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Originally published Tuesday, October 26, 2010 at 5:56 PM

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U.S. carmakers race up quality rankings

The Ford Fusion is the most reliable family sedan sold in America, according to Consumer Reports, while General Motors continues to move up in the rankings and Chrysler is showing signs of life.

The Detroit News

The Ford Fusion is the most reliable family sedan sold in America, General Motors continues to move up in the reliability rankings and Chrysler is showing signs of life.

Those are among the results of Consumer Report's annual car-reliability survey, released Tuesday in Detroit.

While U.S. carmakers showed continued improvement, Asian carmakers remain the reliability powerhouses.

Toyota, despite recalling millions of vehicles in the past year, and Honda dominated the top of this year's survey. Toyota and Honda each led in five categories.

Europeans lagged behind other carmakers in general with poor quality. Three European luxury brands, Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz, scored among the worst this year.

Ford was the only U.S. automaker with top scores, in two categories: family sedan (Fusion) and large SUV (Flex with EcoBoost). GM improved the most among the domestic companies.

Helping propel GM upward was a slew of new products, such as the Chevrolet Camaro, Buick LaCrosse and Cadillac SRX, Consumer Reports officials said.

"Typically, the first year of a new vehicle is when it scores the worst on reliability so this is very good news for General Motors," said David Champion, senior director of Consumer Reports Auto Test Center.

The importance of the reliability survey cannot be understated, said Dave Sullivan, manager, product analysis for AutoPacific.

"Consumer Reports is one of those indicators used by the general public to measure how each automaker stacks up against the other," he said.

Consumer Reports sent out 5 million auto-reliability surveys and 1.3 millions surveys were returned to the magazine. The survey goes back 10 years for vehicles and uses a number of ways to determine a vehicle's reliability.

"Many people buying cars go to Consumer Reports recommended list and start shopping from there," Sullivan said. "If it's not there, they don't ever consider it."

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Last year, only half of the vehicles in Chevrolet's lineup scored average or better in the survey. This year, 83 percent of the lineup scored at least average.

Cadillac improved seven places in the overall rankings, compared to last year.

"Ford still dominates, year after year," Champion said. "Most people would never know that the most reliable family car in the midsize segment is the Ford Fusion, followed by the Honda Accord and then the Toyota Camry."

Despite marked improvements by GM and Ford, Asian carmakers, led by Toyota and Honda, consistently offer the most reliable lineups, the survey noted. All of Honda's vehicles, both in its mainstream brand and its luxury brand, Acura, scored at least average reliability.

Despite a difficult year, Toyota remains one of the most reliable brands in America, Champion said.

"We've got some issues, and I think the recalls have hurt us in consumer's eyes, but we're still one of the most reliable brands," said John Hanson, Toyota's national manager for environmental safety and quality communications.

Hyundai continues to show improvements, with many of its new vehicles such as the Hyundai Sonata midsize sedan, Champion noted.

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