DETROIT -- Detroit's automakers have closed the quality gap with European automakers, but their Asian counterparts continue to set new benchmarks in reliability, according to a Consumer Reports magazine survey released on Monday.
The influential magazine's annual survey found that South Korea's Hyundai Motor Co. Ltd. now ranks among the top Japanese car manufacturers in reliability for 2002 model year vehicles, after being among the worst for many years.
"The domestics have now caught up the the Europeans and produce some fairly reliable cars," David Champion, director of the Consumer Reports auto test department, told reporters. "One of the highlights of our survey this year is Hyundai. Going back 10 years, it was probably one of the least reliable vehicles on our survey."
The American and European automakers had an average of 21 serious problems per 100 vehicles on their new cars and trucks, while the Asian automakers averaged just 12 problems per 100 vehicles.
The results, published in the magazine's April edition, are based on 480,000 responses from Consumer Reports readers on their vehicles spanning eight models years from 1995 to 2002. Owners told the magazine about serious problems that they experienced with their vehicles over the preceding 12 months.
Japan's Toyota Motor Co. led all automakers with just 10 problems per 100 vehicles in the 2002 model year, while Hyundai tied for second place with Honda Motor Co. with 11 problems per 100 vehicles.
CHRYSLER TOPS BIG THREE
The Chrysler arm of DaimlerChrysler AG led the U.S. automakers with 20 problems per 100 vehicles, followed by General Motors with 21 and Ford Motor Co. with 23. All three of the U.S. automaker improved their scores from last year.
GM was the only domestic automaker to place among the magazine's 12 "top picks" with two of its vehicles on the list. GM's Chevrolet Avalanche was named the top pickup truck. The Pontiac Vibe and its twin, the Toyota Matrix, won in the new category of "affordable versatility", offering a roomy alternative to small sport utility vehicles.
Honda had five vehicles among the "top picks", while Toyota had two vehicles. The magazine ranked the Honda Accord and the Volkswagen Passat as the top family sedans, the Accord with the best four-cylinder engine, and the Passat the top pick for a six-cylinder.
Among the 73 vehicles given "recommended" grades by Consumer Reports, Toyota led all automakers with 21 vehicles, followed by GM with 13. All Toyota brand vehicles except one -- the Toyota 4Runner sport utility vehicle -- were recommended by the magazine.
The magazine noted that older models had many more problems than 2002 models. On average 2000 model year cars and trucks had 55 problems per 100 vehicles, nearly three times as many as 2002 models.
Consumer Reports is published by Consumers Union, a nonprofit organization that does not take advertising or sponsorships and which buys the vehicles it tests anonymously.