Electric luxury car Tesla Model S was named by Consumer Reports magazine on Tuesday as its overall top pick for 2014, while Japanese models took just five of the top 10 spots, their worst showing in the 18-year history of the annual rankings.
The Ram 1500 was named the top pickup truck, the first time a Chrysler model has cracked the top picks list since 1998. In a separate ranking of brands, however, Detroit automakers had the four lowest scores of 23 brands rated.
South Korean automaker Hyundai, and German brands BMW and Volkswagen's Audi had models topping the 10 Consumer Reports vehicle categories.
"The competition in the marketplace has grown fierce. There was a time when a handful of brands dominated our top picks list, but in recent years we've seen a more diverse group make the cut," Rik Paul, Consumer Reports' automotive editor, said in a statement.
The top picks were chosen from more than 260 vehicles tested by Consumer Reports for reliability, safety and road-test performance.
The battery-powered Tesla Model S was chosen best overall for its "exceptional performance and its many impressive technological innovations," Consumer Reports said, noting it was "pricey" at $US89,650.
California-based Tesla Motors, which was founded by billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk in 2003, said it expects to deliver about 35,000 of the model this year. By comparison, the best-selling car in the United States last year, the Toyota Camry, sold about 408,000 in 2013.
Consumer Reports hasn't named a best overall since a Lexus model took the top honors in 2010.
Honda and Subaru were the only automakers with more than one model in this year's top picks. Honda's Accord won best midsize sedan, and its Odyssey was named top minivan. The best compact car went to Subaru's Impreza, and its Forester model was picked as the top small SUV.
Toyota's Prius hybrid, with its 44 miles-per-gallon overall fuel efficiency, was named best green car for the 11th consecutive year.
Detroit brands worst
The Audi A6 took top honors in the luxury car rankings for the second year in a row, while the BMW 328i was chosen best sports sedan, also for a second straight year.
Japanese automakers, which historically have taken more than 70 per cent of the top picks, managed to win only five of the 10 categories, the worst showing since Consumer Reports began publishing the list in 1997.
Consumer Reports also released its annual report card on car brands. It rates each manufacturer's individual brands, with a composite score based on reliability and road testing.
Lexus, Toyota's luxury brand, came out on top for the second straight year, with a score of 79. Honda's Acura was second with 75, followed by Audi with 74.
Consumer Reports said of Lexus: "Its models are usually quiet, comfortable, and fuel efficient, and they're among the most reliable cars made."
Subaru and Toyota tied for the fourth spot. Mazda, Honda, Infiniti, Daimler AG's Mercedes-Benz and BMW rounded out the top 10.
Detroit-based manufacturers fared poorly in this ranking, with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles' Jeep tying Ford for worst of the 23 brands listed. Consumer Reports said both Jeep and Ford models had reliability problems.
Fiat Chrysler's Dodge and General Motors Co's Cadillac were also among the four lowest-scoring brands.
GM's Buick and GMC tied for 12th, the highest rating for Detroit automakers.
Consumer Reports said it didn't have brand report cards for Fiat, Tata Motors Ltd's Jaguar and Land Rover brands, Ford's Lincoln, BMW's Mini, Mitsubishi, Porsche, Fiat Chrysler's Ram, Toyota's Scion, Daimler's Smart and Tesla because of a lack of data.