The closely watched JD Power and Associates survey of long-term vehicle dependability, which was released last week, is based on responses from 47 620 owners of 3-year-old vehicles when questioned about scores of specific problems ranging from wind or brake noise to uneven tire wear and stalling engines.
The survey is significant for the motor industry because new car buyers say long-term quality is one of the most important factors in their choice of brands. It is also important to automakers because of warranty costs.
Lexus had 136 problems per 100 vehicles. Lexus was followed by Ford's Mercury nameplate with 151 problems per 100 vehicles and General Motor's Buick brand with 153 problems per 100 vehicles.
But GM's flagship brand Chevrolet was ranked below the industry average of 227 problems per 100 vehicles, as was DaimlerChrysler AG's Chrysler Group.
Ford's namesake brand was ranked above the industry average. However, its British luxury nameplate Land Rover was ranked as the least reliable with 438 problems per 100 vehicles, over 100 problems more than the nearest ranked brand, GM's Saab.
Other high-profile European luxury nameplates such as DaimlerChrysler's Mercedes, Ford's Volvo, Porche and Volkswagen's Audi all scored well below the industry average.
BMW's MINI and Hyundai's Kia nameplate saw the largest reduction in problems reported by owners, and both still hovered well below the industry average.
Lexus, Toyota and Honda models dominated the segment rankings. Lexus models lead in four segments - GS 300/GS 430 in midsize premium cars, LS 430 in large premium cars, SC 430 in premium sporty cars and GX 470 in midsize premium sport utility vehicles.