WESTLAKE VILLAGE, CA — J.D. Power and Associates released its 2011 Vehicle Dependability Study. The study measures problems experienced by original owners of three-year-old (2008-MY) vehicles, which includes 202 different problem areas in vehicles, over the last 12 months.

The group awards a dependability score based on the number of problems per 100 vehicles (PP100), with a lower score representing fewer problems and greater dependability.

J.D. Power found an average score of 151 PP100, which it said is the lowest problem rate since the group started the study in 1990, and shows an improvement over 2009, which had an average score of 170 PP100. Between 2009 and 2011, annual improvement for the auto industry has averaged 6 percent, 2 percent lower than industry improvement during the past decade, which showed an 8 percent annual improvement rate. J.D. Power attributed this slower rate to problems with vehicle newer technologies, such as more advanced audio systems, entertainment and navigation systems, and new safety features, for example tire-pressure monitoring systems.

“Automakers, as a whole, have made significant improvements in reducing traditional problems, particularly with vehicle interiors; engines and transmissions; and steering and braking during the past several years,” said David Sargent, vice president of global vehicle research at J.D. Power and Associates. “However, as manufacturers add new features and technologies to satisfy customer demand and new legislation, they face the potential for introducing new problems.”

For the first time since the inception of the study, according to J.D. Power, Lincoln leads the overall nameplate rankings in 2011. Lincoln improved by 13 PP100 from 2010. Lexus follows Lincoln in the nameplate rankings.  Rounding out the top five nameplates are Jaguar, Porsche, and Toyota.

Toyota performed well in long-term dependability and earned seven segment awards, J.D. Power stated. The company earned more awards than any other automaker in 2011 for the Lexus RX, Scion xB, Toyota 4Runner, Toyota Prius, Toyota Sienna, Toyota Tacoma, and Toyota Tundra.

Ford received four model awards for the Ford Fusion, Ford Mustang, Lincoln MKZ, and Lincoln Navigator. General Motors (Buick Lucerne, Cadillac DTS, and Chevrolet Tahoe) and Honda Motor Company (Acura RL, Honda CR-V and Honda Fit) each received three awards. In addition, the following models also received awards: BMW X3, Mazda MX-5 Miata, and Mercedes-Benz CLK.

J.D. Power stated that import brands still outperform domestic brands in quality, though it found domestic brands of cars had fewer problems than import-brand cars. The study found more problems with trucks and crossover vehicles from domestic brands than it did with import brands’ vehicles.