U.S. cars becoming more reliable Quality Gap with autos made in Asia narrows, study finds

LOS ANGELES L LHC MVB — LOS ANGELES -- The gap in quality between domestic and Asian vehicles appears to be narrowing, according to a nationwide survey of consumers.

Nevertheless, a foreign model, the Mercedes-Benz 300/260, was rated the best overall for reliability after being driven four to five years, said the J.D. Power and Associates'1992 Vehicle Dependability Study that was released Friday.


Ford Motor Co.'s Crown Victoria was the most dependable domestic model and the Acura Legend was the top Asian model.

The Agoura Hills, Calif.-based consumer research and marketing company, which paid for the survey, would not identify models consumers rated least reliable.


The survey found that domestic manufacturers have reduced the number of problems that owners encounter as their vehicles age compared with their Asian counterparts.

The comparison was drawn in part because of the attention focused on the quality of products made domestically vs. those made in Asia, said Power spokeswoman Patricia A. Patano.

The survey compares results of Power's 1987 Initial Quality Study that was done when the cars were three month sold and a poll conducted in the fourth quarter of 1991. Results are based on the responses from different owners of the same vehicle models.

In 1987, owners of domestic models reported 22 percent more problems than the owners of Asian vehicles, the study said. The margin shrank to 7 percent in the 1992 study.

Tom Rhoades, a Ford Motor Co. spokesman in Detroit, said that the Power study validates auto industry claims that domestic models have become more reliable.

"It shows our hard work is paying off," he said. "As we suspect, we are getting closer and closer to the best of the imports."

But it's a different story for European cars. Domestic owners reported 7 percent more problems than European owners in 1987 and 9 percent more in the current survey.