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NINETY EIGHT REGENCY

Consumer Reports is fair

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Consumer Reports is fair

BY MARK PHELAN

FREE PRESS AUTO CRITIC

Yes, GM and Ford scored some notable victories in Consumer Reports' most recent ratings

Yes, GM and Ford still failed to crack CR's top five automakers, continuing to trail even Toyota, which fell to third place due to its many recalls.

And yes, plenty of Detroiters feel aggrieved.

Get over it.

Complaining about Consumer Reports is like complaining about gravity. It's a force of nature; you either accommodate it or fall on your face. Beyond that, CR is scrupulously fair and consistent. You may disagree -- it's a free country -- but there's no evidence the game is rigged.

Consumer Reports consistently rates as shoppers' most-respected source of information. Its tests are thorough and exhaustive. It gets input from thousands of vehicle owners every year.

Disliking the results won't make Detroit's problem go away. Building great cars will.

Consumer Reports puts every vehicle it evaluates through 50 tests on its private proving ground. It accumulates countless miles in real-world driving.

Those tests lead to reports like CR's recent headline, "Cadillac Beats Mercedes." The Cadillac CTS beat the Acura RL, Mercedes-Benz E350, Audi A6, Lincoln MKS and Lexus HS 250h hybrid.

Still, the CTS did not earn CR's coveted "recommended" status.

This is what makes some Detroiters crazy and convinces them the deck is stacked against U.S. automakers.

The reason, CR director of testing David Champion explains, is that no vehicle gets a recommendation unless its reliability rates above the industry average in the magazine's annual reader survey. High scores from readers alone won't win you recommended status, however. A vehicle must also do well in CR's tests and earn acceptable safety ratings from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Champion -- a car lover who worked as an automotive engineer for nearly 20 years before taking the reins at Consumer Reports -- has plenty of praise for Ford and GM.

link:

http://www.freep.com/article/20100223/COL14/100223049/1331/BUSINESS01/Consumer-Reports-is-fair

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Complaining about Consumer Reports is like complaining about gravity. It's a force of nature; you either accommodate it or fall on your face. Beyond that, CR is scrupulously fair and consistent. You may disagree -- it's a free country -- but there's no evidence the game is rigged.

Oh really?

I've noticed a number of occasions where data they have presented simply CANNOT be correct. Example 1 - a few years ago I looked at their reliability chart for the [car and car with another engine]. They claim that exterior fit and finish was [good rating] on the [one engine] and [terrible rating] for the [other engine] . This translates to a 4 and a 1 on a 1 to 5 scale. Since these vehicles were produced by the same workers, tools, raw materials, etc
it is not possible
for this to happen! I could buy a difference of one but not three between the two. A short statistical analysis lesson would be appropriate here. You can expect a variation of one when working with something like this. If you see the deviation that you do here you simply
have not sampled the data properly
! This is basic statistics. If this difference came in something that was not common to the two, like the engine, cooling system, transmission, etc. I would be able to accept the variation as correct. However, there is no way that this deviation from one to the next can occur with common items to the two.

Example 2 - [same cars, different nameplates]. There were major differences with the engine, electrical, fit and finish, etc. between these two. The only difference between them was the name plate applied near the end of the assembly line and a code in the VIN. There were differences in standard levels of equipment, but, that should not statistically effect what CR would have us believe it did. This is another case of improper statistical procedures.

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I don't think it's really CR's fault directly. They're just supplying us with statistics. The problem is the statistics themselves.

Let me make a couple of hypothetical situations for you. It's the early 80s. Man A is young, and has just saved up enough money to buy his first new car, a Cavalier. His parents never had much money, and he doesn't expect much from a car. If basic transportation is provided without too many hassles or trips to the shop, he will likely be very happy with the car and rate it well in all categories. Man B has just gotten fired from his job as a mid level manager. He has to cut back, his wife is nagging him to get something more fuel efficient, but his pride doesn't want him to stoop to the bottom of the automotive barrel. Foolishly, he picks up a Cimarron. It's not as luxurious as what he's used to. It hurts his image. It seems so small to him, and is less reliable than what he's come from. The first trip to the shop will likely infuriate him. If CR sends him a survey, he will likely rip this car a new arsehole.

Those are the types of statistics they deal in. That's the problem. Each car has its own type of customer with their own perceptions, priorities, and expectations.

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I don't think it's really CR's fault directly. They're just supplying us with statistics. The problem is the statistics themselves.

Let me make a couple of hypothetical situations for you. It's the early 80s. Man A is young, and has just saved up enough money to buy his first new car, a Cavalier. His parents never had much money, and he doesn't expect much from a car. If basic transportation is provided without too many hassles or trips to the shop, he will likely be very happy with the car and rate it well in all categories. Man B has just gotten fired from his job as a mid level manager. He has to cut back, his wife is nagging him to get something more fuel efficient, but his pride doesn't want him to stoop to the bottom of the automotive barrel. Foolishly, he picks up a Cimarron. It's not as luxurious as what he's used to. It hurts his image. It seems so small to him, and is less reliable than what he's come from. The first trip to the shop will likely infuriate him. If CR sends him a survey, he will likely rip this car a new arsehole.

Those are the types of statistics they deal in. That's the problem. Each car has its own type of customer with their own perceptions, priorities, and expectations.

Agreed:

I have a 1985 Dodge Daytona that has 135,000 miles on it. It runs great. At about 85,000 miles the timing belt broke, stranding my wife. The maintenance schedule says nothing about replacing the belt. Dodge thinks it's OK to wait till it breaks and then replace it; the design is such that it does nothing bad to the engine. However, to my wife, the car broke down and had a "serious engine problem." [Note: the manual actually does suggest replacing the belt at 105,000 miles.]

My friend with a Nissan Maxima just had his 60,000 mile maintenance at the dealer. He had the timing belt replaced, the fuel injectors cleaned, oil change, etc. and a fuel injector replaced. Cost, $850! If he filled out the CR form, he would show no major problems, just routine maintenance.

He then told me he was considering replacing all of his shocks because "it was about time." No Dodge owner would ever consider replacing shocks before the car bounced down the road. All Dodge had to do was recommend the belt change at 60,000 miles to avoid a "serious engine problem."

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Consumer reports has lost in court a few times for outright lying about a product. Major cases include Bose and Suzuki. i don't trust them. Enough said.

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Their data is also trade secret too. Plus, whats the statistical difference between a red circle and a half black circle?

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Let's not forget consumer reports admitted to having to take the recommended rating off of a couple Toyota products (I think it was the Avalon and/or the Tundra) because of reliability problems. They had given they recommended ratings before based purely on assumption.

Oh and then there was that child seat mess where they tested the seats at like 70mph not the 40mph they were supposed to, but didn't initially say they tested them at the much higher speed.

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Not to mention that the very processes they use to rate cars are fatally flawed.

They have never been, and are not now, worthy of trust.

Edited by Camino LS6
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To me it's laughably simple.

Want me to trust your 'data' ?

Print exactly how many vehicles you surveyed, and print exactly how a subjective, written report is turned into half- & full-circles. Then I can make my own judgement on how complete the database is & how you turn subjectives into objectives.

Until then --> toilet paper.

-- -- -- -- --

Time was when Big City newspapers were like a "force of nature" - determining their own road ahead. We all know a great many are in deep doo-doo financially from sources they never saw coming, and others are alread gone/merged.

CR is in the same, oblivious boat. In the '80s when their name was made, there was maybe 1 other consumer review. Once again sources too numerous to tabulate continue to eat into CR's relevance while CR continues to sit in their tower, their left arm curled around their tabulation formulas, proclaiming objectivity without evidence, oblivious.

Edited by balthazar
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