Domestic vs. Japanese cars

Messages
3,051
Location
The Northeast
We all know the debate about American vs. Japanese car quality is a contentious one. Over the years, I have owned cars from both and here is my take: Back in 1991, I bought a new Ford Taurus off the lot. The Taurus had great reviews at the time and I thought it would be a great car. At 3000 miles, the radiator burst on the highway and left my family and I stranded with a pool of coolant under the car. At 15000 miles, the AC compressor went out. At 20k miles, the front wheel bearings were shot. From day one, the cruise control never worked right and the dealership could never figure out the problem. At 37k miles, the radiator went out again. Ford told me I was out of luck since the 3 yr/36k warranty was up. At 40k miles, the driver window motor went out and this was the last straw for me. I dumped the car for a new Camry. Outside of regular maintenance, I never had any issues with the Camry. Sure, it wasn't the most exciting thing but it was a car I always trusted and felt safe with. In 1998, with the family growing I decided to jump on the new craze sweeping America- Chrysler minivans. Nearly every house on my block had one in the driveway and people had nothing but praises for it. I bought a new Plymouth Grand Voyager and was pretty impressed with it at first. But then the problems began; At 16k miles, the transmission went out. At 25k miles, the tie rod ends began separating and was caught during an oil change at the Chrysler dealership. Like deja vu, the AC compressor went out luckily a few months before the warranty expired. At 45k miles, both rear shocks blew out. The wipers also became possessed, turning on whenever they felt like it. At 50k miles, the transmission bit the dust, again. When the exhaust developed a leak, I had it and sold the money pit off. I tried giving American cars a chance but both times, they failed me miserably. I rotate cars every 3-4 yrs and would have happily given the Big 3 my business if my experiences would have been better. Since then, I swore off these guys completely and bought exclusively Japanese. My 02 Accord with 166k miles has been the best car I have ever owned. Besides routine maintenance, it has been solid. It still has all original electrical, mechanical and suspension/steering components and drives silky smooth at 75 mph with no rattles. I bought an 02 Infiniti I35 last year and it too is a great, reliable car. I currently own a 2013 Honda Pilot which so far is very impressive. The Big 3 had an arrogant attitude back in the 80s the and 90s, which is why their quality suffered. When their feets got held to the fire a few years back only then did they try making a comeback and focus more on quality. But I don't know how good it is going to do them now; I personally don't care how much they say they are "new and improved" today, they have lost a customer for life who suffered from their low quality products in the 90s. Don't get me wrong though, there has been a recent downturn in quality from the Japanese. The newer Honda and Toyota vehicles just aren't built the same way they used to be. Their interiors have gotten more cheap and they suffer from mechanical issues unheard of in their older counterparts. I worry about the state of the auto industry overall and don't know which truly reliable brand is left anymore.
 
Last edited:
Messages
11,196
Location
NY Capital District
IMO Basing your current car purchase decisions off of two of the worst representatives of American cars over the years, especially one from 22 years, and 15 years ago respectively... Seriously, you bought the Taurus before I was born. We've had nothing but American cars except for my CX-5, and the only the only problems we had were when the cars were old and the problem common (The ignition coils on the Expedition) or were our fault. (The transmission on the Wrangler after submerging it and then a poorly done rebuild) My first focus? 20k miles, zero problems. Cruze? 16k miles, only "problems" were transmission programming. The 11 Equinox- 17k miles, no problems. Our 07 Mustang, 37k at time of trade, no problems. 99 wrangler, only problems were ones that we instigated by making it off road capable and actually off roading.
 
Messages
9,783
Location
Saskatoon canada
The 2 American cars you had problems with I found were almost unkillable. I had a Taurus with a dohc 3.0 I think and that car went 300k when I sold it and it still had some life left in it,although not enough to make it worth putting any money into it. Then Chrysler mini-vans have always been good to me. I've had 2 with the 3.0 engine,one with the Mitsubishi 4 cylinder which I read much bad press but always ran good for me. Then we had a voyager with a 3.3. That one wasn't as great as all the ones i had previously but wasn't to painful to operate. So that's too bad you are soured on domestics,I've never had any rear problems with any I've owned however I've never bought new,so I never waded into unknown waters in that respect. Now that I think about it I've never bought an import. Only domestics. And I've never had a repair I wasn't expecting.
 
Messages
705
Location
WV
Look at history for some answers. After WWII Japan had absolutely no choice but to improve and change for the better in moving forward. They even have a word for that: Kaizen
 

mclasser

Thread starter
Messages
3,051
Location
The Northeast
Those who have only bought domestics and never had problems, more power to you. For me, the two I bought new and were best sellers of the time turned out to be duds. These companies left a bad taste in my mouth which is why I will most likely never return to them. I think since the mid-2000s, the Japanese manufacturers have started losing their way. Before then, their cars were so great due to the core principles the Japanese abide by, like Kaizen as one poster above said. They are a very prideful people that place honor and respect in high regards. All this is reflected in their corporate culture. They realized what they built represented their people and culture. Vested interests like these will undoubtedly make a company successful. The domestic companies of the 80s and 90s seemed to only care about profit margins. They thought customers would still flock to the low quality products they cranked out. Thinking of your customers as fools is a serious business mistake. Couple that with overinflated UAW wages, you got a serious problem on your hands. Even if they wanted to, they wouldn't be able to devote much capital to R&D or sourcing quality parts. For example, OEM Honda parts are known for their solid longevity and reliability. When you also have top brass that doesn't want to leave their corner offices and actually go out and meet with suppliers and people on the factory floors, there is again a problem.
 
Last edited:
Messages
2,280
Location
SunnySouthFlorida
While I sympathize with op, emotionally and in practice, I've always thought that in addition to "customer satisfaction" that covers the 1st 3 years, it would be good to do such a survey after 5 years to see how cars hold up after 75k miles... I've had new US cars as rentals and loaners and they all seemed solid...but wonder if they'd be as solid as kitacam after 100k miles. I guess the Consumer Reports used car repair survey somewhat covers that; still, those of us who buy used cars want to know....
 
Last edited:
Messages
1,164
Location
Fresno, CA
Originally Posted By: Nick R
IMO Basing your current car purchase decisions off of two of the worst representatives of American cars over the years, especially one from 22 years, and 15 years ago respectively... Seriously, you bought the Taurus before I was born.
Maybe so, but how was the OP supposed to know that? And what does buying a car before you were born have to do with it? He purchased vehicles that appealed to him or served his purpose, and they let him down. Things like that tend to leave a bad taste in one's mouth and influence future decisions. If my first Honda (CR-V) had been like my first or last Ford (Ranger and Focus) I would be hesitant to consider them for future purchases. My brother has had great experiences with Jeep and GMC so he keeps buying them. They have earned his loyalty (and I admit that I am a fan of them as well). None of our vehicles has less than 70k miles as we like to keep them for more than just a couple of years. Long term reliability is more important to us than initial quality. I won't lump all domestics as unreliable or all Japanese imports as reliable though. I like to keep an open mind (although one car manufacturer has to work a little harder to regain my trust).
 
Messages
11,196
Location
NY Capital District
Originally Posted By: JavierG
Originally Posted By: Nick R
IMO Basing your current car purchase decisions off of two of the worst representatives of American cars over the years, especially one from 22 years, and 15 years ago respectively... Seriously, you bought the Taurus before I was born.
Maybe so, but how was the OP supposed to know that? And what does buying a car before you were born have to do with it? He purchased vehicles that appealed to him or served his purpose, and they let him down. Things like that tend to leave a bad taste in one's mouth and influence future decisions. If my first Honda (CR-V) had been like my first or last Ford (Ranger and Focus) I would be hesitant to consider them for future purchases. My brother has had great experiences with Jeep and GMC so he keeps buying them. They have earned his loyalty (and I admit that I am a fan of them as well). None of our vehicles has less than 70k miles as we like to keep them for more than just a couple of years. Long term reliability is more important to us than initial quality. I won't lump all domestics as unreliable or all Japanese imports as reliable though. I like to keep an open mind (although one car manufacturer has to work a little harder to regain my trust).
Hm, maybe it's a bit different, but years ago I swore off Seagate Harddrives, because I had 4 failures from one of the external drives. Swore I'd never have another. Then last year, I found the Seagate Momentus XT, I wanted a fast hybrid drive for my laptop, and it fit the bill. I decided to give them one more shot and it has been perfect. I personally don't get the "bad taste" thing that last for 20+ years. Maybe I'm big on forgiveness. shrug
 
Messages
1,164
Location
Fresno, CA
Originally Posted By: Nick R
Originally Posted By: JavierG
Originally Posted By: Nick R
IMO Basing your current car purchase decisions off of two of the worst representatives of American cars over the years, especially one from 22 years, and 15 years ago respectively... Seriously, you bought the Taurus before I was born.
Maybe so, but how was the OP supposed to know that? And what does buying a car before you were born have to do with it? He purchased vehicles that appealed to him or served his purpose, and they let him down. Things like that tend to leave a bad taste in one's mouth and influence future decisions. If my first Honda (CR-V) had been like my first or last Ford (Ranger and Focus) I would be hesitant to consider them for future purchases. My brother has had great experiences with Jeep and GMC so he keeps buying them. They have earned his loyalty (and I admit that I am a fan of them as well). None of our vehicles has less than 70k miles as we like to keep them for more than just a couple of years. Long term reliability is more important to us than initial quality. I won't lump all domestics as unreliable or all Japanese imports as reliable though. I like to keep an open mind (although one car manufacturer has to work a little harder to regain my trust).
Hm, maybe it's a bit different, but years ago I swore off Seagate Harddrives, because I had 4 failures from one of the external drives. Swore I'd never have another. Then last year, I found the Seagate Momentus XT, I wanted a fast hybrid drive for my laptop, and it fit the bill. I decided to give them one more shot and it has been perfect. I personally don't get the "bad taste" thing that last for 20+ years. Maybe I'm big on forgiveness. shrug
Lol Yeah I can see that. But would you be willing to forgive as easily when spending 10's of thousands of $$ as opposed to hundreds? And I prefer Seagate over others such as Western. But I get your point.
 
Last edited:
Messages
17,298
Location
OH
The one American vehicle we've had since 1980 was our old '97 Aerostar. It was as durable and as reliable as a hammer until my younger son wrecked it after thirteen years and 176K of ownership. Son was perfectly fine. We paid less than $15K for it brand new, and it proved to have been a very good purchase. You can't generalize by country of manufacture or even manufacturer when comparing the relative durability and reliability of vehicles. Every manufacturer has made some very good models and every one, including Toyota and Honda, has made some problem models. Don't believe me? Try a quick web search.
 
Messages
40,833
Location
Great Lakes
Originally Posted By: JavierG
If my first Honda (CR-V) had been like my first or last Ford (Ranger and Focus) I would be hesitant to consider them for future purchases.
That would be me. I bought a brand new 2000 Accord. I was not happy with its fit and finish, manufacturing defects, as well as how several dealers didn't much care to make things right. I got rid of it within a year. 13 years later, I'm still not interested in Honda. I guess I hold grudges for a while... smile
 
Messages
36,517
Location
ME
I feel your pain. I was driving 1990's clunkers until a month ago when I brought home a 2007 chevy HHR for the wife to drive. Figured we needed *one* car in the family with less than 15 years or 200k miles. There was nothing, domestic or foreign, new or somewhat used, that tickled my fancy. I take a very plain-jane view of cars- as appliances-- and fail to see any decent enhancements since fuel injection in the 1990s. Most cars are fat, heavy, hard to see out of, take expensive tires, and guzzle gas. Anyway my philosophy has been to buy used and let others discover the foibles of a particular model, powertrain, or body style. I still run into issues but at least the cures show up in a google search. smile For me it's not the repair that's offensive (I do my own wrenching) but the lack of control over some new thing noone has ever seen before-- like your cruise control conundrum. OT Ford used the same cruise modules over many years and makes! You probably got a dud, if that had been my car I'd have swapped a junkyard module in to see if it got better. The Ford dealers' hands were tied by warranty rules and flat rate techs hurrying. By my doing my own repairs I've seized control of that unknown, a satisfying feeling. I'd almost not want a new car, b/c I'd have "prepaid" for repairs for three years through the warranty, and I'd have no control over how they were done. This comes down to a dealer quality rating-- which is all over the map, foreign and domestic.
 
Messages
194
Location
in
I just sold my 2011 Camry because it stalled over 20 times durning ownership(couldnt replicate problem) and i had to have the transmission replaced at exactly 15000 miles.(sold at 15200) Thats besides the countless check engine lights. You can keep your foreign cars
 
Messages
17,298
Location
OH
Originally Posted By: Quattro Pete
Originally Posted By: JavierG
If my first Honda (CR-V) had been like my first or last Ford (Ranger and Focus) I would be hesitant to consider them for future purchases.
That would be me. I bought a brand new 2000 Accord. I was not happy with its fit and finish, manufacturing defects, as well as how several dealers didn't much care to make things right. I got rid of it within a year. 13 years later, I'm still not interested in Honda. I guess I hold grudges for a while... smile
This is a good example of how any manufacturer can make a problem car. We bought an Accord of the same generation, a 1999, which we still have. It was flawless when new and still drives close to new now. After more than thirteen years and 165K, I remain very happy that we bought the car, which ran only $16.8K new. It's a four cylinder five speed LX. The only thing I didn't like about it was the cable shift linkage, which was nothing like as pleasant as the rod linkages on earlier Hondas we had owned. I suppose I'm used to it by now.
 
Messages
668
Location
GA
At the time you had the Taurus, and Chrysler van, IMO Japanese cars were without a doubt much better, and like some have said, Those 2 vehicles were not their brands best representative. Today I believe it is a pretty level playing field. The [censored] " branded " cars have gone down hill a bit while the Domestic brands have gotten much better. I do believe the vehicles actually assembled in Japan are built better with better fit ,and finish. Nothing against American assembled ones ,as that is all I have had ,but they def don't have the attention to detail that the ones assembled in Japan do. It is this very site where I read Ford had another line setup giving the Explores extra quality checks that were destined for Japan as they would not accept minor defects that the Americans would or just didn't notice.
 
Messages
19,528
Location
Lake Forest, CA
Every manufacture has some lemons, some have more than others. To gauge how reliable a certain car model is just look at used car price. If both cars had the similar MSRP but after 10 years with same mileage 1 car retains 30% MSRP and the other only 15%, then I can say with high degree certainty that the former is more reliable than the later. At least that how the buying public determines the resale value.
 
Messages
5,941
Location
Arlington
I have one of each.....sort of. My "domestic" is made in Mexico. My "Japanese" car is made in Michigan. My Chrysler had it's rack and pinion replaced under warranty. The service advisor insisted that it was leaking although I never had to top off the reservoir and it didn't leave a so much as a drop on the garage floor. They gave us a loaner and replaced the rack for free then charged us for an alignment. (seems like a lot of work to sell an alignment) That's it. The only other time it was in for repairs was from a rear end collision. My Mazda had the thermostat housing disintegrate, seatbelt latch cease to operate, starter wouldn't turn over on the first key turn, and has lost 5 of the 6 coils (still wondering when the 6th will go belly up) To be fair, every single one of the parts that failed was embossed with a FoMoCo or Ford Oval emblem. None of the ND or Aisin parts has failed. They were all Ford parts that share an application with a uniquely Ford car. I don't think you are getting any more reliable or less reliable based on the country of the company's origin. You sometimes get a different driving experience though. Both of my Civics and my Integra were well over 200,000 miles when they were sold. I'm sure there are countless Cavaliers that made that milestone as well. To me personally, the Civics were better driving cars than any Cavalier. By comparison the Cavalier is a crude car. But in terms of reliability? shrug...meh.
 
Top