Japanese auto brands nabbed five of the top 10 spots on this year's Consumer Reports Reliability Survey, with Mazda finishing on top for the first time, followed by Toyota and Lexus.
The three Japanese brands traded positions with one another from last year's survey, when Lexus was first, Mazda second and Toyota third.
Buick was the highest-rated domestic brand in this year's survey, finishing fourth, with Honda and Hyundai rounding out the brands deemed "most reliable" by the magazine's subscribers.
The survey, which covers the 2000-2020 model years, is based on data collected from the organization's members about their experiences with more than 300,000 vehicles. The nonprofit then assigns a predicted new-vehicle reliability score to various nameplates on a scale of 1 to 100. The scores of all of a brand's models from which the magazine has gathered statistically sufficient information is used to determine that brand's average reliability score.
Among domestic brands, Buick moved up 14 spots from last year to crack the top five. Ram was the next highest domestic brand, retaining its seventh-place spot from last year's survey, while Dodge dropped two spots to finish 10th. GMC, Chevrolet, Jeep and Cadillac improved from last year but still finished below average. Ford dropped six spots and fell into the magazine's "less reliable" tier.
Lincoln finished last among all brands on the survey with an average reliability score of just 8 — the only brand to have a score in single digits — and 21 points lower than Tesla, which was second to last. Lincoln was "dragged down by its SUV-focused model line, especially the new Aviator and Corsair," the magazine reported.
Porsche was the highest-ranked European brand but dropped five spots into No. 9.
Consumer Reports said vehicle owners "reported everything from transmissions needing replacement after as little as 5,000 miles to display screens that required hardware replacement" and, in the case of one Tesla Model Y, paint that was marred by embedded human hair.
A model's overall reliability score also includes road-test performance, owner satisfaction survey results, whether the model comes with key safety systems and crash test data, where available.
Tesla's ranking would have risen a few spots if not for the Model Y's performance, said Jake Fisher, senior director of auto testing at Consumer Reports.
New models often have reliability issues, but Tesla's problems were not typical.
"I am surprised that we would see just basic paint and trim type issues and body panel fitment issues," he said in an interview with Reuters. "You would think that that would have been worked out a long time ago."
"Really disappointing when you spend this much money for a car and hopefully they'll be able to rectify a lot of these as time goes by," Fisher added.
The Tesla Model S sedan and Model X crossover were both "worse than average, with the former losing its "recommended" status, Fisher said. The Model 3 sedan maintained an "average" rating and its "recommended" status.
Tesla could not be reached for comment.