How High Quality Cars Can Finish Last on Shoppers' Lists

By Joel Arellano | August 09, 2012
You've probably heard how terrible are American-made cars. Or the cheapness of Korean vehicles. Or German autos and their legendary lack of reliability and high costs of repair. How true are these statements? Not very. "None of them are really awful anymore,” said Jim Hall, managing director of the consulting firm 2953 Analytics, when asked about today's vehicle quality. “It's not like you're going to get it and the fender's going to fall off in a year.” Indeed. You even have to take the J.D. Powers and Associates Initial Quality Survey, which tabulates new car and vehicle ownership after 90 days, with a discerning eye. Senior project manager Bernard Swiecki of the Center for Automotive Research points out quality leader Lexus scored 73 issues per 100 vehicles according to the survey. Mini, on the other hand, scored 139 problem per 100 vehicles. States Swiecki, “This is problems per 100 vehicles, but we tend to buy 1 at a time and you can’t have 0.7 of a problem. Such parity makes these types of ratings still useful for some purposes, but not when it comes to differentiating between the brands." Translation? Such quality differences are virtually non-existent among cars when just considering the vehicles themselves. So intangibles become more important to consumers when buying a car. These include considerations such as the automakers' reputation, marketing efforts, dealership service, and feature ease-of-use. Ford got slammed, for example, by Consumer Reports earlier this year for its MyFord infotainment system. Korean automakers like Hyundai, on the other hand, see record sales due to the polarizing designs of its vehicles. And many Americans seem to continue to ignore Detroit's latest offerings even when they match -- or even exceed -- their foreign competitors. Laments analyst Tom Libby, “The same brands (Chrysler, Ford, General Motors) repeat at the top and unfortunately the same brands repeat at the bottom. It's perceived that there is still a significant difference in quality.”'s take: What qualities do you consider important in a car? Do today's publications address those qualities? Is vehicle quality more a matter of perception? Or the real deal? Let us know in the comments below. Source: Automotive News (Subscription required)