The 2000 Mazda B-Series truck is the number one compact pickup in America, based on the J.D. Power Initial Quality Study figures released last week. Returning to a position it occupied several times in the '80s, Mazda's rugged and durable B-Series trucks bested the GMC Sonoma, Chevy S-10 and Toyota Tacoma, among others.

Overall, Mazda's total IQS score improved by 14 points. This was led by improvements in the scores of the 626 midsize sedan, which had 44 fewer owner-reported problems per 100 vehicles than last year's model. The B-Series was next with a 24-point gain, and the Protege, which was recently honored by Car and Driver as the winner of a 13-car comparison test of compact sedans, scored 18 points higher.

"Over the past three years, Mazda has made improvements in vehicle quality a high priority," said Richard Beattie, president and CEO of Mazda North American Operations. "These scores show that this effort is paying off. We will not be satisfied, however, until all of our models are at or near the top of their respective classes. Our customers deserve no less."

Launched last September, Mazda's new 2000 MPV minivan earned a J.D. Power IQS score 31 points higher than the previous generation MPV. For statistical reasons, the Millenia sedan did not receive a J.D. Power score in 1999, but the 2000 Millenia improved 22 points over its 1998 results.

Last month, Mazda announced that it will improve the 2001 B-Series truck line with the addition of a new 205-horsepower 4.0-liter SOHC V6 engine in the B4000 models; a more powerful 3.0-liter V6 in the B3000 models, and a new 134-horsepower 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine in the B2300 models (replacing the B2500 in late-fall). Mazda will also add a new Dual Sport trim level to the B-Series, which features body-colored bumpers and grille for a custom truck look.

Mazda North American Operations is responsible for the sales and marketing, and customer parts and service support of Mazda vehicles in the United States. Headquartered in Irvine, Calif., MNAO has over 750 dealerships nationwide.