My name is Jake Fisher. I am the Director of Auto Testing at Consumer Reports, the nonprofit membership organization. Want to learn more about our car testing? Our research or ratings? Our secret shoppers? I'll be taking your questions from 1 p.m.- 2 p.m. EST.

We have information on what cars are reliable

And are beginning to test automated driving systems

If you have questions about these topics or anything else about cars, now is your chance to ask them!

UPDATE: Thanks for all the great questions! I need to go back to work. These cars aren't going to drive themselves..... yet.

Comments: 137 • Responses: 28  • Date: 

BillyInfinity35 karma

Hi Jake, long-time subscriber here. Almost every Subaru on CR is recommended as a new car with above average reliability over several years. Yet, Subaru rarely makes the 'best used cars under $20,000' types of lists ("the vehicles that we'd recommend to our friends and family members who want to buy a used car on a $20,000 budget"). If the subscriber data supports above average reliability for many Subarus and you recommend them new, why aren't they recommended as used?

racerjake29 karma

First, thanks for being a member!! My kids gotta eat. Good question about Subarus. The new ones are very reliable, but some of the older ones have reliability that varies. However, there are many Subarus on this recent list: https://www.consumerreports.org/used-cars/best-used-cars-for-teens/

DarthGarak7 karma

How exactly can you tell if a new car is reliable in the long term?

racerjake16 karma

Just looking at the data we get in from members. We have data on more than a 1/2 million vehicles.

Promit21 karma

A complaint I've seen leveled against CR is that because it's not an enthusiast publication, it tends to unfairly penalize cars which have enthusiast appeal at at price to more pedestrian aspects. Things like infotainment ratings penalties in sports cars fall into this category. Do you think this is a fair criticism?

racerjake11 karma

I don't think so. It's true we don't give style points. But you can make a car fun and give it lots of features without totally screwing up other things. The Tesla Model S does a pretty good job of this. But if cars don't we call them out so people will know. https://www.consumerreports.org/cars/tesla/model-s/2019/overview

RicFlairOverHuge20 karma

What makes a manufacturer produce an unreliable car? It's it poor design? Cheaping out on parts? Not enough R and D? I'm amazed that after a 100 years of car-making, we still have cars that are very unreliable.

racerjake26 karma

Great question! The answer is all of the above. Take the Tesla Model X - it's so complicated, I'm not sure any manufacturer could make that design reliable. But I suspect that VW's are less reliable than Audi's because they have to hit a lower price point.

RicFlairOverHuge14 karma

Do you think six cylinder cars will ever make a comeback? Seems like everything is a turbo-4 these days.

racerjake21 karma

Sadly, no. It's too bad, because there are some really good and efficient V6's out there.

FiveCatPenagerie13 karma

What brand or brands would you say have improved in quality/reliability over the years, and what brands have gotten worse?

racerjake26 karma

The Korean brands have really come a long way since the 80's when we got the terrible Hyundai Excel. Volvo's reliability has dropped lately with their latest redesigns. Way too much tech, way too soon. They are dead last in our latest survey. You can see how all the brands ranked at: https://www.consumerreports.org/car-reliability-owner-satisfaction/who-makes-the-most-reliable-cars/

DarthGarak6 karma

Have you driven the Kia Stinger GT2? I'm considering buying a 2019.

racerjake14 karma

Pretty impressive. But we just got the Genesis G70 - same platform but much nicer. Stay tuned. https://www.consumerreports.org/cars/genesis/g70/2019/overview

Majsharan13 karma

Turbos used to cause reliability issues both in the short term and long-term, have you found that to still be the case, or has that issue largely been solved?

racerjake17 karma

We aren't seeing a big issue with the latest turbos. That said, some manufacturers are doing it well, while other are struggling. We just did an analysis that you can check out here: https://www.consumerreports.org/car-reliability-owner-satisfaction/troubles-with-turbo-engine-reliability/

TypicalExcuse11 karma

Are there any outside influences that impact grading, either positively or negatively? Such as donations, or lackthereof?

racerjake29 karma

Nope. That's one of the reasons why I chose to work here. We don't have to worry about advertising or anything else. That's why we get to say bad things about cars that are... bad.

DarthGarak11 karma

On that topic, hopefully you see this before you leave, what was the absolute worst/disappointing car you've test driven, taking into account price?

racerjake32 karma

Easy. Fisker Karma.

CTMechE9 karma

Hi Jake-

I'm curious as to how challenging it has been to set up a consistent set of test procedures for automated driving systems, given how much variation there is in capabilities at this stage of the game. Is there a lot of infrastructure changes or new hardware youlve had to invest in?

And do you anticipate having to revise them frequently (perhaps every year) due to the pace/evolution of the technology?

Thanks!

racerjake7 karma

Yes, we have made recent modifications to our track and are talking about more! We lay pavement and lane lines to test the lane keeping systems and have a foam car that we try to avoid running into with automatic emergency braking - it’s kind of a pain to put back together.

YotaMD_dotcom9 karma

You get two cars, no price limit, no concern for running costs or maintenance. One car for fun and one for daily living.

What do you choose?

racerjake17 karma

I've never heard this question before - but this one is fun. McLaren F1 and a Honda Ridgeline. I'm telling which is for what.

Kingcentaur8 karma

Since you are the director of auto testing, what kind of vehicle(s) do you drive and why?

racerjake12 karma

I drive everything - it's the job. I've probably driven every model you'll see in a parking lot! When I'm not working, I might be riding my bike though.

Kingcentaur6 karma

To clarify I meant as a daily driver, I take it your bike is your daily driver though?

racerjake5 karma

Yeah - not so much. I'm mostly riding my bike in triathlons. So, uh... no.

Kingcentaur12 karma

Ok, so what vehicle do you drive normally everyday? I understand that you test drive vehicles for you job but what car do you actually own that you drive?

racerjake25 karma

I drive the test cars every day. In my garage is my 1987 Toyota MR2 race car and my wife's 2006 Toyota Prius. My MR2 doesn't get much milage lately though and my wife doesn't let me drive her car.

SeriesIRL6 karma

Upvote for racing tri's! Hope your season was good. Favorite venue and distance?

racerjake7 karma

I like the half-iron. My favorite is Quassy in CT. The hills are brutal, but I love flying down them. It was just bought by Mdot and is now Ironman Connecticut.

CandyCheetoSteamboat7 karma

How did you get into the industry?

Getting paid to judge, drive, and write about cars is a dream job.

racerjake15 karma

I've always been a car nut. I used to work for GM as a development engineer and raced on the side. When the opportunity at CR came, it was a no-brainer.

CandyCheetoSteamboat5 karma

Makes sense.

Who do you race with and what class do you run? I have done a handful of track days with SCCA and NASA.

racerjake7 karma

I mostly raced SCCA Improved Touring A. But I've raced with other groups too. I've instructed at NASA events and others.

SamsonFox6 karma

Do you test vehicles on manufacturer-supplied tires or you put the same tires on for uniformity? And, in general, are premium tires worth it for cheaper cars?

racerjake18 karma

We always test the cars just like you would buy them. Changing the tires could change performance quite a bit. Better tires would help out any car. https://www.consumerreports.org/cro/tires/buying-guide/index.htm

mulvda6 karma

What is your dream car? What do you daily?

racerjake15 karma

My favorite car I've driven has been the first-gen Acura NSX. I think that would be an amazing daily driver. I drive a different test car every day. We buy about 50 cars every year - so there's no shortage of new metal.

Promit5 karma

Do you feel that it puts a bit of distance between you and the consumer by not living with a single car day to day?

racerjake3 karma

That's we ask lots of questions to our members about their experiences. In fact we bring in their satisfaction data into our scoring. https://www.consumerreports.org/cars-car-reliability-guide/

devlucas005 karma

What was the strangest thing(feature , problem ..) you found while testing car's?

racerjake21 karma

Once we were testing a car and the heat wouldn't work. We found a vice-grip on one of the heater hoses. Don't know how it got there.

eastmandoc5 karma

As someone living in pothole ridden Michigan - comfort and ride quality has quickly become my top priority.

It seems a lot of cars are going towards the "sporty" trend - which usually involves stiffer handling.

What in your mind, was the most comfortable car you drove?

racerjake12 karma

Obviously expensive cars like the Mercedes S-Class are still pretty comfy. And more mainstream cars like the Chevy Impala are good. But if you are concerned about potholes - you probably want an SUV. The bigger tire sidewalls are a help. The Subaru Ascent tops our ratings for ride among mid-sized SUVs.

racerjake5 karma

Thanks for all the great questions! I need to go back to work. These cars aren't going to drive themselves..... yet.

ichegoya4 karma

How do you accomplish long-term testing? Does a staff member purchase a car for daily use, or are they all sitting on the lot and get driven and evaluated on a regular basis?

racerjake14 karma

Every car is a long-term test. We buy about 50 cars a year, and we rotate them through the staff. I drive something different every day. When they hit 2000 miles, they enter formal instrumented testing.
How we test: https://www.consumerreports.org/autotest

NoradIV4 karma

Do you think affordable enthusiast cars will eventually come back?

There appears to be a black hole in the RWD/decent HP/reasonnable proce with a stick shift these days.

You have either the wimpy BRZ/Miata, the obese challenger, or the extreme expensive and unreliable AMGs.

Also, what are your thoughts on electric cars? I am specially interested in realistic attempts, like the Volt which has a gas range extender (not the expensive tesla)

racerjake7 karma

This is one of the times that they really don't make them like they used to. Fortunately you can still find them on the used-car market.

DarthGarak2 karma

If you could pick any new or used car under $50,000 to be your daily driver, what would it be? Daily driver as in you'd have an issue if it was in the shop all the time, haha.

racerjake9 karma

Truth is I'd probably get a Honda Ridgeline. Sorry to disappoint. I'm still a car enthusiast, but I always seem to have to carry around bikes or snowboards and kids.

DarthGarak2 karma

Haha that is a surprise. You prefer it to the Tacoma extended cab? A friend of mine had a Ridgeline and was disappointed with the towing capacity.

racerjake14 karma

Not even close. The Ridgeline is a car, the Tacoma is a piece of equipment. If you need the capacity, you need the right tool for the job.