The way in which technology is integrated into new-vehicle design, particularly interior features and controls, is considered by consumers to be as important to quality as are defects and malfunctions, according to the J.D. Power and Associates 2006 Initial Quality Study(SM) (IQS) released this week.

The study is in its 20th year. The Initial Quality Study, an industry benchmark for new-vehicle quality measured at 90 days of ownership, has been completely redesigned for 2006 to capture problems experienced by owners in two distinct categories -- quality of design and quality of production (defects and malfunctions).

Based on both design quality and production quality considerations, the study finds that automakers can vary widely in their performance on these two components. Brands with the fewest defects and malfunctions include BMW, Chrysler, Hyundai, Lexus, Porsche and Toyota.

Brands with the fewest design problems include GMC, Hyundai, Jaguar, Lexus, Nissan and Porsche. 2006 IQS Ranking Highlights Lexus and Toyota models continue to dominate initial quality rankings, capturing 11 out of 19 segment awards in 2006. Lexus models rank highest in every segment in which they compete.

Toyota remains a quality benchmark, capturing five model-level awards -- for the Corolla, Solara, Camry, Highlander and Sequoia -- more than any other non-luxury brand. Porsche and Lexus lead the luxury brands, while Hyundai, Toyota and Honda set the pace among non-luxury brands.

Averaging just 91 problems per 100 (PP100) vehicles, Porsche tops the overall nameplate rankings. Porsche's success can be partly attributed to the all-new Cayman, which tops the compact premium sporty car segment. Porsche is followed in the rankings by Lexus, Hyundai, Toyota and Jaguar, respectively.

Hyundai ranks among the top three nameplates in the study for the first time in the history of IQS. Highlights include a top ranking for the Hyundai Tucson in the compact multi-activity vehicle (MAV) segment, and top-three segment performances for the redesigned Sonata and all-new Azera, as well as the Elantra and Tiburon. Honda also maintains its position as a quality leader. Although Honda does not receive any awards outright, five Honda models rank among the top three of their respective segments.

Other nameplates receiving model awards in 2006 include Chevrolet, Chrysler, Ford, Kia, Mazda, Pontiac and Suzuki. Assembly Plant Awards Toyota receives a total of four assembly plant quality awards for producing vehicles yielding the fewest defects, including the Platinum Plant Quality Award for its Iwate, Japan, plant, producer of the Lexus ES 330. The Iwate plant averages just 32 PP100.

Plant awards are based solely on scores for defects. Among North and South American plants, the General Motors Oshawa #2 plant in Ontario, Canada, which produces the Buick LaCrosse and Pontiac Grand Prix, receives the Gold Plant Quality Award for a second consecutive year. Toyota's Georgetown, Ky., plant, which produces the Avalon, Camry and Solara Coupe/Convertible, and DaimlerChrysler's Windsor, Ontario, Canada plant, which produces the Pacifica, Town & Country, Caravan and Grand Caravan, tie for the Silver Plant Quality Award.