Car RANT

Bozo

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Some years ago I was a ASE certified master mechanic. I moved on to other jobs but I still do most of the work on my own cars.

A couple of weeks ago I put a new timming belt on a 98 Contour. Today I installed a new water pump on a 2000 Grand Cherikee.
After my experiances with these two cars, I can say without hesitation, the BIG 3 deserve to be loosing market share to the Japanese and Koreans. The engineering staff of both these companies blows goats, and sucks donkey balls.

(if I was rating these on my Excedrin scale, I would need a dump truck load)

Don't get me wrong. I'm a Red, White, and Blue kinda guy; Vietnam vet, flag waving American. But.....my next car will be a Toyota. The BIG 3 don't deserve my money.

Bozo :joker:
 

ddrueding

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I couldn't agree more. I was helping a friend drop the motor on his 1997 Cavalier Z and it was an absolute nightmare. He's an ex-airforce crew chief (F-117s) and said the biggest PITA was his car.
 

Clocker

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Based on your experience, what does Toyota do better? And the big question...what is a timming belt? :)
 

Bozo

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Timming belt: a ruubber belt with notches ( similar to a square wave) in it that turns the camshaft(s). Generally they need to be replaced at some regular interval. When they break, the motor doesn't run.

Basically, the engineers at Toyota kept the mechanic in mind when designing their cars. Replacement of 'normal wear' parts is generally easier. This lowers the overall cost of the vehicle, if you run it past the warrenty period.
In the case of the Contour, the cam cover had to be removed (more Labor) and a new cam cover gasket had to be purchased (more parts cost) just to set the cam timming.
Of the few Toyotas I'm familier with, the cam timing can be set without removing the cam cover. (less cost) And, fewer Excedrin.
And I believe there is a longer interval between timming belt replacements on the Toyotas. (less overall cost)

Bozo :joker:
 

Clocker

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So.....you're going to base a future purchase decision on your difficulty in servicing two vehicles that you are not properly trained to work on, that are 9 & 7 years old and both no longer in production. There might be better criteria to use when making your purchase decision.

I've worked on several high mileage domestics changing an alternator, brakes, water pump, fuel injectors and a radiator (after an accident) and never had any problem so I guess it depends on the particular make/model you're working on (I've never been considered 'certifiable' in any way except by my wife).

Domestics are not perfect by any margin but Toyota isn't any better. The media loves Toyota and everyone flocks to them like sheep but they are definitely having their problems. They can't handle their growth and you can see it in their product:

http://www.lemonauto.com/complaints/toyota/toyota_scion.htm

http://www.detnews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20060719/AUTO01/607190391/1148

http://www.consumeraffairs.com/recalls04/2006/toyota_suvs.html

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20060718/ap_on_bi_ge/japan_toyota_recall

http://www.automobilemag.com/am/2007/toyota/fj_cruiser/recalls.html

http://www.detnews.com/2005/autosinsider/0509/08/C01-307688.htm


Many ot Toyota's sheep will probably argue what a great company they are for looking out for them and performing the recalls but at the same time argue that recalls on domestics are a sign of poor quality. I hope this recall shows that Toyota really doesn't care:

http://money.cnn.com/2006/07/11/autos/bad_recall/index.htm

And, as a result, Toyota is below industry average on Satisfaction (notice there is not one GM brand below industry average):

http://www.jdpower.com/studies_jdpower/pressrelease.asp?StudyID=1150

Yes, Toyota and most of the other new foreign makers make very good product, and that's why domestics are losing share. But that happens in any market where there are more and more choices for the consumer. There is a perceived quality misconception that the foreign makers are better. They aren't.
 

P5-133XL

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All I can say is my 96 Honda Accord has yet to give me any problems. The only money I've had to place into it is brakes; tires; oil changes; and regularly scheduled maintenance. I have never had a domestic car do nearly as well over a 10 year time period. Matter of fact, most, that I've owned (almost all purchased used), haven't lasted 10 years...

Now, I'm not a mechanic and this is just one example, so you can discount my anecdotal evidence. But it is what it is.

Clocker,

I understand, as part of the American car industry you feel the need to defend it. You may be right, that domestic cars are as good as Toyota or Honda. However, that hasn't been my limited experiance. Further, because the last car I bought was 10 years ago, there has been plenty of time for the domestic brands to have improved to the level or exceed the level of foreign brands. I think you are fighting an uphill battle.

As I look through Consumer Reports reliabilty rates for different brands and models, I come to some conclusions. In general, all cars are better than they were 10 years ago. Also, Honda and Toyota are signifigently much better than average and I would argue better, on average, than Chevrolet, Dodge/Chrysler, Ford, GMC, Oldsmobile/Pontiac. Now mind you, a specific american model can do well on this survey but in general when comparing brands it looks outright bad for the pro Americian car arguement.

Now this is but one survey, but I could argue that it is one that is used my many many Americian consumers when deciding to purchase a car. I think that it has been used by so many, as an independant judge, for so many years that it may actually have signifigently shaped Americian thinking regarding this issue.
 

Bozo

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Having anyone in Detroit writing about or commisioning a survey of the Japanese manufactures, is like MS writing about or commisioning a survey about Linux. ;-)
A freind bought a used Toyota truck. At 190,000+ miles he was having some trouble that he could not diagnose himself. He took it to the local Toyota dealer to have them check it out. They told him that the head gasket was blown and that it would be covered under warrenty. Seems there was a recall when the truck was new for the head gasket, and it was never done on this truck. The dealer honored the warrenty/recall for the second owner with 190,000+ miles.
I bought a new Ranger. I could not get anything fixed under warrenty. I was lied to and treated like an idiot. Long story short: I ended up suing Ford.
The 2000 Grand Cherikee has 65,000 miles on it. Garage kept. The plastic (vynal) in the interier is starting to crack and peel. Some of the electronics don't work any more. The radio speakers are shot. Parts of the door hinges had to be replaced. Now a water pump. You call this Quality??

Bozo :joker:
 

Will Rickards

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Clocker said:
There is a perceived quality misconception that the foreign makers are better.
First, I have to say I have the opinion and personal experience that foreign makers (specifically honda & toyota) are better quality.

Second, Let's take the 90's honda accords out of the picture. I think this is quite an exceptional car that honda got right early on and just kept producing. I think they've since screwed it up at least on the looks/interior.
I owned a 94 honda accord and bought it for over bluebook and could have sold it for over blue book (I sold it for the high blue book value). And aside from normal maintenance it only needed a compressor and an exhaust.

Like Mark said you are fighting an uphill battle trying to convince people that domestic and foreign cars have the same quality. Not only because consumer reports ratings are, I believe, historical in nature but also people's opinions on cars are typically formed from their last car purchase which can be 10+ years for some folk. So what was the situation 10 or 20 years ago. At that point I'd say the quality wasn't the same. That is why Toyota has so much market share now.

Consider my recent auto purchase of a Toyota Sienna (mini-van).
The personal experience I have that was most forefront in eliminating domestics from my purchase decision was that of my wife's parent's minivan. This was a dodge caravan. The original model from like 85. That thing was a POS. It literally fell apart while they were driving it. And they kept fixing it. A few years ago they finally replaced it. My wife's aunt has the model from a few years after the initial one. It has lasted better, even still running and in use. But it still had problems.

My wife's parents replaced it with a used ford explorer, even after the rollover debacle and huge recall of tires. I wouldn't expect anyone to be buying that car after that. Compared to the caravan the quality on this car is far better. But compared to the new ford they bought, freestyle I think - the smaller version of the explorer, it doesn't look great.

So people have historical bad experiences with domestics. They have been improving. But then they buy a used foreign car or a new one, and it is leagues better in terms of maintenance costs and just feel of quality - how the interior, exterior, and engine holds up. And this is reflected in blue book values. It isn't just a perceived lower quality of domestics, look at the blue book values for used cars. Domestics lose their value much faster.

Which leads to the next argument for higher sales of foreign makes, the rise of the auto lease. Auto leasing is all about depreciation. You want a car that will not lose its value during the life of the lease. Otherwise you are financing a larger amount of money. By minimizing depreciation, you minimize the difference between the initial cost (capitalized cost) and the agreed upon depreciated value. Thus minimizing the amount of the loan and your monthly payments. This leads people to lease high value cars like BMW or Toyota or Honda.

So domestic makes counter this by offerring employee pricing, lowering the value of their cars? I think domestics are caught by two cycles that they can't get out of. That of historical quality perceptions and the used car value problem. The only way I see domestics making a comeback is if they do something that significantly increases fuel economy. And by significant I don't mean beat Toyota by 5 miles to the gallon.
 

Clocker

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Anecdotal evidence that doesn't really say anything about current products. I guess you could base your next CPU purchase on how the AMD K5 performed but I doubt you'll do that. Over the past 5 years or so, I have really experienced a change in GM that will continue to prove the import lovers wrong. :)

I can't comment too much about Chrysler. It's not even a domestic any more, technically, since merging with DCX. But, being a GM employee, I can't understand why they have not improved the quality of their executions as we have. My dad retired from Chrysler and I enjoy giving him crap at every opportunity.

All I can say is that I know we're doing the right things here at GM. Otherwise, I can't imagine why Nissan, Fiat and even Toyota are trying to build 'alliances' with us. I know they certainly have more to gain than GM does. (GM is already allied with Toyota to an extent.)

http://yahoo.businessweek.com/globalbiz/content/jul2006/gb20060725_130890.htm

http://money.cnn.com/2006/07/16/news/international/gm_toyota/index.htm
 

Buck

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The issue isn't performance, it is reliability. I do avoid certain computer brands for that very reason, as I know you do too. Now, if GM's quality or reliability has increased, it will become evident to everyone as the years roll by. If this is what happens, then eventually, I would be persuaded to purchase a GM product.

As far as import cars and reliablility . . . yes, in general Asian imports are more reliable. European imports are a truly mixed bag, with some brands like Volkswagen and Mercedes at the bottom. Volkswagen and Mercedes are also in the same position as GM and are slowly improving there quality. However, I'm not going to purchase a new one until I see that steady trend for a few years.
 

Will Rickards

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Clocker said:
Anecdotal evidence that doesn't really say anything about current products. I guess you could base your next CPU purchase on how the AMD K5 performed but I doubt you'll do that. Over the past 5 years or so, I have really experienced a change in GM that will continue to prove the import lovers wrong. :)
Come on now that analogy doesn't hold up for exactly the reasons I was trying to convey. You can't really compare a car purchase which is probably at every 2-3 years for the die hard lease people and for most everyone else probably 5-10 maybe 20 years to a cpu purchase which for us enthusiasts is every 2 years. The time difference is the big issue. People's perceptions of current cars are influenced by OLD experiences. That is probably a big generalization but I think it is true. Not to mention cars don't double gas mileage every two years like cpus double processing power.

GM? .... well let's talk about my 99 saturn SL2 which I drive to work and which used to be my wife's car... I'll give it not a glowing review but a positive one. It has held up pretty well and it has been through a lot. Sure the ceiling fabric is dangling down and the front bumper is falling off but those are from mistakes we made with the car. Like getting a moonroof and leaving it open when it rains quite a few times. Lara had to get aftermarket moonroof put in by the dealer as they had none in stock with the factory one. And driving over the cement barriers in the front of parking spaces and then backing out and in the process removing the front bumper.

But honestly when I go to purchase the saturn's replacement, I'll probably lease and I'll be first looking at depreciation costs. I might consider a GM but probably not a saturn.
 

ddrueding

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I actually have good things to say about most of the cars I've bought in the past. My current VW has 105k miles in 3 years, without anything more than Oil and Tire changes in the last 85,000 miles! Other cars I've had for significant amounts of time/distance were an Audi S4, Porsche 911, Porsche 944 Turbo, and a Dodge Neon. The only car I had problems with was the Neon; it lasted just over 1 year and 22,000 miles before them number of breakdows exceeded lemon law standards and I got my money back. As you can imagine, I'm a fan of european cars.
 

LunarMist

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I am not convinced that there will even be any American automobile manufacturers left by the time I need to buy another car. Ford and GM would probably be sold off to the Chinese, Koreans, or European conglomerates, etc. by then.
 

Tannin

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I can't comment on American cars (obviously) but I can reflect on my experience with the products of at least one American car maker, in its Australian guise. (The actual manufacturing, in the case of the car I've bought two of, is, I think, done in Spain; the engine is made in Australia and shipped over there. Presumably they get all sorts of other components from other countries too, including the US.)

Quality problems? Zilch, zip, nada. Two Holden Barinas (i.e., General Motors products), 100,000k+ on each of them, and the worst thing I had happen was needing some graphite squirted on the window winders of the green one at around 30,000k because they had become a little stiff. I was 100% happy with the reliability and the build quality.

(Wait on, there was another problem: the blue one started running a little rough at about 20,000k and lost some power - still perfectly drivable but the "please take me to a service agent" light came on. So I did, and they did something obscure and mechanical with an engine part I forget the name of but which had to do with sending ignition timing signals to the distributor and I had it back a couple of hours later. Cost nothing, of course.

Then there was the rat in the accessory belt: that cost me money; "remove chewed-through belt, remove squashed rat, fit new belt", it said on the invoice. Can't blame GM for that one!

Also the comprehensively destroyed rear shocker. Can't blame GM for that one either: considering the number of miles I did down outback roads that the poor little blue car was never designed for in the first place, it's amazing how well it stood up to it all. Kristi drives it now and it's still going just fine. Great car. Good one, GM.
 

ddrueding

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Will Rickards said:
I thought everyone knew that dodge neons were POS.
I'm not sure why people buy them. Are they really cheap or something?
If you buy a car new for under $10k, you know it's a POS. You know it's a POS and you buy it anyway. I was poor and needed a car; I regret the decision.
 

Tannin

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Now I want to say something else about GM cars. GM's attention to detail and to the finer touches of design is outstanding. I'm driving a Subaru now: excellent vehicle, nothing matches it as a refined, comfortable, roomy, relatively economical 4WD that eats the terrible outback roads I travel without the slightest fuss or bother, and cruises on the freeway like it was built for it. Subaru is a byword for quality, reliability, and ridiculously high resale value.

But when you get down to the finer touches, GM products beat the Subaru pointless. Things like detail design of the airflow around the A pillars; radio and heater controls that you never have to think about, just operate without taking your eyes off the road; getting the instrument lighting just so (I do many, many miles in the outback at night and this really matters to me); and so on. I don't know how many extra millions GM spend doing this stuff that no-one ever notices in the showroom, only after 10,000 kilometres of daily use, but I'm sure it's a substantial amount, and it shows.

I'll doubtless replace the Subaru with another Forester when the time comes (hell, I practically get a brand new one for nothing when you look at how much they go for second-hand), but largely because GM don't make the sort of car I need. Don't get me wrong, I really like the Subaru, it has been wonderfully reliable and practical, and off the tarmac there is nothing made that matches it, but I'd still rather that the final touches came out of GM's design house.
 

mubs

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I'm a fan of Toyota, but have been apalled at how they've handled some problems. There's the well known design problem with V6 engines of the late 90's / early 2000's where the engine would die at 30k miles, be under warranty and they would refuse to fix it, claiming user negligence (oil pressure).

Leaving Bozo's original post aside, I think the issue is that we are trying to paint in broad brushstrokes here. A car is a major expense for most of us (except the likes of Supercaff, DD, etc.). So, personally speaking, I'd rather jump for a Japanese car than take a chance on a non-Japanese one.

You do have situations in other countries where a given manufacturer (even GM, or say, a domestic mfr with a tie-up) is ahead of the Toyotas and Hondas in terms of quality / reliability / serviceability, and these mfrs then dominate that market.

I'm no mechanic, but it has always been my impression that imports are a lot more labor-intensive to maintain than domestics. I've had to pay $210 to have a $2 steering washer replaced on a Honda (or was it a Toyo?).

The flip side of this is, how many Japanese cars do you see stalled on the road? The additional purchase price and higher maintenance cost is worth the absolute peace of mind that comes with a (in my case) 100% reliable vehicle.

Pre 1994, not once, but 3 times have I rescued a stranded relative in my basic Honda Civic (a/c and AT, nothing else, not even a radio) when his BMW 735 iL broke down at various embarassing locations! :king: :eek:wneddnce:
 

Splash

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In reference to GM, Ford, or Chysler, the 2006 Chevrolet Malibu and Aveo models are both worthy US-made automobiles -- even pitted against the Japanese imports.

 

Splash

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Bozo said:
The Malibu and Aveo are re-skined SAAB platforms.

Bozo :joker:
I figured the Aveo was a "joint venture" with someone, but not the Malibu.

That one Malibu model that's sort of a hybrid between a sedan and a wagon is quite interesting.

I would like to see the Chevrolet Matiz (or the Pontiac Matiz) come to the USA. I heard that some Chinese company basically "duplicated" the Chevy Matiz and are now trying to export it (GM is blocking such).



 

Bozo

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I believe I read where GM bought SAAB a few years ago. That explains why SAABs and Cadilacs are sold at the same dealership.

Bozo :joker:
 
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