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GM Recalls Heavy Duty Trucks with Takata Air Bags


General Motors Co is recalling about 375,000 heavy duty pickup trucks equipped with passenger-side air bag inflators made by Takata Corp, the U.S. automaker said, reported Reuters.

The trucks are 2007 and 2008 model Chevrolet Silverados and GM Sierras.

Subaru will expand its recall of 2004 and 2005 model Impreza compact cars with Takata air bags to about 80,000 from 20,000, the unit of Japan-based Fuji Heavy Industries also said on Friday.

Both companies said they have received no reports of inadvertent deployments of air bags in the vehicles.

The latest actions follow an agreement last week between Takata and U.S. safety regulators to expand the recalls of vehicles with potentially faulty Takata air bag inflators.

The inflators have exploded with too much force, sending shrapnel into the vehicles. Six people have been killed, all of them in Honda Motor Co cars.

Twelve incorrect deployments of Takata air bags have occurred in Toyota and Honda vehicles in Japan since 2011, Nikkei reported on Friday, citing a Japanese transport ministry official. No injuries were reported in these incidents.

Takata air bags have been the subject of U.S. Congressional hearings held late last year. Another hearing, before the Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade, will be held next Tuesday.

On Thursday, five automakers expanded recalls by several million vehicles with Takata air bags.

No root cause for the defect has been found.

Takata managers want the automakers to share some of the blame for the malfunctioning air bags, sources told Reuters this week, as well as some of the financial burden.

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Takata Air Bag Recall Expands to Record 34 Million Vehicles


As part of an agreement with Takata, federal regulators expanded the recall of vehicles equipped with the company’s air bags to 33.8 million in the U.S., making it the largest safety recall in the nation’s history, reports Detroit Free Press.

The move essentially doubles the number of vehicles being recalled to replace potentially lethal air bags made by the Japanese supplier. At least six people have died and more than 100 have been injured from shards of metal from exploding air bags.

Takata, for its part, officially acknowledged the defects for the first time on Tuesday, even though 17 million vehicles with its air bags already have been recalled.

Mark Rosekind, recently appointed administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, said no one knows how long it could take to fix the vehicles, but “it could take some years. … We intend to make sure at the end of this process there is a safe airbag in every vehicle.”

The NHTSA recall now involves 11 automakers, including the Detroit Three, most affecting 2002 through 2008 model years. Takata is partly owned by Honda, which has the highest percentage of recalled vehicles. The total number could change as automakers sift through the specs of all of their models to determine which ones contain any of the four defective inflators, which activate the air bags in a collision.

Many consumers will have to drive their vehicles for a long time before the parts are available to fix them, with the industry unable to manufacture replacement bags fast enough. They could also be waiting months for the notification their vehicle is subject to recall because automakers must prioritize vehicles at most risk based on their age and geographic location

The announcement is the second example in as many days of Rosekind cracking down on automakers to address safety on U.S. roads. On Monday, Rosekind announced he has scheduled a hearing in July for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles to explain their slow response in completing repairs in 20 different recalls.

NHTSA has been pushing for Takata to expand its air bag recall. Automakers had recalled about 17 million vehicles, many of them from Honda. The latest move largely makes this a national recall of vehicles from 11 automakers with vehicles that potentially have faulty inflators in the driver or passenger-side air bag.

“Up until now Takata has refused to acknowledge that their airbags are defective, that changes today,” said U.S. Treasury Secretary Anthony Foxx. “Takata has agreed to declare their air bag inflators are defective.”

Takata Chairman Shigehisa Takada, in a statement, said, “We are pleased to have reached this agreement with NHTSA, which presents a clear path forward to advancing safety and restoring the trust of automakers and the driving public.”

The supplier has also agreed to enter into a consent order with NHTSA to supply all related documents and information about the defective airbags and pledged full cooperation going forward.

In return, NHTSA has suspended more than $1 million in accumulated fines — $14,000 per day since February — for not responding to all NHTSA’s inquiries. The agency has not ruled out more fines in the future and there could be further civil penalties.

Initially the exploding air bags were considered a problem only in hot and humid climates but the recall has been expanded nationally as Takata and affected automakers continue to try to identify the root cause of the problem so they can fix it.

The recall has also expanded to cover both driver and passenger side air bags in more vehicles and regions.

Automakers with affected vehicles include Honda, Toyota, Ford, BMW, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, General Motors, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Subaru and the newly added Daimler Trucks. The automakers formed a coalition and hired independent engineering firm Orbital ATK to try to find the cause of the exploding air bags. Their investigation is in addition to those being conducted by NHTSA and Takata in an industry-wide effort to find the reason for the defect to make sure it is fixed properly.

NHTSA also is opening its own testing program to focus on ensuring the remedy is completely safe. Rosekind said while the replacement air bags are safer than the ones they replace, he cannot guarantee their long-term safety at this time.

“We are doing our best to keep focused on the investigation,” said former NHTSA Administrator David Kelly who was hired to oversee the investigation by the automakers. Efforts to determine the root cause are still in the early stages of testing, he said.

Safety officials warn consumers to keep checking their vehicle VIN number on the www.safercar.gov website because even some of the vehicles previously fixed – or excluded in the past — could be back on the recall list in the future.

Consumer who receive recall notices should call their dealer immediately.

“Folks shouldn’t have to drive around wondering if their airbag is going to explode in their face or if their car is going to be on another recall list,” said U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., the top Democrat on the Senate Commerce Committee and a key figure in a congressional probe into the defective airbags. “We’ve seen the recall list double now to 30 million cars. Let’s hope Takata’s admissions today tells us the whole story.”

Rich Newsome, an attorney representing seven victims of faulty Takata air bags, including Corey Burdick, a Florida man disfigured and blinded in one eye by shrapnel from an exploding air bag in May, called it a victory for consumer protection.

But, he said, “today’s expanded recall is already too little, too late for people injured and their families. Hopefully today’s news will push the agenda for recall reform to the forefront and result in legislation that will help NHTSA identify these kinds of defects before regular families with defective cars are needlessly harmed in the future.”

Automakers say they will continue to work with NHTSA and share test results. Honda said many of the recalls announced Monday already were included in previous safety campaigns and the automaker is “reviewing the information released (Monday) to determine what new actions may be required.”

Honda owners can check their recall status at www.recalls.honda.com or call 800-999-1009. Acura owners should go to www.recalls.acura.com or call 800-382-2238 and press option 4.

“A recall of this scope illustrates the potential for massive automaker expense and consumer inconvenience when a common, mass-produced part is defective,” said Karl Brauer, analyst with Kelley Blue Book.

“While this is the largest consumer recall in history it’s likely we’ll see future vehicle recalls of similar, if not larger, size as the automotive industry becomes more globalized.” Brauer said.

Takata boosted production to 450,000 replacement kits per month in March, up from 350,000. Other suppliers are also ramping up capacity to meet the demand the recall has created as the industry works to address the problem collectively.

Autoliv, another global supplier of airbags, said Tuesday it could make more airbag inflators than it has already promised to the industry.

In January, Autoliv committed to providing several automakers with as many as 25 million airbag inflators and could begin delivering them later this year.

“Our focus has really been to help the industry and the customers in this situation and clearly if we would be asked to supply more we would work to do that as rapidly as we could,” said Thomas Jonsson, spokesman for Autoliv.

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Toyota to Make More Camry Sedans in Kentucky


Via Bloomberg

Toyota Motor Corp. will crank up production of the Camry sedan, the top-selling U.S. car the last dozen years, at its Kentucky plant after it stops farming out some manufacturing to Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd.

Toyota will move Camry production of about 100,000 units to Kentucky in the second half of 2016, it said today. The move will free up more capacity in Indiana for Tokyo-based Fuji Heavy, whose Subaru brand is on pace for a sixth consecutive annual sales record.

Making up for the lost Subaru capacity keeps Toyota in position to defend the model’s lead over Honda Motor Co.’s Accord, Nissan Motor Co.’s Altima and Ford Motor Co.’s Fusion. To fend off mounting competition, the world’s largest automaker is making styling changes midway through Camry’s typical five-year design cycle by introducing a restyled version with more contoured body panels and sportier handling.

“Every time I speak with Toyota people regarding Camry sales or Camry incentives, they always say ‘Camry is different; Camry is special,’” Kei Nihonyanagi, a Tokyo-based equity analyst for Bank of America Corp.’s Merrill Lynch, said by telephone. “Securing the No. 1 position in the U.S. is very important to Toyota.”

Camry’s U.S. deliveries have slipped 0.2 percent through the first four months of this year after rising 0.9 percent in 2013, when the car lost market share in the mid-size sedan segment to Accord, Altima and Fusion.

Subaru SUVs

Fuji Heavy, which counts Toyota as its largest shareholder, plans to enhance its product lineup with a focus on sport utility vehicles. Chief Executive Officer Yasuyuki Yoshinaga said today the company plans to introduce a new SUV that will be exclusive to the North American market and may build the model at its plant in Lafayette, Indiana, after Camry production there ceases.

Even after Fuji Heavy’s production of Camry for Toyota ends, the two companies plan to continue work on clean energy technologies including plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles during the mid-term, Yoshinaga told reporters today. Fuji Heavy also produced the Subaru BRZ and Toyota 86 sports cars that the two jointly developed in Japan.

The maker of Subaru Outback wagons and Forester SUVs separately today forecast net income will increase 4.1 percent to 215 billion yen ($2.1 billion) in the year ending March 31, missing the 239.3 billion yen average of 19 analyst estimates compiled by Bloomberg.

Sales Streak

Rising demand for Subaru’s top-selling Forester and the XV Crosstrek SUV paced a 22 percent surge in deliveries this year through April. Sales for the Subaru brand has notched 29 consecutive months of year-over-year sales gains.

With its market share on the rise, Fuji Heavy plans to boost U.S. capacity by 29 percent to 400,000 vehicles by the end of 2020.

The company aims to raise annual sales to more than 1.1 million vehicles by March 2021, with North America as its “top-priority market,” according to a mid-term strategy plan released today.

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Toyota, Ford, Honda & Chevrolet Dominate Consumer Reports 2014 Car-Brand Perception Survey


Yonkers, N.Y. – Consumers continue to distinguish Toyota, Ford, Honda and Chevrolet as the leading brands overall, but several others, including Tesla and Subaru, are moving up the rankings, according to Consumer Reports’ annual Car-Brand Perception Survey.

Toyota has a 25-point advantage over second-place Ford, reflecting a five-point gain over the year prior for Toyota and a three-point improvement for Ford. It could be interpreted that the safety concerns that saw the Toyota score stumble a few years ago have faded, returning the brand to its position as the perceived industry leader.

The scores reflect how consumers perceive each brand in seven important buying factors, ranked in order of the importance to consumers: quality, safety, performance, value, fuel economy, design/style and technology/innovation. Combining those factors gives the total brand-perception score. While the scores reflect a brand’s image, they do not reflect the actual qualities of any brand’s vehicles.

“The key word is ‘perception’. Consumers are influenced by word of mouth, marketing and hands-on experience. Often, perception can be a trailing indicator, reflecting years of good or bad performance in a category, and it can also be influenced by headlines in the media,” said Jeff Bartlett, deputy automotive editor, Consumer Reports.

The survey shows the brand to watch is Telsa Motors, which jumped from 47 points last year, to fifth position with 88 points. Tesla had a strong, very public year, with soaring stock prices, magazine awards and exceptional crash-test performance. Innovation, performance and sleek styling is clearly gaining attention and making a positive impression. By gaining points in several categories, Tesla was able to raise its overall score. This highlights the value of being good at multiple things, rather than rely on a single facet.

Consumer perception of Subaru’s safety is a key factor in that brand’s ascension into the top 10. This modest-scale automaker made big news over the past year with its “good” crash-test performance, among other accomplishments. All its models, except for the aged Tribeca, have earned coveted Top Safety Pick+ status from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). The survey results suggest consumers are paying attention.

That the remainder of the Top 10 all score 73 or higher is notable; last year there was a wider spread. Many brands impress consumers, creating a challenge for brands to distinguish themselves in the fast-moving marketplace. Likewise, consumers need to determine where to spend their money.

Quality:
The top factor for car buyers remains quality, scoring 90 points both this year and last. What has changed is the number of brands that are distinguished by this attribute. In 2013, Consumer Reports had four brands show a clear advantage; this year, there are six that stand out from the herd, including Cadillac in sixth place. Toyota has an advantage here, with the other brands clustered close behind. Seeing the brands that are considered exemplar for this virtue underscores how “quality” can be broadly interpreted, ranging from tactile first impressions to long-term durability.

Safety:
Volvo has long hung its hat on safety, and this focus continues to pay off. In the minds of consumers, there is a single, clear choice. The Swedish brand increased its lead this year, potentially aided by public awareness of advanced safety features in general, and Volvo’s continued efforts to remain on the forefront of safety technology. It will be a challenge for automakers to close the gap with Volvo, but Subaru demonstrates that it is possible with consistent performance across a model range.

Performance:
As Consumer Reports has seen in recent years, standout brands tend to offer a balance of sporty and fuel-efficient models. Chevrolet exemplifies this concept, as it takes the lead for 2014 propelled by the Corvette Stingray, Camaro and SS, with the Cruze diesel and Volt likely proving a factor, as well. BMW remains in second place, bolstered by turbocharged engines that strive to improve both acceleration and fuel efficiency, plus its electrified i3 and i8.

Value:
Consumers remain value conscious, looking to get the most for their money. With cars, that means looking beyond the purchase price to what the car delivers for that money. Here, Consumer Reports survey showed consistent year-over-year rankings, with the same five automakers topping the chart: Toyota, Honda, Ford, Kia and Chevrolet.

The twist this year is the corporate siblings Hyundai and Kia have traded places, with about an eight point difference each year separating the two. Clearly, both have the potential to rightfully shine in this area, but their volatile movements suggest owners keep seeing them in different lights, perhaps influenced by the visibility of Hyundai’s special recession-proof financing guarantees and introduction of new, compelling products.

Fuel economy:
Toyota owns fuel economy in the minds of consumers, aided by its Prius hybrid and its continued benchmark performance, with 44 mpg overall. But this is a trait that all automakers are chasing. Smart jumped up 10 points this year, despite not offering a new product. Honda continues to hover near the top, with its continued focus on efficiency. Tesla and Volkswagen crashed the party this year, with increased recognition for their accomplishments. The electric Tesla Model S garnered much attention this year for its combination of gas-free luxury and performance, with ample range that enables it to be a truly traditional car replacement. Volkswagen continues to carve a notable niche with its efficient diesel powertrains, now joined by a hybrid in the Jetta line.

Design/style:
Notably a less important factor, design/style still plays a vital role in driving car purchases. Truly a subjective measure, design continues to be led by the prestige brands BMW, Cadillac, Audi and Mercedes-Benz. But, their lead is slight and vulnerable to the fickle tides of public tastes. Consumer Reports’ survey has seen mainstream brands be increasingly daring in recent years, and several have invested in upscale exterior dressing, such as extensive chrome and LED lights, to grab attention. The top 10 here is rounded out with Ford, Lexus, Ferrari, Tesla and Dodge.

Technology/innovation:
The least important car-buyer factor rated by consumers in CR’s survey, technology/innovation, is still a significant consideration for at least 68 percent of car shoppers. Automakers are racing to offer the latest, greatest infotainment and advanced safety features. And consequently, brochures and advertising are overflowing with similar-sounding systems from across the industry, making it difficult for brands to distinguish themselves. But this year, Tesla has done so, giving the fresh brand a commanding lead in this year’s rankings. The other top brands all have focused on consumer-facing technology, though with mixed results. The much-ballyhooed infotainment systems from these brands often leave something to be desired.

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May Sales Up 8.2 Percent, SAAR at 15.31 Million Units


Woodcliff Lake, N.J. — Total light vehicle sales in May, according to AutoData Corp. were up 8.2 percent vs. a year ago, with the industry delivering more than 1.44 million vehicles.

Sales paced at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 15.31 million units, up from last May’s 13.95 million, according to Autodata Corp. Year-to-date sales increased 7.3 percent to more than 6.42 million units. Big winners for the month were Chrysler, Ford, GM, Kia, Nissan, Porsche and Subaru, all of which reported a record-breaking month.

BMW: Sales for the BMW Group increased 10.1 percent to 31,174 units sold. Year to date, BMW Group sales (BMW and Mini) were up 6.3 percent on sales of 139,142 units in the first five months of 2013.

BMW brand sales increased 13.8 percent in May for a total of 25,230 units sold. The best performing vehicles included the 3 Series (up 47.2 percent), the Z4 Roadster (up 19 percent), the 6 Series (up 26.1 percent) and the X6 SAV (up 18.4 percent).

Mini sold 5,944 vehicles, a 3.4 percent decrease from the same month a year ago. Year-to-date sales were also down 1.1 percent on volume of 25,785 units.

Chrysler: Total sales for Chrysler Group LLC were 166,596 units, the manufacturer’s best May sales since 2007. Compared to a year ago, sales were up 11 percent. Chrysler Group also reached 38 consecutive months of year-over-year sales gains.

Additionally, eight Chrysler Group vehicles set sales record in May, with the Jeep Wrangler (up 13 percent) and Compass (up 42 percent) recording their best monthly sales ever. Ram Truck brand sales were up 24 percent, the largest percentage gain of any Chrysler Group brand in May.

FIAT brand sales reached a new milestone in May, with sales surpassing 100,000 units since its reintroduction in 2011.

Ford: Ford Motor Co. reported its best May sales since 2006, with retail sales up 17 percent. Sales totaled 246,585, a 14 percent sales increase from a year ago. Cars sales were up 9 percent, utilities up 15 percent and trucks up 18 percent.

Both the Escape (29,123 vehicles sold) and Fusion (29,553 unit sold) achieved monthly sales records for four straight months with 26 percent and 10 percent increases, respectively, from a year ago. The Lincoln MKZ realized an increase of 42 percent vs. a year ago, the models best-ever May sales.

General Motors: The manufacturer sold 252, 894 vehicles in May, a 3 percent increase form a year ago. It was GM’s highest monthly sales since September 2008.

Chevrolet had its best retail sales month since August 2009, while sales at Cadillac jumped 40 percent from a year ago to 13,808 vehicles sold — the brand’s best May since 2007. Sales of the Chevrolet Silverado rose 25 percent to more than 43,000 units sold. General Motors also saw double-digit increase from small cars, including the Chevrolet Sonic and Cruze, as well as the Buick Verano. Sales of the Chevrolet Tahoe were also up 29 percent from a year ago.

Honda: American Honda’s May sales increased 4.5 percent from 2012 to 140,013 units sold (up 4.5 percent based on the Daily Selling Rate). The Honda brand posted May 2013 sales of 125,649 units, a 5.2 percent increase, while the Acura brand sales decreased 1.5 percent to 14,364 units sold.

Honda light trucks posted a May sales record, with the CR-V leading the way with an 8.4 percent sales increase vs. a year ago. Sales of the Pilot and Odyssey were also up 11.3 and 15 percent, respectively. Sales of the Honda Accord were up 11.7 percent, while the Fit posted a double-digit sales gain (20.3 percent). Sales of the Honda Civic totaled 30,268 units in May.

Despite the drop in sales, the Acura RDX set an all-time monthly sales record and its 13 consecutive monthly sales record with 4,930 units sold — a 49.3 percent increase from a year ago.

Hyundai: Sales for Hyundai Motor America in May increased 2 percent from a year ago to 68,358 units sold. It was the company’s second-best sales month of all time. Hyundai also set its all-time May sales record with the fastest daily-selling rate ever.

Big winners were the Elantra, with sales increasing 33 percent from a year ago to 25,090 units sold. On a year-to-date basis, Elantra sales were up 30 percent. Sonata sales topped 20,000 units in May while the new Santa Fe exceeded the 7,000-unit mark for a 21 percent sales increase on a year-to-date basis.

Kia: Total Kia sales for May 2013 represented the company’s best-ever May sales with 52,327 units sold. The Optima midsize sedan produced 15,368 deliveries, leading Kia’s sales for the 18th consecutive month. The Soul urban passenger vehicle also recorded strong monthly sales of 11,420 units.

Mazda: Sales for Mazda North American Operations increased 19.2 percent from a year ago to 24,270 units sold in May. Vehicles equipped with Skyactiv Technology accounted for a majority of total sales, with 17,875 units equipped with the technology sold in May.

Mazda3 sales rebounded in May after a down month in April, with sales increasing 5.4 percent. The CX-5 realized its best sales month ever with 7,128 vehicles sold, while the all-new 2014 Mazda6 realized its best May since 2008 with 3,944 units sold.

Mitsubishi: Total overall Mitsubishi sales were down 15 percent vs. last year. Sales of Mitsubishi models currently in production were up 31 percent compared to May 2012, but the discontinued models brought the percentage down. The Outlander Sport accounted for 2,226 units of the total 4,715 units delivered by the manufacturer.

Nissan: Nissan set a new May U.S. sales record with 114,457 units, an increase of 24.7 percent compared to May 2012. The Leaf and Pathfinder realized huge increases of 319.2 and 292.9 percent, respectively, marking the Leaf’s second-best month and the Pathfinder’s best-ever May. Infiniti sales totaled 7,899, down 25.4 percent from last May.

Porsche: Porsche Cars North America announced its best May sales month and second-best month ever with a total of 3,928 units sold. For the year, PCNA has delivered 17,609 vehicles in the U.S. market, up 31 percent over last year’s all-time record sales year. The Cayenne was the top-seller with 1,765 sold, a 50 percent increase over 2012.

Subaru: Subaru of America shattered previous monthly sales records by reaching 39,892 units in May, a 34 percent increase from 2012. It was the best sales month in company history. Year-to-date sales for Subaru total 165,362, a 21 percent increase over the same period in 2012.

Driving sales was the all-new 2014 Forester, which realized a 38 percent sales increase vs. May 2012. Outback sales increased 34 percent, while sales of the XV Crosstrek totaled 5,295 units.

Toyota: Toyota sales totaled 207,952 units in May, up 2.5 percent on a daily rate selling basis. The Toyota Division posted May sales of 187.723 units, up 2.3 percent on a year-over-year basis. Lexus reported May sales of 22,229 units, up 3.6 percent from a year ago.

Camry sales totaled 39,216 units, while the new RAV4 achieved its best-ever May sales with 20,780 units sold. The RAV4 posted its best-ever May with 20,780 unit sold (up 8 percent from a year ago), while the Tundra recorded sales of 9,950 units (up 13.5 percent from a year ago). The Scion FR-S led Scion Division with sales of 1,937 units.

Volkswagen: May sales for the German automaker totaled 38,013 units, a 1.7 percent decrease vs. the prior year. The Jetta sedan, the volume leader for Volkswagen, had its best May ever with 14,082 deliveries, up 8.6 percent from last year. The Jetta SportWagen decreased 17.4 percent to 1,828 sales.

Volvo: May sales for Volvo Cars of North America increased 1.3 percent from May 2012 to 6,329 units. Year-to-date sales were down 5.9 percent over the first five months of 2012.

The S60 sports sedan achieved a new monthly sales record with 2,739 units sold while the XC60 followed with 1,915 units sold.

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Subaru Tops 2012 Automaker Report Cards, Says Consumer Reports


YONKERS – Consumer Reports’ automaker report cards for 2012 revealed that Subaru has earned the top score for the first time.

Subaru’s score of 75, two points higher than last year, reflects better test scores for its redesigned models, including the Impreza, Legacy and Outback. The 2012 Impreza now tops the small-sedan class and is the Consumer Reports Top Pick in that category. Subaru’s average road-test score of 82 was the highest in the company’s analysis.

Honda, which had been the perennial winner for the past four years, slipped two points to No. 4 among 13 major automakers, behind Mazda and Toyota. Honda has been hurt by several redesigned models — including the Civic and Odyssey — that didn’t measure up to their predecessors, according to Consumer Reports.

Toyota remains among the Top 3 automakers for the fifth straight year, buoyed by consistent above-average reliability and high test scores for most of its models.

Consumer Reports automaker report cards reflect the performance, comfort, utility, and reliability of more than 275 vehicles that the company recently rated. Each automaker’s overall score is based on the average road test scores and reliability ratings for all of its models that Consumer Reports has tested.

“While Japanese automakers still hold the top five spots, their lead is shrinking. In some of Honda’s and Toyota’s recently redesigned models, cost-cutting has become more noticeable,” said David Champion, senior director of the Consumer Reports Automotive Test Center.

Mazda showed the most dramatic improvement among the 13 manufacturers rated by Consumer Reports, climbing to No. 2 from last year’s No. 7 spot and increasing its overall score by nine points. It was helped by an improved Mazda3 and the shedding of two models that dragged down its score, the Tribute SUV and RX-8 sports car.

Ford dropped the farthest on the list, from No. 5 last year to No. 10. Ford’s road-test score improved by two points over last year’s, but subpar reliability of some new vehicles, due largely to the MyFord Touch infotainment system and Power-Shift automatic transmission, hurt its report-card grade, according to Consumer Reports.

“GM and Chrysler are building nicer cars with each redesign. Still, their scores are dragged down by several older designs that score low in Consumer Reports testing or have reliability issues,” Champion said. “As more new products are introduced, their fortunes could change if they can improve their overall reliability.”

Although Chrysler remains in last place, its overall score jumped eight points, making it the second most improved automaker. Chrysler’s average road-test score also increased by eight points, the most of any automaker. Its overall reliability also improved to average. The turnaround can be credited mostly to Chrysler’s extensively freshened and redesigned vehicles.

Volvo earned the best grade of any European automaker, thanks in part to improvement in the redesigned S60 sedan. Average reliability and less-than-stellar test scores, however, kept it from making further progress.

Like Toyota and Honda, Volkswagen’s redesigns of some of its best-selling models, including the Jetta and the Passat, dropped in Consumer Reports road-test scores. On the other hand, the redesigned Audi A6 and A8 posted big gains in Consumer Report’s road tests.

BMW and Mercedes-Benz vehicles received high scores in Consumer Reports road tests, but were hurt by the reliability of some popular models. Mercedes’ S-Class sedan joined the company’s large GL SUV with subpar reliability, while the reliability of some turbocharged Mini Coopers and the 5 Series hurt BMW’s grade.

The Top 10 Picks By Category:

Family Sedan: Toyota Camry Hybrid

Sporty Car: Ford Mustang

Small SUV: Toyota RAV4

Affordable Family Sedan: Hyundai Sonata

Family Hauler: Toyota Sienna V6

Sports Sedan: Infiniti G

Green Car: Toyota Prius

Small Car: Subaru Impreza

Pickup Truck: Chevrolet Avalanche

Family SUV: Toyota Highlander

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