US carmakers gained ground in a customer satisfaction survey - but were still outstripped by foreign companies.
Toyota headed the University of Michigan Customer Satisfaction Index for the second year running with 87 out of 100.
Buick, a General Motors brand that appeals mostly to older people, came joint second with Honda and Lexus, all of which scored 86 points, after a 2.4 per cent improvement over last time.
BMW (85) outscored the next highest US entrant, Cadillac (also owned by GM) which registered 84 points after a 2.3 per cent slip in its performance.
The car industry as a whole went up one point on the scale to an average of 81, setting a record since the survey began in 1995.
The increase by US manufacturers was good news because it showed they had narrowed the gap slightly on quality, said Claes Fornell, a Michigan University professor who compiled the index.
"I think what we see here is a glimmer of hope.
"If they can hold on to this and do more in this direction, the future may not be as bleak as a lot of people think."
Quality and reliability are major issues for the "Detroit Three" - GM, Ford and Chrysler - who are seeing foreign rivals take ever bigger bites out a market they once dominated.
GM and Ford, especially, have seen sales of their bread and butter SUV and truck models evaporate in the teeth of soaring petrol prices.
And they have been haemorrhaging cash from expensive healthcare and pension deals.
Ford is rumoured to be considering selling Jaguar, the UK luxury brand it bought in 1989, while its other major British brand, Land Rover, did badly in a recent JD Power survey of three year-old vehicles.
Ford's US luxury brand, Lincoln Mercury (83), outscored Mercedes-Benz (82), but Ford-badged cars were joint bottom with Jeep and Kia on 77 although it improved its score by 2.7 per cent.
The University of Michigan survey did not give separate figures for Jaguar and Land Rover.
Mr Fornell said the mass market domestic brands such as GM's Chevrolet and Ford still had a long way to go to catch up with Toyota and Honda.
Buick's improvement came because of refined manufacturing processes that emphasise quality at every level, spokesman Dave Darovitz said.
"We are definitely going to head for the number one spot, no doubt about it," he added.
Part of the reason the industry's score went up as a whole is that more people are leaving domestic manufacturers for foreign vehicles that offer greater satisfaction, said Mr Fornell.
"As Detroit loses market share, the whole industry's satisfaction goes up a little bit. That, of course, is good news for the industry, good news for the consumer, but not good news for Detroit."