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Someone asked what the most reliable domestic car was. What's the least reliable 'foreign' car?

Someone asked what the most reliable American car was. What do you feel the least reliable foreign car is, either currently available vehicles or vehicles of the past? Incidentally, I don’t mean to imply that I think foreign cars are inherently more reliable than domestics. All manufacturers US and World have made some gems and real stinkers. I have over 260K on my old American car, and while it’s had a few issues over the years, it’s been very good overall.

My thoughts:
-VWs are notorious for electrical problems, but the power trains seem to hold up okay.
-Subarus are notorious for head gasket problems, but have a simple and reliable AWD system.
-The most unapologetic piece of utter junk I’ve ever seen was a 1970s Fiat Strada, worse than any Yugo could ever be. Fiat has improved a lot since then.
-Some years of Toyota vehicles are prone to premature engine failures due to sludging.
-Some Honda transmissions aren’t so great.
-Hyundai vehicles were a complete joke a decade ago but have come a long way.

I’d say the older Fiats, can say for the new ones. Going by a flatbed/roadbed sightings ration, I’d nominate Rolls Royce, bad electrical problems like most past english vehicles under the influence of the “vendor of darkness”, Lucas

Vying for “worst place” along with the old Fiats are the old Renaults.
For those who don’t recall the Renault Dauphines of the '60s, they were fragile, poorly assembled, underpowered, and extremely unreliable. Perhaps their only saving grace was that they had better seats and a better ride quality than the dominant VW bugs of that era.

What Fiat and Renault had in common was an extremely poor parts distribution system, with very few parts actually warehoused in The US. Back in the '60s, it was not unheard-of for owners of both of those makes to have to wait weeks–and possibly months–for certain parts to arrive from overseas. And, since these cars frequently needed to have parts replaced, a lot of Fiat and Renault owners were “sans automobile” for extended periods of time.

Yugo. With some of them, it was a miracle if you got it all the way home from the dealership without something falling off.

I have to go with Yugo. My neighbor had one for sale. I went to look at it and he told me that it was on it’s third engine with only 5K on the clock. It was less than a year old and the NADA book at the credit union had the loan value listed as $50. I knew that Fiats and Renaults were unreliable but Yugo took the word to a whole new meaning.

Some of my favorite Yugo jokes:

-What do you call the shock absorbers in a Yugo? The passengers.

-A guy goes into an auto parts store and says to the counterman: “How about a gas cap for my Yugo?” The counterman thinks for a few seconds, then says: “Okay, sounds like a fair trade.”

-What makes a Yugo go faster? A tow truck.

Sadly, a young woman was killed when her Yugo was blown off the Mackinac bridge on a windy day in 1989.

The other famous Yugo joke goes something like this:

Q: Why is the real window defogger standard equipment on Yugos?
A: To keep your hands warm as you push it down the road during the winter!

While not scientific by any means (a mechanic does not keep track) and the answer possibly being a bit sticky, my feeling as a foreign car mechanic is that of the brands I’ve worked on one has stood out more than the others.
Those brands include VW, SAAB, Fiat, Honda, Nissan, Subaru, and to a much lesser extent; Mazda.

Subarus top my personal list simply because the gripe list seemed to be longer than the others and had the longest list of owners who swore they would never buy another.
To add insult to injury, having to do warranty repairs for free on many of those gripes does influence one’s opinion.
Claim denied; ergo, problem never existed.

OK4450–I’m curious about how long ago you worked at a Subaru dealership.
I ask because I am now driving my third one, and since I am an extremely thrifty person who is not delusional, I would never have bought the second Subaru if the first one had not been more trouble-free than all of my previous cars (including–Honda, Ford, Chevy, Volvo, VW, and Dodge). And, obviously, I wouldn’t have bought Subaru #3 unless the second one was also a very good car.

My experience with the make begins with the 1997 model year, so I can’t speak from experience prior to that model year.
What model years were being sold when you were at the Subaru dealership?

Most reliable is the one that gets proper care.

Least reliable is the one that gets the least care.

Differences between manufacturers and models are far less than differences between proper care and poor care.

Worked for them back in the 80s and 90s. One was a stand alone Subaru dealership and the other 2 were multi-line franchises. None of them are in business today except for one (a mega-dealer) and he chose to drop the Subaru line altogether.

Many people have no problems with their Subarus at all. As I said, my perspective is based on listening to gripes all of the time and having to sort out those gripes for free.

A note about freebies which is a behind the scenes thing that many people do not see. Unless SOA has changed their policy in the last 15 or so years did you know they have, or used to have, a 1000 miles adjustment policy on automotive hiccups?
For the sake of discussion assume a Subaru owner has a car with 9k miles on it and brings it in for a loose wiper blade, door seal not keeping water out, and a rear hatch that needs adjustment.

Did you know that unless this problem was caused by a parts failure that warranty will not pay for it? It’s supposed to be customer pay at that point and unfortunately, many mechanics are coerced into repairing non-failure related problems for free.
The dealer is extremely hesitant to tell that Subaru owner with a near new car that he needs to open his pocketbook so the mechanic is generally the screwee in a deal like this. :frowning:

Yugo, 1st. Simca, 2nd. Renault, 3rd. Fiat, 4th. Of current cars of say the last 10 years - Volvo, 1st.

I’ve read lots of Land Rover horror stories: Freelanders, Discoveries, Range Rovers.


Yes, they have apparently changed that policy.
I have gotten free wheel alignments–on my '02 Outback at ~2k miles, and on my current '11 Outback at ~3.5k miles. I also got brake rotors replaced, gratis, on the '02 Outback after the Bumper-to-Bumper Warranty had–technically–run out, at ~35k miles.

Subaru’s current Bumper-to-Bumper Warranty (as of the 2010 MY) states that everything on the car–including wear items like wiper blades and brake pads–is covered under that 3 yr/36k Warranty.

The most unreliable foreign car I had was my 60 Morris Minor. Of course that might have been because it was all beat to heck before I got it. Second most unreliable was my 59 VW bug. Didn’t own another foreign one until 40 years later but my Acura has been trouble free.

Huh, just got a recall notice on my Acura for a power steering hose. No prob.

How can one judge reliability by name plate when manufacturers are free to slap them on cars made from anywhere ? There are few domestic vs foreign car maker comparisons.
Will you judge GM by the Chevy Aveo or the Pontiac Vibe / Matrix ? Each model from should be judge individually. Even Toyota has Chinese components for their Scion line, American and Japanses assembled cars and trucks of varying reliability.

Nobody has nominated Jaguar?

I can nominate MGs. Back when they were all over the place I made pretty good money working on them. Now that they are few and far between, and only driven on sunny Sundays, they give a lot less trouble.

Another that gets low marks is the Jaguar, although since they got away from Lucas electrical systems they are much better.

I owned a Yugo for one harsh winter when they were fairly new. It started every morning, and got me where I needed to go while getting about 30 MPG. I had no complaints, other than the seat that I found to be extrememly uncomfortable at 6’1". The only money I spent on it was for a new plastic gear for the rear wiper. It froze to the glass, and I made the mistake of turning it on. Made money when I sold it, and never looked back.

While I completely agree with dagosa that each model should be judged individually…There have been problems related to many models by one manufacturer.

Toyota’s Sludge problem of the late 90’s…and then most recently to their gas peddle problem…And lets not forget GM’s intake manifold problem that effected all V6’s and most of the V8’s.

While agree judging individual vehicles rather then a whole manufacturing make is far more accurate…there are trends and patterns that can be followed. A bigger problem to me is not just a problem a manufacturer may have…but how long it takes them to correct the problem. Sometimes the problem may not show up for a couple of years. So now you may have 2-3 years of production with vehicles with this problem. But once the problem does show up…how long does it take the manufacturer to solve the problem.

Least reliable? Land Rover. No contest.