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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, November 22, 2002

Lexus still at top of reliability ratings

By John Porretto
Associated Press

DETROIT — For the eighth consecutive year, Lexus was the highest ranking brand in the J.D. Power and Associates vehicle dependability study, the marketing research firm said yesterday.

Lexus, the luxury division of Toyota Motor Corp., was followed by four other Japanese brands — Infiniti, Acura, Honda and Toyota.

The study examines the durability of vehicles after four or five years of ownership and was based on survey responses this summer from 30,000 original owners of 1998 model year cars, trucks and SUVs.

Lexus vehicles had 159 problems per 100 vehicles, compared with an industry average of 355 problems, the study said.

Some of the most common problems overall were noisy brakes, wind noise, uneven tire wear and unscheduled engine repairs for such things as hoses and belts.

Brian Walters, director of product research at J.D. Power, said the study measures vehicle problems at a critical stage — when warranties tend to be expiring and when many owners are considering replacing their vehicles.

"The perception of strong long-term dependability can translate into both high resale value and strong owner loyalty to the nameplate," Walters said.

More than half of the buyers of new vehicles indicate that long-term durability is an important consideration when choosing their next automobile.

Of the 15 nameplates scoring above average in the 2002 study, eight were Japanese (Subaru, Nissan and Mazda, in addition to the top five); four were domestic (Buick, Cadillac, Lincoln and Mercury); and three were European (Porsche, Jaguar and BMW).

Mike Wall, an analyst with automotive forecasting firm IRN Inc. in Grand Rapids, said he wasn't at all surprised with the usual companies at the top of the survey.

"When you look at the anecdotal evidence and the customer survey comments time and again, one of the biggest selling features to these Asian makes is their longevity," Wall said.

"The vehicles are commonly referred to as 'bulletproof.' That's one reason they don't need a whole lot of incentives."