) -- For the first time, domestic automakers -- led by
-- demonstrated higher initial quality than imports in an influential study by
J.D. Power and Associates
The firm's 2010 Initial Quality Study, released Thursday, measures problems after 90 days of ownership. The study has been conducted annually for the past 24 years. Initial quality for domestic brands improved by four problems per 100 vehicles to an average of 108, while the average for imports is 109 problems per 100 vehicles.
For the first time, Ford had the highest initial quality among all non-luxury brands, the study showed, and rose to fifth place from eighth a year ago. Three Ford models -- Focus, Mustang and Taurus -- ranked highest in their segments, and Lincoln moved up to rank among the top ten brands in the industry.
"The blue oval is becoming synonymous with high quality," said Bennie Fowler, Ford group vice president for global quality and new models, in a prepared statement. "Our plan is to keep improving quality each and every year."
had ten models that ranked within the top three in its segments, while Ford had 12 in the top three in its segments.
led the overall nameplate rankings, averaging 83 problems per hundred vehicles. Following in the rankings are
, which moved from 14th to second;
, which moved from sixth to third;
problem count increased by 16 problems per hundred vehicles, moving it from sixth rank position to 21st.
"Clearly, Toyota has endured a difficult year," said David Sargent, vice president of global vehicle research at J.D. Power, in a prepared statement. "Recent consumer concerns regarding Toyota's quality are reflected in the nameplate's performance in the 2010 study.
"Domestic automakers have made impressive strides in steadily improving vehicle quality, particularly since 2007," Sargent said. "This year may mark a key turning point for U.S. brands as they continue to fight the battle against lingering negative perceptions of their quality.
"However, there is still a long road ahead, and domestic manufacturers need to consistently prove to consumers that they can produce models with quality that equals or beats that of the import brands," he said."
-- Written by Ted Reed in Charlotte, N.C.