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Forbes lists "The Worst Cars on the Road." Sort of.

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On: Mon, Apr 25, 2011 at 11:49AM | By: Andrew W Davis

Forbes lists "The Worst Cars on the Road." Sort of.

Want to know what the Smart ForTwo coupes and Mercedes’ flagship S550 have in common? [Yes, they’re from the same company. And both have engines and wheels. But this is NOT what I meant.] Forbes.com—in cahoots with Consumer Reports—has named both to its “The Worst Cars on the Road” list.

Nope. Not kidding.

Those are two of the three foreign vehicles on the list—the U.S.-built Nissan Titan truck is the other—of twelve listed, broken down (ha!) into five SUVs, three trucks, three cars, and one minivan.

Chrysler took the biggest hit, with five vehicles named: Chrysler’s Town & Country minivan; Dodge’s Dakota pickup, and Nitro SLT SUV; and Jeep’s Liberty/Liberty Sport and Wrangler Unlimited off-roaders.

The GM contingent is led by Cadillac’s Escalade SUV, though in its “Base” trim level. Chevrolet swept the rest, with its Aveo/Aveo5 economy car, Colorado pickup, and Tahoe Hybrid SUV.

But things aren't as they seem...

In this age of shortened customer-carmaker relationships and extended warranties, the very notion of what makes a car “worst” has had to change. With today’s “worst” car actually being “better” in most ways than the “best” cars of twenty years ago, the nits have become much harder to pick.

Forbes.com describes its method for creating this list thusly:

“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. Those studies are all from Consumer Reports: The Most Reliable Cars Report; Best and Worst Values Report; Highest Cost of Ownership; Best and Worst Safety Performance Survey; Best and Worst Fuel-Economy; and the CR overall scores for 2011 vehicles. Any car, truck or SUV named among the worst in at least three of those six total studies made the final cut to be on the ‘Worst-Made’ list. “

Right off you’ll notice that they switched to “Worst-Made,” a term that doesn’t appear in their original statement. But, fine. As you can see, however, Forbes.com is basically copying off Consumer Reports’ paper, using their data and just sorting it out in their own way.

That data basically covers reports—some even by consumers!—regarding reliability, value, safety, fuel-economy, and the like. Forbes.com then takes the “losers” from all six studies, collate the data, and if a vehicle is consistently on the wrong end of the scoring stick, onto the list it goes.

Now neither of us wants to look at charts and graphs and whatnot to double-check Forbes’ work—and find out why there are twelve vehicles instead of the “usual” ten—so I’ll just list the offenders in alphabetical order (Forbes’ list isn’t in any particular order, so why not?) with the CR categories in which they earned their low scores:

Cadillac Escalade (base): Worst Value, Highest Costs of Ownership, Worst Safety Performance

Chevrolet Aveo/Aveo5: Worst Cars, Least Reliable, Worst Fuel Economy

Chevrolet Colorado: Worst Safety Performance, Least Reliable

Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid: Worst Value, Worst Safety Performance, Least Reliable

Chrysler Town & Country: Highest Costs of Ownership, Least Reliable

Dodge Nitro SLT: Worst Value, Worst Cars, Least Reliable, Worst Fuel Economy

Dodge Dakota: Highest Costs of Ownership, Least Reliable

Jeep Liberty/Liberty Sport: Least Reliable, Worst Fuel Economy

Jeep Wrangler Unlimited: Worst Value, Worst Cars, Least Reliable

Mercedes-Benz S550: Worst Value, Highest Costs of Ownership, Fuel Economy

Nissan Titan: Least Reliable, Worst Fuel Economy

Smart ForTwo coupes: Worst Cars, Least Reliable

See, it’s kind of like jail: some people deserve to be there, while others are there due to the vagaries of fortune. Naturally, if you make eating fatty foods a crime your jail will fill with fat people. So if you use fuel economy as a sin, large vehicles—like the Escalade, Titan and S550—will have naturally poor scores.

And I call B.S. on using “Worst Value” in this list. The fact that a car will resell for less than another, in no way shows that car to be worth any less. If you take into account the fact that the model was being revamped or done away with or had to compete with a newly introduced competitor or anything like that and the “value loss” disappears.

All I ask is that you take this list with several grains of salt. I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t object to having most of these cars in my driveway right now. Especially the Mercedes-Benz. Wait… what’s that box beside this article say?

I’m reading the Forbes story on Yahoo! Autos’ page, and right near where it says “When it comes to quality, efficiency, reliability, safety, and overall value, these vehicles bring up the rear” and then goes on to condemn the S550, Yahoo’s list of top-rated sedans—in the number five spot—is Mercedes’ S-Class.

[Maybe next year Forbes will bother to “weight” CR’s categories like “Worst Cars” and “Worst Safety Performance” much more heavily than those concerning value and fuel economy. Until then, though, let’s keep bad-mouthing the Benz. Maybe that’ll put some on the market at fire-sale prices!]

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