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Tech Issues Hurt Auto Reliability Scores

DETROIT (WWJ) - Car companies are adding more technology in cars in an effort to please consumers, but Consumer Reports finds that too often that technology is not yet ready for prime time.

"Sometimes the system will freeze," said Jake Fisher, director of automotive testing at Consumer Reports. "Sometimes the system will lock up. The screen will go completely blank."

Systems that have been on the market for a while--like the much criticized "My Ford Touch"--are actually doing better in the Consumer Reports study, but systems on newer vehicles are causing issues.

Lexus was again the top brand in terms of reliability, according to the annual study of Consumer Reports readers. The magazine takes those results, and combines them with their own testing to determine the reliability of 2015 models.

Following behind Lexus: Toyota, Mazda and Honda. Buick was the top domestic brand and the only domestic brand in the top half of the study.

However, Fisher said that General Motors would have scored much better overall, if not for a couple of very important products.

"One of the things about GM that's kind of dragging them down though, is the Silverado and GMC Sierra," he said. "That hasn't been reliable in their first year. If they can work out the bugs there, we can really see them climbing up the ranks."

First year models, Fisher says, tend to not do as well as cars and trucks that have been around for a while.

GM's Cadillac brand was one of the most improved, along with Hyundai and Lincoln. Ford is also doing better.

Fiat-Chrysler finished last, possibly due to new models, and possibly due to issues with Fiat products.

"The 500 is still much worse than average. Actually, the Fiat 500-L is the absolute worse vehicle in our entire survey in terms of prediction."

There is a direct relationship, says Fisher, between issues with car electronic systems and with the reliability of other systems in the vehicle. Many of the other complaints involve systems that make vehicles more fuel-efficient.

"We're seeing things like the power-stroke transmission is still problematic," says Fisher. "Some of the nine speed automatics. It's the new technologies that seem to have problems."

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