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Vehicle dependability has fallen for the first time since 1998, according a new study that measures how Americans feel about their 3-year-old cars, trucks and SUVs.

J.D. Power and Associates said the average 2011 model year vehicle has 133 problems per 100 vehicles, a 6 percent increase compared to last year's survey.

"This is a significant shift," said David Sargent, vice president of global automotive at J.D. Power. "What we're seeing is a growing number of complaints about the quality of vehicles. These are not necessarily problems that will cause a car or truck to break down, but they are issues irritating customers."

The biggest increase in complaints by owners involved engine and transmission problems, Sargent said. In particular, people with vehicles that have 4-cylinder engines complained of problems such as engine hesitation, rough shifting and a lack of power.

"People driving these 2011 models with 4-cylinder engines like the fuel economy they are getting," Sargent said. "What they don't like is how those engines feel when people are driving them."

More than 41,000 owners of 2011 model year vehicles participated in the survey.

In terms of individual brands, Lexus once again took top honors and widened its lead when it comes to dependability.