Released two weeks before Michigan's Feb. 28 primary, the survey by J.D. Power and Associates showed Toyota leading 32 brands for vehicles with the fewest problems. But Ford and General Motors scored high, too.
The entire industry did better, averaging 132 problems per 100 vehicles from 2009. That's down from 151 the year before.
GM, which along with Chrysler used federal aid to survive bankruptcy and the 2008-2010 financial crisis, posted improvements in Cadillac and Chevrolet reliability. Cadillac owners reported 104 problems per 100 vehicles. Chevrolet drivers posted a rate of 135, a 13 percent reduction.
Couple that with GM's report last week of record annual profits, $7.6 billion, and it was a good week for the largest U.S. automaker.
Ford, which did not take the bailout, showed an 11 percent improvement in the J.D. Power survey, with a rate of 124 problems.
Chrysler was the big disappointment, with its Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep and Ram models last in the report.
The most precipitous fall in the survey came not from a U.S. model, but from United Kingdom-based Jaguar. In 2008, when owned by Ford, it ranked third. A year later, after it was acquired by Tata Motors Ltd., Jaguar dropped to 28th, with 172 problems per 100 vehicles.
The Republican candidates can debate whether the U.S. auto companies were worth a public bailout. But an industry authority says Ford and GM are making more reliable products.
By Clint Eastwood's way of thinking, maybe Detroit is back.