Monthly Archives February 2021

Japanese car brands continue to dominate consumer report rankings

Mazda CX-30: Mazda is the # 1 brand in the Consumer Report’s annual automotive report, and the CX-30 is one of CR’s top 10 picks. “You don’t have to build boring cars to be reliable,” Jake Fisher, CR director of automotive testing, says of Mazda. Bill Howard

Luxury doesn’t always mean reliability.

This is the lesson of the latest brand rankings from Consumer Reports.

Mazda, one of the smaller mainstream brands, topped the organization’s latest assessment of automotive brands that excel in quality, safety and reliability. Consumer brands made up six of the top 10 nameplates in Consumer Reports rankings.

Luxury brands such as Volvo, Mercedes-Benz, Jaguar, Land Rover and Alfa Romeo have all landed towards the back or the end of the pack. The organization ranked 32 brands for its annual car report.

“It really shows that you don’t have to spend a lot of money to get a desirable, reliable vehicle with all the technology and safety you want,” said Jake Fisher, senior director of automotive testing at Consumer Reports.

Subaru, ranked No.3, Honda, 5, Toyota, 7, Chrysler, 8, and Buick, 9, all prove this point and present good choices for buyers looking for different vehicle features, said Fisher.

“If anyone cares about safety and reliability the most, the answer is Toyota. If you want that, but also something more fun to drive, there’s Mazda. Subaru is practical, reliable and offers all-wheel drive on every model, ”said Fisher.

2020 BMW X3 luxury SUV under 50K
BMW X3: BMW and Porsche finished second and fourth in Consumer Reports 2021 rankings. Most German car manufacturers have fallen below the average. Bmw

Features, Tech Fell Some premium brands

Many expensive luxury brands struggle to pack vehicles with newly designed equipment, technologies and features. The new technology is bug-prone, Fisher said. Still, BMW and Porsche finished second and fourth.

While two national brands, Chrysler and Buick, made it into the top 10, most other American brands did not fare as well. Cadillac was 22, Chevrolet 24, Ford 25, GMC 26, Lincoln 28, and Jeep 29.

Fisher attributes much of their reliability issues to the same syndrome that plagues many luxury car manufacturers. These brands have unveiled in recent years a flurry of redesigned models that have flaws that still need to be ironed out.

“These extensive redesigns where you have new platforms and new powertrains, these are the things that reliability issues are often associated with,” Fisher said.

By comparison, Chrysler and Buick have older models where engineers have gradually eliminated design flaws, he said.

Tesla ranks 15th out of 32. Fans Still Love Tesla

Tesla placed in the middle for 15th (tied with Genesis and Mini). Reliability issues with the S, Y and X models are hurting the electric vehicle maker. Tesla’s fourth vehicle, the Model 3, is its biggest seller. But Consumer Reports noted that the brand enjoys “remarkably high scores for owner satisfaction and in CR road tests.”

A slew of new models also took a toll on the reliability of vehicles from South Korea, with sister brands Hyundai, Kia and Genesis all slipping up the rankings.

Hyundai is launching a series of newly designed rear-wheel drive vehicles in its luxury brand Genesis, mimicking the European brands targeted by Genesis, instead of using the front-wheel-drive platforms it uses for the Hyundai and Kia brands.

“These will be the vehicles that will perform really well, but it will take a few years to achieve the kind of reliability that will put them at the top of the product rankings,” Fisher said.

European brands mainly below average

European brands, including luxury brands, mostly performed below average. Italian automaker Alfa Romeo takes last place. German automaker Volkswagen was 18 years old.

Many of these brands perform poorly year after year, Fisher said. But consumers still buy them because they offer great driving dynamics, plush interior, lots of tech, make an image statement or provide some other feature that buyers are looking for, Fisher said. Reliability is not the only determining factor in purchasing vehicles, he said.

But it creates problems for brands like Fiat, which have models that score poorly in driving dynamics and reliability, leaving almost no reason for a consumer to buy the brand, Fisher said. Fiat was not ranked in this year’s report, but its Fiat 500X achieved one of the worst overall scores of any vehicle tested. The brand sold just 4,000 vehicles in the United States last year, less than half of the number it sold in 2019, according to Motor Intelligence.

Common findings from Consumer Reports, JD Power

Consumer Reports’ findings reflect a long-term reliability study from automotive market research firm JD Power.

This 2018 Model Year Vehicle Reliability Vehicle Reliability Study (VDS) found that Asian brand vehicle owners were experiencing an average of 115 problems per 100 vehicles, the least of all groups. This compares to 126 problems for national brands and 131 for European brands. The industry average was 121, according to JD Power.

Top 10 CR picks: 4 from Toyota, Lexus

Consumer Reports also highlighted their 10 favorite models, organized by price segments. Eight of CR’s top 10 picks are Japanese nameplates, including four from Toyota and its luxury brand Lexus. Subaru had two models. Tesla was the only national automaker.

Its top picks in the under $ 25,000 segment are the Toyota Corolla sedan and the Mazda CX-30 subcompact crossover. He liked the Subaru Forester SUV, the Toyota Prius Hybrid and the Toyota Camry in the $ 25,000 to $ 35,000 segment.

Consumer Reports picked the Subaru Outback SUV-style station wagon, the Kia Telluride three-row SUV, and the Honda Ridgeline mid-size pickup in the $ 35,000 to $ 45,000 category. It nodded at the Lexus RX SUV and the Tesla Model 3 electric sports sedan in the $ 45,000 to $ 55,000 segment.

Consumer Reports only considered the new vehicles it tested on its 327-acre test track in Connecticut for its brand ranking. CR says it performs more than 50 tests on each vehicle, evaluating braking, handling, comfort, convenience, safety and fuel economy. It then compiles an overall score based on several factors. Ratings take into account expected reliability and owner satisfaction based on Consumer Reports member polls, test results, key safety features, and crash test results, if applicable.

Ram has not been ranked despite selling nearly half a million pickup trucks in 2020. To be included in the brand rankings, an automaker must have at least two vehicles tested; CR tested the Ram 1500 but not the larger 2500 or 3500 which are rarely used as station wagons. Fiat only has one model left in the United States, the 500X crossover, and if it had been classified as a brand it would have been the last.

CR also adds a new Green Choice endorsement in its individual model recommendations. It will use a green leaf icon to denote cars and trucks in its ratings that are in the lowest 20% group for greenhouse gas production and smog-forming emissions, according to data from the EPA.

“For a long time we’ve included fuel efficiency in our road test results for vehicles, but so far we haven’t looked at what comes out of the tailpipe,” Fisher said. “Green Choice will make the least polluting vehicles in terms of greenhouse gas and smog emissions easily visible to consumers. “


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Japanese trains save deer with sound effects

The Japanese rail system is world famous for its precision. Trains transport several billion people across the country each year with uncanny precision, rarely deviating from their schedules by more than a few seconds.

Yet even in this utopia of locomotive reliability, trains face an age-old problem for rail transport: animals on the tracks. And with around 20,000 kilometers (12,000 miles) of railroad tracks across Japan, keeping wildlife from the tracks can be a daunting task.

According to Japan’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transportation and Tourism, trains struck wildlife a record 613 times in 2016, each resulting in delays of at least 30 minutes. On top of that, of course, there is the generally disastrous result for the animals themselves.

There is a risk with animals as small as turtles, which caused at least 13 rail disruptions between 2002 and 2014 in western Nara prefecture alone. But, as MNN’s Matt Hickman reported in 2015, West Japan Railway Co. (JR West) worked with researchers at Suma Aqualife Park in Kobe to develop a simple solution: custom trenches that allow turtles to pass through. safe under the tracks.

Japanese trains must also coexist with larger and more dangerous intruders than turtles. Deer have become particularly troublesome in parts of the country, sometimes appearing to even actively seek out train tracks. Many are probably just trying to move around their habitat in search of food or mates, but deer would also be drawn to lines due to a need for iron in their diet, licking small iron filings left behind by grinding. train wheels. On Tracks.

People have tried a variety of tactics to rid the railroads of deer, ranging from putting up physical barriers and alternative sources of iron, to spreading lion droppings on the tracks. The latter plan was scrapped, both because its scent was too strong to be used in residential areas and because it was easily washed away by rain. The deer repeatedly defied ropes, fences, flashing lights and many other deterrents.

Recently, however, two new tactics have raised hopes of reducing collisions with deer:

Ultrasonic waves


Kintetsu Railway Co. operates the second largest rail network in Japan.
(Photo: Basico / Shutterstock)

Yuji Hikita, an employee of an electricity division of Kintetsu Railway Co., watched a heartbreaking scene in 2015 filmed by surveillance video on Kintetsu’s Osaka Line. A family of deer entered the tracks at night, and one of the three fawns in the back of the group was struck and killed by a train. A deer parent watched the fallen fawn for 40 minutes, according to the Asahi Shimbun newspaper.

After seeing this, Hikita racked her brains to find ways to prevent this from happening so often. Collisions with deer have increased for many mountainous railway lines in Kintetsu, reports the Asahi Shimbun, noting that the total rose from 57 in 2004 to 288 in 2015.

“Despite our best efforts to exclude deer, they still get into the tracks,” he thought at the time, as he told the Asahi Shimbun. “Why don’t we have deer crossings? ”

Hikita began to study the deer, finding hoof prints and droppings along both sides of the tracks. He had an idea, and two years later that idea won a 2017 Good Design Award from the Japan Institute of Design Promotion.


An illustration of the ultrasonic deterrent system, with doors open (left) and closed (right).
(Photo: GDA / JIDP)

An illustration of the ultrasonic deterrent system, with doors open (left) and closed (right). (Image: GDA / JIDP)

It is already in use on part of the Osaka line, where the net rises to 2 meters high (about 6.5 feet) along the tracks, except for the periodic intervals of 20 to 50 meters ( approximately 65 to 165 feet). In these spaces, ultrasonic waves form temporary barriers at the riskiest times of dawn and dusk, but not when trains are offline at night. And since humans can’t hear sound, it’s less disturbing in residential areas than lion dung.

Three of these crossings were built on the Osaka Line in a mountainous area of ​​Tsu, the capital of Mie Prefecture, according to Asahi Shimbun. This section of track suffered 17 deer collisions in fiscal 2015, but only one has been reported since the deer crossings were installed over a year ago.

Kintetsu also added deer crossings on another stretch of the same line in Nara Prefecture, where deer accidents have dropped from 13 in 2016 to two in eight months. “This is a great example of how rail companies can tackle the problem of deer-train collisions from a deer’s perspective,” said a 2017 Good Design Award judge, “and this is due to the countless number of victims sacrificed in accidents “.

The idea still needs to be tested more widely, but it has already attracted the interest of some other railway companies. JR West, for its part, began testing deer crossings on a section of its Sanyo Line in Okayama Prefecture last year, Asahi Shimbun reports.

Sniff and bark


Researchers hope to test train sniffing and barking more widely in Japan.
(Photo: Yungram Yongyut / Shutterstock)

In another inventive approach, researchers at the Railway Technical Research Institute (RTRI) tested trains that sniff like a deer and bark like a dog.

This combination of sounds is proving to be a good way to scare off deer, reports the BBC. First, a three-second explosion of deer snorting noises grabs their attention, followed by a 20-second clip of dog barking, which is apparently enough to scare them away.

RTRI officials say the results have been encouraging so far, with deer sightings down about 45% in sniffing and barking trains. The idea plays on the deer’s natural behavior, which includes “a habit of repeatedly sniffing short, high-pitched sounds to alert other deer when they perceive danger,” according to Asahi Shimbun.

The institute hopes to conduct larger experiments with the system and, if it proves effective, eventually install stationary sniffing and barking devices along the tracks in areas where deer are commonly seen. However, the noises would not be emitted where people’s homes are near the tracks.


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