Disaster of Disasters see the worst on road [Gallery]

by Avinash Saxena

imageBy all accounts, Detroit’s Big Three automakers have begun producing better-made, longer lasting, more efficient vehicles. It’s a distinct change from the 1990s and early 2000s, when they fell behind their European and Asian counterparts in each category.

“This change is not even a gradual thing,” says Christine Overstreet, an automotive consultant and director of Heels and Wheels. “It’s like they’ve said, ‘OK, we really want to step it up, we really want to compete, we’re ready.’ After past years of being so bad, they’ve really stepped up their game.”

But with three exceptions–theMercedes-Benz S550Smart Fortwo and Nissan Titan–all of the cars on this year’s list of the Worst Cars on the Road are (still) made by domestic companies. That includes the Dodge DakotaChevy Tahoe Hybrid and Chrysler Town & Country. The only American car company with zero vehicles on the list? Ford.

In Pictures: The Worst Cars On The Road

Behind the Numbers
To determine our list of the worst-made cars on the road, we started with the lowest-rated vehicles from six reliability and performance studies conducted this year by Consumer Reports (for more details, click here).

Any car, truck or SUV named among the worst in at least two of those studies made the final cut to be on the “Worst” list.

 We should note that the Mercedes S550 is the only vehicle that qualified for our list because of a high cost of ownership, low fuel efficiency and a low rating for overall value, not because of any problems with reliability, safety or performance, which affected every other vehicle in the top 10. Indeed, luxury vehicles like that sedan and theCadillac Escalade are arguably at a disadvantage on lists like this–their luxurious interior upgrades, high-quality trim and powerful engines work against them.

“The worst value, the highest cost of ownership–you’ve got to remember there is a numerator and a denominator in these things,” says Terry Woychowski, the vice president for quality and global launches for General Motors ( GM – news – people). “To use an analogy of a watch: If you looked at dollars to buy a watch vs. accuracy of time, you’d probably buy a Casio. [Compare that] to the price and value in a Rolex–you’d say, ‘Well, shoot. It costs so much!’ For vehicles like this, it’s an uphill battle.”

We should also note that nearly every car or truck made today is safer, more efficient and more reliable than anything on the road even as recently as 15 years ago. But that doesn’t excuse just how often vehicles like the Jeep Liberty are panned for poor reliability or poor fuel economy–or both.

Jeep’s Liberty and Wrangler earned spots on Consumer Reports‘ Least Reliable list for 2011. The Wrangler also received Consumer Reports‘ Worst Value and Worst Cars distinctions, the latter of which is based on more than 50 individual Consumer Reports tests and evaluations. The Wrangler also appeared on our Worst Cars list last year.

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