The Japanese have an 'old man' tactic. Design teams have at least one old guy who just kibitzes the design effort, mostly just asking difficult questions. They also apply a rigorous scheme of design validation. Manufacturability is always a design constraint: go heavy on design, light on QC; it makes sense: you can't inspect quality in and basic theory shows that if you are able to catch defects, some product must be marginal quality and some will have escaped defects. The most remarkable thing is that Japanese auto guys use less design hours but then there's little tolerance for cowboys in their approach.
Creating a truly good, reliable design is not easy not because it is difficult per se, but because lately designers have lost their orientation. I remember the old days when creating a new car design was made by actually building a mock model made with clay... there were OLD, experienced design supervisors that came to see the model, and quickly and swiftly pointed a finger to the faults, goofes and poorly designed aspects. Those old engineers had been educated in the industry and most of them raised step by step from the lowest levels in the company, learning along the years. Experience and being careful and trough is not divorced from being capable of innovating, but is a cultural matter.
Present day designers (in large numbers), are poisoned with the easy of (ab)using CAD, so they become careless and irresponsible, and you can easily spot them: they have never held a wrench in their hands, so they don't have the slightest idea on how to grab them!
On the other hand, I concur with other commenters who say that management is too focused on reducing costs at all means, getting millionaire bonuses and don't caring a thing about the future of their company prestige.
Only education and a strong culture of pride in manufacture could revert the tendencies.
I like the way the Corolla looks, and I used to buy a lot of Japanese cars in the 1960s and 1970s. But that was because they were much less expensive then, and simpler.
The last Japanese car I bought was a Datsun 510, and it was nearly indestructable, with one of the best independent rear suspension, rear drive systems out there.
These days a Corolla costs more than a Jetta, so I stay with the German cars, that I know have better parts suppliers and don't rust as fast in the winter salt. I tend to keep a car for 20 years, so I discover their weaknesses.
Honestly Rigby, I think you are moving into the speculative here.
The lexus climate system is more reliable than the complex systems of other luxury makes that I expect get equal pampering. It is more reliable than the simpler systems in virtually every manufacturers vehicles excepting other Toyotas and Hondas. Einstein noted that "reality is an illusion, but a very persistent one". If the reliability of these climate sytems is only the appearance of reilability it is very persistent. ;^)
ANd this is true of every system and area of their vehicles in general regardless of the simplicity or complexity. Yes, complexity presents more opportunity for problems. It does not assure that they will happen. Poor quality control does that even in simple devices.
It is the plausible vs. the probable in my opinion. Your scenario is plausible-the evidence leads me to conclude that it is more probable that an excellent company can produce reliable products regardless of the complexity.
I've had the same experience, bobjengr. I have a 2004 Honda Odyssey with 189,000 miles on it. I've changed the fluids on time and the timing belt, which was the biggest-ticket item but certainly expected. I expect to get 250,000 to 300,000 out of it and I sill continue to trust it on long trips.
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