The auto industry – reputations precede them

Before I begin, I want to make it clear that none of the companies I am writing about in this article have paid me to say or to not say anything in this article and the views I express here come from my own extensive knowledge and experience of automobiles and the automobile industry alone.

The automobile industry has been among other industries in the spotlight throughout this recession. Namely, the Big Three (GM, Ford and Chrysler) have been under intense scrutiny for being in bad shape financially and requiring the governments of the US mostly and a little from Canada to bail them out. For the record, Ford did not require bail outs but, they are put in the same basket as GM and Chrysler because of the same reasons that have hurt these three companies’ reputations. The reason these companies have earned bad reputations is because they have all made poorly built vehicles. Throughout the 90′s especially and in to the 2000′s, the big three have pumped out awfully built cars that have broken down, been recalled multiple times and have not had the life span as their Japanese and European competitors. While the American companies were reducing the quality of their cars, the Japanese companies and some European ones (Audi, VW and BMW) have improved theirs from where they were in the 80′s. Toyota has led this charge and has gained the reputation of being the best car company in the world in terms of quality.

Here is the problem with these rightfully earned reputations. The car industry is funny in how it works. The reputations various companies earn are actually about 10 years or so late. This means that you may have been led to believe that Ford and GM make terrible cars. If this was 1999/2000, you would have been correct, with very few exceptions (primarily Ford trucks and select GM trucks). However, it’s not 1999, it is 2009/2010 and the fact is that 2009/2010 models of Ford and GM vehicles, for the most part (not all their models are there yet) are very good in terms of quality and are actually BETTER than Toyota’s and Honda’s. Notice that I leave out Chrysler from this statement. That’s because unfortunately, other than very few models like the Chrysler 300 and Dodge Challenger, they still make poorly made vehicles and really need to step it up.

The Japanese on the other hand, specifically Toyota and Honda, which have benefited the most from a good reputation have been making more poorly made cars than they did 10 or 15 years ago. Three models come to mind that fit this example perfectly: Toyota Corolla, Toyota Camry and Honda Civic. The 1993-1999 versions of these cars were very well made. Putting aside the visual appeal of these cars, or lack thereof, these were three of the best cars on the road in terms of quality. However, if you take the 2003-present versions of these cars, the quality has diminished and has been surpassed by some Ford and GM models. In fact, if you were to tell me that you were in the market for a new small sedan and were thinking of Corolla or Civic, which you probably would unless you knew what I know or are American or Canadian and feel compelled to buy domestic, then depending on other variables of your particular case, I would recommend you stay away from those models and take a good look at the Ford Focus.

So now that you read this you can advance your knowledge forward 10 years and not let these companies’ reputations precede them. This will help you make the best decisions about your car purchases. Below is simple list that I have made to show you the REAL TIME quality of cars that the major car companies make. I used the levels: Better, Same and Worse and this is compared to where the general population thinks they are, which is really where they were about 10 years ago (e.g. GM is better now than their reputation says):

GM                   Better
Ford                 Better
Chrysler         Same
Toyota            Worse
Honda             Worse
Nissan            Worse-Same
(really depends on model)
Mazda            Worse-Same
(to some, Mazda never reached Toyota/Honda status, but haven’t slipped either)
Audi                Same
BMW              Same
Mercedes     Better
(they actually have a somewhat bad reputation because they owned Chrysler for some years)
VW                  Better
(have a spotty reputation due to poorly made cars made in Mexico in the 90′s and early 2000′s but now is slightly better)

If you would like to know about a particular model or company not on this list, please ask in the comments section.