Finally, some good news for Ford Motor Co.
J.D. Power and Associates announced Wednesday that the struggling U.S. automaker had earned the top prize in five vehicle categories in its 2007 Initial Quality Study. The study serves as a benchmark for new vehicle quality 90 days after ownership.
"It's a great day for our Ford team, but more importantly for our customers," said executive vice president Mark Fields, who oversees the company's operations throughout the Americas.
The five vehicles awarded were the Ford Mustang, Lincoln Mark LT, Lincoln MKZ, Mazda MX-5 Miata and Mercury Milan. There are a total of 19 categories.
In all, Ford earned 14 Top 3 finishes, beating all the competitors in the survey and taking the lead from last year's winner, Toyota. The Japanese automaker earned only four Top 3 finishes, down from 11 last year.
Ford is currently in the process of restructuring its business model and launching new products.
"Clearly we're still in the process of fixing a lot of fundamentals of our business, and if it is a battleship, we're in the process of upturning it right now," Fields said. "We're off in the right direction."
Neal Oddes, director of product research and analysis at J.D. Power, said in a written statement, "Fourteen Ford Motor Company models place in the top three of their respective segment -- an achievement unmatched by any other corporation this year -- which is a testament to the improvement in quality for Ford Motor Company vehicle models and plants."
The challenge for Ford is to get more car buyers to consider Ford, something the company acknowledges.
"I think the biggest challenge is the perception gap," Fields said. "You just can't go out and say, 'Look at us. Look how good we are.' Customers don't believe that. You have to earn that."
The company hopes recognition like J.D. Power awards will help.
In overall rankings, Porsche won the award for fewest problems per 100 vehicles.
The following is a list of the the Top 10 performers with fewest problems, according to the survey.