Behind the Wheel with Phil Lebeau

Consumer Reports results unlikely to hurt sales for dropped cars

The Toyota Prius C
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Monday could be called the day Consumer Reports told America to put the brakes on buying some of the most popular cars built by Japanese automakers. In two separate announcements, the auto team at Consumer Reports said they would no longer recommend people buy the top selling cars from Toyota, Nissan and Honda.

Any time Consumer Reports says it no longer recommends a particular model, the question is how much it will hurt sales of that vehicle. In this case, the five Japanese nameplates are responsible for more than one million vehicles sold in the US this year, out of 11.7 million in total vehicle sales.

Given that the Camry came through the sudden acceleration crisis and remained the best-selling car in the US, many believe being dropped from the CR recommended list is unlikely to have a huge impact on sales.

No Longer Recommended
Toyota Camry
Toyota Rav4
Toyota Prius V
Honda Accord (6 cylinder)
Nissan Altima

The Toyota Camry, RAV-4 and Prius-V were all dropped from the Consumer Reports recommended list because of their "poor" performance in crash tests conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The small overlap front crash tests simulate how well vehicles protect occupants when the front corner of a vehicle strikes another object, such as a tree or utility pole.

(Read more: Toyota slammed by Consumer Reports as Audi surges)

Consumer Reports whacks Ford

"The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) periodically develops new, more severe or specialized tests that go beyond federal requirements," Toyota told CNBC in a statement. "With the small overlap test, the Institute has raised the bar again, and we are responding to the challenge. We are looking at a range of solutions to achieve greater crash performance in this area."

So far this year, Toyota has sold 318,990 Camry models, making it the best-selling car in the US and the third most popular vehicle in the country.

Meanwhile, Consumer Reports said it can no longer recommend the Honda Accord (6 cylinder) or the Nissan Altima because they scored too low on the magazine's latest reliability survey.

(Read more: Ford in the black again overseas)

"Nissan has not been one of the top manufacturers in terms of reliability so they actually have multiple problems," said Jake Fisher, Consumer Reports' director of auto testing. "When it comes to Honda they know how to make engines, they know how to make transmissions, they know how to make reliable cars. They are really struggling with the new infotainment systems."

In response to the Accord being dropped from the CR recommended list, a spokesperson for Honda said, "As always, we will listen closely to our customers and dealers to ensure that they understand the functionality and operation of new in-car technologies. We will continue to closely study the benefits and challenges of these systems, and ways in which we can improve customers' understanding of these technologies."

Despite the moves, Toyota finished second and Honda eighth out of 28 brands in the rankings for reliability. By comparison, Nissan struggled in the latest survey and fell nine spots to 22nd.

—By CNBC's Phil LeBeau. Follow him on Twitter @LeBeauCarNews.

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