Ranking the world's best car brands is not an easy task. The term "best" is fairly subjective, and there's no shortage of variables you can consider to gauge the overall best and worst car brands. Some drivers rate a car brand based on the stats of their top-performing cars. Others prefer to judge a brand by the overall reliability and build quality of their products. There are drivers out there who judge car brands by their owner satisfaction, and others who consider the quality of a company's sales force, parts supply, or dealerships. Finding a consistent way to measure quality is no easy task.
The best car brands: data
To make things a little simpler (or more complicated, depending on how you look at it), there are many in-depth studies conducted by reputable data collection and research companies that measure a wide range of metrics that can help us Identifying the car brands are some of the best, and which ones fall short.
For our list, we look at data collected from a number of different but no less respected studies. The first is theAmerican Customer Satisfaction Index(ACSI). This survey measured the satisfaction of American consumers, rating their satisfaction with their vehicle and car brand on a scale of 1 to 100. This study considered reliability, performance, aesthetics, interior design, safety, technology, comfort, economy, warranty and after-sales service.The results are quite fascinating.
JD Power also collects data to get a rough idea of the quality of a car being sold in the auto industry. When you're shopping for a new car, they offer some interesting stats that might influence your purchasing decision. We use theirsFirst quality surveyto measure how many defects are reported to automakers on average per 100 new cars sold.
We also use data from Consumer Reports. Consumer Reports has long been a gold mine when it comes to extracting data from the automotive industry. A recent Consumer Reports study focuses onthe overall reliability of car brands and the overall customer satisfaction of drivers of 470,000 vehicles. This study focused on a number of factors, but primarily focused on a vehicle's reliability.
The best car brands for US customers
Ranked first for the best car brand in America, Lexus is no stranger to high rankings. In fact, since 2011, Lexus has been regularly listed as one of the top 5 car brands in surveys. Last year, Lexus trailed behind Volvo as the king of auto brands in the US, using data compiled by ACSI. This year, Lexus managed to pick up a few points and share the top honor with Volvo for most reliable car brand.
Lexus has received many awards since its inception in 1983 as Toyota's luxury division. In recent years, the brand has been ranked as the most trusted car brand in America, achieved a vehicle reliability score above the industry average and is now known as the top car brand in America.
Today, Lexus is one of the largest Japanese car brands, exporting to over 70 countries worldwide, with factories and operations around the world, from the company's headquarters in Nagoya, Japan, to plants in Plano, Texas, and Brussels, Belgium. It tops our list, but it tops many other car brands listing items thanks to the company's commitment to reliability, customer service, forward thinking and luxurious design.
On the common first place we have the Swedish automaker Volvo. In recent years, Volvo has struggled in a number of areas. According to JD Power customer satisfaction surveys and Consumer Reports reliability studies, the brand has consistently fallen behind its closest competitors. However, the brand recently reversed this. The latest ASCI survey gives the brand 82 out of 100 approval ratings across a variety of factors in the US. This assessment is backed by recent sales figures from Volvo, with the brand seeing a huge 27.6% increase in car sales between 2018 and 2019.
Volvo is a Swedish brand originally founded in 1927. Since then, the brand has gone through a number of changes with different owners. Today, the company is still headquartered in Torslanda, near Gothenburg, but is currently owned by Chinese car giant Geely Holding, which sourced the brand from Ford back in 1999.
Thanks to increased sales and an increase in the overall quality of the brand, Volvo is expected to continue growing in the United States and plans to compete against other luxury car brands such as Mercedes-Benz and Audi.
In addition to common first places, there are also common second places. Ford's only remaining luxury class, Lincoln, tied for second place with an ASCI score of 84 out of 100 points. Unusually, the brand came second on a number of factors including performance, aesthetics, reliability, comfort and more. In 2018, it still suffered a 10 percent drop in sales. Since conducting the same poll in 2017, Lincoln has even climbed two places. The sales don't seem to reflect public opinion about the Lincoln brand, as they consider it one of the top car brands in the country.
The Lincoln brand was first founded in 1917 by Henry Leland and named after Abraham Lincoln as the Lincoln Motor Company. In 1922 the brand was acquired by the Ford Motor Company and went through a number of changes over the course of the 20th century. For the most part, it was paired with the Mercury brand name and traded as the Lincoln-Mercury. In 2012, it was renamed "Lincoln" and became one of Ford's luxury nameplates. Today, the brand manufacturer offers a wide range of vehicles, including SUVs, sedans and crossovers. In 2017, the brand was recognized as the Most Satisfying Premium Brand at AutoPacific's annual Vehicle Satisfaction Awards.
Subaru shares second place with Lincoln in the ASCI poll. The Subaru brand name has always been a popular and respected choice for US drivers, and the level of customer satisfaction is exemplified by the brand's 5 percent increase in sales over the last year. This is the second year that the brand has ranked second in the ASCI survey, although overall satisfaction has dropped a few points. Nevertheless, Subaru is still rated highly compared to other brand names and also in other surveys.A recent study by USnews.comranks Subaru as the ninth best car brand in the country with a customer satisfaction score of 8.12 out of 10.
Subaru's high score is an excellent achievement considering the brand isn't part of a larger auto giant like many of its closest competitors are. In fact, it's only the twenty-second automaker in the world in terms of production. Subaru was first established in 1915 as an Aircraft Research Laboratory. The company went through numerous changes and directions before becoming the automotive division of Fuji Heavy Industries. Today, the brand is famous for its high-performance cars, which use an unusual boxer engine configuration in all cars over 1.5 liters. Popular models include the Outback SUV, BRZ coupe and WRX sedan.
There are three brands tied for third place and we'll start with a look at Audi. Volkswagen's luxury brand scored an excellent 83 points in the ACSI survey. The Consumer Report also gives Audi a positive result in terms of brand reliability and places the German brand in fourth place. It's not all good news, however. J.D Power's 2019 Brand Ranking reports that, on average, Audi customers experience a whopping 105 issues for every 100 vehicles sold. This is much higher than the industry standard of 93. Despite J.D Power's unfavorable rating, Audi is still one of the most trusted auto brands in the country.
Audi AG was originally founded in 1899 when August Horch founded Horch & Cie. founded. Internal disagreements shortly thereafter forced Horch to leave and start a new company, but as his name was already taken from his first company, he had to find a new name. Audiwerke GmbH was born from the Latin translation of his surname audi (Horch is German for “to hear”). The brand continued to grow until 1932 when the company was absorbed into Auto Union AG along with other German car brands Horch, DKW and Wanderer. Today, Audi is owned by automotive giant Volkswagen and continues to manufacture high quality luxury cars for the global market. It is one of the most famous European car brands out there.
Next to Audi in third place we have Honda. Honda also scored an impressive 83 points in the ASCI rankings, a significant improvement on the 2018 score of 81. Honda also performed very well with an independent study conducted by US News giving the Honda brand a quality and reliability rating of 8.55 out of 10, which equates to third place overall. J.D Power interprets the brand's quality slightly differently, ranking Honda 16th out of 32 brands, with an average of 98 reported problems per 100 new models sold - 5 more than the industry average of 93. Honda's sales have declined somewhat recently, with a drop of total sales by 2%, but thanks to the improvement in SUV sales, the brand is expected to return to sales form.
Honda as we know it today was founded in 1949, but company founder Soichiro Honda started his career in 1937 as a mechanic. After World War II, Honda's plan was to build light and affordable transportation that everyone can enjoy, and since then the brand has grown into an automotive giant. Today,Honda is the 28th most valuable brand in the world according to Forbes, and the brand itself has become a household name.
The last brand to finish third, alongside Audi and Honda, is Toyota. Although Toyota is one of the largest automobile manufacturers in the world, it only takes third place in the ASCI satisfaction index. Scoring 83 points would normally be cause for celebration, but Toyota has actually lost three points from previous years, slipping from first place (shared with Lexus) to third. On the plus side, Toyota performed very well in the J.D Power rankings, reporting just 90 problems per 100 cars sold, beating the industry's 93, which put it 8th out of 32 brands.
Founded in Japan in 1924 as a loom manufacturer, Toyota evolved into making automobiles in 1933, with the first production models appearing in 1935. Over the years the company has grown significantly with factories and plants around the world including well-known sub-brands. Today, Toyota Motor Corporation ranks as the largest automaker in the world, often swapping places with Volkswagen, and the company is poised to grow even bigger thanks to the brand's commitment to electric and hybrid technology with models like the Prius and Prius Prime serving as the standard bearer for the Hybrid category apply.
The BMW ranking at the ASCI shows no movement compared to previous years, the brand scored an impressive 82 points. While there hasn't been any sign of improvement since last year, BMW's sales are actually up a cool 2.5%. J.D Power ranks BMW 20th out of 32 manufacturers for product quality, backed by data showing BMW owners report an average of 102 defects for every 100 cars sold. However, other sources differ, such as research firm Consumer Affairs (not to be confused with Consumer Reports).Awarded a score of 3.5 out of 5 by BMW for reliabilitybased on the strength of over 1000 independent reviews.
BMW began as three separate companies: Rapp Motor Works, Vehicle Factory Eisenach, and Bayerische Flugzeugwerke. In 1916 the three brands were merged and the newly formed company manufactured aircraft engines for the Germans during World War I. After the Versailles Treaty was signed, Germany was banned from manufacturing aircraft engines, so the company survived by branching out and manufacturing other goods. While BMW began building motorcycles, the company's subsequent automobiles gained worldwide fame. Today the brand specializes in building high quality premium, high performance and often luxury cars.
Cadillac ties up to BMW in the ASCI index, which is pretty good considering the brand has had its fair share of ups and downs throughout its history. ASCI gives Cadillac a score of 82, which isn't bad at all. Unfortunately, J.D Power disagrees, ranking Cadillac 17th out of 32 brands evaluated in terms of vehicle quality, with customers reporting an average of 100 defects per 100 vehicles sold. That's 7 cases more than the industry average of 93. Still, the brand is doing something right as it has seen a whopping 5.4% year-over-year increase in sales. Not only that, it's also the highest-rated General Motors brand on the list. It is also the manufacturer with the third fewest recalls, beaten only by Mercedes-Benz and Mazda, according to Forbes.
The Cadillac brand name is one of the oldest brands in the industry. Founded in 1902 from the remnants of the Henry Ford Company, Cadillac has since established itself as one of the world's first and most well-known luxury automobile manufacturers. Today it is the second oldest of the American car brands still in existence, beaten only by Buick. Cadillac became part of General Motors in 1909 and has since built a strong reputation for quality, reliable, and luxurious consumer vehicles.
Although Mercedes-Benz is ranked the 17th most valuable brand in the world by Forbes, it's not doing as well as it could be judging by the statistics below. The ASCI index shows that the company has dropped from 84 to 82 points in terms of customer satisfaction. J.D Power's survey isn't as harsh, counting Mercedes-Benz with 94 reported problems per 100 vehicles sold, ranking 14th out of 32 brands. Overall, however, the brand's annual sales are down 13.4%, a massive drop compared to other companies. Nevertheless, the Mercedes-Benz brand is still one of the best in the USA.
Mercedes-Benz was first established in 1886 when Karl Benz developed a petrol-powered vehicle. In the same year, the Benz Patent Motor Car was patented. It took a while for the first production models to enter service, but in 1926 the first Mercedes-Benz branded vehicles became available. All thanks to a tactical merger with the Gottlieb Daimler and Karl Benz brands. Today, Mercedes-Benz is considered one of the world's leading automobile manufacturers. Based in Stuttgart, Germany, Mercedes-Benz is famous for manufacturing luxury cars, SUVs, buses and coaches.
The worst car brands for US customers
Using the same metrics for the top car brands listed above, we thought it would be a good idea to show you the lowest rated car brands in the US. Well, these lists depend on results generated by research and statistics companies, who can only extract data from information pools of limited size, so don't take any of these statistics as gospel truth. Think of them as average ratings based on responses from limited research networks. So don't be offended if your automaker makes the list. Despite lower rankings, all of these manufacturers are safe enough and reliable enough to drive on the country's roads, otherwise they wouldn't be available for sale. So let's start with the worst of the worst and get better and better as time goes on.
Chrysler is arguably the worst car brand in the US if these stats are to be believed. Starting with the ASCI index, we ranked Chrysler last in terms of customer satisfaction with a terrible score of 74, which is worse than last year when it scored 79 points. The most recent study by J.D Power wasn't kind either, placing Chrysler 25th out of 32 brands for quality with a score of 113 reported defects per 100 cars sold. The Vehicle Dependability Study by J.D Power from the previous year also placed Chrysler clearly in last place. Sales also reflected Chrysler's decline, with sales plummeting a whopping 13.1%.
Chrysler was first founded in 1925, but its history goes back further. The company was built on the Maxwell Motor Company, which was founded in 1904 before becoming the Chrysler Corporation. Today Chrysler is owned by Fiat and together they form Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, also known as FCA US LLC. Along with General Motors and Ford, Fiat Chrysler is one of the giants of the American automotive industry, affectionately known as the “Big Three”. In addition to Chrysler and Fiat, the FCA Group also owns Dodge, Ram, Jeep, Maserati and Mopar.
Next we have another US auto giant, which scores disappointingly low on the list. Despite Ford having access to a huge 14% market share in the US and being one of the most popular car brands in the world, Ford inspires very little customer satisfaction. According to ASCI, Ford's score has dropped from an already low 79 to 77 this year. It's not all bad news, however. J.D Power's survey gave the company a much better rating, ranking it 4th out of 32 in an initial quality survey and a low average of 83 reported defects per 100 cars sold. Currently, Forbes ranks Ford as the 48th most valuable brand in the world.
The first incarnation of Ford Motor Company came about in 1901 when founder Henry Ford established the Henry Ford Company. In 1902, this company evolved into the Cadillac Motor Company. Ford as we know it today was first founded in 1903 with a single factory and $28,000 in investment funds from 12 visionary backers, including both Horace and John Dodge. Today, Ford is one of the largest automakers in the United States and the parent company of the Lincoln Motor Company, which oddly enough scores much better than Ford in such lists and polls.
Tied to Ford for the second-worst awards is Dodge. Dodge may be another legendary American company, but it ranks as one of the worst car brands in terms of customer satisfaction, according to the ASCI index. It's way down at 77 points alongside Ford, but not as bad as last year as the company improved its score to 75 on 100 vehicles in their initial quality survey.The 2018 Vehicle Reliability Survey wasn't so kind. Despite scoring high in J.D Power's rankings, Dodge has reported a 3.5% drop in sales.
The Dodge brothers John and Horace first founded the Dodge Brothers Company in 1900. Together they make components and parts for other existing automakers, most notably the Ford Motor Company and the Olds Motor Vehicle Company. The two brothers even invested in Henry Ford's Ford Motor Company in 1903. Although they believed in the Ford dream, the brothers eventually made their own cars, the first of which arrived in 1914. The company was very successful up until the 1920s. In 1928 the Dodge name was sold to Chrysler. Today it is a major subsidiary of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.
Infiniti might not have the lowest score on the list, but by rights it shouldn't be on the list of worst car brands at all. It is the only luxury brand to fall below the industry average in terms of owner satisfaction, according to the ASCI index. That's not good at all. With an industry average of 82, it's a bit of a shock for a brand like Infiniti to score 78. J.D Power's 2019 Initial Quality survey agrees that Infinit could do better, placing it 19th out of 32 brands with an average of 101 reported defects per 100 cars sold. Luckily, the pool of survey respondents from the 2018 J.D Power Vehicle Reliability Survey helped the brand regain some dignity, placing the brand fourth in reliability. Which at least is something.
The Infiniti brand is a relative newcomer to the automotive industry, only appearing in 1989. The brand was developed as Nissan's luxury car division that planned to compete with Toyota's Lexus and Honda's Acura brands and enter the American luxury market. The first Infiniti vehicles were sold in the US in 1989 and over the years the small division has grown into a large and important own brand, with dealerships across the US and in over 50 countries worldwide.
Fiat is not doing well. The ASCI scores it 78, which is marginally better than some others on the list, but for a company as big as Fiat, the brand should do better. Unfortunately, Fiat was not included in the J.D Power Initial 2019 quality survey due to a small sample size available. However, the brand was included in J.D Power's 2018 Vehicle Reliability Survey... where it ranked 29th out of 31, with an average of 192 reported problems per 100 vehicles sold. To make matters worse, Fiat just experienced a huge drop in sales of a worrying 43.7% (that's not a typo). Let's hope the good people at Fiat Chrysler can rally and turn things around in the near future!
The largest of the Italian car brands, Fiat was first founded in 1899 by Giovanni Agnelli and his associates. The name Fiat is an acronym of Fabbric Italiana di Automobili Torino. Fiat S.p.A has grown from a small operation with 35 employees producing 24 cars a year in 1900 to one of the largest car manufacturers in the world. Fiat is also one of the main partners of the large company Fiat Chrysler Automobile; an Italian-American multinational and the eighth largest automaker in the world.
Mitsubishi never does well in such rankings, but if we look at the ASCI results, things are actually looking good for the Japanese car brand. Mitsubishi managed to improve its score by one point compared to last year, bringing the total to a respectable 78. However, J.D Power also has a pretty bad opinion of Mitsubishi, ranking the company 30th out of 32 car brands in its first quality survey. If you only look at polls, Mitsubishi does not do well at all. However, if you like looking at sales numbers to get an idea of the quality of a car brand, Mitsubishi might surprise you as the brand is enjoying a 23.4% year-on-year increase in sales, which represents huge growth.
The Mitsubishi Group was initially founded in 1870 as a shipping company. Although Mitsubishi focused on shipping, it expanded and diversified in many ways, operating banks, investing in coal, selling insurance and producing iron. In 1917, the company produced its first automobile, a hand-built seven-seater. Only 22 were built in the four years that the Model A was on sale. Fortunately, the modern Mitsubishi is much more production. Today the company is based in Tokyo and is the sixth largest automobile manufacturer in Japan and the sixteenth largest worldwide in terms of production.
This is a bit of a curveball choice. Usually, Kia does incredibly well in lists like this. In fact, J.D Power ranks Kia #2 in terms of initial quality, with an average of 70 reported defects per 100 cars sold. This also correlates with the 2018 Vehicle Dependability Study, which ranks the company as the fifth best company. However, the ASCI gives Kia a disappointingly low score when measuring overall customer satisfaction. It appears that the vehicles are dependable and dependable, but lack performance, extra features, styling, comfort and technology. The ASCI gave Kia a 79 score, down from the 82 it had last year. Sales reflect the decline, with the brand reporting a 1.6% drop in sales.
Kia was first established in 1944. The company manufactured steel tubing and bicycle parts, and in 1951 Kia produced its own bicycle. Shortly thereafter, it began producing Honda-licensed motorcycles and Mazda-licensed trucks. In 1973, Kia began producing its own cars, but just over a decade later, political reasons forced the company to stop producing cars and focus on trucks. When the turmoil passed, Kia partnered with Ford to return to manufacturing passenger cars and the brand grew from there. Today, Kia is one of the most respected manufacturers in the industry.
Chevrolet might be another odd choice to score this low on the list. It's the third-biggest car brand in the US behind Toyota and Ford, and sales are also rising, with the brand reporting a 5% increase. However, the ASCI score explains that while sales may increase, overall customer satisfaction is at an all-time low. With a score of 79, which is much worse than Cadillac, Buick and GMC, Chevrolet should do better. However, J.D Power rates Chevrolet much higher. In terms of vehicle quality, he only reports an average of 85 defects per 100 cars sold, which is fifth place overall.
Chevrolet, also known as Chevy, is a subsidiary of General Motors. The brand was first founded in 1911 by Louis Chevrolet and William C. Durant with plans to build a car that could compete with the Ford Model T. In 1917 Chevrolet was merged with General Motors and the rest is history. Over the years, Chevrolet has been one of the most important and well-known brands from America. Today, Chevrolet operates in more than 140 countries worldwide, and Forbes ranks the brand 63rd as one of the most valuable brand names out there.
Despite being rated by ACSI as one of the worst car brands you can buy, things aren't as bad for RAM as they seem. Sure, the brand scored an uninspiring 80, but it tops the "best of the worst" list, and these are the brands appearing in this survey for the first time ever. 80 may not be great, but it's way ahead of the other Fiat Chryslers. Since the industry average is only 82 anyway, we can forgive RAM here. J.D Power doesn't rate the brand particularly highly, ranking it 21st out of 32, with an average of 105 reported defects per 100 vehicles sold. It's far more than the industry average of 93, but it's not terrible. However, sales fell by 5.7%.
RAM Trucks, or the RAM Truck Division, has a long and illustrious history. The Ram name was originally applied to Dodge trucks beginning in 1932, along with other light and medium-duty vehicles, including vans. The Ram names were often used for Dodge's vehicles, but it wasn't a separate brand until 2010 when Fiat-Chrysler Automobiles decided to list RAM as a new sub-brand. Fiat-Chrysler had plans to use the brand as a new division that would appeal to lovers of "real trucks" and pickups and produce models that could compete with Ford, Chevrolet and GMC.
As the best of the worst, the Nissan name should surprise. Despite being one of the most well-known car brands in the world, Nissan has only achieved a rather low score of 80 on the ASCI customer satisfaction index. This was reflected in a sharp 5.9% year-over-year sales decline in the US. It's not all bad news, however. J.D Power is particularly supportive of the brand, giving it a score of 9 out of 10 for overall quality and placing the brand 7th out of 32 in its initial quality ranking and reporting a score of 86 reported defects per 100 vehicles sold. That's a lot better than the industry average of 93.
The Nissan Motor Company was founded in Japan in 1911 when Masujiro Hashimoto founded the Kaishinskha Motor Car Works. In 1914, the brand produced its first car, known as the DAT. The company went through numerous name changes before becoming known as DAT Motors. In 1934 the company was absorbed into the Nissan Group and Nissan as we know it today began to take shape. Today, Nissan is one of the largest car manufacturers in the world. Headquartered in Yokohama, Japan, Nissan is also the parent company of Datsun and Infiniti.
How many car brands are there?
There are hundreds of car brands in the world but it is impossible to list them all as there are too many variables as to what makes a right car manufacturer and right brand. However, when we talk about major industry players, there are 54 notable car brands owned by 14 parent companies. Here's a quick rundown of who owns who:
- Rolls Royce
- Mercedes Benz
- Alfa Romeo
- DS Automobile
Ford Motor Company
- Lincoln Motor Company
The TATA Motor
- The TATA Motor
- land rover
- London taxi company
- light up
These aren't the only brands out there. There are many other top car brands that do not fit the above criteria as they are still individually owned.Ferrari,Mazda, AndSubaru, for example, as well as other interesting brands likeTeslaAndLotus.
Best Car Brands in the US: Conclusion
This is not a car buying guide, but hopefully it will give you a little more detail on the state of the auto industry and the cars being sold in the US. However, if you want to know the best car brands in terms of customer satisfaction and reliability, Lexus and Genesis are the best of the best. If you want to know the worst car brands considering customer satisfaction, then the worst would have to be Chrysler. In terms of worst reliability and product quality, the answer would then have to be Chrysler again.