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GM, Ford do well in auto quality survey

Japanese automakers dominated an influential survey of the most reliable new vehicles that was released Thursday, but General Motors Corp. and Ford Motor Co. both placed high with its new models.
2007 Ford Fusions
A line of 2007 Ford Fusions sits on the lot of a Ford dealership in Denver. The sedan topped Consumer Reports’ latest list of the most impressive new models.David Zalubowski / AP
/ Source: Reuters

Japanese automakers dominated an influential survey of the most reliable new vehicles that was released Thursday, but General Motors Corp. and Ford Motor Co. both placed high with its new models.

Consumer Reports magazine Thursday named 47 vehicles to its list of the most reliable for 2007. Of those, 39 were from Japanese automakers, including an industry-leading 21 from Toyota Motor Corp.

Honda Motor Co. had the second-highest tally, with 11 vehicles earning a most-reliable designation, including the newly released Honda Fit hatchback.

Ford Motor Co., which is trying to shift away from its loss-making reliance on trucks and sport-utility vehicles, also scored well with several of its new cars.

Ford’s Fusion topped the Consumer Reports list of the most impressive new models, with the magazine’s testing staff praising the car’s “nimble handling and comfortable ride.”

The Fusion and the Mercury Milan, which share the same platform, were named among the most reliable family cars, outscoring V6 versions of the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry.

The Lincoln Zephyr, which also shares the Fusion platform, was named the second most-reliable upscale sedan after the 2007 Lexus ES350 and ahead of Hyundai Motor Co. Ltd.’s Azera and the Acura TSX and TL from Honda.

A Ford spokesman said the quality ranking could help bring buyers back to the U.S. automaker, which has slashed production and is expected to be overtaken by Toyota as the No. 2 U.S. automaker next year.

“When people go out to see the Ford Fusion ... what they’re going to find is bolder design and quality that ranks with the best in the world,” Ford spokesman Jim Cain said.

New versions the Chevrolet Tahoe and the GMC Yukon from GM made the list of most reliable large SUVs, just behind three offerings from Toyota: the Land Cruiser, Lexus LX and Sequoia.

David Champion, who oversees auto testing for Consumer Reports, said the key for Ford and GM was whether the initial strong reliability ratings on the new models would be sustained, an area where Toyota and Honda have excelled.

“Whether they start out good and remain good remains to be seen,” he said.

DaimlerChrysler AG was alone among major automakers in being shut out of the most-reliable list.

The magazine’s testing staff called Chrysler’s hatchback Caliber one of the most disappointing new cars, citing what it called “unimpressive” mileage and a “poorly finished” interior.

In addition, eight Mercedes-Benz vehicles were named to Consumer Reports least-reliable list, the most for any brand.

Champion said many of the problems reported by Mercedes owners concerned glitches in the electrical, audio and power systems for their cars.

Mercedes-Benz spokeswoman Donna Boland said the reliability survey did not reflect the automaker’s most recent efforts to work out bugs in those areas. “We did have some issues, but I think the great majority of those have been resolved to the satisfaction of owners,” she said.

A total of 20 vehicles on the least-reliable list were from U.S. automakers, including 12 from GM, five from Ford and three from the Chrysler Group.

Chrysler spokesman Sam Locricchio said he expected the automaker’s stepped-up investment in quality in recent years would start to be reflected in coming reliability surveys.

“I think you’re going to see some dramatic improvements,” he said.

Of the 45 models on the magazines least-reliable list, five were from Nissan, the only Japanese car maker represented.

Representatives for GM and Nissan could not be immediately reached for comment.

Consumer Reports new car buying guide, which was released Thursday, bases its reliability rating on the results of an annual survey of the magazine’s online and print subscribers.

The 2006 survey included responses on 1.3 million vehicles and asked readers to detail the serious problems they encountered with their cars and trucks.

Consumer Reports is published by the nonprofit Consumers Union. The magazine accepts no paid advertising. A full copy of its buying guide can be found at