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Toyota quality lags, Ford improves in Consumer Reports

Toyota Motor Corp.'s vehicle quality declined while Ford Motor Co., passed by the Japanese automaker this year as second in U.S. sales, showed improvement, Consumer Reports said in its annual reliability survey.

Toyota's redesigned V-6 Camry sedan, four-wheel-drive V-8 Tundra pickup truck and all-wheel-drive Lexus GS sedan were rated below average and were dropped from the "recommended" list, the New York-based magazine said in a statement Tuesday. Toyota fell to third from first among automakers.

Ford was the best among U.S.-based companies, with 41 of 44 Ford, Lincoln and Mercury brand vehicles rated average or better. The results reinforce Ford's efforts to boost quality after glitches with new-vehicle introductions early in this decade. The automaker hasn't increased its U.S. market share since 1995 and posted a record $12.6 billion loss last year.

At Ford, "the reliability of their cars has steadily improved over the years and is showing consistency," David Champion, senior director of the magazine's auto test center, said in the statement. "We believe Toyota is aware of its issues and is trying to fix problems quickly."

The Consumer Reports results cover 1998 through 2007 models and are based on reader surveys done earlier this year. The magazine takes the surveys along with vehicle tests to decide which models to recommend. Consumer Reports' statisticians and engineers use the data to predict reliability of 2008 vehicles.

Toyota in this year's survey was behind Honda Motor Co. and Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd.'s Subaru.