Toyota has taken the top spot in Japan’s first independent study of long-term vehicle dependability, cementing its reputation for quality following years of similar performance overseas.

Reuters said the study by consultancy JD Power & Associates was based on responses from 18,251 drivers in Japan surveyed at up to 50 months of car ownership and questioned about scores of specific problems ranging from handling and braking to sound systems.

The report noted that that the same survey is closely watched in the United States, where dependability is a major consideration when customers buy a new car and where car makers often cite their survey scores in advertisements.

Honda, Japan’s third-biggest car maker, came in second for vehicles purchased in 2002, followed by Nissan Motor, Reuters said. Nissan scored second after Toyota for cars bought in 2000 and 2001, followed by Honda and Mazda, which were both below the industry average.

Toyota reportedly outperformed in all three categories, with 89 problems per 100 vehicles for purchases in 2002, against the industry average of 104 and 170 for Mercedes-Benz at the bottom of the chart.

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Reuters noted that Toyota has long dominated surveys on vehicle dependability in the United States, with its Lexus luxury marque winning top honours in 2004 for the 10th year in a row.