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Top 11 Quality Cars of 2012

DETROIT TheStreet) -- Consumers who bought new cars this year are happier with the cars than they have been in three years, but they are not so happy with the technology of the hands-free communications devices inside them.

Those conclusions are contained in the J.D. Power 2012 U.S. Initial Quality Study, which surveyed about 74,000 buyers and lessees of new 2012 model-year vehicles after 90 days of ownership. The survey took place between February and May.

Manufacturers posted the strongest improvement in initial quality since 2009 and "are producing higher-quality vehicles than ever before (with) year-over-year gains in most areas of initial quality," J.D. Power said, noting that the single "notable exception" is that "audio, entertainment, and navigation problems have increased by 8% from 2011 (and) by 45% since 2006."

"As manufacturers introduce increasingly sophisticated multimedia systems designed to enhance the ownership experience, owners more frequently cite these systems as a source of quality problems," the firm said. For the first time in the 26-year history of the study, owners reported more problems related to to audio, entertainment, and navigation systems than in any other vehicle area.

The most commonly reported problem was that hands-free devices do not recognize driver commands.

As for brands, Lexus ranks highest for the second consecutive year, followed by Jaguar and Porsche, which tied for second. Cadillac and Honda rounded out the top five positions.

Of the top 11 cars, four were from Toyota (TM - Get Report) or Lexus, while Ford (F - Get Report) had two. Of the top 11 trucks and other vehicles, three were from GM (GM - Get Report) and three from Nissan or Infiniti.

In the nameplate ranking, Lexus scored first among 34 brands with 73 problems per 100 vehicles (PP100.) The industry average was 102 PP100. That represents an improvement of five problems per 100 vehicles from the 2011 average score, the biggest improvement since 2009. Cadillac, GMC and Chevrolet were all above the industry average.

Here are the winners in each of the 11 car segments.

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