I completely agree with you. In many cases while trying to create and be the first, we all overlook important quality items. US makers should be more careful. One year in that industry is not that long. Do the testing and only the come "out of the closet" with the innovation.
Reflecting overnight I find I still disagree with the articles reasoning (see my comments at "Hmmm...".
He points to items like 8-speed transmissions in the German cars yet Lexus has used an 8-speed for years. IIRC it was the first 8-speed on the market. Why has the innovation leader been more reliable?
Look at variable valve timing-the Japanese lead in this innovation and kept leading in reliability.
Hybrids as I mentioned before-the Japanese lead the way and theirs are the most reliable-from the start.
When Ford introduced the Fusion it was a fresh sheet design and proved very reliable. New worked then-why not now?
There are plenty of American and European vehicles that are very "mature" designs yet they are not outstanding in reliability. They don't show up in the top category-where some very innovative Japanese cars reside. This guy really needs to look at his own organizations data.
Fischer's comment on the the Accords displacement is nonsense-an engine maybe completely redesigned and have the same displacement or get an aftermarket overbore with no design input at all.
Typically the japanese manufacturers tend to have shorter model changes turnovers which may make them look more incremental but it seems to me that there is little actual connection between innovation and reliability. Old tech or new it looks like good engineering and manufacturing execution are the keys to reliability.
All in all I think this guys conclusions are based on a pretty wobbly bit of reasoning.
@Greg: I think Consumer Reports is wrong about this one. As @Bunter pointed out, if Japanese automakers aren't innovative, how do you explain the Toyota Prius? The idea that "good engineering" and "sound design philosophy" are two different things is flawed. If your design philosophy isn't sound, you will not make good engineering decisions. What the report really shows is that U.S. companies are not doing as good of a job at bringing new ideas into mass production without problems.
Very interesting article. It would seem that the pursuit of innovation actually penalizes automotive reliability. However, if manufacturers don't innovate at all, their market share will erode. I suppose innovation should be done strategically and incrementally so that a manufacturer can try to advance their product offerings, while still keeping reliability risk at a minimum.
The Prius series has been very reliable from day one and is the groundbreaker for the hybrid genre (Honda's Insight, while cool, went nowhere). For generations the domestics were regurgitating the same designs and lagging behind more advanced Japanese vehicles in reliability.
Ford got squashed primarily by it's new infotainment system-it's been a disaster. It's a matter of rushing in one substandard system-IMO-across the board, rather than a general failure in vehicle systems.
It is difficult to veiw any of the Lexus vehicles, for instance, as being low-tech yet they are consistently at the top.
For now I retain the impression that better engineering is a strong part of the reliability equation.
Consumer Reports gives five ratings: Much better than average; better than average; average, worse than average; much worse than average. The photos shown in our slideshow (with one exception) fall in the top or bottom categories.
"Much better than average" vehicles in our slideshow: Toyota RAV4; Nissan Leaf; Honda CR-V; Toyota Prius; Honda Fit; Toyota Camry Hybrid; Lexus CT 200h; Toyota 4Runner.
"Much worse than average" vehicles in our slideshow: Ford Focus; BMW 7 Series; Chrysler 300; Volkswagen Beetle; Dodge Grand Caravan; Nissan Armada; Ford Edge; Buick LaCrosse; Ford Explorer V-6 4WD.
The one exception in our slideshow was the Cadillac CTS. We posted it because it was the highest-rated American car. Even so, it did not make the top category. Consumer Reports rated it "better than average."
Yes, there is a price to be paid for innovation, Rob. I suppose it comes down to the market: Is the consumer willing to pay that price? Jake Fisher of Consumer Reports said, "The European market is more willing to forgive reliability issues. They are more about being on the cutting edge of technology."
Personally, I'd take the reliability over the cutting edge technology. Taking the car in for repairs, especially on a regular basis, gets to be too big an inconvenience.
In many engineering workplaces, there’s a generational conflict between recent engineering graduates and older, more experienced engineers. However, a recent study published in the psychology journal Cognition suggests that both may have something to learn from another group: 4 year olds.
Conventional wisdom holds that MIT, Cal Tech, and Stanford are three of the country’s best undergraduate engineering schools. Unfortunately, when conventional wisdom visits the topic of best engineering schools, it too often leaves out some of the most distinguished programs that don’t happen to offer PhD-level degrees.
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