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Study: Cars’ dependability growing

– If there’s one thing you can count on, it’s your car.

Vehicles are more dependable than ever, says J.D. Power and Associates. The consulting company’s latest study, which measures problems experienced in the last year by owners of three-year-old vehicles, found that reported problems fell 5 percent to the lowest level since J.D. Power began collecting this data in 1989.

Lexus, Porsche, Lincoln and Toyota owners reported the fewest problems, while Jeep, Mitsubishi, Dodge and Land Rover owners had the most. Owners reported an average of 126 problems per 100 vehicles from the 2010 model year, down from 132 in last year’s survey.

Problems can be as varied as engine failure, dashboard electronic glitches and excessive wind noise, which was the top problem for the third straight year.

For the first time, cars and trucks that were new or redesigned for 2010 performed better than those unchanged from the 2009 model year. Owners of new models experienced 116 problems per 100 vehicles compared with 133 for models that weren’t new in 2010.

That challenges the conventional wisdom that it takes carmakers one or two model years to work out all the glitches in new cars.

“The rapid improvement in fundamental vehicle dependability each year is more than offsetting any initial glitches that all-new or redesigned models may have,” said David Sargent, who leads J.D. Power’s automotive operations.

Chrysler’s Ram brand – which introduced a new heavy-duty pickup in 2010 – saw one of the biggest leaps in the rankings. It rose to the ninth spot in 2013 from the 29th spot last year.

U.S.-based brands continued to narrow the “dependability gap” with foreign brands. This year the gap fell to 10 problems per 100 vehicles. It was 13 problems in 2012 and 18 problems in 2011, J.D. Power said.

The 2013 study, which was released Wednesday, was based on responses from more than 37,000 original owners of 2010 model-year vehicles after three years of ownership.

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