DETROIT -- Most Ford Motor Co. vehicles now show average or better reliability, Consumer Reports 2008 car reliability survey said, although Japanese carmakers still hold their lead in the studys rankings of 34 brands.
No Ford Motor brand has cracked the surveys top 10 list of predicted reliable makes, but the automakers steady improvement in the rankings over recent years backs Ford executives oft-stated desire to meet or exceed the quality of Asian automakers.
Fords three nameplates -- Ford, Lincoln, and Mercury -- lead the domestic automakers and continue to pull away from the rest of Detroit, the report said.
Ford Motor is extremely close to Toyota and Honda in terms of reliability, said David Champion, head of the magazines auto-testing division, at todays meeting here of the Automotive Press Association. Fords models with below-average reliability are older, truck-based models such as the Ford F-150, Explorer and Explorer Sport Trac and the Mercury Mountaineer V-8, he said.
The survey ranked Scion, Acura, Honda and Toyota highest on its list of brands predicted to produce reliable models in 2009. The top 10 were all Asian brands.
Kia joined the top 10 with the greatest improvement in the survey, finishing 10th and gaining 12 places on the list compared with last year. Sister brand Hyundai moved up seven spots to finish eighth in the rankings.
Chrysler, Saturn and Land Rover ranked last on the 2009 predicted reliability list. The Chrysler brand showed the steepest decline in the rankings, losing 13 spots. Saturn was next, dropping 10 places.
Porsche, after gaining 20 spots in the 2008 predicted rankings, fell 10 spots this year.
The magazine completes the survey via questionnaires sent in the spring to 5 million of its subscribers. Consumer Reports then recommends vehicles that perform well in its testing, show at least average reliability in the survey and score well in safety studies.
Fuel-efficient vehicles rank among the most reliable, Champion said, citing Toyotas Prius and manual transmission Yaris, the Smart ForTwo, the manual Scion xD and the 2008 manual Honda Fit.
A lot of people are worried about hybrid vehicles being unreliable, having battery problems, Champion said. But most hybrids are more reliable than their nonhybrid counterparts, he said. And some hybrid models -- the 2001 Prius and the 2000 Honda Insight -- are still performing well after years on the road, Champion said.
Ford Motors high-reliability ranking is not a flash in the pan, he said. If they only had models that were slightly more exciting for the public to buy, theyd be in a lot better place.
General Motors models have the appeal Ford lacks, Champion said, but trail in reliability. Chryslers case is a little more desperate, he said. Their reliability is down from last year. The products that weve tested have all been mediocre at best, and theyre all recently redesigned models.
The survey of predicted reliability for 2009 brands ranked Lincoln No. 11, Mercury No. 15 and Ford No. 17. Buick was the top-finishing GM brand, ranking No. 18. Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge all fell in the bottom 20 percent in the ranking.
Consumer Reports last year chastised Toyota Motor Corp. for producing three below-average vehicles: the Toyota Camry V-6 and Tundra four-wheel-drive V-8 and the Lexus all-wheel-drive GS. Those vehicles now have reached average reliability, the survey found. But the magazine has not restored its automatic recommendation for all new Toyota vehicles.