By Bernie Woodall
DETROIT (Reuters) - Toyota Motor Corp's namesake brand and its Lexus luxury brand finished one-and-two for the second year in a row in Consumer Reports' annual quality survey of the U.S. new-vehicle market, the influential magazine said on Monday.
The four lowest-scoring brands were all from Fiat Chrysler Automobiles' Chrysler Group, as were five of the bottom seven. Fiat scored the lowest of the 28 brands and the Fiat 500L was named the least reliable among 265 models included in the survey.
The survey is seen as a key factor in influencing American car shoppers.
Jake Fisher, director of automotive testing for Consumer Reports, said it seems Chrysler has been "picking less reliable partners" as times goes on, from Japan's Mitsubishi Motors Corp to German's Daimler AG to Italy's Fiat.
However, poor results do not always translate into weaker sales. For instance, Chrysler's brands have been at or near the bottom of the survey since at least 2009, while the group's share of the U.S. market has risen to 12.2 percent this year through September from less than 9 percent in 2009.
The biggest complaint about new cars and trucks is that infotainment systems do not work well.
Infotainment systems include safety features, as well as satellite radio and hands-free telephone and internet capabilities, usually displayed on video screens on dashboards.
Fisher said the complaints about infotainment systems are about how they perform after a driver understands them, not about them not being intuitive.
The biggest gain in this year's survey was by Ford Motor Co's luxury Lincoln brand, up 12 spots to 15th place. The biggest drop was recorded by Daimler AG's Mercedes-Benz because of a poor showing for its new CLA model.
Fisher said Toyota brands perform well because the automaker takes a deliberate approach to introducing new features while others that forge ahead with developing technology, power train and design features have the greatest chance to disappoint.
Ford performed miserably in the survey just a few years ago because of its "MyTouch" infotainment systems. But the complaint rate for the system is much improved in this year's survey, Fisher said.
Japanese brands, which have dominated the survey in recent years, took the first four places, with Mazda Motor Corp third and Honda Motor Co fourth. Fifth was Volkswagen AG's (VOWG_p.DE) luxury brand Audi, followed by the lone domestic brand in the top 10, General Motors Co's Buick at No. 6.
Rounding out the top 10 were Fuji Heavy Industries' Subaru, Toyota's youth-oriented Scion, VW's Porsche sports car brand and Kia Motors Corp's namesake brand.
The survey was completed out by 1.1 million consumers, down from 1.3 million in 2010.
(Reporting by Bernie Woodall; Editing by Dan Grebler)