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2013 Mini Cooper: The BMW brand fared poorly in the latest J.D. Power U.S. vehicle dependability survey.

BMW

For the first time in 16 years, automobile reliability has shifted into reverse, according to the latest J.D. Power U.S. vehicle dependability survey.

The annual report, released Feb. 12, surveys 41,000 owners of three-year-old cars and trucks and the biggest complaint about 2011 models centred around engine and transmission problems. Those complaints helped feed a decline in quality to 133 problems per 100 vehicles from 126 last year. This was the first increase in the average number of problems since 1998.

Toyota's luxury brand, Lexus, topped the survey for reliability for the third straight year with 68 problems per 100 vehicles.

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"The gap between them and everyone else is crazy," David Sargent, a vice-president at J.D. Power, told Reuters. "Mercedes is in second place (104 problems per 100 vehicles) and they're closer to the average than they are to Lexus. It's like everyone has been lapped by Lexus."

Mercedes (104) finished second, followed by Cadillac (107), Acura (109), Buick (112), Honda (114), Lincoln (114), Toyota (114), Porsche (125) and Infiniti (128).

The bottom five brands? Hyundai (169), Jeep (178), Land Rover (179), Dodge (181) and Mini (185).

CHALLENGE ACCEPTED

A hotshot motorcyclist has posted a helmet-cam video to Facebook that shows him zipping through highway traffic at speeds up to 160 km/h with a cocksure message to police in San Antonio, Tex.: "Catch me if you can."

He was caught sneaking out of a friend's house, police said on Tuesday. Police took Alberto Rodriguez, 27, into custody on Monday for suspected motorcycle theft and in connection with several outstanding arrest warrants.

SHORT STORY: You have to give a 10-year-old Norwegian boy drove his parents' car into a snowy ditch last week props for originality. He told police in Dokka, 110 km north of Oslo, that he was a dwarf who forgot his driver's licence at home, Reuters reports.

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SCANDAL: The president of ADAC, a German car club that offers roadside assistance to stranded motorists, has resigned after an audit determined the organization had manipulated the results of its awards for the country's favourite car, Reuters reports. Volkswagen, BMW and Daimler immediately distanced themselves from ADAC, saying they would return the awards the tarnished organization gave them.

TWO SURPRISE MOMENTS: Honda Canada announced a one-year promotional partnership with Canadian IndyCar driver James Hinchcliffe during the media preview of the Canadian International AutoShow last week. And, at the same event, Nissan boasted that its 2014 Nissan Micra will be the cheapest new car in Canada with a starting price of $9,998.

THIS AND THAT

Ford plans to build its next-generation Edge crossover vehicle at its Oakville, Ont., assembly plant for export and sale in more than 60 countries. … Italian race car driver Mauro Pane, who appeared in the movie Rush as actor Daniel Bruhl's stunt double, was killed on Feb. 9 when his car left the road and plunged into a canal near Gambolo, Italy. … The San Francisco Chronicle reported earlier this week that an Apple exec met with Tesla bossman Elon Musk in Cupertino, Calif., almost a year ago. A partnership, perhaps? Mum's the word from reps at both companies, but Apple's possible automotive ambitions are no secret, according to analysts.

If you have questions about driving or car maintenance, please contact our experts at globedrive@globeandmail.com.

Follow us on Twitter @Globe_Drive.

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