DETROIT -- Lincoln led all automotive brands in reliability after three years, market research firm J.D. Power and Associates said Thursday in a boost to the Ford luxury brand's attempt at a sales revival.

Lincoln took the No. 1 position for the first time in the two-decade history of J.D. Power's Vehicle Dependability Study, which measures the reliability of 3-year-old vehicles by compiling the number of problems per 100 vehicles. The luxury brand averaged 101 problems, compared with the industry average of 151. That translates into about 1 problem per Lincoln vehicle, whereas the industry averaged 1.5 problems per vehicle.

Lexus finished second with 109 problems per 100 vehicles, and Jaguar placed third with 112.

Overall, foreign brands' 3- year-old models averaged 18 fewer problems per 100 vehicles than domestic brands. But in another J.D. Power study that focuses on new vehicles, Detroit automakers' quality last year outperformed that of foreign automakers for the first time in the study's 24-year history. That should translate to an improved three-year reliability score for domestics by 2013.

J.D. Power based the three-year reliability study on responses this fall from 43,700 original owners of 2008 model-year cars.

From 2005 to 2009, Ford has worked hard to recast Lincoln's styling and design. Still, Lincoln's sales performance continues to lag.

Overall, Detroit automakers continued to trail their overseas counterparts, with only Buick, Cadillac and Ford joining Lincoln above the industry average.

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