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GM, Toyota clean up in quality rankings

General Motors and Toyota had the top vehicles in 15 of 18 categories in a closely watched survey of 2005 models released Wednesday by research firm J.D. Power and Associates.
J.D. Power and Associates says the 2005 Chevrolet Suburban is the top-ranked full-size sport utility vehicle in its annual Initial Quality Study.
J.D. Power and Associates says the 2005 Chevrolet Suburban is the top-ranked full-size sport utility vehicle in its annual Initial Quality Study.Chevrolet
/ Source: Reuters

Toyota Motor Corp.’s Lexus brand remained the top nameplate in an annual quality study released by J.D. Power on Wednesday, and 10 vehicles from the Japanese automaker won the highest scores in 18 segments of the market.

General Motors Corp., which has lost critical U.S. market share this year, had five vehicles winning top marks in quality, and its Hummer lineup of SUVs scored the biggest improvement among brands, J.D. Power and Associates said.

The 2005 Initial Quality Study, based on responses from 62,000 purchasers and lessees of new 2005 model-year cars and trucks, measures 135 vehicle attributes during the first 90 days of ownership.

Top-ranking automakers often tout the results of the study in advertisements, while others go back and make revisions to their vehicles to try to improve their scores, and customer satisfaction.

Toyota’s Lexus brand, a perennial leader in the study, scored just 81 problems per 100 vehicles, and the Lexus SC 430 luxury car was the top-ranked vehicle with just 54 problems per 100 vehicles.

Ford Motor Co.’s Jaguar brand placed second at 88 problems per 100, and BMW AG’s  brand ranked third at 95 problems per 100.

GM gains
GM, which lost $1.1 billion in the first quarter due in part to production cuts, had two brands in the top five. Buick placed fourth with 100 problems per 100 vehicles while Cadillac tied for fifth with DaimlerChrysler AG’s Mercedes brand with 104 problems per 100.

“(GM’s) improvements of the quality of several models and at their North American plants are both very positive signs,” said Chance Parker, executive director of product and research analysis at J.D. Power and Associates.

GM’s Hummer brand jumped from being the lowest scoring brand to tying for 10th with South Korea’s Hyundai Motor Co. Ltd. and finishing with 110 problems per 100 vehicles, down from 173 problems per 100 last year. Two years ago, when Hummer scored 225 problems per 100 vehicles, J.D. Power officials said it was due in part to complaints about the high fuel consumption of the H2 SUV, which gets about 11 to 13 miles per gallon.

“This year’s results clearly show that the people at Hummer knew this wasn’t the case,” Parker said. “They identified many customer-reported problems and solved them.”

Quality plateau?
However, GM’s Chevrolet, Pontiac, Saab and brands all scored below average in the study.

In years past, J.D. Power also compiled quality scores for corporations. But the Westlake Village, California, consulting firm only released rankings for individual brands and models this year.

The Toyota brand placed 7th overall, making it the top-ranked mainstream brand. But Toyota’s new Scion brand of low-priced cars for young buyers ranked below average with 136 problems per 100 vehicles.

The industry overall had an average of 118 problems per 100 vehicles, slightly better than the 119 score last year. Industry officials have said that quality is becoming less of a difference between automakers, but J.D. Power cautioned against complacency.

“The (study) has tracked similar apparent plateaus before in 1996 and 2003. In both cases, the following year’s results showed dramatic quality improvements,” Parker said.