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Consumer Reports: BMW named top pick in overall brand rankings; Subaru top mainstream brand

Consumer Reports also listed six hybrids and one EV among its overall top cars.

Make it two years in a row for Bimmer.

Consumer Reports (CR) named BMW (BMWYY) the top overall pick in its 2024 Brand Report Card rankings, with the German automaker becoming the first back-to-back winner since 2017. It cements BMW as one of the few luxury brands owners can count on for overall satisfaction — something unusual in CR’s rankings.

CR’s coveted brand rankings list is based on the average overall score that combines road-test scores, predicted reliability, owner satisfaction data, and safety criteria for all of the tested models from each automaker.

BMW X5 xDrive50e Plug-In Hybrid SUV on display at a dealership on Sept.15, 2023. (Getty Images)
BMW X5 xDrive50e Plug-In Hybrid SUV on display at a dealership on Sept.15, 2023. (Getty Images) (jetcityimage via Getty Images)

“[BMW is] making cars that are reliable, and the cars perform extremely well in testing, and they're filled with safety equipment,” Jake Fisher, CR’s director of auto testing, said to Yahoo Finance. “This is a brand that, of the 12 models that we've tested, 12 of them we could recommend.”

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Subaru (FUJHY) took the No. 2 spot, remaining the top mainstream brand. “What's more interesting, probably at the top, is seeing Subaru; they’re No. 2 sandwiched between two luxurious expensive German automakers [BMW and Porsche, at No. 3], and that's almost more impressive that this is a brand with much more affordable vehicles that also score well,” Fisher said.

For the top five, BMW had an overall score of 82 out of 100, Subaru came in at 80, as did Porsche (POAHY), while Honda (HMC) came in at 78, followed by Lexus (TM) with 78.

Fisher noted some big moves for Cadillac (68) and Ford (65), which are squarely in the middle of the pack. “Cadillac went up 11 spots; this just attests to Cadillac improving in terms of reliability. And Cadillac and Ford [are] both really kind of on the leading edge in terms of automated driving systems,” Fisher said, alluding to GM’s (GM) SuperCruise and Ford’s (F) Blue Cruise technology.

Tesla (TSLA), which was once at the bottom of the overall score card has been climbing as well, and now entered the middle pack at 62.

“Tesla has been steadily improving in terms of reliability,” Fisher said. “They've been around long enough that they're working out just kind of the build issues on the vehicles, probably more so than some of the brand newcomers like, like a Lucid, or Rivian, but they've been around long enough that they have a lot of experience making electric powertrains, more so than some of the legacy automakers.”

Speaking of Rivian (RIVN), it was among the bottom five scorers in the CR brand report card, scoring 55. That ignominious list also starred Jeep (STLA) (46), GMC (53), Jaguar (52), and Land Rover (50).

Hybrids abound in CR's top cars

A Ford Maverick FWD Hybrid on display at a dealership (Getty Images)
A Ford Maverick FWD Hybrid on display at a dealership. (Getty Images) (jetcityimage via Getty Images)

Part and parcel to CR’s Brand Report Card is its annual top 10 cars list, which is broken down across categories such as best compact car, small pickup, and midsize SUV.

What’s notable across the top 10 vehicle winners is that six of them are hybrids or plug-in hybrids, one of them is a pure EV, and only three are traditional gas-powered cars.

The electrified models that made CR’s annual best-of-the-best list include the Toyota Camry Hybrid, Toyota Prius/Prius Prime, Ford Maverick Hybrid, Toyota Highlander Hybrid, Toyota RAV4 Prime, Tesla Model Y, and BMW X5 PHEV. Only three in the list are repeat winners: the Forester, Maverick Hybrid, and Highlander Hybrid.

“For many drivers, PHEVs [plug-in hybrid electric vehicles] will save you money over the long run when compared with a gas, hybrid, or electric vehicle,” Fisher said. “In most cases, the more you plug in a PHEV, the more money you’ll save.”

Fisher added that the hybrids of the past are much different than today's hybrids, which perform better, get better fuel economy, and are more pleasant to operate — no more whining coming from prior-generation CVT transmissions, for instance. Overall, the driving experience for hybrids and plug-in hybrids has surpassed traditional gas-powered cars, Fisher said.

CR noted that hybrids, plug-in hybrids, and EVs have never been more popular, accounting for 16.3% of consumer vehicle purchases in the US last year, per Ward’s Intelligence, with PHEV sales surging 60% last year, according to CR’s data research.

Pras Subramanian is a reporter for Yahoo Finance. You can follow him on Twitter and on Instagram.

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