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General Motors is making big strides improving the reliability of its cars, jumping past expensive German brands Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz as well as British Jaguar, according to new data from Consumer Reports' much-watched reliability survey.

CR's latest survey shows 69% of 2011 models sold by GM's four brands —Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, GMC — now have predicted reliability rates of average or better, up from 43% a year ago.

The data also show that while European brands Porsche and Volvo rank high, marquee luxury brands Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz "are among the worst automakers overall in terms of reliability," CR says.

In effect, the survey is a report card on a maker's recent past. CR predicts the reliability of each year's new crop of vehicles based on data from owners of mechanically similar earlier models.

If a model has changed significantly, it's excluded for lack of data.

What the findings mean is that GM was building good cars and trucks before it went through the government-scripted bankruptcy reorganization last year. Because it takes three years or so to develop a model and get it into showrooms, "new" GM can't take total credit for anything until 2012 or so.

A reliability forecast of average or better is one of three requirements to get the magazine's coveted "recommended" rating. The other two are good scores in CR's road tests and good crash-test scores.

Imports still hold the peak of the reliability chart, however, with Toyota's (TM) Scion, Porsche and Honda's (HMC) Acura the top three.

Ford Motor (F), at 10th, is the top-scoring Detroit brand. CR notes that Ford has kept refining models, year after year.

GM, on the other hand, has been careful in designing and manufacturing newer models, such as the Cadillac SRX crossover, and has dumped the dogs, many of which came from discontinued brands Saturn, Pontiac and Hummer.

Chevy, GM's chief brand, scored 83% average or better, vs. just 50% last year.

European brands had been improving, but "momentum seems to have stalled," the magazine says. All 2011 Porsches and Volvos should have above-average reliability, and Porsche's Boxster has the top rating of any model in CR's survey.

But "Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz are among the worst automakers overall in terms of reliability," CR says. And among the worst individual models in the 2011 ratings: the supercharged Audi A6 3.0T (not a turbo, despite the "T"), Jaguar XF, Mercedes-Benz E-Class coupe, BMW's 135i and its Mini Cooper convertible.

Jag as a brand isn't in the CR chart shown here because only the XF sells enough for a valid sample.

Often the scores depend on smaller matters. "Engine, transmission — that's not usually what breaks down," says Jake Fisher, senior auto engineer at CR. "It's interior trim, seat mechanisms and that sort of thing that goes wrong."

Jaguar agrees, saying its XF probably was hurt by "launch issues" when the car was introduced in 2008 — trunk and glove box opening and closing, for example, and software updates required by the hands-free communications system.

Perhaps shocking, Toyota still scored high despite its avalanche of safety recalls in the past year. The brand's rank slipped three slots from last year, though.

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CR reminds that reliability forecasts are only one way to judge a car or truck.

"Don't mistake reliability for performance," Fisher says. The Caddy SRX is expected to be reliable, "but we weren't thrilled about the drivetrain." And, he says, "Yaris is the most-reliable Toyota in our survey, but we don't recommend it because it isn't very good."

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