Compact pickup trucks were rated the most dependable in a J.D. Power & Associates study of 1990 light-duty trucks, the category that includes pickups, vans and sport utility vehicles.
The top-ranking model was the Dodge Ram 50, a Mitsubishi-built pickup that Chrysler Corp. stopped importing after the 1992 model year.
The marketing firm's first study of truck reliability found full-size pickups were rated second-best of the six categories ranked. Compact sport utilities were third, followed by compact and full-size vans (a tie) and full-size sport utilities.
J.D. Power surveyed 12,000 original owners of 1990 vehicles, asking questions about their troubles with the trucks during the past year and their general satisfaction with their pickups, vans and sport utility vehicles.
Nissan and Toyota led the list of truck brands, followed by Mitsubishi, Mazda, Ford and GMC Truck.
A J.D. Power study of 1990 passenger cars' dependability was released last week. It shows cars had fewer problems on average after five years of ownership than did trucks.
Bill Wallis, a senior researcher at J.D. Power, said that might be because owners in the truck survey tended to have more miles on their vehicles than did owners in the car survey. The median mileage on trucks was 58,000, compared to 55,000 for cars.
Wallis also speculated that manufacturers might not have been putting as high a premium on truck quality five years ago.
"That is the point at which we see the upswing in popularity of light trucks," he said.
Light trucks accounted for about 40% of the U.S. automotive market last year. In 1989, they made up about 33% of the market.
J.D. Power is an Agoura Hills marketing research firm that sells information to the auto makers and others interested in the industry.
Its surveys of initial vehicle quality and buyer satisfaction after a year of ownership are closely watched by the auto makers, who use them in advertising and to compare with their own measures of quality.