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Have Cars Reach the Max in Reliability, is this the best it can be?

reddogsreddogs Member Posts: 353
This is as good as it gets for auto buyers and owners, so says Consumer Reports. It had the Honda Civic, Accord and Ridgeline amoung CR's top pick in vehicles and it seems it cant get any better. The top brands have stopped getting better and the others have stopped or are reaching a peak in reliability, the magazine's data for the past five years show.

"It could indicate that the most-reliable new cars have reached a practical limit as to how trouble-free they can become," according to Consumer Reports April auto issue.

Have we reached perfection to the Nth degree and cant get no farther in terms of level of quality, well thats what it looks like, check it out.

http://www.usatoday.com/money/autos/2006-03-01-consumer-reports-reliability_x.ht- m


  • bumpybumpy Member Posts: 4,425
    No, there's always room for improvement... if you're willing to pay for the overengineering, higher-quality parts, and additional quality control.

    Reliability to a price point? Yes, some builders have gone about as far as they can go in the current automaking environment.
  • ubbermotorubbermotor Member Posts: 307
    As they can go a long way yet in durability, I'd say they have a lot of room for improvement.
  • andre1969andre1969 Member Posts: 25,684
    roughly 29 years ago, Consumer Reports listed the following complaints about the newly-downsized Chevrolet Impala... "None significant enough to mention".

    Now, a 1977 Impala was a pretty damned good car for the time in which it was produced, but just imagine if we took the same attitude back then, thinking that cars had gotten as good as they will ever get! Now for awhile they actuall got WORSE!! Like later in the 70's and a good deal of the 80's, and even some stragglers in the 90's.

    Basically it depends on what you want, though. You could nurse those old cars along almost indefinitely, because even the most expensive components, like the engines and trannies, usually weren't that costl to replace. And they were relatively simple. They could go on forever, but nickel and dime you to death along the way. Cars today are just the opposite. They can last a long time, and usually don't break down nearly as often, but when they do it usually hits the wallet hard.
  • anythngbutgmanythngbutgm Member Posts: 4,277
    With the constant influx of new features for safety, security, performance and entertainment, there is always the risk of reliability issues. Combine that with the flooded market and I expect some of the most reliable and durable products are on the way from any of the Automakers (Although the Chinese have a bit to prove still) but I don't expect 100% flawless all the time from every make and model.

    Things look great, but they can always be better. :blush:
  • andre1969andre1969 Member Posts: 25,684
    we don't realize how bad we've got it until we experience something better. The 14.4k modems are a prime example. Of course, sometimes a website will have a bad connection or get some kind of other problems, or just have too much traffic, or get so complex that even with a DSL or T3 connection, it still takes forever. So then, in our mind we might wonder how far we've really come from the old 14.4k modems. Nevermind the fact that the things we're having problems with may have been flat-out impossible to even CONCEIVE with a 14.4k modem.

    Now in some respects, cars may have gotten about as good as they're going to be. For instance, you can only make a car take off so fast because of the laws of physics and time. It simply gets harder to accomplish each additional increment in speed. For example, it's not that hard to take a car that does 0-60 in 10 seconds and redesign it for 9. but then, going from 9 to 8 is harder. Harder still from 8 to 7, 7 to 6, and from 6 to 5. Taking a 5 second car and turning it into a 4 second car is probably damned near impossible. And then going to a 3 second car would probably kill you!

    Likewise with fuel economy. In the 70's it was rare to find a big V-8 car that could break 20 mpg on the highway. Today it's common to find a large-ish V-6 car that can hit 30, and outperform those 20 mpg V-8's of days gone by (and even many of the <10 mpg V-8's!). But then, let's see how much it takes to get something like a Lucerne, Avalon, 500, or Chrysler 300 to break the 40 mpg barrier! AND still retain some semblance of performance. AND do it cost-effectively.

    Reliability will always be a funny thing, partly because people mix it up with durability. And also, not all examples of the same model are equally reliable. For example, when they say the Toyota Camry is rated "much better than average", there are still a certain percent of them, no matter how small, that will merely be average. And a few of them will be total pieces of junk. Cars have always been like this.

    So it's entirely possible for me to go from my 2000 Intrepid, which CR usually rated around average for that year, to a new Camry which consistently gets high marks, yet still end up with an inferior car. How? Well, my Camry could be one of the few that happens to sludge up, or drops its tranny prematurely or whatever.

    It's instances like this that make people think stuff like "Oh, they don't build 'em like they used to" or "CR is full of poop", etc.
  • ubbermotorubbermotor Member Posts: 307
    I'm not arguing your point, but John Force has done the 1/4 mile in 4.6 seconds (@333mph), so I think a 3 second 0-60 is servivable.
  • nippononlynippononly Member Posts: 12,555
    yes. Because this market has gone beyond the point of saturation and is now well into flood stage, which has all the carmakers scrambling to do what? Cost-cut, then cost-cut some more, and then some more. That will continue ad infinitum as far as I can see. Reliability will not improve again until they stop relentlessly trying to chase costs out of every aspect of their operations. Cheaper is almost never more reliable, more durable, or better.

    2014 Mini Cooper (stick shift of course), 2016 Camry hybrid, 2009 Outback Sport 5-spd (keeping the stick alive)

  • andre1969andre1969 Member Posts: 25,684
    that's a good point, about the cost-cutting. I could see more thing happening along the lines of the throwaway rotors they use nowadays on cars. They warp if you look at them funny, but on the plus side they're cheap and easy to replace, so I guess it's a draw. I had to put new front rotors on my Intrepid around 98,000 miles. But I was able to do it myself. Total cost was around $83.00, including new front pads.

    In contrast, the last time I had to buy one of those old-fashioned, big, bulky, one-piece rotor was back in 1997, for a '79 Newport. Suckers were around $90 apiece. Plus the labor to put them on. I didn't want to deal with repacking the wheel bearing and making sure everything was just right. But with these newer 2-piece assemblies, you just pop off two little clips and the rotor slides off as easy as a tire.

    I'm sure there are plenty of instances though, where the cost cutting has no up-side. I know this is a stupid little nitpick, but it pisses me off that the new Charger has a hood prop! I have NEVER owned a Mopar with a hood prop! :mad: Actually, I take that back, I think my '88 LeBaron had a prop rod, but hell that wasn't a real Mopar anyway. :P
  • reddogsreddogs Member Posts: 353
    So in your opinion you should buy cars and trucks now as reliability is going to see a falloff in the coming model years and this IS AS GOOD AS IT GETS. Get it while the electronics and wiring is top notch and before the price slashing begins, and before the beancounters start looking to give the parts contracts to the lowest bidder......... :shades:
  • socala4socala4 Member Posts: 2,427
    ...it can't continue to improve over the long run. Engineering and design processes may improve, and manufacturers will develop superior assembly techniques.

    But improvements may plateau over the short run, cost-cutting measures may contribute to that leveling effect, and the rate of improvement may slow significantly from what it once was. In time, the improvements may be so modest that they vary very little from year to year. If we reach that point soon, we may find ourselves benefiting from a new renaissance in design, as manufacuturers may no longer be able to use quality as a unique competitive advantage. (If everyone's quality becomes roughly equal, quality won't be a way to distinguish one's self from one's rivals.)
  • bumpybumpy Member Posts: 4,425
    Get it while the electronics and wiring is top notch and before the price slashing begins, and before the beancounters start looking to give the parts contracts to the lowest bidder...

    I think we've already sailed well past that point. The major Japanese makes hit it about 15 years ago, and the domestics about four decades ago.
  • nippononlynippononly Member Posts: 12,555
    got there before me. There is no question in my mind that while the numbers are just peaking now, the best years are at least a decade behind everyone, including the first tier Japanese. The race to reduce costs began in the early 90s and accelerated after 1995.

    I wish I were more familiar with the exact numbers. I am willing to bet that Toyota and Honda have not improved their actual rate of defects and repairs more than a few percent since, say, 1995. Many of the other manufacturers have gradually caught up, while Nissan went through hard times and its numbers dropped way down.

    I expect that from here on out other companies will bounce around on the list as they make good cost-cutting decisions followed by bad ones, while Toyota and Honda will stay fairly consistently at the top of the list, but stagnating in actual defect rates.

    2014 Mini Cooper (stick shift of course), 2016 Camry hybrid, 2009 Outback Sport 5-spd (keeping the stick alive)

  • reddogsreddogs Member Posts: 353
    Wow, so its all downhill from here, I have noticed that on some models the options seemed to be left out or less of the "Value" models being offered lately....... :(
  • nippononlynippononly Member Posts: 12,555
    yeah, I think that's next on the list for the domestics, while for the Japanese that happened 5-7 years ago, and they have been recovering a little since then.

    2014 Mini Cooper (stick shift of course), 2016 Camry hybrid, 2009 Outback Sport 5-spd (keeping the stick alive)

  • ubbermotorubbermotor Member Posts: 307
    Technology will continue to lower the cost to lower tolerances, and improve built quality and structual design. On the other hand new technology will always be the source of lower "reliability" as they add unproven features.

    The problem with numbers is the type of features my mother referred to as "fru-fru", meaningless to the operation of the product. If your seat warmer breaks down, is it less reliable than a car that never had one?
  • marc781marc781 Member Posts: 25
    Maybe new cars have reached max reliability. For one reason i suspect, who are they designed by? Auto companies.

    Ask yourself what is more likely?
    1) auto companies wantto make a car so reliable no one buys new and they go out of business.
    2) auto companies will deliberately design in just enough defects (*cough* FORD *cough*) and fast wearing parts to make you want to get rid of it at 150k and buy another one.
  • 210delray210delray Member Posts: 4,721
    Number 1 is very likely, but instead of people holding on to their cars, they will still trade frequently to have the latest and greatest. Just check out "Chronic Car Buyers Anonymous" in Edmunds.

    Number 2 was the case when your basic choice was limited to the Big Three, but those days are long gone. Now after your problematic Ford (or VW), you will go with Toyota and Honda.

    I myself sold a very reliable car when it was still going strong (a '97 Camry with 111K miles) to get an '04 Camry with side curtain airbags (unavailable on the '97).
  • carlisimocarlisimo Member Posts: 1,280
    I don't think there is a "maximum reliability" that will ever be reached. But the reliability of cars has reached a pleateau.
    It's a balance between reliability and sophistication. Over time both do increase together, but if you increase one quickly, the other is likely to decrease.
  • rockyleerockylee Member Posts: 14,014
  • andre1969andre1969 Member Posts: 25,684
    I just glanced through that article, and honestly, I think one of the main reasons cars last longer these days is improvements in things like gasoline, oil, antifreeze, other fluids, etc. Plus, I think people just tend to take better care of their cars these days.

    Another factor is that people tend to drive more, so issues that are more age-related than mileage-related tend to happen at a higher mileage. And issues that arise from NOT being driven, like moisture, dry rot, fluids settling and getting contaminants in them, etc, don't come up as often.

    They've also learned a few tricks with regards to building cars that are less prone to rusting. It's not just improved rustproofing techniques, but cars built with fewer nooks and crannies for water and debris to gather, trap moisture, and cause rust. For example, trunk floors no longer have those little drop-offs on either side, where junk and moisture can collect down in the quarter panel. These days, the quarter panel usually ends at trunk level, and anything below it is just plastic from the wraparound rear fascia. And all that chrome they used to put on cars was attached with clips, bolts, holes drilled through the sheetmetal, etc. It would trap moisture, dirt, etc, but also the chrome would actually cause a chemical reaction with the sheetmetal, causing it to rust. Vinyl tops were also notorious for trapping moisture underneath, or at the trim around the edges of the vinyl.

    Garages are also much more commonplace today than in years gone by, although their effect on making cars last longer is dubious at best, as many garages end up filled with junk, while the cars sit out in the driveway.
  • thethirdeyethethirdeye Member Posts: 3
    IMO, the peak reliability of cars was in the 70's, 80's and early 90's, by cars such as the Honda Civic, Honda Accord, Honda CR-X, Acura Integra, Acura Legend, Acura Vigor, Toyota Celica, Toyota Corolla, Toyota MR2, Toyota Camry, Nissan 300ZX, Nissan 240SX, Nissan Sentra, Nissan Stanza, Nissan Altima to name a few. Especially the 70's and 80's Hondas, the only thing that seemed to kill those cars was the rust, not the actual mechanical components. Now-a-days, there just seems to be more things that can go wrong, as we try to add more and more (in my opinion, usually nonsensical) features, that aren't really necessary.
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