The poor reliability of German cars—despite their perceived impeccable engineering—is beyond a meme in enthusiast circles; it's just the way things are. It may be surprising then that BMW was ranked as one of the top 3 most reliable brands by Consumer Reports. It jumped 10 places in the company's 2022 ranking to achieve this title. Huh.
It's the first time BMW has ranked that high in Consumer Reports' reliability survey ever. Top reliability marks are usually held by Japanese brands. Keep in mind that these results are self-reported by owners and not measured objectively by a third party.
BMW achieved its No. 3 ranking in CR's list due to consistently average or above-average levels of reported reliability in most of its products. Notably, the 3 and 4 Series are marked as having "above-average" reliability. Other vehicles in the automaker's lineup including the X3, X5, X7, and 5 Series are all consistently average. They were ranked lower than the 3 and 4 Series due to owners reports of electrical problems and fiddly user interfaces.
Another German brand, Mercedes-Benz, came last (24th) in CR's rankings for the first time. The publication says that this is due to extensive "problems with the in-car electronics such as screen freezing or going blank." It also notes that sometimes these issues get so bad that physical hardware must be replaced to fix it.
Some results of CR's survey are counterintuitive. The most complex vehicles on the road from a drivetrain perspective are conventional hybrids and plug-in hybrids. These vehicles have both an internal combustion engine as well as an electric drivetrain. Owners report them to be very reliable despite this. On the other hand, many new fully electric vehicles had relatively poor reported reliability. CR claimed that, "of the 11 EV models on which CR has sufficient data, only four have average or better predicted reliability."
So if you're looking for a reliable car, deductive logic says you should buy ... a plug-in hybrid BMW. Of course, this isn't the whole story but it's a funny result nonetheless. I guess the Bavarians know something their German competitors in Stuttgart don't.
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