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Ontario Toyota plant that lost Corolla production rated best in North America

The Toyota Canada plant in Cambridge, Ont., that lost production of the Corolla to Mexico has been rated the best quality auto plant in North America.

J.D. Power report says auto quality getting better, with Koreans overtaking Japanese rivals

A technician adjusts the molding on a new Corolla. The Cambridge, Ont., plant that currently makes the Corolla won J.D. Power's Gold Standard award for producing the best quality vehicles. (Rogelio V. Solis/Associated Press)

The Toyota Canada plant in Cambridge, Ont., that lost production of the Corolla to Mexico has been rated the best quality auto plant in North America.

J.D. Power's annual quality study issued Wednesday found vehicles produced at the Cambridge plant had 17 defects per 100 vehicles, the best performance in North America.

The second best performance, with 19 defects per 100 vehicles, was at Toyota's Cambridge South plant that makes the Lexus RX.

The industry average is 112 problems per 100 vehicles made. J.D. Power ranked a South African plant that makes the BMW 3 series the best in the world, with 15 defects per 100 cars.

Toyota announced in April that it would move production of the Corolla to a new $1 billion  assembly plant in Guanajuato, Mexico.

The Corolla, one of the best-selling cars in North America, had been built in Cambridge since the 1980s.

Toyota said the Cambridge plant will "switch from producing Corollas to mid-sized, higher-value vehicles," but it has not said which vehicles will be made in Canada.

Suzanne Baal, manager of communications for Toyota, told CBC News the plant is not in jeopardy. Toyota will make an announcement later this year about investing new technology in the Cambridge plant and will announce a new higher-value vehicle at that time, she said.

She anticipated employment would remain "stable" after the reinvestment and added that the Cambridge operation has "demonstrated its value" by making high quality vehicles.

Shift in quality standards

J.D. Power also noted in shift in quality standards, with Japanese-made vehicles losing their spot as the most reliable and free of defects in its annual report on automotive quality.

Cars and trucks made by European, Korean and U.S. companies have improved so much in recent years that Japanese automakers, are having trouble keeping pace, the consulting firm said. It said the overall quality of all 2015 cars was better.

The 2015 survey of more than 84,000 car buyers in February and March found that Porsche was once again the top brand for quality. Kia vaulted five spots to take second place and its sister brand Hyundai finished fourth. Jaguar, in third, and Infiniti rounded out the top five finishers in the survey, which asked about problems in the first 90 days of ownership.

Lexus and Toyota came in at No. 9 and 10, ahead of Japanese rivals, but behind Chevrolet and Lincoln. Japanese cars fell behind both the Korean and European models.

The Korean brands have been improving quality for years by bringing consumers into the process as they design cars, especially with electronics, said John Humphreys, senior vice-president of J.D. Power. 

"There's a shift in terms of who is doing the best in terms of industry leadership," Humphreys said.

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