DETROIT - The quality of new cars improved across the industry this year, with Porsche, Honda, Toyota, General Motors and Ford among the automakers leading the pack, marketing and consulting company J.D. Power & Associates said yesterday.

Porsche was the top brand in J.D. Power's annual ranking of initial vehicle quality, which measures mechanical and design problems reported by customers in the first 90 days of ownership.

Others in the top five were Nissan Motor Co. Ltd.'s Infiniti, Mercedes-Benz, and Toyota Motor Corp.'s Lexus and Toyota brands.

In rankings by vehicle segments, Honda was the only vehicle brand with three winners - the Fit subcompact, the Civic small car, and the CR-V crossover.

But Toyota, General Motors Corp. and Ford Motor Co. had three winners each across all their various brands. Overall, 26 of the 36 nameplates in the rankings improved from last year.

Chrysler L.L.C.'s Jeep was the worst-performing brand, registering 167 problems per 100 vehicles. Other brands in the bottom five were BMW AG's MINI, Land Rover, GM's Saturn and Suzuki.

David Sargent, vice president of automotive research at J.D. Power, said the most improved vehicle this year was the Volkswagen Passat. He also cited the Chevrolet Malibu and Infiniti EX-Series, saying both vehicles had strong launches with relatively few problems, rare for new vehicles.

J.D. Power says overall quality improved to an average of 118 problems per 100 vehicles from 125 problems last year. Vehicle quality has improved steadily over the last decade; there were 176 problems per 100 vehicles in 1998.

The rankings were based on questionnaires from 81,500 people who bought or leased new 2008 vehicles between November and January. The questionnaires ask 228 questions on issues from handling, braking and engine trouble to seat comfort and stereo systems.

Sargent said consumers reported that quality was up in every accessory category except audio, entertainment and navigation systems.

Sargent said rising gasoline prices had some effect on the rankings this year. While the average number of problems with vehicles' fuel consumption stayed the same as in 2007, the owners of large vehicles were more likely than average to complain about high fuel consumption, while the owners of small vehicles were less likely to complain.

Top Auto Performers

Honda was tops in three segments of 2008 vehicles ranked best for initial quality.

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Subcompact car:

Honda Fit (below)

Compact car:

Honda Civic

Compact sporty car:

Mazda MX-R Miata

Entry premium car:

Infiniti EX series

Midsize car:

Chevrolet Malibu

Large car:

Pontiac Grand Prix

Compact activity vehicle:

Honda CR-V

Large activity vehicle:

Toyota Sequoia



E series

SOURCE: Associated Press