DETROIT - Ford's new Fusion family sedan earned high marks from both Consumer Reports testers and consumers who rated its reliability, the magazine said in its 2007 new car preview, showing that U.S. automakers might be making strides in initial quality.
Asian automakers once again dominated the closely watched reliability ratings, but U.S. automakers are steadily improving, said David Champion, the senior director of automotive testing for Consumer Reports.
"You're almost chasing a moving target," said Mr. Champion, who presented the findings from the magazine's annual reliability survey and testing in Detroit on Nov. 9. "The quality of cars has improved dramatically."
The Fusion and the similar Mercury Milan were among the top-ranked family cars for predicted reliability, on par with Honda Accord and Toyota Camry.
The magazine bases its reliability forecasts on information provided by consumers for the past three model years. In the case of the Fusion and the Milan, the rating is based on only one model year because the vehicles were new for 2006.
Japanese automakers had 39 of the 47 vehicles with the best predicted reliability. U.S. manufacturers had six, including the Fusion, the Milan and the Lincoln Zephyr - all from Ford Motor Co.
General Motors Corp. did well in large sport utility vehicles, earning top ratings for its Chevrolet Tahoe and GMC Yukon, again based on one year of surveys. GM's Pontiac Vibe wagon was another top-scorer.
Mr. Champion said the key for Ford and GM will be maintaining the success in the coming years.
"It's that last year that (a consumer) owns the car that's probably most important in terms of reliability," he said. "If it's been pretty reliable over the first three years and then the fourth, fifth and sixth year it's dropped apart, he's not going to buy another one."
Consumer Reports sends the auto reliability survey to print and online subscribers. About 950,000 people responded this year, providing answers on about 1.3 million vehicles.
Consumer Reports also listed the Fusion among the new or redesigned vehicles that most impressed its testers, saying its smooth ride and good handling made it feel "like a much more expensive European car."
Among the biggest disappointments was the Dodge Caliber crossover, whose acceleration was sluggish, fuel economy unimpressive and interior cheap.
The magazine also criticized the Subaru B9 Tribeca, the Mitsubishi Eclipse and the Pontiac Solstice.
Consumer Reports ranked the predicted reliability of 2007 models, based on survey results from previous years. Here are the magazine's picks:
Best: Honda Fit
Worst: Chevrolet Cobalt
Best: Honda Accord Hybrid
Worst: Volkswagen Passat (four-cylinder)
Upscale Large Car
Best: Lexus ES 350
Worst: Jaguar X-Type
Best: Lexus LS
Worst: Cadillac STS (V-8)
Best: Lexus SC
Worst: Pontiac Solstice
Best: Pontiac Vibe
Worst: Buick Terraza
Best: Toyota FJ Cruiser
Worst: Kia Sportage
Best: Toyota Highlander Hybrid
Worst: Mercedez-Benz M-Class
Best: Toyota Land Cruiser
Worst: Nissan Armada
Best: Subaru Baja
Worst: Nissan Titan
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