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Lousy Quality
Lousy  Quality
The Chevrolet Malibu leads its category in initial quality, according to J.D. Power and Associates.
Gripe: Asian automakers sell more reliable products.
Fact: Detroit has lagged Toyota and Honda, but Ford has finally closed the gap.

Consumer Reports now considers the reliability of Ford Motor Co.'s cars (leaving aside its large trucks and SUVs) to be about as good as those of Toyota and Honda.

Chrysler has improved too, but it has been overshadowed by much bigger improvements at its rivals. Between 2005 and 2009 Chrysler's score in J.D. Power's Vehicle Dependability Study improved. But the overall industry average improved much more, so its ranking actually sank to well below average.

Consumer Reports considers GM reliability to be much improved, but it's not as consistent as that of other brands, like Ford. GM has made huge strides, however, in the "perceived quality" of its vehicles.

In more recently designed GM vehicles interiors are more attractive and feature richer-feeling materials. Ride and handling qualities are also more sophisticated.

Detroit's past quality problems have left a lingering bad taste for many car buyers though. It's one thing to repair quality. Repairing trust will take much longer and might not happen soon enough.

What's coming: There's no doubt that quality will continue to improve. Detroit automakers may finally have a chance to catch up as the entire industry finds a balance between even more complex automobiles and greater reliability.

NEXT: Lack of hybrids

Last updated December 08 2008: 6:50 PM ET
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