models. Consumer Reports predicts that the Toyota Prius, by far the bestselling hybrid, will have the best reliability of any new family car—hybrid or not. That means the Prius is expected to have fewer problems than dozens of other family sedans, nearly all of which have simpler conventional powertrains. Consumer Reports data also shows that while the conventional Camry and Lexus GS have quality problems, the hybrid versions of these cars enjoy outstanding reliability. Among luxury cars, the GS 450h was ranked first among its peers for expected reliability. In the family sedan category, the Camry Hybrid was listed in the top 10.

It remains to be seen whether Toyota’s performance in this year’s Consumer Reports reliability ratings is a fluke, or if Toyota’s famously-high quality is eroding. But the lesson regarding hybrids is clear. Buying a Toyota hybrid means buying one of the company’s most reliable vehicles.

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