Cadillac is No. 3 on J.D. Power (Dependability) list; only domestic brand to place in the Top 5

Cadillac was the only domestic brand to place in the Top 5 in the dependability study; it was the No. 3-rated brand, jumping from No. 9. Porsche was No. 2, with Toyota and Scion at No. 4 and No. 5.

 Cadillac was the only domestic brand to place in the Top 5 in the dependability study; it was the No. 3-rated brand, jumping from No. 9. Porsche was No. 2, with Toyota and Scion at No. 4 and No. 5. (GM)

DetroitNews notes: American automakers continue to make strides in terms of vehicle dependability, according to the J.D. Power & Associates 2012 U.S. Vehicle Dependability Study released Wednesday. But relatively high levels of consumers continue to express reliability concerns over domestic brands.

Topping the automotive research firm’s most-dependable list for 3-year-old cars is Japanese luxury brand Lexus, which took the top spot from Ford Motor Co.’s Lincoln. This year, Lincoln dropped to No. 7.

In fact, Cadillac was the only domestic brand to place in the Top 5 in the dependability study; it was the No. 3-rated brand, jumping from No. 9. Porsche was No. 2, with Toyota and Scion at No. 4 and No. 5.

David Caldwell, spokesman for Cadillac, said the study is a reflection of the brand’s efforts to compete with global luxury automakers.

“This study is interesting because it’s not opinions or related to people making projections, it reflects on the long-term experience,” Caldwell said.

The study looks at problems experienced by original owners of 3-year-old vehicles during the past 12 months as a means of determining reliability, considered a major factor for car buyers when considering a vehicle.

Ford Motor Co. improved four positions to No. 8. At the bottom of the dependability ratings was Chrysler, which finished in the No. 32 spot, despite having fewer problems per 100 vehicles than the year before.

Bennie Fowler, Ford Group vice president of Global Quality and New Model Launches, said customers are the ones who come out ahead when the automaker’s nameplates improve in quality.

“The vehicles we are building today are more reliable than ever. Ford has made significant strides over the past few years to achieve world-class levels of long-term quality and desirability. The results of this study are extremely gratifying. The ranking amongst the top ten brands achieved by Ford and Lincoln speaks to our ongoing commitment to develop and deliver best-in-class products,” Fowler said in written statement.

Several Chrysler brands did show signs of improvement in the study, including Jeep, Dodge and Ram Trucks.

“These results are based on cars sold three years ago,” said Doug Betts, senior vice president-quality, ChryslerGroup LLC. “Since that time, we have made significant changes to our product lineup and everything else about our company’s structure and the way it develops cars.”

The 2009 cars were made during a time when the U.S. was freshly reeling from the economic crisis, and both General Motors Co. and Chrysler were facing bankruptcy reorganization.

“(2009) was a tumultuous year, and still the automakers were able to improve their numbers,” said Aaron Bragman, a senior analyst with IHS Automotive. “Detroit finally gets it, they know how to build and how to sustain quality vehicles.”

Over the past several years, models from Buick, Cadillac, Ford, Lincoln and Hyundai have scored well for dependability, but consumers still express concerns about their dependability, according to the research firm.

“Negative quality perceptions are notoriously difficult to change, and it takes considerable time, but effectively communicating improvements in dependability may reduce concerns, and by extension, help new-vehicle sales,” David Sargent, vice president of global automotive at J.D. Power and Associates, said in statement.

Bragman said that consumers’ perceptions about a brand are generational.

“Older buyers especially have their minds made up,” Bragman said. “The younger buyer does not really have those perceptions; they haven’t yet decided what they are going to buy…There’s a real opportunity for the automakers going forward to capture those markets and they’re going to have to continue going forward if they want to stick around.”

Industrywide, the Lexus LS ranked the highest of all models, and had the fewest problems. Greatest year-over-year improvement accolades went to the Mini and Scion.

Toyota Motor Corporation took eight segment awards, more than any other automaker. Ford got three model awards, while GM and Nissan Motor Co., Ltd. each received two awards and Hyundai got one award. Also mentioned by J.D. Power & Associates as performing particularly well were the Ford Mustang, GMC Yukon and Porsche 911.

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