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Lexus loses top quality spot

Lexus loses top spot for quality to Buick and Jaguar.

But no more.

In the latest 2009 quality survey, it has lost its top ranking to Buick and Jaguar.

Both the US and British brands tied for number one spot, pushing Lexus into third spot.

In the 2009 Vehicle Dependability Study, Buick improves from a sixth-place ranking in 2008, while Jaguar improves from 10th spot.

Following in the top five rankings this year are Lexus, Toyota and Mercury.

Despite losing out on number one overall, Toyota garners five segment awards-more than any other nameplate in 2009 for the Prius and Highlander SUV, Sequoia SUV, Solara (a Camry model) and Tundra pickup.

Lexus follows with four segment awards for the ES330 (in a tie with the Acura RL), GX470, LS430 and SC430.

Lincoln captures two awards for the Mark LT and Zephyr.

Various models by Acura (Honda's luxury brand), Buick, Dodge, Ford, Honda, Mazda, Mercury, Nissan and Scion each rank highest in one segment.

“Buick has ranked among the top 10 nameplates each year since the study was last redesigned in 2003, while Jaguar has moved rapidly up the rankings,” according to David Sargent, vice president of automotive research at J.D. Power and Associates.

“Lexus remains a very strong competitor in long-term quality.

“In particular, the Lexus LS 430 sets the industry standard for dependability, with fewer problems reported than any other model in the study.”

The study, which measures problems experienced by original owners of three-year-old (2006 model year) vehicles, has been redesigned to include 202 different problem symptoms across all areas of the vehicle.

Overall dependability is determined by the level of problems experienced per 100 vehicles, with a lower score reflecting higher quality.

The study is used extensively by vehicle manufacturers worldwide to help design and build better vehicles-which typically retain higher resale values-and by consumers to help them make more-informed choices for both new and used vehicles.

Sargent says that in the current economic climate, consumers are delaying new-vehicle purchases and keeping their vehicles longer.

The average age of a vehicle at trade-in in the US has increased to 73 months in 2009 from 65 months in 2006.

“This makes vehicle dependability even more critical,” he says.

“Automakers have improved long-term dependability by an average of 10 per cent each year since the inception of the study, which is a testament to the industry's commitment to continuously improve and sustain quality, especially long-term quality.

“Making improvements in long-term quality not only satisfies customers who are holding onto their vehicles longer, but it will also influence their decisions when they return to the new-vehicle market or are seeking to purchase a pre-owned vehicle.”

The study finds that the frequency and severity of component replacement has a particularly strong impact on customer loyalty intentions.

Component areas for which the impact is greatest include engine and transmission.

When engine components are replaced or rebuilt, just 11 per cent of customers state that they definitely intend to purchase or lease another vehicle of the same make, compared with almost 40 per cent among owners who report replacing no components.

The study also finds that Buick, Lincoln, Mercury and Jaguar owners are less likely to replace components than owners of other vehicle brands.

While component replacement rates are similar for premium and non-premium makes, there are notable differences between segments.

Owners of models in the premium sporty vehicle segment are least likely to replace components, while owners of models in the van segment are most likely to replace components.

The 2009 Vehicle Dependability Study is based on responses from more than 46,000 original owners of 2006 model-year vehicles.

The study was fielded in October 2008.

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