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Ford passes Toyota in Consumer Reports quality ranking

January 5, 2011 | 10:56 am

Honda and Ford have pushed past Toyota in consumer views of quality, according to Consumer Reports’ 2011 Car Brand Perception Survey.

A series of massive recalls over the last 18 months tarnished Toyota’s reputation as a leader in quality, the magazine said Tuesday. Toyota also paid nearly $50 million in fines last year to federal safety regulators for failing to promptly inform regulators of defects in its vehicles and delaying recalls.

Honda ranked first, with 25% of the car owners participating in the survey naming it as the manufacturer with the best quality in the study. Ford was second, at 23%, and Toyota finished third at 19%, a drop of 11 percentage points for the former leader.  Chevrolet, at 16%, and Mercedes-Benz, at 15%, rounded out the top five.

Despite Toyota’s dive in the quality rankings, the Japanese automaker still scored the highest in overall brand perception -– an amalgamation of separate rankings of safety, quality, value, performance, environmentally friendliness, design/style and technology/innovation.

Toyota, with an overall score of 147, narrowly edged out Ford, which scored 144 points on the Consumer Reports scale, because of its big lead as an automaker that is considered environmentally friendly, said C. Matt Fields, a magazine spokesman.

“Statistically, it really is a dead heat,” he said.

Consumers in the study ranked safety, 65%; quality, 57%; and value, 51%, as the most important factors in their car-buying decisions. When it comes to safety, Volvo was named by 70% as the leader. It had a giant 50-point advantage over second-place Ford at 20%. Honda and Subaru were both at 17% and Mercedes-Benz was fifth, with 14%.

In terms of value, Ford, at 25%, squeaked by Honda, 24%, and Toyota, 23%, as the brand most mentioned by consumers.  Hyundai, with 17%, and Chevrolet, at 15%, rounded out the value rankings. The full report can be found here.

Consumer Reports saying that Ford has moved up in perception and that Toyota has declined matches other auto-market trends.

The Ford brand outsold Toyota’s line of vehicles last year for the first time since 2006.

Toyota saw its share of the U.S. auto market fall to 15.2% in 2010 from 17% in the previous year.

Meanwhile, Ford’s market share rose to 16.7% last year, up more than a full percentage point. This was the second consecutive year of rising market share for Ford and its first back-to-back increase
since 1993.

Also last year, Toyota was the subject of more than a quarter of the complaints drivers filed with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, according to a study by auto information company Edmunds.com.  Its ratio of complaints to 100,000 vehicles sold jumped to nearly 87 so far in 2010 from 37 a year earlier.

Among large automakers, Ford and Honda had the lowest complaint ratios.

RELATED AUTOMOTIVE NEWS:

Federal safety regulators field flood of complaints 

U.S. car makers are back in the lead

Buick Grand National is hell on wheels

-- Jerry Hirsch

twitter.com/LATimesJerry

Photo: A new Ford Focus sits outside the automaker's Michigan assembly plant. Credit: Bloomberg News

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