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I just love reading stuff like this...

Detroit's automakers have better quality than most U.S. buyers perceive, according to a Morgan Stanley quality study released Tuesday.

The New York-based investment firm contrasted the actual vs. perceived quality of 34 brands for sale in America and found that most of the brands sold by General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co. and DaimlerChrysler's Chrysler Group have better quality than consumers presume. Ford's Mercury cars suffer from the largest gap between what consumers think about the brand's quality and what is reality, according to Stephen Girsky, managing director of Morgan Stanley. He said that Mercury joins Ford Motor Co.'s Lincoln and Ford Division brands, General Motors Buick, Oldsmobile and Cadillac brands and Chrysler Group's Chrysler and Jeep brands as nameplates hindered by less-than-accurate perceptions about vehicle quality. Girsky, speaking at the Automotive News World Congress, an annual automotive conference held in Dearborn, Mich., said that the bottom 10 brands in the study-those enjoying better quality reputations than deserved-are European or Asian brands. Range Rover, Volkswagen AG's Volkswagen and Audi brands, Volvo, Mercedes-Benz and BMW are among the bottom 10.

The study relied on J.D. Power and Associates' popular quality studies for the U.S. market to compile its results.

While the complete study is yet to be released to media, a slide handed out by Girsky pointed out that of 12 domestic U.S. brands studied, only four such brands-GM's Pontiac, Chevrolet and Saturn, and Chrysler's Dodge brand-have undeserved high-quality reputations. Girsky says that misperceptions over quality could be a significant "market share risk" to the performance of some hot sellers in the U.S. in future years. When asked about the strength of Mercedes-Benz in America, for example, Girsky pointed to its inflated quality reputation as a reason for caution among investors. Despite its perennially high quality scores in J.D. Power and Associates' scores, Toyota Motor Corp.'s Toyota and luxury Lexus brand still don't command the sort of respect in terms of quality as those brands deserve. -John D. Stoll
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