updated 3/7/2005 3:17:15 PM ET 2005-03-07T20:17:15

U.S. automakers continued to improve their reliability last year, but Hyundai Motor Co. and other Asian companies still make the most trouble-free vehicles, according to a survey released Monday by Consumer Reports.

Customers reported an average of 17 problems per 100 vehicles for 2004 models from DaimlerChrysler AG's Chrysler Group, Ford Motor Co. and General Motors Corp., the magazine said. That was down from 18 problems per 100 in 2003.

Japanese and Korean automakers had a rate of 12 problems per 100 vehicles — unchanged in the magazine's last three surveys. European automakers, some of whom have battled quality issues in recent years, had 21 problems per 100 vehicles. That's up from 20 a year ago.

The survey is part of Consumer Reports' annual auto issue, scheduled to hit newsstands Tuesday.

Most reliable
The 2004 Hyundai Sonata was the most reliable vehicle in 2004, with two problems per 100 vehicles. Consumer Reports said the Sonata is "further establishing Hyundai's remarkable turnaround from one of the least reliable brands to one of the best."

As an overall brand, Hyundai recorded a reliability rating of 11 problems per 100 vehicles, tying it with Toyota Motor Corp.'s Lexus and Nissan Motor Co.'s Infiniti nameplates. Subaru was the most reliable brand in 2004, with an average of eight problems per 100 vehicles.

Reliability can vary widely within a company. The 2004 Ford Mustang was the most reliable car made by a U.S. manufacturer, with five problems per 100 vehicles, the magazine said. But Ford's Lincoln Navigator sport utility vehicle tied with the Nissan Quest minivan as the least reliable, with 49 problems per 100 vehicles.

Consumer Reports measures reliability by surveying its subscribers. The magazine collected data on a record 810,000 privately owned or leased vehicles, 20 percent more than the 675,000 vehicles included in last year's survey.

The magazine asked subscribers to report serious problems such as faulty air conditioning, wind noise, electrical difficulties and transmission trouble.

Also Monday, Consumer Reports announced it was no longer recommending the Ford Focus as a top pick among small cars after the Focus got a poor rating in side-impact crash tests performed by the insurance industry. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety released new crash test results Sunday.

Ford responded that the Focus got better side-impact ratings from the federal government, which also performs crash tests. The company said the Focus also did well in the reliability survey.

"We recognize how important it is to make sustainable progress in quality, and we won't be satisfied until we are the best," Ford said in a statement.

Consumer Reports also said it would no longer recommend six other vehicles because of the insurance institute's side-impact crash tests. Those vehicles are the Honda Element, Mitsubishi Outlander and Suzuki Grand Vitara SUVs, the Nissan Altima sedan and two small cars, the Hyundai Elantra and Mazda 3.

Consumer Reports buys all the vehicles it tests and doesn't accept advertising.

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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