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Well, that didn't last long.

1 year after domestic manufacturers finally topped the J.D. Power and Associate's Initial Quality Study, imports are back in the drivers seat.

Lexus, Honda, Acura, Mercedes-Benz and Mazda were the top nameplates in this year's annual and influential study, which included feedback from more than 70,000 customers who purchased 2011 model-year vehicles.

Ford, widely lauded after climbing to 5th-place in last year's study, dropped precipitously as customers complained about the newly-introduced MyFord Touch system, which proved overly complicated and occasionally unreliable.

"Ford has been pushing the envelope in terms of technology in the mass market," David Sargent, vice president of global vehicle research at J.D. Power, said today during a press conference at the Detroit Atheltic Club. "In the long term, it's a good idea. In the short term, it's given them some headaches."

Customers reported an increased number of complaints about audio, entertainment and navigation systems amongst all brands -- not just Ford, as automakers struggled to meet the growing demand for new technology.

"Clearly, consumers are interested in having new technology in their vehicles, but automakers must ensure that the technology is ready for prime time," said Sargent. "...There is an understandable desire to bring these technologies to market quickly, but automakers must be careful to walk before they run."

While Ford quality rankings suffered as a whole, the automaker took home 2 segment awards for the popular Tauras and F-150, with the latter ranking among the highest-quality vehicles in the entire study.

General Motors faired better, with Cadillac and GMC ranking as the only domestic nameplates to top the industry average for initial quality. The Chevrolet Tahoe , HHR and Cadillac Escalade each earned segment awards.

"Escalade's highest-in-segment leadership showcases Cadillac's commitment to our customers," said Don Butler, vice president of Cadillac Marketing. "We're now focused on continuing and expanding our brand's quality improvement in every segment in which we compete."

Chrysler, meanwhile, earned mixed marks after introducing several new vehicles in 2011, many of which outperformed older offerings. Customers gave the Chrysler brand decent marks, but Ram, Jeep and Dodge each fared poorly. Dodge earned the dubious distinction as the least-reliable nameplate in the study, yet the Challenger earned the highest marks in the midsized sports car segment.

"Most automakers, including Chrysler Group, find it challenging to maintain quality levels when launching vehicles with a significant amount of new content," Doug Betts, Chrysler Groups senior vice presient of quality, said in a released statement. "It’s a big accomplishment for our employees and supplier partners to achieve these initial quality results when so many of our 2011 model year launches coincided with the IQS survey period."
 

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Honda


The Honda brand earned its best-ever ranking in J.D. Power and Associates' Initial Quality StudySM (IQS) for 2011, finishing 2nd among all surveyed brands, including premium makes, the company announced today. Honda also led the industry with 7 models earning the highest initial quality ranking in their respective segments, including its top-selling Accord and Civic models.

The Acura brand finished 3rd overall in the 2011 IQS.

In the manufacturing realm, the 2011 study recognized 3 Honda plants for superior quality, including Honda's newest U.S. auto plant in Greensburg, Ind. Honda Manufacturing of Indiana, producing the Civic Sedan, was 1 of only 3 plants around the world to earn the Platinum Plant Quality Award. The Suzuka, Japan plant, line 1, earned a Silver Plant Quality Award, Asia Pacific (tie), for production of Civic and Insight, while the East Liberty, Ohio, plant took home a Bronze Plant Quality Award, North/South America, for production of the Accord Crosstour, CR-V and Element.

"Creating products of the highest quality and value is the foundation of our business, and it begins with a deep understanding of the customer," said Tetsuo Iwamura, president & CEO of American Honda Motor Co., Inc. "These results are an important demonstration of our focus on the customer and the tireless efforts put forth by Honda associates throughout our organization—in R&D, in manufacturing and in sales—to exceed their high expectations of Honda and Acura."

Of the 7 Honda models earning the highest initial quality score in their segment – the most segment leaders of any brand – 5 were manufactured in North America: the Civic (compact car); the Element (compact crossover SUV—followed by the CR-V in 2nd place); the Accord (midsize car); the Accord Crosstour (midsize crossover SUV); and the Ridgeline (midsize pickup). Those 5 models were joined on the 2011 segment leader list by the Insight hybrid (compact car, tie) and Honda Fit (sub-compact car).

Honda automobiles made in North America are produced using domestic and globally-sourced parts.

J.D. Power and Associates' Initial Quality Study serves as an important tool for consumers in evaluating the quality and design of new vehicles. Since 1987, J.D. Power and Associates has been surveying owners to measure the initial quality of new vehicles after the 1st 90 days of ownership.
 
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