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Ford Tops J.d. Power and Associates Survey, Unseats Toyota

Ford Motor Co. has unseated Toyota from the top spot in J.D. Power and Associates' annual initial quality rankings released Wednesday last week, grabbing more individual awards than any other automaker for the first time since 1998, when it tied for the top spot.

Ford ranked highest in five of 19 segments in this year's survey. The last time a U.S. automaker was on top was in 1998, when Ford tied with Toyota and Honda. The Dearborn automaker earned segment awards for the Ford Mustang, Lincoln Mark LT, Lincoln MKZ, Mercury Milan and Mazda MX-5 Miata. Mazda, maker of top of the line Mazda timing belt kit, is 33.4 percent owned by Ford.

Ford's Lincoln brand, which jumped from 12th to third in overall vehicle quality, averaged 100 problems per 100 vehicles -- just behind Porsche and Toyota's Lexus luxury brand, which averaged 94 problems per 100 vehicles.

In the overall ranking of brands, Porsche again dominated -- averaging 91 problems per 100 vehicles, as it had last year. That compared with a 2007 industry average of 125 problems per 100 vehicles. Last year it was 124.

Meanwhile world's current number one automaker, Toyota Motor Corp., captured only four this year -- the 4Runner, Sequoia, Tacoma and Lexus RX350/RX400h. The Japanese automaker grabbed the top spot in 11 segments last year.

Toyota had seen its list of quality leaders drop in a quality study released Monday by Strategic Vision Inc., a San Diego-based market research company and consultant to automakers. Despite improving its overall quality, Toyota led in one category in that study - down from four in 2006. South Korean automaker Hyundai Motor Co. led in five categories, outperforming its Japanese, European and U.S. competitors. Last year, it had no winners.

According to Joe Ivers, J.D. Power's executive director of quality and customer satisfaction, there's no clear answer for Toyota's drop. Several vehicles however, brought its quality performance down this year, including the Corolla, Prius and Lexus models.

Toyota spokesman Mike Michels said the company was pleased with its results, adding that Toyota was the second-ranked non-luxury brand and stayed in the top 10 overall. Lexus also maintained its second-place ranking overall.

The LS460 was for the first time not the top-ranked in its segment, coming in a close second to the Audi A8 and Mercedes Benz S-Class, which tied for first. Toyota appears nonplussed with that showing, since it was a redesigned model and had just been shipped to dealers before the survey-taking began.

In the J.D. Power survey, Hyundai fell from third overall to 12th. Oddes said relaunched vehicles such as the Santa Fe did not do as well as the automaker had hoped. The redesigned Elantra however, performed well in its segment.

Lincoln was followed by Honda, Mercedes-Benz, Jaguar and Toyota. Honda, with the fewest problems per 100 vehicles among non-luxury brands, improved in the ranking to fourth from sixth in 2006.

The most improved nameplates in the study are Land Rover, Saab and Mercedes-Benz.

J.D. Power also gave the Platinum Plant Quality Award for producing vehicles producing the fewest defects to Ford's Wixom Assembly Plant, which stopped making cars last May 31. The Detroit-area plant produced the Lincoln Town Car, which averages 35 problems per 100 vehicles. It was the first North American assembly plant to receive the honor since 1999.

For the study, Westlake Village, Calif.-based J.D. Power collected responses from more than 97,000 buyers and lessees of new 2007 model year vehicles after 90 days of ownership.

This year's survey included 228 questions and asked for information specifically about design and production, such as defects and malfunctions.

About The Author Kraig Johanssen is a native of Connecticut and holds a degree in Software Engineering. He now works at a software development firm in Alabama. His love for writing and great interest on cars makes him a proficient contributing author to various automotive magazines.
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