Has Toyota lost its place as the benchmark for vehicle reliability? Consumer Reports just released its annual car reliability survey-which predicts reliability of 2008 models based on past performance-and three of Toyota’s models, including a version of the top-selling Camry, now rate below average in predicted reliability.

On the other hand, things are looking better for the Ford Motor Co. The automaker has shown considerable improvements in reliability. According to the magazine, of the Ford, Lincoln and Mercury models included in the survey, 93% scored average or better in predicted reliability.

Despite some positive news for Ford, only four domestic models made the most reliable list-the Ford Fusion, Mercury Milan, Pontiac Vibe and two-wheel-drive Ford F-150 with the V6 engine. In fact, U.S. brands make up almost half-20 out of 44-of the vehicles on the least reliable list, including 13 vehicles from General Motors, six from Chrysler and one from Ford. European models account for another 17 vehicles on the least reliable list.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Asian models account for 34 of the 39 models on the most reliable new car list. Thirty-one are Japanese models and three are South Korean. Toyota ranks third in overall reliability behind Honda and Honda’s luxury line, Acura.

The annual survey is based on responses from almost 1.3 million vehicles owned or leased by subscribers to Consumer Reports or its Web site and covers model years 1998-2007.

Is quality slipping at Toyota? It’s hard to say based on just this one survey. Doing a quick search of some message boards, one finds there are people who love their Toyotas and would never consider driving anything else, and there are those who believe Toyota is all smoke and mirrors and sells so well because of the media’s love affair with them. While Toyota has experienced some quality issues as a result of their continued growing market share, they must be doing something right or they wouldn’t be the number one automaker in the world.

How much stock do you put into these surveys? Are they worth the paper they’re printed on? Do they give you another angle to consider when purchasing a vehicle? Or are they simply the media’s way of promoting their flavor of the day? Share your thoughts with me at [email protected] or online at www.qualitymag.com.

In this issue, on pg. 44-47, you will find nomination forms for the 2008 Quality Professional and Plant of the Year. Forms also can be downloaded at www.qualitymag.com. The deadline for nominations is December 3. The 2008 Professional and Plant of the Year will be awarded at the Quality Measurement Conference, in Clearwater, FL, April 28 to May 1. For more information on the conference, visit www.qualitymag.com/qmc.