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Asian vehicles still tops in Consumer Reports reliability survey

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Asian brands continue to trounce their U.S. domestic rivals in Consumer Reports' annual survey of vehicle reliability, but Toyota's scores are falling while Ford is making its most reliable vehicles in years, the nonprofit group said Tuesday.

Honda Motor Co. and its luxury Acura nameplate topped this year's list, which predicts the reliability of 2008 model year vehicles based on past performance. Hummer and Land Rover were the least reliable. The top-rated domestic brand was Buick, which was 10th.

The ratings, which are based on surveys of approximately one million online and print subscribers to Consumer Reports magazine, are closely watched by automakers because of their influence on car buyers. This year's survey was conducted in the spring and covered 1.3 million vehicles from the 1998 to 2007 model years.

Making it into the top 10 were Toyota Motor Corp.'s Lexus, Scion and Toyota brands, and Toyota had 17 vehicles on Consumer Reports' list of the 39 most reliable models, far more than any other automaker.

But Consumer Reports said the storied brand ``is showing cracks in its armour'' and no longer will receive automatic recommendations from the magazine when it releases new or redesigned vehicles. Consumer Reports used to recommend Toyota without any reliability data based on past performance.

Consumer Reports said buyers had problems with the automatic transmission in the V6 version of the Toyota Camry sedan, the four-wheel-drive system in the V8 version of the Toyota Tundra pickup and the accessories and audio system in the all-wheel-drive Lexus GS sedan.

``We believe Toyota is aware of its issues and is trying to fix problems quickly,'' David Champion, the senior director of Consumer Reports' Auto Test Center, said in a statement.

Toyota spokesman Xavier Dominicis said the company is encouraged that its vehicles ranked highly.

``The data supports the idea that our vehicles remain well-thought-of and reliable,'' Dominicis said.

He added that Toyota believes it's fair not to give the automaker automatic recommendations.

``Frankly we think that as we redouble our efforts around quality they may afford us that exception again in the future,'' he said.

Consumer Reports' Champion said Ford Motor Co.'s reliability is steadily and consistently improving.

Forty-one of 44 Ford, Lincoln and Mercury models _ or 93 per cent _ scored average or better in predicted reliability, compared with 67 per cent of Chrysler LLC's models and 49 per cent of General Motors Corp.'s models.

The Lincoln Mark LT, a luxury pickup, was the only Ford vehicle on Consumer Reports' list of the 44 least reliable vehicles. GM had 13 models on that list, while Chrysler had six and Toyota had one.

European brands including Jaguar and Mercedes-Benz have had dismal ratings in the past few years, and 17 of the models on Consumer Reports' least-reliable list are from Europe, the magazine said. But European makers scored better this year. Audi's A3, A4 and A6 sedans and BMW's 3, 5 and 7 Series sedans all were average or better, while the Volvo S60 was rated above average after failing to get even an average rating two years ago.

Consumer Reports' reliability issue is scheduled to hit newsstands Nov. 6. Consumer Reports is published by the nonprofit Consumers Union, which is based in Yonkers, N.Y.

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Asian vehicles still tops in Consumer Reports reliability survey
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