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Questions About The Old Asian/Domestic Car Issue

Since this is an ongoing and volatile issue at times I have a couple of indirect questions. Serious non-combative answers would be appreciated.
First off, my opinion on this issue is based on years of working for Asian/European car dealers and seeing first hand what is going on. This leads to a fill in the blank sentence.

Asian cars are better than domestics based on the evidence I’ve seen which is…

Since Consumer Reports gets batted around and I fully expect to hear the CR angle thrown in there then I have a direct question about CR for those who want to go that route.

Have you actually, at any time, ever delved into CR’s reporting methods, testing, etc, etc?

(I’ve got some good examples that I would love to see someone try and explain their way through while keeping a straight face but I’ll hold off on those for now.)

Based on the journalistic integrity of their web presence ( I don’t trust CR as far as I can throw them.

I can only go on past history of the brands. Any “reliability rating” for a new car is pure speculative BS. Just because the Civic was ultra reliable from 85-2003 does not mean it was reliable in 2004, or that it is reliable now. Just because the Cavalier was a rolling pile of crap for 3 decades does not mean that next year’s model won’t be superb.

The sad truth is that most car companies are run by bean counters now, and not engineers. The reason Honda wiped the floor with GM in “the old days” is because Honda was run by engineers, and GM was run by accountants. Now that all car companies except possibly the exotics that none of us can afford anyway are run by accountants, reliability is up in the air.

Add in the multitude of electronic gadgets new cars come with, and you dock reliability even further.

So in short, I won’t guarantee that anyone is reliable today. They’re likely to all be somewhere on the downhill slope to factory-fresh junk.

Asian cars are not as a group better than domestic cars. Each company produces models from different world wide suppliers and to put each in the same boat is unfair. Is a Pontiac vibe a decent car? Is it foriegn or domestic ? We are debating name plates and this debate will never have a satisfactory conclusion as everyone has a different opinion on what is domestic and what isn’t. I feel there are no such thing as domestic car companies.

Gmc has international divisions that are just as much a part of foreign employment base (China for example) where they are one their biggest supplies and pay the wages and taxes to their Chinese host builders. Likewise with Toyota, Nissan and Honda here who have cars that are made by American workers, designed by American engineers (Tundra) and sold and serviced by Americans.

Let’s make this simple…Are all RCA products domestic ? Are there many home speaker and audio systems regardless of their name, built with domestic labor. It’s a political hot button question because most conservative thinkers feel a company is domestic if it has a domestic name and/or appears on the NY stock exchange even if they home office abroad and avoid paying corporate taxes to our economy or even build their products here. I happen to feel it is domestic if pours money into our economy. We can’t agree…I don’t recognize domestic/foreign distinction among car companies any more than I do Sony vs Magnavox or RCA.
The discussion has no relevance to me.

As far as CR is concerned, I respect the negative criticism of any one who has toured their facilities, talked to their representatives and/or taken the time to research and compare their findings on products to any other consumer testing publication. I don’t hear the negative unsubstantiate, subjective opinion of anyone else.

I once owned a 1971 Ford Maverick. There was a car in the Mercury line called the Comet. It was the same car except for the grille and tail lights. However, the repair records in the 1976 Consumer Reports for the Maverick was much worse than the Comet. This didn’t make sense to me because the engines and drivetrains were identical. I wrote to CR and questioned this. The response was that this was the way the data came out. The next logical question then would be "Why did the data come out this way?"
I finally found then answer in a Popular Mechanics magazine where owners of both Ford and Mercury twin cars were surveyed. The Mercury owners were on the average 7 years older than the owners of the car with the Ford label. I think that CR’s repair record reflected the age of the owner as much as the repair record of the car. The younger owners probably didn’t maintain their cars as well and drove them harder.
I have known two very unhappy Toyota Camry owners. The engines had major problems. On the other hand, I have a friend that got over 100,000 miles out of a Chevrolet Vega where most of these Vegas had engine problems before 50,000 miles.
We purchased a new 2003 Toyota 4Runner and I was ready to make Toyota buy it back. The serpentine belt chirped. I took it back and the belt was replaced. Two days later, the belt started chirping again. I took it back and the belt was replaced. However, the belt wasn’t put on correctly and the oil seal on the crankshaft pullley got pulled out. We made another trip back. This time we were assured that the best technician in the shop was assigned to the 4Runner. We got it back and 2 days later the belt started chirping again. On this trip, I told the agency that I had to be furnished a car to drive and the car had to be fixed properly or I wanted my money back. This time it was repaired–it was a faulty belt tensioner. From the beginning my wife wanted to take the car to our trusted independent shop even though we would have to pay for the repair. Since this incident, I have had no problems with the 4Runner. However, I never went back to that Toyota dealer for service. I bought a 2011 Toyota Sienna in March of 2010 and it has been perfect. However, I bought a 2006 Chevrolet Uplander program car back in 2006 and it worked out just fine. We sold it to our son who needed a better vehicle and he reports no problems.
I do subscribe to Consumer Reports and read the publication. It is a good starting place. Sixty years ago, they rated used cars as “A”, “B” and “C”–“A” being the best. In each category, they specified the problems associated with the car. Studebakers had alignment problems, the 1947 Dodge had piston ring problems, the 1946-48 Ford had voltage regulator problems, the 1949 Nash suffered from rain leaks. There are probably too many models to do this today, but the information was useful.

Can you tell me which car is an Asian car and which one is a Domestic Car? In the world we live in today cars have parts from all over the world. Even the all American motorcycle, Harley Davidson has, gasp, Japanese parts on it. If I remember right the entire front end is made by Showa which is owned by Honda, the electrics are made in Japan, the pistons are made in Germany, the wheels are made in Australia, so tell me is it American because it was assemble here, because of the name? Basically there is not Asian or Domestic cars, we have world cars, parts come for all over and are assembled here or there and sold here under the GM, Honda, Ford, etc. name. Is a Ford build in Japan and shipped over here foreign or domestic?

But with the way you poised your question it seems like you have a bone to pick with CR. CR is a resource they do both subjective evaluations and objective test on the car and give you their opinion about the cars. And they give you owner feed back Triedaq pointed out what can happen with feed back from owners, if you would have had the demographic information on the Maverick and the Comet it might of helped, but all they really do is give you their opinion and the feed back from people who bought the car. What you do with that information is up to you.

My opinions are subject to change with new facts.

While I bash on GM, Chevy has been decent to my family and I, for the most part.
My step dad was pretty meticulous with his 89 K1500, but has slacked in the last couple years. He lost his license a few years ago and it hasn’t been driven as often as it used to be. It’s had some troubles recently where it’s had trouble starting and staying running, but they(mom and step dad) refuse to have it towed anywhere to have it properly looked at. Mom won’t drive it unless absolutely necessary, and is afraid it won’t get to where she wants to go.

My mom owns an 05 Cobalt that is pretty much an appliance for her, and somehow keeps on going, despite wondering what the service airbag message means and not wanting to take it anywhere to have it looked at/fixed. Or not wanting to take the car in for the steering wheel recall they had a year or so ago.

My uncle owns a GMC Siera he bought new a few years ago and runs pretty good. I borrowed it a month ago to pick some stuff up and he explained he’s been through 3 or 4 latches for his tailgate since he’s bought it. Pretty much have to take the plastic latch assembly off and force the metal innards apart to get it to close properly.

I owned a 91 Corssica that never gave me any problems that I can remember, only kept it a year or so before trading it in. The 65 Chevelle had to have pretty much every piece of metal replaced/repaired on it, but the original motor/trans(as far as I know they were original to the car) kept on going strong 40 years later. Most of the problems it gave me was from me not knowing how to deal with the old setup. I was holding the gas pedal down, instead of just pushing it once, while I started the car.

Granted, today I wouldn’t buy a GM product, they just don’t make anything I’m interested in, save for the Corvette.

To sort out the difference between Asian and domestic I’m referring to badges; as in Honda, Toyota, Subaru, Nissan on the Asian side and of course Ford, GM, and Chrysler on the domestic side.
The Asian/Foreign and domestic argument of this is so blurred there’s little to no difference other than the plastic badges stuck on the tail end of the car.

I’m holding off on the CR comments for the time being but when I do post them keep in mind those comments are not my words or something picked up from an internet blog, etc. It will all be directly from CR.

So GM Metro is not Asian, or yes it is ? If GM, it’s poor IMO, if Asian, it’s poor. This is why the discussion has no relevance for me. Either way, the outcome is decided by your definition of what domestic is.

This discussion would not generate much useful results, the problem is you get what is called anecdotal evidence from individual users. We need statistics, but also we need unbiased stats. If owners think their car broke down more often, someone has to check the validity of their complaints. I am also interested in the type of break down. If I need to change a brake lamp twice over the life of the vehicle, vs the transmission-that is not the same.

As a kid growing up, we had a 70’s Chevy Nova that was bullet proof. Was replace by a 78 Passat that put a new meaning to the word lemon. I have gone though many cars since. Still struggling to find perfect.

In general, Asian cars are both more reliable and longer lasting. However, I would buy a Ford Fusion or Focus over a corresponding Mitsubishi model.

Having kept track of various vehicles I’ve owned over the last number of years, the Nissan Sentra had the fewest service, repairs and replacements over 100,000 miles at 18, while the Ford Granada had the most with 56!! The best US car was a 1984 Chevy Impala with 22 trips to the shop.

Thanks to having 2 Asian cars in my garge, the garage floor is now complety dry, while with my US cars there were always some oil leaks.

Anecdotal evidence still. I’m talking about the big picture.

I think we’ll all pursue this question based on our own experiences and biases. So you’ll understand if mine show up in my reply.

I think in the '70s and through the '80s Toyota and Honda made substantially more reliable cars than the domestic brands. But the times have changed. While I still prefer the so-called Asian brands, the industry is in truth global. Honda’s and Toyota’s most prominent models are now being largely designed and built in the U.S. utilizing parts from all over the globe. GM has actually moved more toward the needs of the European market, and much of their product is available in Europe before it comes here. As with the others, the designs and the sourcing are “global”. “Branding”, volatility in brand ownership, and other factors have truely erased the ethnocentric nature that used to define the auto industry. Tata and Hyundae are now joining the marketplace in a big way, and Kia seems to be holding on. Tata even owns Jaguar now, and…I haven’t read today’s paper yet…who owns Chrysler? Ford has also focused more on the European market, and under Alan Mulally I believe they’r poised to produce affordable, high quality cars now.

While I acknowledge that CR is only a statistical model, and not based on random sampling or a truely comprehensive database, I still believe they’re the best of the available resources. They have the by far the largest data samples and, unlike JD Powers Associates, don’t sell the rights to use their awards for advertising purposes.

Yes, I’ve delved into CR’s protocols. I even used to be a member and submit data on my vehicles. It isn;t perfect, but it isn’t tainted either.

You can NEVER get any PROOF that Asian’s build better cars then domestic…or visa-versa.

I agree CR does have flaws…I’ve stated a few of them here in this forum.
CR is the ONLY source that tracks this sort of data…but it’s proven to have faults.

Anecdotal evidence is ALL any side is actually going to have. Not one side can prove their case.

Personal views an opinions:

. I’ve owned many vehicles made from the big-three in the past. Starting in the 70’s with my Vega and ending in 84 with my GMC S-15…I had major problems with any domestic car I ever owned.

. I know many people my age (late 50’s) who have the same experience. Loved GM/Ford of the 60’s and 70’s…then they went south…Switched to Asian and the problems we all experienced with domestic manufacturers went away. Not too many people my age or older who grew up in the US owned anything but Asian made vehicles.

. Here in NH you can easily find Honda’s, Toyota’s and Nissan’s from the mid-80’s…the numbers of these vehicles compared to GM/Ford/Chryco is at least 5-10 times more. Yet GM/Ford/Chryco were outselling their Asian counter parts 3:1 back in the 80’s.

. I know several mechanics who have years and years of experience working on Domestic an foreign who all agree that overall Asian cars have been far superior to Domestic cars for the past 3+ decades. They have many clients some own Asian vehicles…some domestic…They all tell me that they see perform far fewer repairs on the Asian cars their clients own as compared to the Domestic cars their clients own. One guy is a 60yo who spent is first 20 years a Nascar mechanic. Then spent the last 20 years working as the Head mechanic for a dealership. The dealership started as Pontiac…then they bought a Nissan dealership. After 3 years of working on both Pontiac and Nissan vehicles…he’s been buying nothing but Nissanvehicles since. That was 20 years ago…and still believes Domestic vehicles have a long ways to catch back up.

The main problem I see it with GM (not sure about Ford anymore) and Chryco…is their business model. Where they give out huge bonuses to Directors and above for how well they did that quarter. This model is NOT good for making quality/reliable vehicles.

Beside anecdotal evidence…there’s this…

CR isn’t the only source that tracks reliability data… does…
MSNAutos does…
Consumer Guide does…

(the latter two use information provided by mechanics, which is in many ways less biased than that provided by owners, who are deciding what is or is not a problem worth reporting to CR).

I’d certainly agree that Asian brands tended to be better (based on these surveys) back in the mid-late 80s and into the mid 90s… then it became a bit more of a model-by-model basis with Detroit offering up some good vehicles… as a whole, though, there isn’t any real evidence of a statistically significant gap existing anymore between Ford, some GM models, and the Asian makes, and that has been the case for several years.

The catch for someone like MikeinNH and others is this: When they switched, there absolutely was a statistically significant difference. They switched and had a good experience… and have continued to have good experiences with Asian makes. When they look at Consumer Reports, they see data that validates their experience. Of course, an average rating in CR today is FAR better than it used to be… in fact, an average vehicle today is about as reliable as the very best vehicles on the market just 5-10 years ago. So the catch is that if you go by CR’s recommendation for reliability, you generally won’t go wrong (some exceptions, like Honda transmissions from 10 years ago). They’re measuring a low rate of problems, and that generally supports the vehicle being reliable. OTOH, if you buy an “average” vehicle, it, too, has a low measured rate of problems. It is likely to be just as good statistically speaking… but from the perspective of someone who bought the top-rated vehicle and had a good result, they generally just don’t see that something rated lower could actually be just as good, simply because it isn’t clear how small the differences are.

In my case, it involved driving pure junk for 40 years, then getting a Toyota and having a totally different experience. It might be said to be like a man who discovers his better half is the mascot for the local football team. it can’t be fixed, move along and don’t look back. Junk year after year after year. And, then I learned they planned it that way. I told about my SIL’s room-mate in Engineering school whose first job was with a major US car company, and he was assigned to deliberately weaken parts of the car so it would all fall apart around the time the motor failed. So, finally their sins nearly destroyed them, and I am supposed to forgive and forget now that they were forced to repent? No way.

I will not say never, but at this time I expect to drive a Toyota the rest of my life. Of course, that depends upon how long I live, heh, heh.

As far as CR, over my 50 years of driving, all my cars matched very closely the trouble areas CR listed. Of course, my current car is a 2002 Sienna with 176,000 miles.

I am told, and I believe, there are good models from the US firms, especially if one does not plan to drive them several hundred thousand miles. So, I can no longer criticize someone who wants a good model from the US firms. But, those who say there is no difference between US and so-called Asian have no credibility with me.

I can’t answer the question either but would like to add a little perspective. People buy cars that they believe will satisfy their demands for the usual and I would call them shortsighted reasons including price, perceived reliability, reasonably satisfactory appearance and utility. For myself, I feel additional satisfaction in buying a brand that maximizes the number of US people employed in the production of that car including engineering, design, and marketing people, a company that is owned mostly by and therefore pays stock dividends to US citizens.

This approach sends a minimal amount of money out of the country.

You might ask yourself if a citizen of a foreign country buys whatever it is that you produce to help decide the car brand that you will choose.

Isn’t Ford trying to market “world” cars, or atleast design them? Having a car that can be built with the same parts in Europe as the US or Australia should help cut costs across the board, not just a region. Sure the steering wheel will be on different sides, but everything else should pretty much stay the same.

irlandes - you’re a perfect example of what I explained earlier - you had bad cars in a time when they were bad, switched to Toyota and had a good experience and therefore believe that there still is a difference. CR has changed its scoring so many times that there is no statistical significance between average and the best anymore.

As for your story about US automakers deliberately weakening parts, well, you just shot your credibility. They, like all automakers EVERYWHERE, set a target for longevity for the vehicle. I can tell you Ford’s target is NO different than Toyota’s. Those targets are typically for x% of the vehicles to last y miles or z years without any major problems. As its a statistical distribution, you always have outliers, so you can’t ever guarantee 100% last a ridiculously long time, nor would you want to, as it would drive costs astronomically high… so instead you target a very high percentage, typically 95%, to last a large mileage or time - normally somewhere around 15 years, 150,000 miles.

When you have that target, you analyze the requirements for every part. They ALL have individual targets higher than the car as a whole, as anything else would result in stackups that bring the overall numbers below their target. But you do NOT spec out parts to last 100 years, 1 million miles when you simply don’t have the car overall designed to last that long.

And yes, EVERY manufacturer sets target lifespans for their vehicles, and they are ALL over 15 years. Doing less ticks off customers and costs you future business. But designing cars that last forever ends up with cars customers can’t afford.

You want anecdotal evidence. Does the 1940’s Jeep Willy’s count? I restored one and drove it for 2 years, sold it and made money on it too. Was a great car if you had a strong spine.
My 89 Corolla was decent, no unexpected break downs. Only problem was the carburated ECU set-up, nobody wanted to work on it and I had to disconnect and by pass a lot of solenoids one after another to keep it running. The differential housing was separate in the transmission and that made it prone to failure esp when they changed the axle and did not pay attention to the diff oil leaking out. Mine survived this problem just because I knew about it.
The Galant we had was also similar. I got it because the previous owner ruined the transmission probably due to lack of proper maintenance and using the wrong ATF. With a transmission from the Junkyard the car ran fine, until some kid floored the engine (long story) and then the engine started to burn oil like crazy. Had to get rid of it due to this/failing emissions.
The Caravan we have was a great car until last November, 4 tows in one month. Brake cylinder, wheel cylinder, fuel pump, serpentine belt, radiator all went in midlife crisis mode. Most parts had to be done twice because my mechanic was not very competent, not the car’s fault. Had I sold the car at 120K miles, it would had been the most reliable car I had-at 130K mile it is the worst (so far, as Homer Simpson would say).
I had a Kia Sephia that was actually a re-badged Mazda, only had it for 18 months, drove for 40K miles from 80 to 120 with no repairs. Just did brakes, spark plugs and coolant flush when acquired it and did regular oil change.
I am not particularly happy with my 2005 Camry needing 4 struts either.

This is, what, the 453rd time we’ve gone round and round about this? I’ve always said that CR reliability ratings, taken on an overall basis, are a good indicator of relative reliability. And it far more than ‘no statistical difference’ in the ratings - see a sea of black dots for a models over many years, you can be sure it’s more likely to have problems than ones with long history of ‘much better than average’ reliability.

Specifically, over a 5 year period Toyotas and Hondas have 30 problems per hundred, while VWs have 60 per hundred. A factor of almost 2 is significant, in my opinion.

And the sampling criticisms don’t make sense to me. Are folks saying that certain brand buyers are suffering from mass hypnosis, model to model, year to year? One HECK of a conspiracy!

As for surveys of mechanics, while they are certainly experts on what goes wrong with specific cars, They have no way to judge the frequency of those problems, and that’s the important thing.

This is a plot of relative brand reliability from 2008.