Consumer Reports names its most reliable cars

Tesla (TSLA)'s Model 3, the electric car maker's most affordable vehicle as it targets the automotive mainstream, is likely to be dependable as well as thrifty, Consumer Reports concludes its annual reliability survey.

The magazine bases its prediction for the Model  3, which started shipping to customers in July despite production snafus, on survey data for the more expensive Tesla Model S. The two vehicles share much of their technology, and the Model S rates above average in the survey of CR subscribers.

The Model 3 is priced at $35,000, compared with $68,000 and up for the Model S.

Another new electric car, the Chevrolet Bolt, should also prove reliable. "Electric vehicles are inherently less complicated than gasoline or hybrid alternatives," said Jake Fisher, CR director of auto testing. "The Model 3 is the least complicated Tesla yet and should benefit from what Tesla has learned from the Model S."

While CR's reliability survey, drawn from the repair records for 640,000 vehicles, bodes well for electric car fans, the latest finding also show mounting problems for new vehicles. The issues most often cited by motorists: continuously variable transmissions and infotainment systems. Fisher suggested holding off on buying recently introduced models until manufacturers have worked out the tech bugs.

Toyota topped the list for overall brand reliability, followed by its luxury brand Lexus. Kia, Audi, BMW, Subaru, Infiniti, Buick, Honda and Hyundai rounded out the top 10.

U.S. automakers has a mixed record when it comes to reliability, according to CR.

Chrysler gained 10 positions this year from last to land at No. 17. Jeep, another Fiat Chrysler (FCAU) brand, finished 20th but showed reliability improvement with its Cherokee SUV. Ford (F) also rose in the survey to No. 15. Its F-150 pickup returned to an average reliability rating after being rated below average last year.

General Motors' (GM) brands lost ground this year in the survey. Buick, ranked No. 3 last year in reliability, dropped to eighth. Chevrolet finished at No. 15 while GMC and Cadillac were the bottom two among 27 brands.

European luxury brands continued a relatively strong performance. Audi ranked fourth, BMW fifth and Mercedes-Benz No. 14 on the reliability survey. 

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    Jerry Edgerton, author of Car Shopping Made Easy, has been covering the car beat since Detroit companies dominated the U.S. market. The former car columnist for Money magazine and Washington correspondent for Business Week, Edgerton specializes in finding the best deals on wheels and offering advice on making your car last.