This. According to Intellichoice's explanation of TCO, just about any car manufactured today is very reliable - maintenance costs make up only a small fraction of TCO, even for the least reliable brands:
"It is important to separate hype from reality when considering how a vehicle's expected repair incidence will influence your decision on which car to buy. At one time there were vast differences in relative reliability among vehicles. Today, most any new vehicle you purchase is likely to be highly reliable. Other than minor state fees, the expected cost of repairs in the first five years will be less than any other cost associated with your new car. That's right - and it's true even for the vehicles with the highest expected repair costs. The cost of depreciation, insurance, interest, fuel and maintenance will all be considerably higher than the cost of repairs. Therefore, you are likely to jump to the wrong economic conclusion if you purchase a car because you heard it is very reliable or avoid one because you heard it could turn out to be a lemon."
You can call me Uncle Charlie if you want, but not being made of money, I buy 10-15 year old Fords and run them until they rust out, which in the salt slathered roads of PA happens at an age of about 20 years (and 150-200 k mi). It is rare indeed when I see a Japanese car anywhere near as old as the "unreliable" Ford I'm driving. Rarer still the is the Japanese car owner who does his own maintenance. I wonder how many of those who tout Japanese automobile quality would like to work for these same companies? Their various philosophies and models are aimed wholly at maximizing profits, not employee satisfaction - "corporate greed" was not invented in the U.S.
If you're too proud to turn a wrench now and then, maybe an import is for you; based on my experience with replacement parts cost/availability I wouldn't want to work on one. Nevertheless, a fraction of what most people pay in depreciation over a few years buys me a used Ford, from which I extract just as many miles as they do in the same time frame.
Buy American! Keep the profits here, and possibly your job. Purchases based on meaningless statistics do untold harm to American interests. Surely those of you who work in manufacturing can appreciate that.
Japanese do not offer new technology??? What? Toyota took a huge risk rolling out the hybird. First completely new power train that is different than anything else on the road. The battery itself was very high risk, and everyone thinks is going to die in a year or two like laptop batteries. Now they are considered so reliable taxi use them.
Eight speed transmission is new technology? Lexus had 8 sp on their top of the line before anyone else. Auto transmission has always been a hit or miss. Chrysler are the worst of anyone.
American cars has been low on reliability since the 80's Back then, they had zero technology, and were still unreliable. Unless you count the Cadillac 8-6-4 as technology :) Japs even then had 4 valve per cylinder. Domestic tried it with the quad4 and failed miserably.
American cars with low reliability is nothing new. Until management start spending money on product development and improvement instead of their bonus, nothing will change.
Thank you for your comment, gnash. I couldn't agree more. I've visited Consumer Reports automotive facility on two occasions and tested cars on their courses. On one occasion, I spent a full day with their engineers on their race track, skid pads, rock hill off-roading course and vehicle handling circuit. They had eight engineers testing vehicles when I was there in 2007 and, as you point out, they take no advertising. Like you, I don't work for them and have no vested interest. But I'm impressed and more likely to trust their assessments than those of the enthusiast magazines.
I agree completely. I have 1998 Toyota Pre-runner with 237,000 + miles and it still runs like a charm. Now, I have it serviced every 4,000 miles; i.e. oil changed, new oil filter, lubrication, fluid levels checked, new air cleaner, etc etc. The only real maintenance I have had to provide is a replacement radiator. If my Pre-runner fell apart right now, bolt by bolt, I could not say a bad thing about it. The reliability is excellent.
Larry Nash, the Taguchi Design Optimizations are an application of statistical analysis to manufacturing methods. But that is the problem and not the solution. Statistically it makes perfect sense to keep inventory to a minimum and buy only what you need. But the result is a product line with so many optional components that it can't be supplied and has to be discarded instead of maintained. Another example is how it can save space, hoses, wires, etc., to compress things closer together, but then again maintenance become exponentially more difficult. Japanese cars are very well built, bu they are not at all easy to maintain, and in fact border on disposable.
The only redeeming fact is that all other car makers have also gone down that awful road as well, so it is unfair to totaly focus only on the Japanese as being guilty.
Bunter, no Tuners do not do things that could effect fragile variable valve timing. Variable timing systems die simply from age, and they do die. Where in the past all we had to worry about was chain wear, we now have a host of electrical and hydraulic issues added as well. Variable valve timing is not at all durable and never will be. Although most of the repairs they require have more to do with oil leaks they interduce.
Flathead or OHV engines were much more complex than they needed to be. Things like over head cam, are better because they are simpler actually. Complexity is NEVER more durable, and well designed modern engines are not more complex. For example, electronic ignition is an improvement because it took away the complexity of the cap and rotor, by providing multiple ignition coils.
You are simply wrong about reliability. There is not a cpu climate control system that will likely remain working after 7 years or so. Yet there is not a single advantage of climate control over the simple mechanical cable. Unlike variable valve timing, there is absolutely nothing at all gained from most of the complexity they have added to cars. The low resale value of a 10 year old Lexus proves the point. Many cars are simply no longer feasible to fix or maintain any more, because they simply are way to complex, for no practical reason. We have lots of older cars that can be easily and beautifully maintained or restored, and that will no longer be possible. Modern cars are so designed for planned obselescence, that they end up being parts out.
To my rant add All Wheel Drive, talking cars, built in nav system, etc.
We need to concentrate on the basics, such a car shutting down if oil if low. All cheap generators come with that $3 feature, but yet cars don't even try to do anything to save the engine. In fact, the single most important thing these days is fuel pressure. It tells you when the filter is clogged, the pump is bad, the purge valve is sticking, if the pressure regulator is malfunctioning, etc., and yet there is not a single car that has this simple thing built in. Every single mechanic has to manually attach their own $15 gauge whenever they even start to diagnose a car. I have never seen such poor self monitoring systems as cars have these days. The driver is not at all told what is really happening. Even an ODBII reader is only $30 these days, so how come not a single car comes with anything like that built in?
I have no association with "Consumers' Reports", but I find the criticisms of their reliability ratings (in the responses to this post) to be, (I'll use the word) suprising! As contrasted to some of the auto enthusiast magazines, Consumers' Reports auto evaluation people are full-time on-staff real engineers. And they accept no advertising. A lot different than the evaluators at "Joe Sixpack's hot rod magazine"...
I find these comments hard to believe! Engineers know to differentiate between anecdotal ("Uncle Charlie says his Ford has been reliable") and statistical evidence. But I find it even harder to believe that there was not a single mention of Taguchi Design Optimization Techniques in the responses. I was so surprised that I went through the responses twice! I suspect that a lot of thes responses are from people who may read EDN but are not engineers.
Taguchi Techniques are one of the main reasons for the superior reliability of Japanese and other Asian automobiles. Toyota alone does about 400 Taguchi design optimizations each year. The US military equipment manufacturers do a lot of Taguchi studies. ITT puts on a big seminar every year on Taguchi Techniques and publishes a thick book of case studies (each year).
One of the classic Taguchi results comes from when Ford owned part of Mazda: they were making the same automatic transmission (made to the same drawings) in both Japan and the US. the Japanese-made transmissions were holding up better than those made in the US. they found the reason to be that, in addition to the drawings, Mazda was employing Taguchi Optimization techniques and Ford was not.
This stuff is not being done in secret! there are many books and training courses available on The Web.
Bunter, the fact data comes from buyers does not help. People who buy new cars every 3 years are useless when it comes to data, but will supply their own bias based on perception of status.
The type of people who buy a car like a Yaris instead, are completely different and will have much more useful information about actual experiences keeping the car maintain, over a longer period of time. What I suggest is a built in bias for expensive cars, one both the makers and reviewers like CR seem to perpetuate. But the reality is that these days expensive cars are now less reliable than cheap cars, because they have too many things that can and will break.
Not only mechanics know about cars. Poor people who have to keep them running do as well. The fact some mechanics are not good judges does not matter. The reality is that the makers and short term buyers know much less.
The reality is that Asian cars are not easily maintained after 5 years. Their on demand inventory means too many parts supplier changes, so long term accessibility to replacement parts becomes nil. That is totally untrue of a European maker like VW for example, that maintains complete part inventories for 12 years. I have seen where a single model Toyota will have 6 different wiring harness versions over a single year period, just to accomdate parts vendor changes.
Look at your list of items you view as fragile. It really depends on who designed and made it. Honda started the variable valve timing revolution and they have been durable from day one. Tuners do horrible things to Honda engines with stock internals and they take it.
What do you suggest-we all go back to OHV, flatheads?-modern engines, for all their complexity are vastly more durable and reliable.
Equating complexity and reliability is not that simple. Some very complex vehicles (lexus for example) give very few problems compared to the vast majority of simpler vehicles from other manufacturers, and well past your 5 year window. At 10 years, and the trendlines indicate well beyond, these are reliable. Yet many simpler cars, even lacking many of the electronic bells and whistles, do poorly. Give it some thought.
Keep in mind that mechanics have very little statical base-they only see the failed items. If there are 15 million vehicles out there with a given system a very small percentage of failed systems will amount to a lot and the mechanic will see a lot. But a much rarer system that fails more often will come across his plate less frequently and may be thus percieved as "more reliable".
BTW, I have appreciated that you have kept a civil tone. Many folks in these debates do not. Thanks.
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