Lincoln took the top spot for the first time in a closely watched survey of long-term vehicle quality, J.D. Power and Associates said Thursday.
J.D. Power and Associates said Ford's luxury brand leads its annual vehicle dependability survey for 2011. Lexus came in as No. 2 in the study, followed by Jaguar, Porsche and Toyota.
The study measures problems experienced by the original owners of vehicles after three years. In last year's study, Porsche had the fewest problems, while Lincoln ranked second.
U.S. car brands have shrunk the gap in initial quality with imported autos, but they still lag in long-term dependability. U.S.-made trucks and crossovers have more reliability problems than foreign-made ones. But domestic cars perform better than imported ones over the long term, according to the survey.
Toyota, which has worked to repair its tarnished reputation after massive recalls, swept seven segment awards, more than any other automaker this year, J.D. Power said.
The Japanese company's reputation for quality came under fire after it recalled more than 14 million vehicles since late 2009. U.S. regulators closed their investigation into the world's largest carmaker by sales last month and concluded that electronic flaws were not to blame for reports of sudden, unintended acceleration.
Ford racked up four segment awards, while General Motors and Honda each received three segment awards.
The industry average was 150 problems per 100 vehicles after three years, the lowest rate since the study began in 1990, J.D. Power said. That's down from 155 problems per 100 vehicles last year.
MINI, Jeep and Land Rover owners reported the most problems after three years among the 34 brands surveyed by J.D. Power.
J.D. Power's 2010 dependability study surveyed more than 43,700 original owners of 2008 model-year vehicles between October and December 2010. The results are watched closely by automakers and are often used in advertising. Owners' opinion of a car after three years can be a major influence on their opinion to buy that brand again.