"The Detroit automakers are keeping their focus on designing and building high-quality vehicles, which is a precondition for long-term success," said David Sargent, vice president of automotive research at J.D. Power, in a statement.
Lexus, Toyota's luxury line, was the top brand in J.D. Power's initial quality study, an annual survey of vehicle owners that measures mechanical and design problems in the first 90 days of ownership.
Porsche was the No. 2 brand, followed by GM's Cadillac, then Hyundai and Honda.
Toyota, which supplanted General Motors as the world's largest automaker last year, also swept 10 vehicle segment awards. Its assembly facility in Higashi-Fuji, Japan, that builds the Lexus SC 430 and the Toyota Corolla took the J.D. Power's top plant award.
The worst-performing brand was Mini, with owners reporting 165 problems per 100 vehicles. Though Chrysler's scores improved year over year, it had no brands above the industry average. It tied for one segment award, with its PT Cruiser Wagon sharing the top award in the compact activity vehicle segment with Honda's CR-V. Chrysler, however, is discontinuing the car.
Cadillac and Chevrolet were GM's only two brands whose 2009 models performed above average. The four brands GM is purging under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection — Pontiac, Saturn, Hummer and Saab — were the company's worst rated. The Chevrolet TrailBlazer and GMC Yukon SUVs were rated best in their segments.
Jamie Hresko, GM's vice president for global quality, said the automaker has worked hard to improve vehicle quality over the last five years. Chevrolet and Cadillac account for 70 percent of GM's volume, he said, and top marks for those segments are an indication the effort is paying off.
"Is it where we need to be? No," Hresko said. "To have our core brands — Cadillac and Chevrolet — be on par with Toyota, we have reached a level of quality that will allow us to change perceptions."
Ford Motor, the only major U.S. automaker that has not filed for bankruptcy protection or accepted government aid, also saw scores improve for three of its four brands: Ford, Mercury and Volvo. But its Lincoln brand's score fell, and only Ford and Mercury performed above the industry average.
The average industry score improved to 108 problems per 100 vehicles, down from 118 in 2008.
J.D. Power credited the improvement to several well-received new models that were launched in 2009. It said vehicles like Hyundai's Genesis, Kia's Borrego, Toyota's Venza and Volkswagen's CC performed better than their segment averages. Several redesigned 2009 models also scored well, J.D. Power said.