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Published: Friday, 3/19/2010

Toledo-built vehicles rated below average

BY LARRY P. VELLEQUETTE
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER

Three Toledo-made sport-utility vehicles fared below average when compared against more than 30 other similar vehicles, according to a widely regarded annual study of long-term vehicle dependability released yesterday.

J.D. Power & Associates survey of owners of three-year-old 2007-model vehicles found that the Jeep Wrangler and Wrangler Unlimited, Jeep Liberty, and Dodge Nitro from that year displayed a higher degree of problems than the average vehicle in their segment.

Meanwhile, Porsche brand took top honors, but brands from Ford Motor Co. and General Motors Co. had impressive marks, including three of the top four brands.

The annual dependability study, which surveys owners to measure problems per 100 vehicles, does not discuss results of specific models beyond the two or three leaders in each of 19 categories.

All three Toledo-made SUVs were classified in J.D. Power's "compact multi-activity vehicle" category, against such diverse offerings as the Honda CR-V, the Chevrolet HHR, and the Ford Escape. The CR-V was named the most dependable vehicle in the category.

The Toledo vehicles studied would have been manufactured when Cerberus Capital Management Inc. was purchasing the assets of the former Chrysler LLC from German automaker Daimler AG.

Four vehicles from Toyota Motor Corp. - stung by record recalls - led in the 19 individual categories, the most of any brand in the J.D. Power survey. But the Toyota brand finished fifth highest overall.

Finishing tops by vehicle brand was German luxury maker Porsche. It had 110 problems per 100 vehicles, followed by Lincoln, Buick, Lexus, and Mercury. Porsche had been 10th last year, while Lincoln moved up from seventh a year ago.

Dependability industrywide improved 7.2 percent to an average of 155 problems per 100 vehicles, from 167 problems last year, J.D. Power said.

This year's study is based on a survey between October and December, 2009, of more than 52,000 owners of 2007-model vehicles.

Continued improvement by Ford and GM in benchmark quality surveys by J.D. Power and Consumer Reports may help them lure buyers as U.S. sales recover from last year's 21 percent plunge. Ford owns Ford, Lincoln, and Mercury brands, and GM owns Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, and GMC brands.

Their vehicles are more reliable than consumers realize, said David Sargent, J.D. Power's vice president of auto research.

"Producing vehicles with world-class quality is just part of the battle for automakers," he said. "Convincing consumers to believe in their quality is equally as important."

Chrysler Group LLC's three brands - Jeep, Chrysler, and Dodge - were below average in the study, although the Dodge brand decreased the number of complaints registered in this year's survey.

"We recognize the company needs to improve across all vehicle segments and build consumer confidence," said Doug Betts, Chrysler's senior vice president for quality. "Chrysler Group has taken aggressive actions to improve the quality and reliability of our vehicles over the past three years, and those efforts continue."

The Blade's wire services contributed to this report.

Contact Larry P. Vellequette at:

lvellequette@theblade.com

or 419-724-6091.



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