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Byline: Mark Phelan
Apr. 10--After General Motors has chased Toyota for more than 20 years, independent quality and reliability surveys finally give GM something to boast about -- but not enough.
The best vehicles GM builds -- models like the Chevrolet Malibu and Tahoe, GMC Yukon and Buick Century -- topped many Toyota models in the respected J.D. Power and Associates initial-quality and long-term dependability studies last year.
"Look at the midsize sedan segment. We own that from a quality perspective," said Bob Ottolini, GM executive director for product development quality. "The Toyota Camry and Honda Accord are below all our recent entries in that segment."
However, while virtually every car and truck Toyota builds gets high marks in influential independent studies like those by J.D. Power and Consumer Reports magazine, a few models with very poor quality -- particularly four minivans that went on sale in 2004 -- torpedoed GM's overall score. Several of the company's most important brands dropped into the category automakers dread and shoppers avoid: below industry average.
If GM can get it right some of the time, why not all the time? Answering that question -- and quickly -- is vital to the company's future as it strives to hold off Toyota, recover from last year's $10.6-billion loss and …