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Transportation Technology

Have Bad Cars Gone Extinct? 672

Posted by Soulskill
from the quality-in-quantity dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "AP reports that global competition is squeezing lemons out of the market and forcing automakers to improve the quality and reliability of their vehicles. With few exceptions, cars are so close on reliability that it's getting harder for companies to charge a premium. 'We don't have total clunkers like we used to,' says Dave Sargent, automotive vice president with J.D. Power. In 1998, J.D. Power and Associates found an industry average of 278 problems per 100 vehicles, but this year, the number fell to 132. In 1998, the most reliable car had 92 problems per 100 vehicles, while the least reliable had 517, a gap of 425. This year the gap closed to 284 problems. It wasn't always like this. In the 1990s, Honda and Toyota dominated in quality, especially in the key American market for small and midsize cars. Around 2006, General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler were heading into financial trouble and shifted research dollars from trucks to cars after years of neglect and spent more on engineering and parts to close the gap. Meanwhile Toyota's reputation was tarnished by a series of safety recalls, and Honda played conservative with new models that looked similar to the old ones. Now it's 'very hard to find products that aren't good anymore,' says Jeremy Anwyl, CEO of the Edmunds.com automotive website. 'In safety, performance and quality, the differences just don't have material impact.'"
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Have Bad Cars Gone Extinct?

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  • ask a mechanic (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 22, 2012 @09:16AM (#39123527)

    if bad cars have gone extinct. take a seat, it will be a while before he's done laughing.

    • by alen (225700)

      why would i go to this mechanic person? the last 8 years i bought a new toyota or honda an average of once every 2 years and the only thing i've done was change the oil and rotate the tires at the dealership. a monkey could do these things.

      going forward it's going to be once every 3.5 years for a new car, but still why should i go to this mechanic person? in my experience my cars work like they should every day

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        because water leaks into electronic modules, wires wear out, animals crawl into weird places, blower resistors melt, plastic bits break, murphy's law takes full effect. now your experience sounds wonderful, but from the cars i have seen it is not representative unfortunately.

        • Re:ask a mechanic (Score:4, Interesting)

          by Megane (129182) on Wednesday February 22, 2012 @10:27AM (#39124237) Homepage

          animals crawl into weird places

          And some of them eat soy-based insulation off of wiring. Yes, I've had that happen before. Really, who thought we needed biodegradable wire insulation? And in automobiles, which don't exactly get buried in landfills.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by elrous0 (869638) *

          Yeah, but none of those things is indicative of a bad design, just bad luck.

      • Re:ask a mechanic (Score:5, Insightful)

        by shadowrat (1069614) on Wednesday February 22, 2012 @10:03AM (#39123959)
        No car needs more than that if you are only driving them for 2 years. I don't know how far you are driving, but if you don't care about the longevity of a car, you could probably drive most new cars to 40 or 50k miles without ever getting an oil change.
        • Re:ask a mechanic (Score:4, Informative)

          by rickb928 (945187) on Wednesday February 22, 2012 @10:18AM (#39124133) Homepage Journal

          40-50k on an oil change? That's not new.

          My little brother was maintenance supervisor for a resort city Avis facility in the 80s. He got a Dodge something-or-other in for a bad headlight or something, and found that it had not had scheduled maintenance, including oil changes, for 35k. He put it on the retention list - the list that says 'sell this lemon'.

          He also got in a Toyota Corolla with over 40k on it, no oil change. He said it came in for a 'sticky door'. Had a stuffed toy in the hinge. Sold that one too.

          But he changes the oil in his cars and motorcycles more frequently than the book says. Just because.

          • The GP isn't saying you shouldn't change the oil, just that you could _probably_ get away with it. And it's true. Doesn't mean it's smart.

      • Re:ask a mechanic (Score:5, Insightful)

        by swalve (1980968) on Wednesday February 22, 2012 @10:07AM (#39124003)
        What you are missing is the idea that a car can go 2 years or 3.5 years without ANYTHING breaking is downright miraculous, compared to other machines and other times in history. Especially when the numbers start to play out that it is no longer an exception to get a good one (remembering that whole cars built on monday or friday thing), but the rule, and from many different manufacturers. For the longest time, Honda gained the reputation for quality because they were dead simple. Now, it seems, even the complicated cars go forever.
        • Re:ask a mechanic (Score:5, Interesting)

          by slim (1652) <john@nOspam.hartnup.net> on Wednesday February 22, 2012 @10:15AM (#39124113) Homepage

          Yep exactly.

          When I started driving in the early 1990s, if you had, say, a 7 year old car, you'd pretty much expect to have trouble starting it on a cold/wet day. You'd allow 20 minutes extra in the morning for fiddling with the choke and spraying the engine with WD-40. That's just how cars were.

          Nowadays, if you buy something that old, even a low-status brand, it'll start every time, barring some serious fault.

      • Re:ask a mechanic (Score:5, Interesting)

        by 0100010001010011 (652467) on Wednesday February 22, 2012 @10:42AM (#39124451)

        going forward it's going to be once every 3.5 years for a new car

        Such a waste. Look at the cars Cuba is running. They haven't gotten much of anything since the embargo but their cars keep on ticking.

        I have a 14 year old VW Jetta TDI. It is nearing 300,000 mi and still gets 40 driven hard and 50+ if driven gently. Still has 550 psi compression across all 4 cylinders. (Read, that's a good thing). Mechanics wear out it's not always design it's just physics. I've had to replace numerous body parts on the suspension and I'm nearing my 30th oil change but it's still going and I don't see replacing it anytime in the near future.

        Let me guess, you buy new clothes every year if they need replacing or not. "Just in case".

        Or I suppose a computer analogy: "Nothing ever goes wrong with my computers. I just replace them every month". (And given the design lifespans of Car:Computer::3.5 years:1 month is about right.

      • Re:ask a mechanic (Score:5, Insightful)

        by GameboyRMH (1153867) <gameboyrmh@[ ]il.com ['gma' in gap]> on Wednesday February 22, 2012 @11:26AM (#39124939) Journal

        Holy shit what's wrong with you!? And I thought buying a new car once every 5 years was bad...

      • why would i go to this mechanic person? the last 8 years i bought a new toyota or honda an average of once every 2 years

        Because I keep a car at least 10 years and in that time you're bound to need new brake pads, new CV joints and a few other bits and pieces. I'm not willing to waste my money on a new car every two years when today's cars easily last at least 10 if maintained.

      • Re:ask a mechanic (Score:4, Insightful)

        by ConceptJunkie (24823) on Wednesday February 22, 2012 @12:31PM (#39125971) Homepage Journal

        why would i go to this mechanic person?

        You are getting rid of them before most long-term maintenance is even necessary. You could probably not do _anything_ to a modern car for two years and get away with it. Those cars could last 10, 15 or 20 years if properly maintained, but it requires a skilled mechanic to do the proper maintenance because after 100,000 miles or so there are major components that must be replaced.

        I just replaced a car that was almost 14 years old and I was sorely disappointed that I had to because I felt it should have lasted another 5 or 10 years. It was a 1999 Honda Odyssey, and was generally trouble-free and in good shape, but the transmission was going, which is a well-known problem for those cars from that time period, and the logical choice was to replace it rather than replace the transmission, at cost of twice or three times the value of the car, and risk having another similar failure in another year or two, because based on our research, that was a distinct possibility.

  • News to me (Score:5, Insightful)

    by danbert8 (1024253) on Wednesday February 22, 2012 @09:16AM (#39123529)

    The author has obviously not driven a GM vehicle lately. Let me count the problems with my two year old Pontiac...

    • by T Murphy (1054674) on Wednesday February 22, 2012 @09:36AM (#39123711) Journal
      Like they say, "If life gives you lemons, stop buying GM".
      • by SpinningCone (1278698) on Wednesday February 22, 2012 @09:42AM (#39123769)

        wouldn't "If life gives you lemons, open a GM dealership". make more sense?

        • by aitikin (909209)
          Yeah, but then there's the, "If you fill one hand with hope, and the other with shit, you're a Chrysler Salesman!" axiom.

          ...GM and Ford have both been improving (Ford much more than the former), but Chrysler has done so poorly that they were bought out by a company who hasn't been in the US since the 80's because they didn't want to spend the time and money dealing with the new emissions standards... Oh, and the fact that Chrysler's four differing divisions almost monopolized the bottom of JD Power and Ass

    • by Pharmboy (216950) on Wednesday February 22, 2012 @09:39AM (#39123741) Journal

      Maybe that's part of the reason Pontiac is out of business, for all intent and purposes now. None of the GM divisions have been tops for initial quality, with Cadillac and Pontiac being particularly bad. I'm an old fart, and everyone knows that old farts don't change brands. I've drove GM products for 30 years, including my "05 2500HD work truck, but now I drive a Hyundai Sontata Limited 2.0T back and forth for work. More power, better fuel economy, better quality construction, better everything. The Malibu and Impala (it is sized between the two) don't compare and cost more. This is my 2nd Hyundai, 6 months old with 15k miles, and have no regrets.

      I put 30k-40k miles per year and the GMs from 2005 and back start falling apart under that stress when they hit 100k. The engines hold up great, the electronics and cosmetic parts start falling off like dead skin.

      • Re:News to me (Score:5, Insightful)

        by vlm (69642) on Wednesday February 22, 2012 @10:00AM (#39123919)

        None of the GM divisions have been tops for initial quality

        With the exception of the now defunct Saturn. I'm convinced they gave Saturn the axe because it made all the other divisions look bad. Love my indestructible Saturn commuter car...

        • Re:News to me (Score:5, Informative)

          by elrous0 (869638) * on Wednesday February 22, 2012 @11:13AM (#39124807)

          I'm convinced they gave Saturn the axe because it made all the other divisions look bad.

          No, they gave it the axe for two reasons:

          1) Americans started buying ridiculously oversized SUV's. And so GM, in all its wisdom, decided to put EVERYTHING into its SUV's because hey, that trend is never going to end, right?

          2) Saturns were all made in a non-union plant, and the unions were pushing back.

          • Re:News to me (Score:5, Informative)

            by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 22, 2012 @01:42PM (#39127043)

            No, they gave it the axe for two reasons:

            1) Americans started buying ridiculously oversized SUV's. And so GM, in all its wisdom, decided to put EVERYTHING into its SUV's because hey, that trend is never going to end, right?

            2) Saturns were all made in a non-union plant, and the unions were pushing back.

            As someone who worked for Saturn for almost 9 years, I can tell you this is incorrect. The last union contract negotiated by the workers in Spring Hill went beyond what the UAW had in place with other manufacturers. That's the reason the unions were upset.

            The main reason Saturn was killed is due to the fact that it failed to show enough of a profit over its life. GM continually sank money into it while all the other divisions posted a higher percentage of profit over the amount of money invested (basically, it's was like we were being subsidized). And as someone who has owned 5 Saturns, quality had become a major issue starting around 2000. The L Series had major quality issues, the Vue was OK if you got the 6 cylinder engine (which was manufactured by Honda) and skipped the CVT transmission, the Ion was garbage, and the Relay was a re-badged Chevy/GMC mini van with an extra $3,000 added to the sticker price for no reason. I left just after the release of the Aura, so I can't comment beyond that point.

            That being said, I loved my SC1, my SL1's, and my SL2's. Cheap and easy to maintain, and other than the timing chain in the twin cams and the alternator, EGR valve and coil packs across all models, they had relatively few problems.

        • Re:News to me (Score:5, Informative)

          by jpmorgan (517966) on Wednesday February 22, 2012 @11:48AM (#39125261) Homepage

          GM didn't kill Saturn, the UAW did.

          Saturn cars were built differently from normal GM cars. Saturn was based on the idea of cooperation between management and labour: the strict work rules UAW negotiated over decades were done away with. Workers were flexible, and would do any job that needed doing. And instead of working on a long production line, teams were assigned to individual cars to create a sense of ownership. Decisions were made jointly by management and labour representatives, and the workers were given a profit sharing scheme.

          Then the UAW leadership changed, and the new guard lobbied and fought to get rid of the cooperative environment and replace it with a standard GM production line. Not because it was ultimately better for the employees, but because it was a threat to the union: the success of Saturn undermined the union's culture of militancy and 'us-vs-them.' Profit and decision sharing was a definite no-no.

      • Re:News to me (Score:5, Insightful)

        by bshensky (110723) on Wednesday February 22, 2012 @10:17AM (#39124129) Homepage

        You're clearly not from the Motor City. Badges have little meaning - nearly no meaning, really - as it's the *platforms* that are designed by the automakers, with the badges shared among them.

        Pontiac was put to pasture because its offerings were redundant to those from Chevy, Buick and Saturn. Even then, Saturn got the axe for the same reason. The end result was a healthier portfolio of platforms upon which various GM makes could be engineered, tuned and packaged.

        This, however, is the insight few folks realize: The automakers each have a cache of core engineers with talent and capabilities that vary wildly. The executives move their most talented engineers to the platforms that need success most, and their lesser engineers to the platforms that need it least. So, Ford F-150 and Chrysler minivan engineers are the best of their respective companies for a time, and fleet car platforms get the chaff. When the fleet car platforms suffer to the degree they need triage (Chrysler 200, Dodge Durango, Ford Focus), the best engineers are shifted here to perform some one-off miracles.

        From here, it sounds like the trim engineers assigned to the aging GMs you had were running in "maintenance" or "cost reduction" mode. Shame for them to lose you, as it's clear to me the star teams were on call for the recent launch of the Cruze and Sonic.

        Hard as it was for GM to eliminate and consolidate (trust me, I know, I lived off Pontiac's teat for the last decade), it was the right thing to do.

        The new farts know what the old farts don't: Follow the star engineers' platforms for great reliability success!

        • Re:News to me (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Pharmboy (216950) on Wednesday February 22, 2012 @10:44AM (#39124485) Journal

          If the Cruze and the Sonic are the best Chevy can do, then they are doomed. Neither are class leaders, Consumer Reports hasn't sung their praises either. Car and Driver was shocked that the Sonic didn't completely suck http://www.caranddriver.com/comparisons/2012-chevrolet-sonic-ltz-turbo-comparison-test-car-and-driver-page-6 [caranddriver.com] but the version they said was almost as good as the competition cost a few grand more. (this is one of the better reviews)

          They also say the Cruze doesn't hold a candle to the Hyundai Elantra (honestly, Hyundai really hit a home run with the new one) Way more features for less money. http://www.caranddriver.com/comparisons/11-chevrolet-cruze-and-12-ford-focus-vs-jetta-elantra-and-mazda-3-comparison-test-2011-chevrolet-cruze-lt-page-3 [caranddriver.com]

          They are better cars than Chevy has made in a while, but they have a long way to catch up with Asia, particularly at the same price point. Breaks my heart to say that, but the truth hurts sometimes. At least the new Chevrolets are a bit "less ugly" than the last decade, but they still aren't winning any beauty contests either, especially when compared to Ford and Hyundai.

          On that note, Ford has really gotten their shit together over the last 5 or 6 years and is producing a good car at a good price. When I bought my last car 6 months ago, I had narrowed it down to Ford and Hyundai. Ironically, part of what sold me on the Hyundai was that the dash layout and interior was more "classic GM" in feel to me, more comfortable. Kept bumping my head getting in and out of the Fords. Didn't hurt that the Hyundai had more power (275hp 2L turbo) and better gas mileage (34 Hwy). I'm averaging 31 in mixed but mainly highway driving. The resale value on Hyundais have also skyrocketed. I put a ton of miles on my Azera over two years, and sold it for almost as much as I had bought it for when it was 1 year old.

      • by s122604 (1018036)

        None of the GM divisions have been tops for initial quality, with Cadillac and Pontiac being particularly ba

        wrong

        Cadilac and Buick have both ranked high in recent surveys

    • by Lumpy (12016)

      Yup GM cars are still crap.

      It's why this UAW kid whos daddy worked and died at GM and used to be a die hard GM/Pontiac fan will never ever buy another GM vehicle again in my life.

      I have a relative with the ugly as hell Chevy minivan called the Traverse that has had the same problems as the 1998-2004 years did. Wheel bearings that do not last, electrical problems, and flat out lousy gas mileage.

      Yeah, if you want reliable it's still a wise choice to avoid GM.

    • Re:News to me (Score:4, Informative)

      by Xeranar (2029624) on Wednesday February 22, 2012 @10:31AM (#39124313)

      Anecdotal poster is anecdotal.

      Reliability ratings are based on a huge sample size of any given vehicle. Statistically if you build enough cars some are bound to be lemons (and hence why we have lemon laws). So one person with a bad Pontiac doesn't mean all Pontiacs are bad. Also what Pontiac did you buy and why did you buy one when you knew they were shutting down that brand? Sounds like sour grapes on what you thought was going to be a knock-out deal.

      On topic though, when I was growing up in the 90's I saw stranded cars all the time, broken down on the highway and byways. Now in the last 5-6 years I see one maybe once a week. It's not statistical, just anecdotal, but as a general sampling it does seem to support that cars break less often compared to their older designed counterparts.

      • by omnichad (1198475)

        On topic though, when I was growing up in the 90's I saw stranded cars all the time, broken down on the highway and byways. Now in the last 5-6 years I see one maybe once a week. It's not statistical, just anecdotal, but as a general sampling it does seem to support that cars break less often compared to their older designed counterparts.

        At least here in IL, you can lose your license for abandoning a vehicle. Or at least can't renew it until you pay all the fees. If you have to pay no matter what, there's

    • by caseih (160668)

      How your comment got rated insightful, I do not know. Your own anecdotal experiences prove nothing statistically, though like other highly emotional things, there is little I can say that will dissuade you that your own experiences say anything about the reliability of a make, or even model of car.

      Speaking as someone who drives GM vehicles every day and has no more or no fewer problems than the average for any other brand, I say that neither your experience or mine, taken individually, is statistically sig

  • Hyperbole (Score:5, Interesting)

    by tanveer1979 (530624) on Wednesday February 22, 2012 @09:17AM (#39123535) Homepage Journal

    Of course lemons exist.
    Lots of them. Its just that, now reliable cars number quite a bit.
    but there still exist a set of people who think money can be saved by skimping on QC practices.

    Its more of a mindset issue.
    Other than that, if you have ever been part of a JD power survey, you would know what it actually is.
    Here is an interesting link
    http://www.team-bhp.com/forum/indian-car-scene/41820-my-experience-jd-power-quality-survey.html [team-bhp.com]

    So another question is.. are the right questions being answered?

    • Re:Hyperbole (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Zero_DgZ (1047348) on Wednesday February 22, 2012 @10:19AM (#39124139)

      There are, will be, and always will be quality control issues as manufacturers try to race each other to the bottom on cutting corners and therefore costs. Recall, not long ago, that brand new Chevy Sonics were leaving the factory missing brake pads. (The Chevy Sonic itself, a rebadged second-generation Aveo/Daewoo Kalos that is already notorious for having a laughably flimsy "new, revolutionary!" type of paint job, and is also a proven unreliable engine and drivetrain platform.)

      Until very recently, the Dodge Neon/PT Cruiser combo was probably the single lowest quality modern production automobile ever produced, and it is a boon to motorists everywhere that the entire platform finally aged enough that it got the ax. Now, at least, you are less likely to be behind one of these things when it decides to blow its head off into the stratosphere and grind to a shuddering halt on the road ten feet in front of you.

      Lousy cars are still out there, even brand spanking new ones. The only problem is, so many platforms are changing, being reinvented, or dropped in favor of completely new ones coming out that we don't know where they all are yet. The manufacturers, of course, all have their glossy print marketing machines going full tilt to convince you how wonderful ALL of their shiny new cars are, with their fancy new technology and brand new engine designs and computers and whatnot. Yes, gone are the days of flooding engines and sawdust in the transmission and all that 1950's bullshit, but new cars with their new technology can and will develop new types of problems that people are only just starting to discover. That's the price you pay for driving a fabulously complicated mass-produced piece of equipment every day in all types of conditions. Stuff will break. Some stuff will have unforeseen flaws, and break frequently. The only difference between now and cars of yesteryear is the parts that will produce lemons will be different (I predict lots of electronics/electrical problems, transmission issues for the zooty new million-speed automatics and CVT's, and the sudden availability of turbochargers demonstrating to American numbskulls that such things are not maintenance-free), and every time some issue pops up somebody will try to sue somebody else over it.

      • Re:Hyperbole (Score:5, Informative)

        by maple_shaft (1046302) on Wednesday February 22, 2012 @12:27PM (#39125899)

        I predict lots of ... transmission issues for the zooty new million-speed automatics and CVT's

        Continuously variable transmissions have been around decades now, with simple designs existing reliably in many tractors and not so simple designs that have broke down and not panned out in the past.

        Nissan's unique design in the Toroidal/Roller-based CVT has been around for 20 years now and has consistently proved reliable in a number of models. You don't often hear of Nissan transmissions failing before 150k.

  • by Zamphatta (1760346) on Wednesday February 22, 2012 @09:18AM (#39123541) Homepage
    ...is the price of gas.
    • Mine has a completely different problem: it doesn't have a 300HP engine.

  • by Troyusrex (2446430) on Wednesday February 22, 2012 @09:25AM (#39123603)
    Back in the 90's Chrysler produced the Eagle which was the a re-branded Mitsubishi Mirage. It was literally off the same assembly line with some branded one and some the other. Consumer reports ranked the Eagle as unreliable with many defects and the Mirage as highly reliable with few defects.

    Back then the general feeling was that Asian cars were better quality but based on this I always wondered how much was reality and how much unconscious bias.

    • by vlm (69642) on Wednesday February 22, 2012 @09:39AM (#39123737)

      Aside from bias there's also expectations.

      I really didn't care much about my commuter car, as long as it passes smog check and gets me to work cheaply in stop and go traffic, I just don't care. The plastic dash parts rattle together when its below 10 degrees (F) out. Also the clearcoat is failing on the non-functional spoiler after only 14 years of exposure. Somehow I got a bit of scotch tape on the instrument cluster and I can see everything OK it just looks a little dirty. Maybe I should, but I Just Don't Care.

      The caddy and vette buyers believe they're getting the cream of the crop, so they scream in agony if there is a speck of dust in the car. Thats a different type of bias. I know for a fact that caddy and vette complaint rates are thru the roof. They are almost certainly "about as good" as my car, those brands just attract whiners, therefore you hear more whining.

      I suspect you're seeing something of the sort in this story. If you corrected for the demographics of the buyers the difference would probably disappear.

      The third reason why you see the "problem" is I'm sure mitsu spent more money on advertising than eagle, obviously advertising supported media is going to do their best to claim the mitsu is better. The car market is about as bad as the video game "magazine and website" market this way. The review score is a direct simple function of advertising budget, nothing more.

    • A lot of it was bias. Honda somehow had a reputation for good cars and(while this is anecdotal) my family owned two civics while they were supposedly one of the best cars out there for reliability...

      Overall our chev cavaliers ran better, and longer without major problems. There were more minor problems(brake pads, calipers) but the transmission and engine etc never went... while the transmission on the civics was about as reliable as a just-out-of rehab crackhead at a drug dealers house with a pile of coke

      • by rickb928 (945187)

        Brakes are wear items just like tires. Wearing out is HOW BRAKES WORK!

        Considering brake job cost and frequency the same as transmission repair or internal engine part replacement is wrong-headed. EGR valves, radiators, and oil sludging are signs of bad design or hard service, but brake wear is just wear.

        And yes, there are many cars out there that, by design, suffer from brake pedal pulsing too quickly due to inadequate rotors. Sometimes you can buy better replacements, sometimes not.

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Wednesday February 22, 2012 @09:27AM (#39123623) Journal
    In-car 'infotainment' and navigation systems are now becoming more common, so what we have gained in mechanical reliability we can make up in the endless sorrow of interacting with dubious software...
  • by Ogi_UnixNut (916982) on Wednesday February 22, 2012 @09:28AM (#39123629) Homepage

    .. at least underneath.

    I don't know how it is like in the US, but in Europe almost all the car manufacturers have consolidated. Cars are a commodity now. The cars from many different brands (e.g. VW, Audi, Skoda) all have the same chassis and parts. They all have the same body shape (more or less). Usually the only difference is in the body panels, the interior trim and the badge at the front.

    As such you can pretty much buy any of the above cars, and you'll find that they all have similar reliability. For many people cars are just a method of getting from A-B, so overall the above is good news for them. They can pick based on things like warranty, extras included, financing options, etc.... while the cars are more or less the same.

    For example, once upon a time in the west, Skoda's were considered lemons, now they are basically rebadged VW's with reliability to match. Now they are known as VW reliable cars, without the price tag and some extras that the VW's may have.

    Not my thing personally, I prefer my cars unique, so I buy old cars built before the consolidation, but for the majority of people, it is a benefit.

  • The Biggest Loss (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Phrogman (80473) on Wednesday February 22, 2012 @09:28AM (#39123633) Homepage

    is the fact that most new cars are very difficult for the owner to repair themselves, given that many are highly integrated with computer systems. Shade-tree mechanics are going to disappear.
    That and the fact that every new car seems to be built on the principle that repair costs are no obstacle, so if a car gets hit, its highly damaged, extremely expensive to repair, and much more likely to be a write off - meaning you need to buy a replacement.

    • Re:The Biggest Loss (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Spad (470073) <slashdot@NOSpam.spad.co.uk> on Wednesday February 22, 2012 @09:38AM (#39123729) Homepage

      That and the fact that every new car seems to be built on the principle that repair costs are no obstacle...

      Compared to people repair/replacement costs, yes. Modern cars deform so "badly" in accidents by design in order to absorb as much of the impact energy as possible so that energy isn't absorbed by your bones and squishy bits.

      Personally I would rather have to make a car insurance claim than a life insurance one.

    • by vlm (69642) on Wednesday February 22, 2012 @09:57AM (#39123885)

      is the fact that most new cars are very difficult for the owner to repair themselves, given that many are highly integrated with computer systems. Shade-tree mechanics are going to disappear.

      Tired meme. I've been hearing continuously and forcefully since I started helping my dad change the oil on his car... in the 80s... Let it die.

      The funniest part is people going on and on about how expensive ODB-II scanner are... first of all yes in 1998 they were thousands of dollars, but I bought one half a decade or so ago, pretty full featured too, for something like 3 tanks of gas (and I drive a small car, for a SUV its probably more like one tank). Seriously, they cost less than an old fashioned PDA, figure less than a hundred bucks and you're good.

      Secondly autozone will loan you one in exchange for a drivers license with the assumption that whatever you need to replace, you'll buy from them upon return, so if you can push-pull-drag the thing to the lot if it barely runs at all, or have one friend in the whole world who will give you a lift, its free.

      Thirdly most failure modes don't require a scanner unless you're an idiot. Battery is dead, no lights no start no voltage, I'm not stupid enough to scan it, I put in a new battery. Same for coolant leaks, oil leaks, cracked hoses, suspension/tire/brake probs, blah blah blah. You do need a scanner for some more obscure emissions problems. If you are stupid and/or don't know how to google, sometimes the only way to test a sensor is a scanner.. a scanner is the Fastest way, thats how I figured out my 12 year old O2 sensor had gone out. If the rusty 5 year old muffler rattles when you floor it, only a idiot hooks up a scanner instead of replacing the rusted out muffler. Brakes make horrific scraping sound? I don't think a scanner helps you figure out the brake pads are toast (and after that scraping, the disks too)

    • by digitalsolo (1175321) on Wednesday February 22, 2012 @11:02AM (#39124705) Homepage
      Sorry, this is crap. If you choose not to learn how to work on a modern car, that's your own issue.

      I'm not a mechanic by trade (though, admittedly I grew up with a family who races professionally) but I will take a modern car to work on over something 10+ years old any day. In fact, one of my "toy" cars is a 1988 Mazda. It's had an entire drivetrain from a 2001 GM product swapped into it, and that has in turn had even more modern electronic controls put into it.

      My 2007 Infiniti is just as easy to work on as my 1987 Renault GTA was, and it's a damn sight easier to keep running well. Obviously electric/hybrid cars require a different skill set from ICE cars, but that's simply a matter of learning what to do.

      BTW, many of the freelance mechanics I know are much more skilled than the average monkey at a dealership, the dealership simply has more books and specialized tools. Those are all available to the shade tree guys too, just call your Mac/Snap-On dealer.

      I'm confused by this fear of technology on... Slashdot. Really guys? Come on.
    • by couchslug (175151)

      "is the fact that most new cars are very difficult for the owner to repair themselves, given that many are highly integrated with computer systems. Shade-tree mechanics are going to disappear."

      No, their knowledge base has changed. Code scanners are easy to use and general mechanic work is not more difficult. I'm a mechanic.

      "That and the fact that every new car seems to be built on the principle that repair costs are no obstacle, so if a car gets hit, its highly damaged, extremely expensive to repair, and mu

  • by Average_Joe_Sixpack (534373) on Wednesday February 22, 2012 @09:29AM (#39123645)

    Of being stranded on the side of I95 in the dead of summer with steam pouring out of the hood of a behemoth Ford.

  • by Kupfernigk (1190345) on Wednesday February 22, 2012 @09:31AM (#39123667)
    The Edmunds comment does not bear out the survey. What it tells us is that the worst cars are about 4x worse than the best while in 1998 it was about 6 times.

    What I would suggest from my own reading of the J D Power surveys is that the gap at the top is much narrower, with a number of high quality manufacturers including the Germans, the Japanese and a few others fighting over quite small differences. If you buy a Merc, a VW (even if it is called a Skoda), a Porsche, a BMW, a Toyota or a Honda, you're unlikely to complain. Buy a recent Korean car and the same is likely to be true. And then you get into the long tail (I may have missed some good ones, I agree).

    A modern clunker is better than an old clunker, true, but the customer dissatisfaction is going to be just as great. It's all relative. In the early 80s many American cars were...well, they got traded in after a year and the next owner was the QA and rectification department. But people accepted it. When a lock fell out of the door of my boss's car - sorry, Chrysler- he just said "Well, it's 11 months old, not worth fixing". Twenty years on, a lock broke on a colleague's ten year old Merc and he complained that German engineering wasn't what it was.

  • by gTsiros (205624) on Wednesday February 22, 2012 @09:33AM (#39123683)

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O4orHdycJl4 [youtube.com]

    renault authorised service centers don't even acknowledge it as a problem. in fact, one of their mechanics tried to pass it off as a feature.

    i am at a loss for words

  • by mixed_signal (976261) on Wednesday February 22, 2012 @09:42AM (#39123775)

    There's a big difference between "initial quality" reports and long term (5, 10, 15 year) reliability, though there is probably some correlation due to overall manufacturing control at the factory. Initial quality tells you if something was built correctly, for the most part. Long term reliability has more to do with the design and specifications of the car and its components. You can have a cheap car (or camera, or toy, etc.) that works fine out of the box and breaks in a short time due to cheap materials. Or you could have one built of high quality materials with fine tolerances that lasts effectively forever.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 22, 2012 @09:43AM (#39123787)

    I work in the car industry. That means I am a hell of a lot more qualified than most
    of you people to make an informed comment on the current state of the art in new
    cars.

    Cars now are junk, even very expensive cars. The "product cheapening department"
    has found new ways to lower the production costs for cars, and this will come back
    to haunt anyone who owns a car for more than a couple of years. Since only the wealthy or
    the stupid buy new cars every couple of years, this means a lot of people are going to get
    screwed by how the new cars are being built.

    Such things as plastic intake manifolds, wiring which is as small as possible in gauge in order to
    save copper, and even thinner body sheet metal all mean the cars you can buy today are more
    of a disposable item than cars built a decade or more previously. Argue against this if you like,
    but you will be wrong.

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      Such things as plastic intake manifolds, wiring which is as small as possible in gauge in order to
      save copper, and even thinner body sheet metal all mean the cars you can buy today are more
      of a disposable item than cars built a decade or more previously. Argue against this if you like,
      but you will be wrong.

      Plastic intake manifolds have been in use for years and have caused surprisingly few problems. Wiring has been going down in gauge all along, and has always been as small as possible for the current carrying capacity, that's what fuses are for. And foreign cars have been made of thinner sheet metal for years in order to make them lighter. The metal is harder, so it is just as strong. It is harder to repair, but nobody does metal finishing on anything built since the seventies anyway, because the steel has a

    • by Hatta (162192)

      Nice. So 20 years ago, cars were built to last 30 years. 10 years ago, cars were built to last 20 years. 5 years ago cars were built to last 15 years. Today cars are built to last 10 years. We're going to be in for a big surprise in a decade or so when all of our cars fail at once.

    • by couchslug (175151) on Wednesday February 22, 2012 @12:20PM (#39125773)

      I'm a mechanic who deals with these things often.

      All those are old news. "Thin" sheet metal only matters if it rusts, and rust devoured old school sheet metal easily enough.

      I've worked with plastic manifolds. So what? If well-designed, they do fine. You can't honk down on the hardware like on a cast iron intake, so don't do that.

      Small wires and connectors are a bit fiddly, but again no big deal. Different connector tools aren't expensive.

      I've been involved with rebuilding a lot of salvage vehicles from two or more organ donors, and don't find it intimidating. These are often "gut rehabs" where a burn job gets a complete dash and wiring and interior swap, and they are done with relatively basic equipment.

      Vehicles now often last for very high mileage if well-maintained. Some design choices suck, which (Vega engines, Pinto bodies) has been the case since cars existed.

  • by mbone (558574) on Wednesday February 22, 2012 @09:53AM (#39123855)

    Have Bad Cars Gone Extinct?

    Nah, they're just hibernating. Once the car industry settles down again to only 2 to 3 major players, they'll be back.

  • by Charliemopps (1157495) on Wednesday February 22, 2012 @10:22AM (#39124189)
    J.D. Power and Associates is an industry shill. You pay them money, and they come up with fake statistics and give you an award. "Best midsized fuel efficient sedan in the upper north-east for the first 2/3s of 2011!!!" Their stats are almost entirely made up, and even then they just fish around in them until your product comes out on top in some obscure way so they can give you a bullshit award. Likely this article is bought and paid for by some automotive industry association that's trying to bolster slumping sales. There are plenty of Lemons out there. Any Volkswagen, Jaguar, The "hummer", and on and on. Granted, the industry is getting better, but the fact that cars still last less than 10 years on average should be rather telling.
  • by billybob_jcv (967047) on Wednesday February 22, 2012 @11:12AM (#39124795)

    If they sold Tata, Lada, ZAZ, Geely, Chery, etc in the USA this story would never have been written.

  • by Kickstart70 (531316) on Wednesday February 22, 2012 @12:25PM (#39125859) Homepage
    While mechanical failures may have decreased, design problems are all over the place, from Toyota's gas pedals getting stuck to the visibility-destroying A-columns in Dodge pickups. There is so much focus on appearance and stopping mechanical failure, they've stopped paying attention to how people actually drive and are decreasing safety because of it.

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