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Lexus named most dependable; Chrysler finishes last

DETROIT — Toyota's luxury brand Lexus topped a vehicle dependability survey of owners of 3-year-old cars and trucks as model-year 2009 vehicles improved to record-high quality levels, J.D. Power & Associates said on Wednesday.

Chrysler vehicles, made during the tail end of ownership by a private equity firm before it was taken over by Fiat SpA in mid-2009, were at the bottom of the list for dependability and reliability, J.D. Power's survey showed.

Model-year cars from 2009, made during one of the worst downturns in automotive history, were more reliable than those in any previous survey, which dates back to 1990, said David Sargent, vice president of global automotive for J.D. Power & Associates.

"The data is pretty clear," Sargent said. "These were the best quality vehicles ever built up until this time. It's a pretty good testament to the industry. Some of the automakers were facing, potentially, the end, and all of them were struggling to sell any product."

In 2009, U.S. auto sales hit the lowest level since World War II, when adjusted for population, and both Chrysler and General Motors underwent government-sponsored bankruptcies and Ford Motor borrowed heavily to avoid the same fate.

Behind Lexus in order of consumer perception were Porsche; GM's luxury brand Cadillac; Toyota's namesake brand; Toyota's youth-oriented Scion brand; Daimler AG's luxury Mercedes-Benz brand; Ford's luxury brand Lincoln and then Ford's namesake line.

Among non-luxury brands, the leaders were, in order: Toyota, Ford, Hyundai and Honda.

At the bottom were Chrysler's namesake brand, and three other Chrysler brands -- Dodge, Jeep and Ram trucks.

Sargent said cars and trucks made since 2010 for all four of those Chrysler brands have improved dramatically.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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