NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- With faulty ignition switches, defective airbags, and very recent Volkswagen A.G. scandal, it seems like a terrible time to have your money in auto manufacturers.

Companies have paid more than a billion dollars in fines this year, and that number looks as though it will increase with the latest round of scandals.

Are there any companies that would be good investments in the industry? Here are the top seven, listed in ascending order (from worst investment to best) according to TheStreet Ratings, TheStreet's proprietary ratings tool.

TheStreet Ratings projects a stock's total return potential over a 12-month period including both price appreciation and dividends. Based on 32 major data points, TheStreet Ratings uses a quantitative approach to rating over 4,300 stocks to predict return potential for the next year. The model is both objective, using elements such as volatility of past operating revenues, financial strength, and company cash flows, and subjective, including expected equities market returns, future interest rates, implied industry outlook and forecasted company earnings.

Buying an S&P 500 stock that TheStreet Ratings rated a buy yielded a 16.56% return in 2014, beating the S&P 500 Total Return Index by 304 basis points. Buying a Russell 2000 stock that TheStreet Ratings rated a buy yielded a 9.5% return in 2014, beating the Russell 2000 index, including dividends reinvested, by 460 basis points last year.

Check out which companies made the list. And when you're done, be sure to read about which managed health care stocks you should buy now. Year-to-date returns are based on September 23, 2015 closing prices. The highest-rated stock appears last.

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TSLA

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7. Tesla Motors, Inc.

(TSLA) - Get Report


Rating: Hold, C-
Market Cap: $33.9 billion
Year-to-date return: 17.4%

Tesla Motors, Inc. designs, develops, manufactures, and sells electric vehicles, electric vehicle powertrain components, and stationary energy storage systems in the United States, China, Norway, and internationally.

TheStreet Ratings team rates TESLA MOTORS INC as a Hold with a ratings score of C-. TheStreet Ratings Team has this to say about their recommendation:

"We rate TESLA MOTORS INC (TSLA) a HOLD. The primary factors that have impacted our rating are mixed ? some indicating strength, some showing weaknesses, with little evidence to justify the expectation of either a positive or negative performance for this stock relative to most other stocks. The company's strengths can be seen in multiple areas, such as its robust revenue growth and solid stock price performance. However, as a counter to these strengths, we also find weaknesses including deteriorating net income, generally higher debt management risk and disappointing return on equity."

Highlights from the analysis by TheStreet Ratings Team goes as follows:

  • The revenue growth greatly exceeded the industry average of 7.4%. Since the same quarter one year prior, revenues rose by 24.1%. This growth in revenue does not appear to have trickled down to the company's bottom line, displayed by a decline in earnings per share.
  • After a year of stock price fluctuations, the net result is that TSLA's price has not changed very much. Although its weak earnings growth may have played a role in this flat result, don't lose sight of the fact that the performance of the overall market, as measured by the S&P 500 Index, was essentially similar. Despite the fact that it has already risen in the past year, there is currently no conclusive evidence that warrants the purchase or sale of this stock.
  • TESLA MOTORS INC has experienced a steep decline in earnings per share in the most recent quarter in comparison to its performance from the same quarter a year ago. The company has reported a trend of declining earnings per share over the past year. However, the consensus estimate suggests that this trend should reverse in the coming year. During the past fiscal year, TESLA MOTORS INC reported poor results of -$2.36 versus -$0.71 in the prior year. This year, the market expects an improvement in earnings (-$0.74 versus -$2.36).
  • The gross profit margin for TESLA MOTORS INC is currently lower than what is desirable, coming in at 31.91%. It has decreased from the same quarter the previous year. Along with this, the net profit margin of -19.29% is significantly below that of the industry average.
  • Net operating cash flow has significantly decreased to -$159.52 million or 4356.99% when compared to the same quarter last year. In addition, when comparing to the industry average, the firm's growth rate is much lower.
  • You can view the full analysis from the report here: TSLA
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HMC

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6. Honda Motor Co., Ltd.

(HMC) - Get Report


Rating: Buy, B-
Market Cap: $55.5 billion
Year-to-date return: 4.23%

Honda Motor Co., Ltd. develops, manufactures, and distributes motorcycles, automobiles, power, and other products worldwide. The company operates through four segments: Motorcycle Business, Automobile Business, Financial Services Business, and Power product and Other Businesses.

TheStreet Ratings team rates HONDA MOTOR CO LTD as a Buy with a ratings score of B-. TheStreet Ratings Team has this to say about their recommendation:

"We rate HONDA MOTOR CO LTD (HMC) a BUY. This is driven by several positive factors, which we believe should have a greater impact than any weaknesses, and should give investors a better performance opportunity than most stocks we cover. The company's strengths can be seen in multiple areas, such as its revenue growth, increase in net income, growth in earnings per share and largely solid financial position with reasonable debt levels by most measures. We feel its strengths outweigh the fact that the company has had lackluster performance in the stock itself."

Highlights from the analysis by TheStreet Ratings Team goes as follows:

  • The revenue growth came in higher than the industry average of 7.4%. Since the same quarter one year prior, revenues slightly increased by 2.8%. This growth in revenue appears to have trickled down to the company's bottom line, improving the earnings per share.
  • The net income growth from the same quarter one year ago has exceeded that of the S&P 500 and the Automobiles industry average. The net income increased by 5.3% when compared to the same quarter one year prior, going from $1,446.60 million to $1,523.65 million.
  • HONDA MOTOR CO LTD has improved earnings per share by 6.3% in the most recent quarter compared to the same quarter a year ago. This company has reported somewhat volatile earnings recently. But, we feel it is poised for EPS growth in the coming year. During the past fiscal year, HONDA MOTOR CO LTD reported lower earnings of $2.36 versus $3.10 in the prior year. This year, the market expects an improvement in earnings ($2.45 versus $2.36).
  • The debt-to-equity ratio is somewhat low, currently at 0.95, and is less than that of the industry average, implying that there has been a relatively successful effort in the management of debt levels. Although the company had a strong debt-to-equity ratio, its quick ratio of 0.82 is somewhat weak and could be cause for future problems.
  • The company's current return on equity has slightly decreased from the same quarter one year prior. This implies a minor weakness in the organization. When compared to other companies in the Automobiles industry and the overall market, HONDA MOTOR CO LTD's return on equity has significantly outperformed in comparison with the industry average, but has underperformed when compared to that of the S&P 500.
  • You can view the full analysis from the report here: HMC
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WGO

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5. Winnebago Industries, Inc.

(WGO) - Get Report


Rating: Buy, B
Market Cap: $515.3 million
Year-to-date return: -12.1%

Winnebago Industries, Inc. manufactures and sells recreation vehicles primarily for use in leisure travel and outdoor recreation activities.

TheStreet Ratings team rates WINNEBAGO INDUSTRIES as a Buy with a ratings score of B. TheStreet Ratings Team has this to say about their recommendation:

"We rate WINNEBAGO INDUSTRIES (WGO) a BUY. This is driven by some important positives, which we believe should have a greater impact than any weaknesses, and should give investors a better performance opportunity than most stocks we cover. The company's strengths can be seen in multiple areas, such as its revenue growth, largely solid financial position with reasonable debt levels by most measures, increase in net income, good cash flow from operations and growth in earnings per share. We feel its strengths outweigh the fact that the company has had lackluster performance in the stock itself."

Highlights from the analysis by TheStreet Ratings Team goes as follows:

  • The revenue growth came in higher than the industry average of 7.4%. Since the same quarter one year prior, revenues slightly increased by 7.6%. This growth in revenue appears to have trickled down to the company's bottom line, improving the earnings per share.
  • WGO has no debt to speak of therefore resulting in a debt-to-equity ratio of zero, which we consider to be a relatively favorable sign. To add to this, WGO has a quick ratio of 1.54, which demonstrates the ability of the company to cover short-term liquidity needs.
  • The net income growth from the same quarter one year ago has exceeded that of the S&P 500 and the Automobiles industry average. The net income increased by 1.0% when compared to the same quarter one year prior, going from $11.39 million to $11.50 million.
  • Net operating cash flow has increased to $52.61 million or 32.45% when compared to the same quarter last year. The firm also exceeded the industry average cash flow growth rate of 8.27%.
  • WINNEBAGO INDUSTRIES's earnings per share improvement from the most recent quarter was slightly positive. The company has demonstrated a pattern of positive earnings per share growth over the past two years. However, we anticipate underperformance relative to this pattern in the coming year. During the past fiscal year, WINNEBAGO INDUSTRIES increased its bottom line by earning $1.65 versus $1.13 in the prior year. For the next year, the market is expecting a contraction of 4.2% in earnings ($1.58 versus $1.65).
  • You can view the full analysis from the report here: WGO
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GM

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4. General Motors Company

(GM) - Get Report


Rating: Buy, B
Market Cap: $47 billion
Year-to-date return: -14.9%

General Motors Company designs, builds, and sells cars, crossovers, trucks, and automobile parts worldwide. It operates through GM North America, GM Europe, GM International Operations, GM South America, and GM Financial segments.

TheStreet Ratings team rates GENERAL MOTORS CO as a Buy with a ratings score of B. TheStreet Ratings Team has this to say about their recommendation:

"We rate GENERAL MOTORS CO (GM) a BUY. This is driven by some important positives, which we believe should have a greater impact than any weaknesses, and should give investors a better performance opportunity than most stocks we cover. The company's strengths can be seen in multiple areas, such as its compelling growth in net income, good cash flow from operations, impressive record of earnings per share growth, notable return on equity and largely solid financial position with reasonable debt levels by most measures. We feel its strengths outweigh the fact that the company has had lackluster performance in the stock itself."

Highlights from the analysis by TheStreet Ratings Team goes as follows:

  • The net income growth from the same quarter one year ago has significantly exceeded that of the S&P 500 and the Automobiles industry. The net income increased by 301.8% when compared to the same quarter one year prior, rising from $278.00 million to $1,117.00 million.
  • Net operating cash flow has significantly increased by 51.07% to $5,786.00 million when compared to the same quarter last year. The firm also exceeded the industry average cash flow growth rate of 8.27%.
  • Current return on equity exceeded its ROE from the same quarter one year prior. This is a clear sign of strength within the company. When compared to other companies in the Automobiles industry and the overall market, GENERAL MOTORS CO's return on equity has significantly outperformed in comparison with the industry average, but has underperformed when compared to that of the S&P 500.
  • GENERAL MOTORS CO reported significant earnings per share improvement in the most recent quarter compared to the same quarter a year ago. This company has reported somewhat volatile earnings recently. But, we feel it is poised for EPS growth in the coming year. During the past fiscal year, GENERAL MOTORS CO reported lower earnings of $1.64 versus $2.35 in the prior year. This year, the market expects an improvement in earnings ($4.51 versus $1.64).
  • Regardless of the drop in revenue, the company managed to outperform against the industry average of 7.4%. Since the same quarter one year prior, revenues slightly dropped by 3.7%. The declining revenue has not hurt the company's bottom line, with increasing earnings per share.
  • You can view the full analysis from the report here: GM
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F

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3. Ford Motor Company

(F) - Get Report


Rating: Buy, B
Market Cap: $55.3 billion
Year-to-date return: -11.7%

Ford Motor Company manufactures and distributes automobiles worldwide. The company operates through two sectors, Automotive and Financial Services. The Automotive sector develops, manufactures, distributes, and services vehicles, parts, and accessories.

TheStreet Ratings team rates FORD MOTOR CO as a Buy with a ratings score of B. TheStreet Ratings Team has this to say about their recommendation:

"We rate FORD MOTOR CO (F) a BUY. This is driven by a number of strengths, which we believe should have a greater impact than any weaknesses, and should give investors a better performance opportunity than most stocks we cover. The company's strengths can be seen in multiple areas, such as its increase in net income, good cash flow from operations, growth in earnings per share and notable return on equity. We feel its strengths outweigh the fact that the company has had lackluster performance in the stock itself."

Highlights from the analysis by TheStreet Ratings Team goes as follows:

  • The net income growth from the same quarter one year ago has significantly exceeded that of the S&P 500 and the Automobiles industry. The net income increased by 43.8% when compared to the same quarter one year prior, rising from $1,311.00 million to $1,885.00 million.
  • Net operating cash flow has slightly increased to $5,210.00 million or 9.68% when compared to the same quarter last year. In addition, FORD MOTOR CO has also modestly surpassed the industry average cash flow growth rate of 8.27%.
  • FORD MOTOR CO has improved earnings per share by 46.9% in the most recent quarter compared to the same quarter a year ago. This company has reported somewhat volatile earnings recently. But, we feel it is poised for EPS growth in the coming year. During the past fiscal year, FORD MOTOR CO reported lower earnings of $0.78 versus $1.75 in the prior year. This year, the market expects an improvement in earnings ($1.70 versus $0.78).
  • Regardless of the drop in revenue, the company managed to outperform against the industry average of 7.4%. Since the same quarter one year prior, revenues slightly dropped by 0.4%. The declining revenue has not hurt the company's bottom line, with increasing earnings per share.
  • Return on equity has greatly decreased when compared to its ROE from the same quarter one year prior. This is a signal of major weakness within the corporation. In comparison to the other companies in the Automobiles industry and the overall market, FORD MOTOR CO's return on equity significantly exceeds that of the industry average and is above that of the S&P 500.
  • You can view the full analysis from the report here: F
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TM

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2. Toyota Motor Corporation

(TM) - Get Report


Rating: Buy, B
Market Cap: $185 billion
Year-to-date return: -6.4%

Toyota Motor Corporation designs, manufactures, assembles, and sells passenger cars, minivans and commercial vehicles, and related parts and accessories. The company operates through Automotive, Financial Services, and All Other segments.

TheStreet Ratings team rates TOYOTA MOTOR CORP as a Buy with a ratings score of B. TheStreet Ratings Team has this to say about their recommendation:

"We rate TOYOTA MOTOR CORP (TM) a BUY. This is driven by a few notable strengths, which we believe should have a greater impact than any weaknesses, and should give investors a better performance opportunity than most stocks we cover. The company's strengths can be seen in multiple areas, such as its solid stock price performance, notable return on equity, good cash flow from operations and largely solid financial position with reasonable debt levels by most measures. We feel its strengths outweigh the fact that the company has had sub par growth in net income."

Highlights from the analysis by TheStreet Ratings Team goes as follows:

  • After a year of stock price fluctuations, the net result is that TM's price has not changed very much. Although its weak earnings growth may have played a role in this flat result, don't lose sight of the fact that the performance of the overall market, as measured by the S&P 500 Index, was essentially similar. Turning our attention to the future direction of the stock, it goes without saying that even the best stocks can fall in an overall down market. However, in any other environment, this stock still has good upside potential despite the fact that it has already risen in the past year.
  • TOYOTA MOTOR CORP's earnings per share declined by 8.2% in the most recent quarter compared to the same quarter a year ago. This company has reported somewhat volatile earnings recently. But, we feel it is poised for EPS growth in the coming year. During the past fiscal year, TOYOTA MOTOR CORP increased its bottom line by earning $11.46 versus $11.17 in the prior year. This year, the market expects an improvement in earnings ($12.94 versus $11.46).
  • The return on equity has improved slightly when compared to the same quarter one year prior. This can be construed as a modest strength in the organization. When compared to other companies in the Automobiles industry and the overall market, TOYOTA MOTOR CORP's return on equity has significantly outperformed in comparison with the industry average, but has underperformed when compared to that of the S&P 500.
  • Net operating cash flow has slightly increased to $9,200.00 million or 6.41% when compared to the same quarter last year. Despite an increase in cash flow, TOYOTA MOTOR CORP's average is still marginally south of the industry average growth rate of 8.27%.
  • TM, with its decline in revenue, slightly underperformed the industry average of 7.4%. Since the same quarter one year prior, revenues slightly dropped by 9.3%. Weakness in the company's revenue seems to have hurt the bottom line, decreasing earnings per share.
  • You can view the full analysis from the report here: TM
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THO

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1. Thor Industries, Inc.

(THO) - Get Report


Rating: Buy, A
Market Cap: $2.7 billion
Year-to-date return: -8.6%

Thor Industries, Inc., through its subsidiaries, designs, manufactures, and sells a range of recreational vehicles, and related parts and accessories in the United States and Canada. It operates through two segments, Towable Recreational Vehicles and Motorized Recreational Vehicles.

TheStreet Ratings team rates THOR INDUSTRIES INC as a Buy with a ratings score of A. TheStreet Ratings Team has this to say about their recommendation:

"We rate THOR INDUSTRIES INC (THO) a BUY. This is based on the convergence of positive investment measures, which should help this stock outperform the majority of stocks that we rate. The company's strengths can be seen in multiple areas, such as its revenue growth, largely solid financial position with reasonable debt levels by most measures, notable return on equity, good cash flow from operations and impressive record of earnings per share growth. We feel its strengths outweigh the fact that the company shows low profit margins."

Highlights from the analysis by TheStreet Ratings Team goes as follows:

  • The revenue growth came in higher than the industry average of 7.4%. Since the same quarter one year prior, revenues rose by 12.2%. Growth in the company's revenue appears to have helped boost the earnings per share.
  • THO has no debt to speak of therefore resulting in a debt-to-equity ratio of zero, which we consider to be a relatively favorable sign. Along with the favorable debt-to-equity ratio, the company maintains an adequate quick ratio of 1.48, which illustrates the ability to avoid short-term cash problems.
  • The return on equity has improved slightly when compared to the same quarter one year prior. This can be construed as a modest strength in the organization. In comparison to the other companies in the Automobiles industry and the overall market, THOR INDUSTRIES INC's return on equity significantly exceeds that of the industry average and is above that of the S&P 500.
  • THOR INDUSTRIES INC has improved earnings per share by 15.5% in the most recent quarter compared to the same quarter a year ago. The company has demonstrated a pattern of positive earnings per share growth over the past two years. We feel that this trend should continue. During the past fiscal year, THOR INDUSTRIES INC increased its bottom line by earning $3.28 versus $2.86 in the prior year. This year, the market expects an improvement in earnings ($3.79 versus $3.28).
  • The net income growth from the same quarter one year ago has significantly exceeded that of the S&P 500 and the Automobiles industry. The net income increased by 14.0% when compared to the same quarter one year prior, going from $55.12 million to $62.85 million.
  • You can view the full analysis from the report here: THO