Ford’s Lincoln, Toyota’s Lexus Top J.D. Power Dependability

Ford Motor Co. (F)’s Lincoln brand led J.D. Power & Associates’ annual study of vehicle dependability, while more Toyota Motor Corp. (7203) models placed at the top of their segments and Bayerische Motoren Werke AG trailed in the ratings.

Lincoln led the industry for the first time in the survey’s 21-year history as owners reported 101 problems per 100 vehicles, J.D. Power said today in a statement. Toyota’s Lexus improved to second place, with 109 problems, from fourth place last year, and the automaker’s namesake brand moved up one spot to fifth with 122.

Higher-scoring manufacturers retain more buyers as well as service business for their dealers, according to J.D. Power. The industry averaged 151 problems per 100 vehicles in this year’s survey, which polls buyers after three years of ownership. That’s down from 155 last year and 167 in 2009.

“Automakers, as a whole, have made significant improvements in reducing traditional problems” the past several years, David Sargent, vice president of auto research at the Westlake Village, California-based firm, said in a statement.

Seven of the top eight brands were luxury nameplates, as Tata Motors Ltd. (TTMT)’s Jaguar ranked third and Porsche SE’s namesake finished fourth. After Toyota at fifth, Honda Motor Co.’s Acura improved to sixth place, and Daimler AG (DAI)’s Mercedes-Benz jumped to eighth.

BMW’s Mini brand owners reported the most problems in this year’s survey, with 221 problems per 100 vehicles. The namesake BMW brand also ranked below the industry average, with 164.

Buick, Cadillac Climb

General Motors Co. (GM)’s volume-leading Chevrolet brand improved, with 20 fewer problems per 100 vehicles than a year earlier. The brand still had four more problems per 100 cars than the industry average. GM’s Buick and Cadillac brands finished in the top 10 and ahead of Ford’s main brand, which beat the industry average for a fourth consecutive year.

Lincoln has moved up J.D. Power standings by standardizing vehicles’ assembly and development processes and improving design, said Scott Tobin, director of Lincoln product development.

“The number one ranking is a foundation we’ll build from to elevate the Lincoln brand,” which gets seven new or refreshed models in the next four years, Tobin said in a telephone interview.

J.D. Power’s study this year is based on a survey of more than 43,700 original owners of 2008 model-year vehicles conducted between October and December 2010.

Toyota Recalls

Toyota’s recalls of more than 10 million vehicles, most for unintended acceleration, began in late 2009 and may not affect results until later surveys. Seven Toyota models earned top honors in their segments, including the Lexus RX and Toyota 4Runner sport-utility vehicles, Tacoma and Tundra trucks and Prius hybrid.

Toyota dropped to its worst-ever ranking in J.D. Power’s initial quality study last year, which measures problems in the first 90 days of ownership and included some of Toyota’s recalled vehicles.

Chrysler Group LLC’s Jeep, Ram, Chrysler and Dodge brands were below average in the study. The Ram truck brand average 173 problems, while Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge each had more than 200.

To contact the reporter on this story: Craig Trudell in Southfield, Michigan, at ctrudell1@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Kevin Orland at korland@bloomberg.net.

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