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Lexus, other foreign-made brands, top J.D. Power initial-quality survey

DETROIT — Lexus makes the best-quality cars in the United States, and automakers overall are much better at eliminating problems that land vehicles in the repair shop, according to a new survey of car owners.

Toyota's luxury brand had the fewest problems per 100 vehicles in a survey of 2012 models by research firm J.D. Power and Associates. The brand was followed by two other luxury carmakers, Jaguar and Porsche, which tied for second place. Cadillac and Honda rounded out the top five.

In the nationwide survey, J.D. Power asked 74,000 people who bought or leased 2012 models about how reliable their vehicles were and whether they had problems with knobs, switches, electronics and other items in the first 90 days of ownership.

Cars and trucks sold in the U.S. had the highest quality since J.D. Power started doing the study in 1987. Still, quality was hurt by widespread glitches in technology such as touch-screen controls and voice-recognition software, said David Sargent, the firm's automotive vice president.

Companies have learned quality manufacturing techniques from top competitors, and they're using higher-quality materials than in the past, he said. Quality has improved so much during the past decade that the difference between the best and worst brands is less than one problem per vehicle, according to the study.

It's the first major assessment of quality for 2012 vehicles. Consumer Reports magazine's influential quality study comes out in October and includes other years. J.D. Power follows up with a long-term quality study in March.

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