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Japan Again Beats U.S. on Consumer Reports' List

March 18, 1997|From Associated Press

Cars made by Japanese companies outnumber U.S. models by a nearly 2-1 margin on Consumer Reports' annual "recommended" list, but the domestic companies are catching up.

The magazine's auto edition--one of the most widely followed guides for American car shoppers--recommends 52 Japanese 1997 models for purchase, compared with 27 American models.

That's a slightly better performance for the U.S. than last year, when Consumer Reports recommended 23 American cars.

Like last year, the magazine picked the 1997 Toyota Camry as the best family sedan. The Mazda Protege replaced the Honda Civic as the best small car. The Toyota 4Runner replaced the Ford Explorer as the best sport-utility vehicle.

Continuing its reign as the best car, regardless of price, was the Mercedes-Benz E320, but the magazine noted that at $44,800, the car isn't as good a buy as the Cadillac Catera, Lexus ES300, Mercedes C class or BMW 3 series, all of which sell for about $10,000 less.

Many of the best-selling Japanese cars are now made at U.S. factories and many of them use U.S.-made parts, raising the question of whether there are really any significant differences.

George Peterson, president of the Santa Ana-based consulting firm AutoPacific Inc., said there are. "Their plants are just a bit more efficient in terms of ensuring bulletproof quality--no shakes and rattles."

Consumer Reports' annual auto issue goes on sale today and is eagerly awaited not only for its ratings on the latest models, but also for its reliability ratings for models from the previous eight years. The magazine accepts no advertising and refuses to allow car companies to cite its findings.

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