GM, Ford Score Highly in Dependability

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The latest J.D. Power study shows GM and Ford performing well. Here are the complete results.

If you want a recommendation on a certain kind of car, who better to ask than someone who owns it? J.D. Power and Associates does just that, across the board.

On Wednesday, the Westlake Village, Calif., market-research company released its annual vehicle-dependability study. It surveyed more than 50,000 original auto owners to see which cars and trucks had the fewest problems during their first three years of ownership. The results are based on 2002 models.

In terms of name plates, or brands, Lexus topped the chart for the 11th consecutive year, and improved 14% over last year in terms of reported problems per 100 vehicles. (See tables below.)

Within the Lexus family, the top award goes to the Lexus LS 430, whose owners reported just 90 problems per 100 vehicles. This is the first time any individual model experienced fewer than 100 problems per 100 vehicles, says Neal Oddes, director of product research and analysis for J.D. Power.

Porsche was the No. 2 brand. Owners reported just 149 problems per 100 vehicles, a 38% improvement over 2004's performance and the largest percentage increase of all brands.

Korean auto maker Hyundai made the biggest improvement in the raw number of reported problems. Although it's still hovering below the industry average of 237 problems per 100 vehicles, Hyundai decreased its problems per 100 vehicles to 260 in 2005 from 375 in 2004, a 31% improvement.

While Lexus took home the top prize overall, General Motors (GM) earned an impressive eight segment awards. Among GM's stable of brands, Chevrolet performed the best with awards for its Prizm (compact car), Malibu (entry midsize car), S-10 Pickup (midsize pickup) and Silverado HD (heavy-duty full-size pickup).

Ford Motor (F) received five segment awards. The Ford brand earned three of them, for the popular Thunderbird (entry luxury car), Windstar (midsize van) and E-Series (full-size van).

Toyota Motor (TM) earned four segment awards, with Lexus garnering three of them, for the Lexus LS 430 (luxury car), RX 300 (entry level SUV) and LX 470 (premium luxury SUV).

The 2005 results represent the finest performance in the history of the study. The industry, on average, improved by 32 problems per 100 vehicles compared with 2004. Nearly all brands, and 84% of vehicle models, reported year-over-year improvements. The categories showing the most significant improvements this year were ride, handling and braking, engine and interior.

More-dependable cars should translate into slower depreciation, says J.D. Power's Oddes. According to retail data from the Power Information Network, a division of J.D. Power, a three-year-old vehicle that performs above the industry average in the VDS study typically retains $1,000 more of its original value than do vehicles performing below the industry average.

The VDS is one of three quality surveys J.D. Power releases each year. Its initial quality survey, which measures problems during the first 90 days of ownership, came out in May (click here for the results), and the Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout Study, which measures customer perceptions on the designs, content, layout and performance of their new vehicles, is due in late September.