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EAST HADDAM, Conn. — For the first time since Consumer Reports began tracking vehicle reliability in the 1970s, models from Detroit’s automakers rate higher than their European competitors, but they still trail Asia-based manufacturers.

Based on survey information covering 675,000 cars and trucks, the influential magazine says customers of Detroit-based automakers experienced 18 problems per 100 vehicles that are less than a year old. European automakers averaged 20 problems, while Japanese and South Korean brands experienced 12 problems.

The findings represent a dramatic reversal from previous years when Detroit automakers routinely were slammed in Consumer Reports surveys — a source of buyer information in 42 percent of all new vehicle purchases, the publication says.

“Some years ago, (Detroit) didn’t really take reliability that seriously,” said David Champion, senior director of Consumer Reports auto test department. “There were a lot of commercials about it and things like that, but they didn’t seem to really want to tackle the problem.”

But in the past few years, Champion added, “the domestic manufacturers have really come along strong.”

The magazine’s special autos issue goes on sale today.

Toyota Motor Co.p. placed four vehicles among Consumer Reports’ top picks in 10 categories. Among 2004 models, the publication’s recommended vehicle list features 21 products from Toyota and its Lexus luxury division — the highest total Consumer Reports has ever recorded for a single automaker.

Reliability, Champion said, is a key selling feature.

“The domestic manufacturers have seen that and have really put a lot of management pressure on getting it right,” he said.

Consumer Reports’ reliability data is derived from responses to surveys asking whether motorists experienced problems in 14 key trouble areas such as brake malfunctions, peeling paint, engines and transmissions. Electrical systems proved the most problematic overall, Champion said.

The magazine’s top picks and recommendations are determined by combining survey data with results of testing performed here at a converted drag strip owned by Consumer Reports.

Ford Motor Co. has the only double winner among Consumer Reports’ latest top picks. In its annual auto issue, Consumer Reports picked the Focus as the industry’s best small sedan, and its high-performance SVT version is rated most fun to drive.

Once plagued by more than a dozen recalls after its launch as 2000 model, the Focus has rebounded to become an industry benchmark.

About the time Focus stumbled out of the gate, Ford began to revamp its product launch and manufacturing procedures. The resulting quality improvements have saved the company $1.7 billion, Ford says.

“Quality is in the details,” Ford quality vice president Louise Goeser said. “There is no silver bullet.”

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magazine’s special autos issue goes on sale today.
Toyota Motor Co.p. placed four vehicles among Consumer Reports’ top picks in 10 categories. Among 2004 models, the publication’s recommended vehicle list features 21 products from Toyota and its Lexus luxury division — the highest total Consumer Reports has ever recorded for Good news for Detroit! But let's not get ****y; there's still a significant gap between Detroit and Toyota/Honda, not surprisingly. And GM trails Chrysler(!?).

"About the time Focus stumbled out of the gate, Ford began to revamp its product launch and manufacturing procedures. The resulting quality improvements have saved the company $1.7 billion, Ford says." Precisely! It only took you 20 years to realize that, but I'm glad you figured it out.

Bottom line, GM: there's cash directly (from less recalls, less warranty work, etc.) and indirectly (cars with stronger reputations that require less incentives to move off the lot, etc.) when you pay attention to quality.

It's kinda reaffirming to see Buick, for example with it's Park Avenue, earning reliability kudos. Now, if they could get their brand character and styling down, they would be a real force to be reckoned with.

Just a view random thoughts...
 

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tqaqnequam, please take the consumer reports information with a grain of salt. I disagree with this statement: "But let's not get ****y; there's still a significant gap between Detroit and Toyota/Honda, not surprisingly" There is still a significant gap between the perception of quality between Detroit and the ****, but the actual data per JD Power indicates that we are now spliting hairs. GM especially has really made some significant gains in quality over the last five years.

Now, I agree, we shouldn't get ****y, but I think we should start standing up for truth and not buy the load of crap that Consumer Reports puts out every year. They are the most Japanese biased publication out there.

Now, I do think that GM, Ford and Chrysler hurt themselves back in the 70's and 80's buy building poor quality vehicles. But that is in the past and the automotive press (and the car buying public) needs to acknowledge the change and start evaluating the product on their individual merit and not because they had an Accord or Camry in the 80's that went for 250,000 miles.... Who cares.

I have a 1996 Mercury Cougar that has given me 8 trouble free years and many good miles. I bet that Consumer Reports would say my car is a piece of crap and that I shouldn't have bought it. Frankly, I don't care. I have friends with Honda's that have had more trouble with their newer vehicles than I have had with mine.
 

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Originally posted by markform@Mar 9 2004, 06:58 PM
Do people not have a mind of their own? I think it is sad that people can't trust their own intuition and judgement. I would never be so stupid to buy an ugly car, just because some magazine told me to.
i think many people have nothing else to go on. i wouldn't want my mom to buy according to her intuition... she'd probably end up with a mercedes, thinking they're expensive so they have to be good. for people like her, unless they have someone guiding them along, they'll go with whatever they hear or read.

but in some cases, something like consumers report might be a good guide. there are tons of buyers who are as interested in whether or not the car will last as they are interested in what it looks like. since there are SO many average looking cars out there, it might be a good call for somone (such as my dear ma) to go by consumers report and not go by which car looks 'cuter', or has the bigger vanity mirror.
 

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While I agree that Consumer Reports is still biased towards the Japanese, this should be taken as something much more than just a casual "meant for the masses" article. For the first time in a very long while, the general press is beginning to catch on and admit that GM and Ford are not the same companies they were in the 70's and early 80's.

I'm disappointed in VW, though. They used to make some of the most reliable cars around, but things are slipping there. It's the unfortunate result of VW costs going up as they started to share more and more parts with Audi, but the quality of those parts has come down a bit. I'd still consider an Audi before any other foreign luxury car, though, simply because of the quattro system and the shear awesomeness of all their luxury amenities.

The article's content isn't as important as the shift in views that it represents. For such a publication to put a vehicle that was once berated for recalls (the Focus) as best in category for two categories (small sedan and fun to drive) shows that they are starting to open their eyes.
 

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Originally posted by awalbert88@Mar 9 2004, 08:10 PM
I'd still consider an Audi before any other foreign luxury car, though, simply because of the quattro system and the shear awesomeness of all their luxury amenities.
guess this goes to show that GM needs great product AND great quality. neither one alone will cut it, because for every consumer who looks at the quality report there's another (like awalbert88) who's more interested in what the car offers. good thing GM is addressing both concerns with its new lineups!
 

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Originally posted by boblutzfan@Mar 9 2004, 04:16 PM
tqaqnequam, please take the consumer reports information with a grain of salt. I disagree with this statement: "But let's not get ****y; there's still a significant gap between Detroit and Toyota/Honda, not surprisingly" There is still a significant gap between the perception of quality between Detroit and the ****, but the actual data per JD Power indicates that we are now spliting hairs. GM especially has really made some significant gains in quality over the last five years.

Now, I agree, we shouldn't get ****y, but I think we should start standing up for truth and not buy the load of crap that Consumer Reports puts out every year. They are the most Japanese biased publication out there.

Now, I do think that GM, Ford and Chrysler hurt themselves back in the 70's and 80's buy building poor quality vehicles. But that is in the past and the automotive press (and the car buying public) needs to acknowledge the change and start evaluating the product on their individual merit and not because they had an Accord or Camry in the 80's that went for 250,000 miles.... Who cares.

I have a 1996 Mercury Cougar that has given me 8 trouble free years and many good miles. I bet that Consumer Reports would say my car is a piece of crap and that I shouldn't have bought it. Frankly, I don't care. I have friends with Honda's that have had more trouble with their newer vehicles than I have had with mine.
I agree... somewhat. True, Consumer Reports is just one publication, and their reports are one in a set of many, but there is something to be said for a group of people who test products that they themselves purchase and then write about in a journal that does not accept money in the form of advertising dollars (read: unbiased, or at least less of a bias).

And I think it's very accurate of me to point out that one study does not allow for a slackening in Detroit's efforts at revamping quality. History supports my proposition that American car makers (and American companies, in general) are painfully focused on the next quarter, not the next decade. While today Detroit may emphasize continually improving quality, I'm not certain that that focus will change in a few years. Whether or not you want to admit it, the Japanese (more specifically Toyota and Honda), have relentlessly pursued quality year in and year out. Hence, they have high quality cars, just like some of the present offerings from GM, Ford, and ChryCo.

"...but the actual data per JD Power indicates that we are now spliting hairs." I guess we have different definitions of splitting "hairs." As an example, on the 2003 JD Power survey of cars that have been on the road for 3 years, Lexus scored 163 dphv (defects per hundred vehicles), Acura Scored 196, Toyota scored 201, and Honda scored 218.

Contrast that to Detroit's figures: Buick with 179, Lincoln with 212, and Cadillac with 209. In that case, that would be splitting hairs. However, when you add Mercury at 240, GMC at 269, Chevrolet at 272, Saturn at 273, Oldsmobile 283, Pontiac 293, Chrysler and Ford at 295, Plymouth at 302, Dodge 312, and Jeep at 321, that is not splitting hairs. That is real difference.

I completely agree with you that GM has made tremendous strides; that's part of the reason I have had 3 trouble-free GM vehicles over the past 9 years. It also supports my inclination to replace my current GM vehicle with a new one in a few years - but I'm going to choose wisely. If you pick and choose correctly, you can find American cars with terrific quality and reliability that exceed much of what the imports have to offer (Park Avenue, LeSabre, really any Lincoln, CTS, Prizm, and the like). The numbers back that up. However, to conclude that the difference between the average Toyota/Honda and the average Detroit vehicle is inconsequential is false. Anecdotal evidence is not good enough. We all know people with American cars that have soldiered on forever, myself included.

Sure, the quality of some Japanese makes (Nissan, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Isuzu, Suzuki) are nothing to write home about, but as long as there is an actual, tangible gap between Toyota and Honda, the press will forever remind us that the Japanese build better cars. In my mind, to end that debate, Detroit will need to *consistently* produce cars that match Toyota and Honda. Thus far, they have not done that. They're getting there, but they haven't arrived.

"...we should start standing up for truth and not buy the load of crap that Consumer Reports puts out every year." Agreed with the first part, but the second part isn't crap, per se. On average, Toyota and Honda build better cars. As Detroit replaces its older vehicles with newer ones, the gap continues to diminish, as we have seen with several quality studies. I have faith that they will match the best of Japan shortly, and this quality debate thankfully will become a moot point.

Again. right now, Detroit is not there... yet.
 

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"The Chevrolet Monte Carlo is the best American vehicle, the magazine said, and the Buick Regal is the most reliable family sedan. The magazine also now recommends the Buick Park Avenue and Rendezvous, and the Saturn L300."

This is the best news I've heard about the Monte Carlo since it grew some cajones in the Superchaged SS. It's nice to finally see it get some recognition and I hope the car survives when its platform mate, the Impala, is redesigned in 2008 or 2009. I assume that the Impala is equally regarded, since their are essentially the same car.

It's interesting to see that the L-series was included on the recommended list, seeing as how it is dead next year.

There is also something to be said for the Park Avenue. A nine-year-old design that can still hold its own is worthy of a proverbial pat on the back. I hope these recommendations can lend a hand in the resurrection of the Buck-eye.

As for the Japan-superiority issue, I wouldn't take it to heart, GM. While CR is a very reliable and objective (it has no reason to be biased) publication their results are weighed very heavily on the past experiences of owners so problems dating back to the early 90's still weigh very heavily in their assessments. Don't be surprised if it takes another decade to really make inroads in that department. And it is inevitable that we will.
 

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It's interesting to note that several of GM's top models come out of the same Oshawa plant. Right next door to the Sierra/Silverado plant. Hey, ironically, several of Honda's best cars come from Alliston.

The lesson? All of GM's plants need to hire Canadians so that the rest of their models soar straight to the top! Hell, we won't just stop with cars. Yep, the USA just needs more Canadians and we'll have your whole country in top shape!

Before you guys get mad, I'm just kidding. We love you guys and all your cars too (especially Cadillacs). Just don't forget to give us some credit when it comes time to celebrate beating the crap out of the rest of the world.

:eatarrow:



[P.S., Go Sens!]
 

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Originally posted by Jay@Mar 9 2004, 04:24 PM
It's interesting to note that several of GM's top models come out of the same Oshawa plant. Right next door to the Sierra/Silverado plant. Hey, ironically, several of Honda's best cars come from Alliston.

The lesson? All of GM's plants need to hire Canadians so that the rest of their models soar straight to the top! Hell, we won't just stop with cars. Yep, the USA just needs more Canadians and we'll have your whole country in top shape!

Before you guys get mad, I'm just kidding. We love you guys and all your cars too (especially Cadillacs). Just don't forget to give us some credit when it comes time to celebrate beating the crap out of the rest of the world.

:eatarrow:



[P.S., Go Sens!]
Yeah yeah... Canada is so much like the US that if there were an independent Canadian car maker, it would probably be considered domestic in the US anyway.
 

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:D As in my other thread, kudos to the people who put my 2004 Supercharged Monte Carlo together. Nothing but big red donuts (means better than average) in the reliability tables.
How about that! A car that is built in North America, has American styling and is right up there with Japanese reliability.
 

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Originally posted by awalbert88@Mar 10 2004, 06:24 AM
Yeah yeah... Canada is so much like the US that if there were an independent Canadian car maker, it would probably be considered domestic in the US anyway.
Well that's a nice thing to say.

Unfortuneatly - my own nightmares are forged from the though of our own domestic car company (the products mostly) :ph34r:. Then we'll probably get bought out by GM and tuned into a canadian saturn *shutters*.


Just give me an crate LS6+T56 or i'll step up the maple syurp attacks. ;)
 
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