New vehicle launches aren’t always a weight on a brand.
Fisher pointed to the Ford Ranger midsize pickup, and the Hyundai Kona and Lexus UX crossovers as examples of recent launches that went well.
“Generally, when we see a vehicle that launches really good, there's a reason for it. One is it's sharing components from another vehicle. Look at the UX, there's so many things in common with a CHR and other products they've sold overseas before,” Fisher said during the APA presentation. “Or, to that point, they've already sold it overseas for a couple of years. A very strong launch was the Ford Ranger. Yes, it is new, but it has been a vehicle that's been essentially sold overseas already, so those growing pains may have already been done.”
While Toyota and Lexus have sterling reputations, the Korean brands are still battling for respect.
Fisher said there is no gap between Korean and Japanese brands at this point. But the Korean are still working to convince consumers that they engineer and build quality vehicles.
“There is not a single Korean model that we have data for that's below average reliability,” Fisher said. “They're all average or better.”
Subaru’s drop in the rankings comes as the brand introduces more vehicles on a new global platform that debuted with the 2017 Impreza.
The 2019 Ascent and Forester both have average reliability. Consumer Reports said problems included in-vehicle electronics system glitches such as the radio and music interface and display screen going blank.
“They do a lot of redesigns, but the redesigns are actually very scheduled, it's very interesting. Virtually every five years, like clockwork, many of these Subarus are redesigned,” Fisher said. “Virtually all of these vehicles have moved to that new platform. Many of them have a decent reliability, but because these are all on that newest platform, that has hurt them a little bit.”
Mending over-the-air updates
With over-the-air updates becoming the norm, automakers should offer workarounds to counter glitchy updates.
Fisher said the infotainment system for the organization’s test Jeep Wrangler blanked out after an update.
FCA admitted the error and said an update would follow in the next week or so, but until that time, Fisher said the radio couldn’t be operated and there was no rear-view camera.
“If you're going to go push an update to a car, and you screw something up, you should be able to undo that [and] at least have your car functional to the level it was before. There's no reason why you can't have the memory and the RAM and the processing to be able to restore how it was,” Fisher said. “We can do this in Google Docs, we should be able to do it our cars.”