J.D. Power ranks the most dependable used cars

2009 Toyota Prius
Flickr user Jyle Dupuis

Despite Toyota Motor's recall problems of recent years, owners still rank its cars among the most reliable  in this year's J.D. Power and Associates vehicle dependability study of three year old cars, released today.

Toyota and its other brands, Lexus and Scion, all ranked in the top five among auto brands. Toyota nameplate models, including the Prius, won four segments among individual models, while Lexus and Scion each topped two categories.

The survey of 31,000 original owners of 2009 model cars, pickups and SUVs showed the highest overall dependability levels since the survey began in 1990. That dependability followed a high degree of initial quality as surveyed when 2009 models were new, Power researchers said.

Detroit-based domestic nameplates have again moved closer to, but not caught up with, the average dependability levels of imported brands. Cadillac, Lincoln, Ford and Buick were all in the top 10 brands in the ranking, with Chevrolet at 13th of 35 brands, just below the industry average. The Jeep, Dodge and Chrysler 2009 models from Chrysler group --before its rescue and takeover by Fiat -- ranked at the bottom of the list.

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Consumer perceptions slow to change

Power researchers note, however, that the manufacturing quality improvements reflected in dependability ratings can take time to translate into consumer perceptions. "In the past four years, Buick, Cadillac, Ford, Hyundai and Lincoln have achieved consistently strong levels of dependability but still have relatively high proportions of new-vehicle buyers expressing reliability concerns," says David Sargent, vice president of global automotive at J.D. Power.

Here are some other findings from the Power survey:

--As it frequently has, Lexus topped all nameplates. Hyundai, which a strong sales year in 2011, finished 10th among brands. For full brand rankings, see the J.D. Power web site.

-- Ford Motor had three category winners for its Ford and Lincoln brands, while General Motors and Nissan had two each.

--With vehicle quality at an all time high as well as used-car prices, owners considering trading in or selling three year old vehicles are in a good position.

Here are details of the top three vehicles ranked in each of Power's categories, where three entries met the qualifications:

Sub-compact car
Highest ranked: Toyota Yaris

Scion xD

Honda Fit

Compact car
Highest ranked: Toyota Prius

Toyota Corolla

Hyundai Elantra

Compact sporty car
Highest ranked: Scion tC

Midsize car
Highest ranked: Ford Fusion

Mitsubishi Galant

Toyota Camry

Large car
Highest ranked: Buick Lucerne

Toyota Avalon

Ford Taurus

Entry premium car
Highest ranked: Lexus ES 350 and Lincoln MKZ (tie)

Acura TL

Midsize premium car
Highest ranked: Hyundai Genesis

Mercedes-Benz E-Class

Volvo S80

Compact multi-purpose vehicle
Highest ranked: Scion xB

Compact crossover/SUV
Highest ranked:

Chevrolet Equinox

Honda CR-V

Toyota RAV4

Midsize crossover/SUV
Highest Ranked:Ford Explorer and Nissan Murano (tie)

Toyota Highlander

Midsize premium crossover/SUV
Highest ranked: Lexus RX 350

Lincoln MKX

Midsize pickup
Highest ranked: Nissan Frontier

Ford Ranger

Honda Ridgeline

Minivan
Highest ranked: Toyota Sienna

Honda Odyssey

Large pickup
Highest ranked: Toyota Tundra

GMC Sierra HD

Chevrolet Silverado LD

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