DETROIT -- Ford Motor Co., Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. and American Honda Motor Co. claimed the biggest victories among mainstream automakers in the latest reliability scorecard from J.D. Power and Associates.
All three of Ford's domestic brands finished among the top eight in Power's annual study of how well vehicles hold up after three years of ownership. Toyota-Lexus and Honda-Acura also placed in the top 10 of the Vehicle Dependability Study, released today.Porsche, which sells fewer cars in a year than industry leaders sell in a week, topped 2009 co-winners Buick and Jaguar to rank No. 1. (See table below.)
In all, 25 of 36 vehicle brands scored fewer problems than they did a year earlier, continuing a long-term pattern of steady improvement .
"The entire industry has gotten very competitive,” said David Sargent, vice president of global research for J.D. Power and the chief author of the study. “No one brand stands out like it used to.”
The biggest gainers were No. 2 Lincoln, which finished eighth last year, and No. 9 Mercedes-Benz, which moved up 10 spots.
General Motors had two brands among the top third: No. 3 Buick and No. 12 Cadillac. Each slipped from last year's rank.
But the Cadillac DTS was rated the industry's most trouble-free vehicle, with just 76 reported problems per 100 vehicles. It was the first time a domestic maker had claimed the distinction in more than a decade.
GM's two other surviving brands fared less well. GMC remained No. 18 and Chevrolet fell to No. 24.
Subaru was No. 14, but its score this year only matched the industry average of 155 reported problems per 100 vehicles. Subaru finished above average a year ago.
All three Chrysler Group brands -- Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep -- dropped in rank. Dodge and Jeep finished in the bottom third of the pack.
Nissan fell to No. 25, while its Infiniti luxury brand slipped six spots to No. 12.
Beyond that were further signs of struggle for Japanese automakers. Mazda was No. 29, followed by Toyota subbrand Scion and Mitsubishi at No. 31. Suzuki was No. 35, an improvement from its dead-last finish in 2009.
Porsche and No. 9 Mercedes-Benz were the only European brands to score better than the industry average of 155 problems per 100 vehicles. Eight Europeans finished below average.
While vehicles in general keep getting more dependable each year, some U.S. and South Korean automakers don't get the respect they deserve, Power researchers say. Consumer perceptions have not kept pace with reality.
The brands with the biggest perception gaps: Cadillac, Ford, Hyundai, Lincoln and Mercury. Each brand ranked in the study's top 12.
Manufacturing more dependable vehicles can be easier and faster than convincing skeptical consumers of that, said Sargent.
“It takes considerable time to positively change consumer perceptions of quality and dependability -- sometimes a decade or more,” he said. “So it is vital for manufacturers to continually improve quality and also to convince consumers of these gains.”
The study measures problems experienced by original owners of 3-year-old (2007 model year) vehicles, covering 198 symptoms of problems.
All but seven brands scored below 200, meaning fewer than two problems per vehicle. Jaguar was one of those, at 175. But it fell from last year's first place to No. 23.
Fellow European brand Audi also plummeted -- to 26th from 12th.