Westlake Village, California – Domestic brands as a whole have demonstrated higher initial quality than import brands for the first time, according to J.D. Power and Associates’ 2010 U.S. Initial Quality Study. Overall, Porsche led the rankings for fewest quality problems.

The study, which has been conducted annually for the past 24 years, found that the industry average for initial quality is 109 problems per 100 vehicles (PP100), increasing slightly from 108 PP100 in 2009. However, initial quality for domestic brands as a whole improved by four PP100 to an average of 108, slightly better than the initial quality of import brands, which averaged 109 PP100 in 2010.

The overall improvement was driven by substantial improvements in many domestic models, including the Ford Focus, Dodge Ram 1500 and Buick Enclave, the company said. In particular, the initial quality of Ford models has improved steadily for the past nine years.

“Domestic automakers have made impressive strides in steadily improving vehicle quality, particularly since 2007,” said David Sargent, vice-president of global research. “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. Achieving quality comparability is the first half of the battle; convincing consumers, particularly import buyers, that they have done this is the second half.”

Initial quality of new models and major redesigns continues to improve in 2010, led by new launches such as the Ford Mustang, Fusion and Taurus, Lexus GX 460, Honda Crosstour, Mercedes-Benz E-Class, and Porsche Panamera, all of which launched with notably high initial quality levels.

The study measures new-vehicle quality at 90 days of ownership. J.D. Power said that initial quality has been shown over the years to be an excellent predictor of long-term vehicle durability. The study captures problems experienced by owners in the areas of design-related problems, and defects and malfunctions.

Porsche led the overall nameplate rankings, averaging 83 PP100, followed by Acura (moving from 14th in 2009 to second in 2010), Mercedes-Benz (improving from sixth to third), Lexus, and Ford (which moved into the top five for the first time since the inception of the study).

Mini posted the largest improvement in 2010, reducing problems by 32 PP100 from 2009. Toyota increased by 16 PP100, moving from sixth position in 2009 to the twenty-first spot in 2010. “Clearly, Toyota has endured a different year,” Sargent said. “Recent consumer concerns regarding Toyota’s quality are reflected in the nameplate’s performance in the 2010 study. That said, Toyota’s success was built on a well-deserved reputation for quality, and there is little doubt that they will do everything possible to regain that reputation.”

Among individual vehicles, Ford and Lexus each received three segment awards. Ford took awards for the Focus, Mustang and Taurus, while Lexus received awards for the GS, GX and LS models. The Lexus LS has the fewest quality problems in the industry, with just 55 P100.

Tied with two awards were Chevrolet, for the Avalanche and Tahoe; Honda for the Accord and Accord Crosstour; and Toyota for the FJ Cruiser and Sienna. Also receiving segment awards were the Acura RDX, Cadillac Escalade, GMC Sierra, Hyundai Accent, Mazda MX-5, Mercedes-Benz C-Class, Nissan Frontier, Scion xB and Volvo C70.

The Daimler assembly plant in East London, South Africa received the Platinum Plant Quality Award for producing vehicles yielding the fewest defects and malfunctions. The plant, which averages 28 PP100, builds the Mercedes-Benz C-Class. Plant awards are based solely on average levels of defects and malfunctions, and do not include design-related problems.

Among North and South American plants, Toyota’s assembly facility in Cambridge, Ontario achieved the Gold Plant Quality Award. The plant builds the Lexus RX.

In Asia Pacific, Toyota took the Gold Plant Quality Award for its Kyushu plant in Japan, which produces the Lexus ES, IS and RX.

Connect with Autos.ca