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Lexus tops dependability ranking

Luxury auto manufacturers Lexus, Cadillac and Audi make the most dependable vehicles, according to J. D. Power and Associates' latest ranking of how cars and trucks hold up after four to five years of driving.

The market research firm's rankings were based on a survey of 21,000 original owners of 1992 model-year cars and trucks who kept their vehicles for four or five years.

This year, J. D. Power combined results for cars and light trucks, which include minivans, sport utility vehicles and pickups. Chance Parker, director of product research, said that reflects shoppers' new tendency to consider light trucks or minivans along with cars.

Lexus, the luxury division of Toyota, had led the car ranking the past two years. Cadillac moved up from fourth place in last year's car ranking to second in this year's combined car-truck ranking.

Audi moved from below average in the 1996 survey to third place this year, but Parker noted the results only reflect improvements in the model line the German automaker sold in 1992: the 100 series.

J. D. Power did not release rankings for individual models. Many models in the survey have been redesigned since 1992, so a make's overall performance is more significant, Parker said.

Parker warned of a growing "quality gap" between cars and light trucks.

In J. D. Power's initial quality survey of 1992 car buyers after 90 days of ownership, minivans and sport utilities had about 25 percent more reported problems than cars. After four or five years, owners reported 35 percent more problems with minivans and 44 percent more problems with their SUVs.

The gap was less severe for pickups. But it's still a potential warning sign for automakers that are producing more light trucks, because lesser reliability may lead some owners to switch back to cars, he said.

Voted most dependable

J.D. Power and Associates' ranking of the 10 most dependable car and truck makes after four or five years of ownership, based on a survey of owners of 1992 models.

1. Lexus

2. Cadillac

3. Audi

4. Infiniti

5. Lincoln

6. Acura

7. Mercedes-Benz

8. Honda

9. Buick

10. Toyota