Lexus regains top spot in U.S. survey


Toyota Motor Corp.’s Lexus has returned to the top after a four-year absence from the J.D. Power and Associates survey for 3-year-old vehicles, the U.S. research firm said Wednesday.

The widely regarded J.D. Power survey is highly influential in the United States and is likely to help Toyota recover from a drastic loss of market share there sparked by major recalls and exacerbated by production problems caused by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami and Thai floods.

Toyota had been falling in recent years because of recalls in 2009 and 2010 caused by cases of what was described as unintended acceleration. But the latest survey appears to show that U.S. confidence in the luxury brand is returning.

German sports car Porsche took second place in the survey, while General Motors Co.’s high-end Cadillac brand and a nonpremium Toyota brand shared third place.

Another Toyota brand designed for younger consumers, the Scion, leaped to fifth place from 22nd last year.

The Acura, Honda Motor Co.’s luxury car, placed 11th, followed by a nonpremium Honda brand in 12th. Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd.’s Subaru cars came in 17th.

By model segment, Toyota cars took eight of the 14 awards, more than any other automaker.

The research firm polled about 31,000 original owners of model-year 2009 vehicles and ranked the brands in the order of fewest problems experienced over the past three years.

Auto unions bail on pay


Labor unions at major Japanese automakers have dropped any pay-scale hikes as their annual spring wage negotiations kicked off this week.

As the yen’s historic strength bites into profits in the export-oriented sector, unions are giving priority to protecting annual seniority-based automatic pay hikes and employment without seeking pay-scale increases, while Keidanren has already indicated that automatic pay-scale hikes could be frozen.

Their bonus demands were mixed. Unions at Toyota Motor Corp. and Honda Motor Co. lowered their demands from the previous year, while the Mitsubishi Motors Corp. union hiked its demand in view of its faster recovery from the March disasters.