Lexus has finally been knocked from its top ranking in the annual Vehicle Dependability Study run by influential research firm J.D. Power and Associates. The latest study, which ranks brands and vehicles by how reliable they are, saw Buick and Jaguar tie for the top spot after moving up from sixth and tenth positions, respectively, since last year’s study.

Lexus remained high in the rankings but has lost its crown after a 14 year reign. Despite this, Lexus and its parent company Toyota still had a total of nine different models ranking highest for each vehicle segment. In particular, the Lexus LS430 set the industry standard for dependability as it was the model with the fewest reported problems in the entire study, which is no small feat considering the number of gadgets the car comes with.

Buick has shown a dramatic improvement in quality over the years and today is a regular in the top five brand rankings. In fact, in 2007 Buick had tied with Lexus at the top, with many of its models found to be more reliable than those from the more expensive Cadillac brand.

The study measures problems experienced by original owners of three-year-old (2006 model year) vehicles and ranks vehicles according to how many problems are reported per 100 vehicles – thus the lower the score the better. Original owners of Buick and Jaguar models reported an average of 122 problems per 100 vehicles, four fewer than Lexus.

The rating for the industry as whole showed substantial improvements in just the last year, with an average of 170 problems per 100 vehicles, down 36 on last year’s result. This shows that many carmakers have improved the level of quality in their production and design processes and bodes well for consumers looking to save money by purchasing an older vehicle.

The top five rankings for 2009 are as follows:
1) Buick and Jaguar (equal first)
2) Lexus
3) Toyota
4) Mercury
5) Lincoln

The top performers for each vehicle segment are as follows:
Subcompact car - Scion xA
Compact car - Toyota Prius
Compact sporty car - Mazda MX-5 Miata
Midsize sporty car - Toyota Solara
Midsize car - Buick LaCrosse
Large car - Mercury Grand Marquis
Compact premium sporty car - Nissan 350Z
Entry premium vehicle - Lincoln Zephyr
Midsize premium car - Acura RL, Lexus ES330 (tie)
Large premium car - Lexus LS430
Premium sporty car - Lexus SC430
Compact SUV - Honda Element
Midsize SUV - Toyota Highlander
Midsize premium SUV - Lexus GX 470
Large premium SUV - Lincoln Mark LT
Large SUV - Toyota Sequoia
Large pickup - Toyota Tundra
Midsize pickup - Ford Ranger
Van - Dodge Caravan