Noticeably better quality in the new Model 3 cars helped Tesla show the biggest improvement among automakers in Consumer Reports' latest brand rankings.
The company, run by Elon Musk, jumped into the top half of auto brands ranked by the auto team at Consumer Reports, which analyzes data on major automakers and tests hundreds of vehicles.
"We saw a marked improvement in reliability in both the Tesla Model 3 and the Model S," said Jake Fisher, senior director of auto testing for Consumer Reports. "That was enough to really improve their brand score more than any other brand in our survey."
Overall, Tesla climbed eight spots to rank 11th out of 33 auto brands, according to Consumer Reports. In addition, the Consumer Reports auto team made the Model 3 a "Top Pick" among vehicles with a sticker price between $45,000 and $55,000.
The positive review of Tesla and the Model 3 is the latest indication the automaker is making steady progress improving the quality and reliability of its vehicles. When Tesla first began building and selling the Model 3, in 2018, there were numerous stories detailing production issues at the company's assembly plant in Fremont, California.
Fisher said those issues likely hurt the quality of initial versions of the Model 3 when Tesla was ramping up production of the car. "They changed the seats, they changed the glass, they changed the suspension in the first few months of production of the Tesla Model 3," said Fisher. "Because everything is changing there are new problems every time you make changes in production."
Fisher says Consumer Reports noticed an improvement in the Model 3 starting in the middle of last year when production at Tesla's plant stabilized. "Once they settled that down, they were able to improve the reliability," he said.
The rankings and "top picks" are based on a variety of factors, including an owner satisfaction survey of Consumer Reports members who review their vehicles. In addition, the Consumer Reports auto team tests dozens of new vehicles at the firm's test track in Connecticut.
This year, the company ranks Porsche as the top auto brand, followed by Genesis and Subaru. By comparison, Consumer Reports listed Fiat as the worst brand, right behind Mitsubishi and Jeep. CNBC reached out to Fiat for a comment regarding the latest rankings.