Detroit, Michigan – Ford has secured its position as the only Detroit automaker with world-class reliability, with about 90 per cent of its products rated average or better reliability, according the Consumer Reports 2009 Annual Car Reliability Survey. The results were announced at an Automotive Press Association luncheon in Detroit.

Only the Toyota Prius ranked higher for reliability than the four-cylinder Ford Fusion and its sister vehicle Mercury Milan for family sedans. The Fusion and Milan continue to beat the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry, while the Lincoln MKZ tops rivals Acura TL and Lexus ES.

“It’s rare for Consumer Reports to see family sedans from domestic carmakers continue to beat the reliability scores of such highly-regarded Japanese models as the Camry and Accord,” said David Champion, senior director of the magazine’s automotive test centre. The last domestic sedan that had better reliability than the Camry and Accord was the Buick Regal in 2004.

Ford also received good scores for the Flex, but the Lincoln division had mixed results, with some models scoring below their Ford equivalents. These included the all-wheel drive versions of the Lincoln MKS, MKX and MKZ, which are essentially high-end versions of the Ford Taurus, Edge and Fusion.

Consumer Reports said that a large margin separates the best from the worst. The least reliable vehicle, the Volkswagen Touareg, is 27 times more likely to have a problem than the Honda Insight, named the most reliable car.

Small-car reliability stood out, with 20 of 37 small cars having above-average predicted reliability, including the Honda Fit, Scion xD and Volkswagen Golf. Family cars fared nearly as well, with 21 out of 42 scoring above-average. Five of the eight most reliable family cars are hybrids: the Toyota Prius, Ford Fusion Hybrid, Mercury Milan Hybrid, Nissan Altima Hybrid and Toyota Camry Hybrid.

Even good brands falter, though, with the all-wheel drive Lexus GS, Nissan Versa sedan and Subaru Impreza WRX rated among the least reliable in their respective classes.

General Motors had 20 out of 48 models surveyed rated average, while the Chevrolet Malibu V6 received better-than-average scores and is on par with the most reliable family sedans. Other good scorers included the Buick Lucerne, Chevrolet Traverse, all-wheel drive Buick Enclave, Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra.

Chrysler continues to struggle, with more than one-third of its products rated much worse than average. The four-wheel drive Dodge Ram 1500 pickup did well enough to be a “recommended” pick for the magazine, doing well in road tests and with average rated reliability.

Of the 48 models with top reliability scores, 36 are Asian: Toyota had 18, Honda had eight, Nissan had four, and Hyundai/Kia and Subaru each had three. With only a few exceptions, Japanese vehicles are consistently good. All Honda and Acura products have average or above-average reliability. Toyota, which has a broader product range, had only one vehicle, the Lexus GS AWD, rated below-average.

Nissan and Infiniti have been mostly very reliable, with the once-troublesome Infiniti QX56 and Nissan Armada now rating average. The four-wheel drive Nissan Titan is now average as well, although the rear-wheel version is still troublesome. The Versa hatchback has been average, while the sedan has been far below average; the Quest minivan also remains troublesome.

Hyundai and Kia continue to make reliable cars, with the Hyundai Elantra and Tucson, and the Kia Sportage get top marks. The Hyundai Genesis V6 is better than average, the V8 average. Only Kia’s Sedona minivan and Sorento score below average.

European brands continue to improve, with Mercedes-Benz significantly rebounding with most models average or better. The GLK did exceptionally well in its first year in the survey. BMW models are more mixed, with the 535i sedan and X3 declining in reliability, and the 135i scoring below average. The 328i models are the only ones recommended by the magazine, although some other models have average or better reliability.

Volkswagen and Audi are also recovering, with the Volkswagen Rabbit and Passat CC receiving top scores. The Jetta’s “recommended” status now extends to the diesel version, making it the only diesel Consumer Reports currently recommends. The VW Passat and Audi A3 have improved to average; the Tiguan is average also. The Audi Q7 continues to be much worse than average, but not as bad as the Touareg, which had the worst new-car predicted reliability score in the survey.

All of Volvo’s sedans are average or better, but the XC90 is below average. Porsche, which had been doing well in recent surveys, had the Cayenne improve to average, but the Boxster drop to below average, which removed it from the “recommended” list.

The survey is based on responses on more than 1.4 million vehicles owned or leased by subscribers to Consumer Reports or its Web site.

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