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Fusion ranked tops in reliability

Three Ford vehicles loosen Asian stranglehold in consumer rating

DETROIT -- Ford's new Fusion model earned high marks from both Consumer Reports testers and consumers who rated its reliability, the magazine said in its 2007 new car preview, showing that US automakers may be making strides in initial quality.

Asian automakers once again dominated the closely watched reliability ratings, but US automakers are steadily improving, David Champion, senior director of automotive testing for Consumer Reports, said yesterday.

"The quality of cars has improved dramatically," said Champion, who presented the findings from the magazine's annual reliability survey and testing in Detroit.

The Fusion and the Mercury Milan were among the top-ranked family cars for predicted reliability, on par with the Honda Accord and the Toyota Camry. The magazine bases its reliability forecasts on information provided by consumers for the past three model years. In the case of the Fusion and the Milan, the rating is based on only one model year because the vehicles were new for 2006.

Overall, Japanese automakers had 39 of the 47 vehicles with the best predicted reliability. US manufacturers had six, including the Fusion, the Milan, and the Lincoln Zephyr -- all from Ford Motor Co.

General Motors Corp. did well in large sport utility vehicles, earning top ratings for their Chevrolet Tahoe and the GMC Yukon, again based on one year of surveys. GM's Pontiac Vibe wagon was another top scorer.

Champion said the key for Ford and GM will be maintaining the success in the coming years.

"It's that last year that [a consumer] owns the car that's probably most important in terms of reliability," he said. "If it's been pretty reliable over the first three years and then the fourth, fifth, and sixth year it's dropped apart, he's not going to buy another one."

Some 950,000 people responded to the Consumer Reports reliability survey this year, providing answers on about 1.3 million vehicles.

Consumer Reports also listed the Fusion among the new or redesigned vehicles that most impressed its testers, saying its smooth ride and good handling made it feel "like a much more expensive European car."

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