Unsurprisingly, luxury makers topped the charts of J.D. Power's latest initial quality survey, but Ford's Mercury marque has risen to settle just behind Toyota for second among the mainstream brands. General Motors' brands also had a strong showing, with four of the maker's nameplates ranking above average. Chrysler was at the back of the line, with Jeep showing the lowest quality rankings of any brand sold in the U.S.

Porsche claimed the top overall brand ranking spot for the third straight year, with Infiniti's M and EX-series helping boost it to second and Lexus riding the ES and LS to third. Mercedes-Benz's fourth-place finish is a significant improvement from its 25th-place of two years ago. Toyota's ranking of fifth and Mercury's sixth overall finish show that ordinary, affordable cars can compete with the best in the business despite being built in much larger numbers. Overall brand rakings aside, individual cars are rated in several size-related categories.

One thing to keep in mind when analyzing the results is that the overall span from top to bottom isn't especially wide. The ratings are based on the number of problems reported per 100 vehicles, with the fewest problems rating highest. Top-ranked Porsche had just 87 problems per 100 vehicles delivered, but even 37th ranked Jeep had only 80 more problems per 100 for a total of 167. The industry average was 118 problems per 100 cars and the middle 20 manufacturers all finished within the 108-128 range. The most significant interval was Porsche's 9-point lead over Infiniti.

The large car category is where Mercury found most of its success, taking second and third place with the Sable and Grand Marquis, respectively. The brand didn't place in the top three in any other category, but strong overall ratings led to the sixth place finish, the highest of the U.S. brands. Ford-branded cars also finished in the top eight overall, up two spots. Lincoln's fall from a third-place finish last year to 15th this year makes it the bottom-most brand of the above-average crowd, according to Automotive News. With Ford trying desperately to shift its product line toward cars and working to rebuild its public image, these results should prove a boon to the process.

Perennial back-marker Chrysler fared poorly, with Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep brands all scoring below average and Jeep coming in dead last. Fortunately the company is well into a complete refurbish of its product line and corporate structure, so hopefully the future will hold more success than the present. Keeping Jeep company at next-to-last place was BMW's Mini brand - a poor showing for its first year of inclusion in the survey.

General Motors' Cadillac, Chevrolet, Buick and Pontiac brands all scored above average in overall initial quality, something none of the maker's brands managed last year. The doomed Hummer brand improved by eight spots to beat all of Chrysler's brands, up from a bottom-three ranking in 2007. The all-new Malibu took the top spot for midsized cars ahead of Mitsubishi's Galant in second and the Ford Fusion in third.

Honda's Fit took top spot among the increasingly popular sub-compact class, with the Kia Rio and Hyundai Accent taking second and third honors and May's top-selling Honda Civic took the compact class award ahead of the Prius.

Mazda's Miata finished ahead of the Subaru Impreza and Pontiac Solstice in the compact sporty car category despite the brand ranking well below average overall. The numbers for the beloved roadster were odd - low scores in mechanical and interior and exterior design categories contrasted with high scores in overall quality and most other measurements.