What % would you allocate to car performance vs. reliability?

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In this hypothetical, you are the head designer and engineer in charge of every major decision on a vehicle. Your resource allocation represents 100%. You have very talented teams of designers, R&D, developers, etc. But you have to allocate your resources between reliability versus performance.

Reliability would infer using a tried-and-true off-the-shelf product that has the bugs worked out, using more expensive and/or heavier stronger materials, perhaps less attractive or modern designs at times so some designs might suffer from appearing aged or dated.

For example, this category would represent the "best of the best" older designs, like the Jeep inline 4.0L, older Audi or Mercedes engines, the Ford 4.6L, or some of the famous Honda or Toyota engines, etc. and some of the best older transmissions, or other designs that worked well, heavier better quality materials (metals vs. plastics, thicker leather vs. pleather or thin leather, high quality plastic parts less prone to break, etc.) but are now dated and anemic by today's standards. Gradual improvements can be made here, to continually develop these older designs to make them ultra reliable and durable with incremental performance improvements. This category tends to give us 150-200 HP daily drivers cars and 250-300 HP trucks, but these older reliable vehicles seem to have a nostalgic lure in spite of anemic performance numbers.

On the other hand, Performance means pushing the limits, increasing horsepower or torque specs with new untested designs, changing the appearance of function to a new untested one, using new untested and often cheaper and weaker and lighter materials to save weight and cost (such as using plastic parts where aluminum or alloys were previously used), etc. This could represent the huge advances in engines and transmissions, etc. What we see in this category is modern cars that push incredible performance numbers with 300HP daily drivers and 600HP trucks and muscle cars, but seem to fall apart around year 10. The cheap plastics break, the paper thin leather seats and appointments wear through and tear off, etc.

What % of 100 would you allocate into each category? For me, personally, I am mostly nostaligic for the older designs that work, and would like my team to focus on making the most reliable and durable vehicle possible, with incremental improvements in performance. In other words, I place reliability as primary and performance as secondary. I would allocate my resources about 80/20 Reliability/Performance.

What about you?
 
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I would be similar to you; approx. 80/20 reliability/performance. I would like to claim that I am more performance oriented, but my humble fleet (listed below) would give me away in a second.
Being recently retired and on a pension, reliability and reasonable repair cost is especially important to me now. In reliability surveys I've seen, the 3.6 LFX in the Impala seems to be holding up pretty well, and the Honda 2.4L and the Buick's 3800 are well proven.
 
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From a designer/engineer/management standpoint, it’s probably smarter to lean toward reliability.

From a personal standpoint, I enjoy working on cars, and only have taken cars to a “mechanic” for tires - and I’d do those if I had the equipment.

For me it’s 10% reliability / 90% performance. Reliability, actual or perceived, is not in my Top 10 factors when looking at a car 🤷🏼‍. I just don’t really care.

I still remember the last Toyota Corolla I rented, a 2016. Easily one of the worst cars I’ve ever driven. Don’t care how reliable it possible was - no way I’d ever consider owning one. **Apparently the newest gen Corollas actually drive well**
 
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I think it is not that simple. Who is your audience? What is background of your company?
BMW for example can take off the shelf M54 inline six that still performs better than 70% of similar engines, and say: there you go, change thermostat twice, water pump and you will get 300k easily. But, BMW audience wants 400hp 3ltr inline six and competition has it.
Or you can go Toyota way. Build simple, boring, awful vehicles to drive and sell to certain audience that. Subaru figured that it is much more profitable to make left lane “slow down” machines than WRX with stick shift that sets records on the Pikes Peak.
So, ultimately question is: where did you get a job as engineer.
 

CharlesInCharge

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I think it is not that simple. Who is your audience? What is background of your company?
BMW for example can take off the shelf M54 inline six that still performs better than 70% of similar engines, and say: there you go, change thermostat twice, water pump and you will get 300k easily. But, BMW audience wants 400hp 3ltr inline six and competition has it.
Or you can go Toyota way. Build simple, boring, awful vehicles to drive and sell to certain audience that. Subaru figured that it is much more profitable to make left lane “slow down” machines than WRX with stick shift that sets records on the Pikes Peak.
So, ultimately question is: where did you get a job as engineer.

I think this is where there is a large disconnect that occurs in humans between their brains (logic/reason) and their emotional sides. Pardon my analogy, but it's much like dating and marriage. Men and women think they know what they want, which is the ultra hot performance model. But after 50 breakups and 2 divorces, they finally tire of the lack of reliability and gravitate toward the plain model that always starts, and gets you where you need to be on time without a big price tag and breakdown hassles.

Same is true with consumers. They get easily (emotionally) sold on big over-promises, flash, power, exciting new lines and sounds and performance. But I think, in reality, a consumer would be thrilled to have a really great reliable car that lasts 20 years even if it's not the fastest or it appears dated. If it's never in the shop, the paint hasn't peeled off, the knobs and seats haven't fallen apart, etc. I can speak for myself this quality in a average performing vehicle is far more important than 500 Horsepower in a truck that's in the shop every 6 months chasing electrical gremlins and mechanical problems, consuming oil, leaking transmission, weird vibrations, etc.
 
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Mirroring what others said, who do you want to target? A 4 cylinder Camry IMO is the absolute epitome of boring and I’d rather ride a motorcycle even in the cold. A rav4 Prime that definitely is capable of getting out of its own way? Now you’re talking.

I love my truck. 395HP, a glorious and proven reliable ZF 8 transmission… I’ll stick with wherever that lands me on the reliability/performance scale.
 
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I think this is where there is a large disconnect that occurs in humans between their brains (logic/reason) and their emotional sides. Pardon my analogy, but it's much like dating and marriage. Men and women think they know what they want, which is the ultra hot performance model. But after 50 breakups and 2 divorces, they finally tire of the lack of reliability and gravitate toward the plain model that always starts, and gets you where you need to be on time without a big price tag and breakdown hassles.

Same is true with consumers. They get easily (emotionally) sold on big over-promises, flash, power, exciting new lines and sounds and performance. But I think, in reality, a consumer would be thrilled to have a really great reliable car that lasts 20 years even if it's not the fastest or it appears dated. If it's never in the shop, the paint hasn't peeled off, the knobs and seats haven't fallen apart, etc. I can speak for myself this quality in a average performing vehicle is far more important than 500 Horsepower in a truck that's in the shop every 6 months chasing electrical gremlins and mechanical problems, consuming oil, leaking transmission, weird vibrations, etc.
But is it that reliable or you are sold marketing?
Case:
Lift gate on Sienna I have is known issue on third generation. Either it just gets out of alignment or like in my case, lift gate hit bike rack, did not stop and sheet metal that it is made of (garbage) bent. I kind of fixed it by pulling right side, and at least I can close it manually, but still doesn’t flush. Searching issue I find out that it is known problem that Toyota absolutely refuses to acknowledge, but it is ready to change it for $5,000! That is in addition to leaky struts, failed brake booster, really horrid brakes. And I make 5-6,000 miles a year compared to 25,000 miles on BMW that also sees track. So, water pump on BMW every 100k, valve cover gasket every 100k and oil filter housing gasket every 40-50k ($37) are nothing compared to enjoyment I get from it and actually less issues.
If you think that 500hp vehicle cannot be reliable, you are dead wrong. That is all reason Porsche exists.
 

CharlesInCharge

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But is it that reliable or you are sold marketing?
Case:
Lift gate on Sienna I have is known issue on third generation. Either it just gets out of alignment or like in my case, lift gate hit bike rack, did not stop and sheet metal that it is made of (garbage) bent. I kind of fixed it by pulling right side, and at least I can close it manually, but still doesn’t flush. Searching issue I find out that it is known problem that Toyota absolutely refuses to acknowledge, but it is ready to change it for $5,000! That is in addition to leaky struts, failed brake booster, really horrid brakes. And I make 5-6,000 miles a year compared to 25,000 miles on BMW that also sees track. So, water pump on BMW every 100k, valve cover gasket every 100k and oil filter housing gasket every 40-50k ($37) are nothing compared to enjoyment I get from it and actually less issues.
If you think that 500hp vehicle cannot be reliable, you are dead wrong. That is all reason Porsche exists.

My apologies, but I don't think I've been clear on the topic.

Take the Nissan Xterra. They had a good reliable 3.3L engine, albeit anemic (180hp) with say 2 known plaguing issues (fuel sending units and oil leaks developed over high miles and long time). This exercise would cause us/you to pick - do you invest heavily in focusing resources to improve this 3.3L to fix these issues with beefier parts and better internal designs? Or do you do what Nissan did and scrap the entire design and jump to a new design engine for the next generation of Xterras?

Seems car companies tend to opt toward "newer, better, more" but my personal taste is for boring reliability. Take what you have, work out the bugs, and make it ultra reliable.

Secondary to this, I think the current path car makers choose is the better business path if your goal is to 1) sell a lot of cars, 2) that have a lot of mechanical problems you can service, and 3) break apart and force consumers to buy more cars. They've created this vicious ecosystem of consumption and repairs. They are not invested in making durable long lasting vehicles. That would not be a strong business model.

But I prefer durability and longevity even if it's relatively tame and boring.
 
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My apologies, but I don't think I've been clear on the topic.

Take the Nissan Xterra. They had a good reliable 3.3L engine, albeit anemic (180hp) with say 2 known plaguing issues (fuel sending units and oil leaks developed over high miles and long time). This exercise would cause us/you to pick - do you invest heavily in focusing resources to improve this 3.3L to fix these issues with beefier parts and better internal designs? Or do you do what Nissan did and scrap the entire design and jump to a new design engine for the next generation of Xterras?

Seems car companies tend to opt toward "newer, better, more" but my personal taste is for boring reliability. Take what you have, work out the bugs, and make it ultra reliable.

Secondary to this, I think the current path car makers choose is the better business path if your goal is to 1) sell a lot of cars, 2) that have a lot of mechanical problems you can service, and 3) break apart and force consumers to buy more cars. They've created this vicious ecosystem of consumption and repairs. They are not invested in making durable long lasting vehicles. That would not be a strong business model.

But I prefer durability and longevity even if it's relatively tame and boring.
But, you are not taking into consideration biggest issue: regulations!
What about CAFE, EU norms etc.? You cannot beef up engine internals at expens of consumption and emissions as then you cannot sell a car. Many manufacturers would gladly beef up older engines etc. but reality is, they have to comply with regulations. Then, even if regulations are not an issue, competition is.
 

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My apologies, but I don't think I've been clear on the topic.

Take the Nissan Xterra. They had a good reliable 3.3L engine, albeit anemic (180hp) with say 2 known plaguing issues (fuel sending units and oil leaks developed over high miles and long time). This exercise would cause us/you to pick - do you invest heavily in focusing resources to improve this 3.3L to fix these issues with beefier parts and better internal designs? Or do you do what Nissan did and scrap the entire design and jump to a new design engine for the next generation of Xterras?

Seems car companies tend to opt toward "newer, better, more" but my personal taste is for boring reliability. Take what you have, work out the bugs, and make it ultra reliable.

Secondary to this, I think the current path car makers choose is the better business path if your goal is to 1) sell a lot of cars, 2) that have a lot of mechanical problems you can service, and 3) break apart and force consumers to buy more cars. They've created this vicious ecosystem of consumption and repairs. They are not invested in making durable long lasting vehicles. That would not be a strong business model.

But I prefer durability and longevity even if it's relatively tame and boring.

OK, but the GM, Ford and Mopar smallblock engines have all been ridiculously reliable and all make great power (though they aren't necessarily great on fuel). The HEMI has been in production for close to 20 years now, it's pretty sorted. 485HP, naturally aspirated, port injection, pushrods, it's pretty basic but still makes some great power. The Hellkitty mill is similar, but with boost.

You put one of those in front of the bomb-proof ZF8 and you have a pretty fantastic powertrain that's both powerful, and reliable.

Of course there's more to it than just the powertrain, but some of these "compromises" are being presented as larger than they actually are.
 

CharlesInCharge

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But, you are not taking into consideration biggest issue: regulations!
What about CAFE, EU norms etc.? You cannot beef up engine internals at expens of consumption and emissions as then you cannot sell a car. Many manufacturers would gladly beef up older engines etc. but reality is, they have to comply with regulations. Then, even if regulations are not an issue, competition is.

I had considered that, but I'm confident that if you took (insert engine, transmission, seat material, aerodynamic design, etc. here), and poured your resources to improving versus scrapping the design and starting over with a goal for performance, you could get your Jeep 4.0 inline in-line with more stringent emissions.

(Side note, but with the money and influence these car companies have, I'm confident THEY can control Congress and these standards, not the other way around, if they so choose. This gets of topic though.)
 
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I had considered that, but I'm confident that if you took (insert engine, transmission, seat material, aerodynamic design, etc. here), and poured your resources to improving versus scrapping the design and starting over with a goal for performance, you could get your Jeep 4.0 inline in-line with more stringent emissions.

(Side note, but with the money and influence these car companies have, I'm confident THEY can control Congress and these standards, not the other way around, if they so choose. This gets of topic though.)
It is actually not that simple. Companies regularly hit the wall in how much they can squeeze out of certain design before going new engine. Don’t forget, metallurgy advances, turbo charging etc. That requires either new materials or allows manufacturers to lower weight of an engine etc.
Lobbying goes only so far. In the end, voters choose politicians. Priorities change.
 
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It depends on what you're trying to do. You have to decide that first.

An old saying is "a fast car can be made reliable. But a reliable car can't be made fast." So if you want to build very sporty cars, build them fast first and then work on reliability. But then again maybe your customer base always wants something new, so before you ever get to reliability you have to introduce a new model and start all over. Think Corvette. (My apologies to Corvette, it's not that unreliable, but it is regularly "all new".)

Over time you could build a reliable and fast car if you started with a fast car, and then left the design basically alone for decades while you worked on reliability. Think Porsche 911. (Porsche didn't start out that fast, but over time they've become both fast and pretty reliable.)

Wearing my engineers hat, I'd build a nice looking Camry. Even though I've never bought one. (Though a Solara was pretty close.)
 

CharlesInCharge

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OK, but the GM, Ford and Mopar smallblock engines have all been ridiculously reliable and all make great power (though they aren't necessarily great on fuel). The HEMI has been in production for close to 20 years now, it's pretty sorted. 485HP, naturally aspirated, port injection, pushrods, it's pretty basic but still makes some great power. The Hellkitty mill is similar, but with boost.

You put one of those in front of the bomb-proof ZF8 and you have a pretty fantastic powertrain that's both powerful, and reliable.

Of course there's more to it than just the powertrain, but some of these "compromises" are being presented as larger than they actually are.

Maybe, but I think each of those engines, or transmissions, etc. could be improved rather than scrapped. A great example of what I'm talking about is Ford replaced a successful 30-year proven Lima V8 with the poorly designed modular Triton in 4.6L which was a great short term powerhouse but suffered significant reliability longevity problems. Everyone that knows Ford recommends avoiding those engines!

GM's 7.4L and 5.7L motors put on the scrapheap I believe long before their time, I could be wrong. But just looking at their various configurations is a dizzying array of engines. One would think, let's take a size, say a 5.7L and make the most perfect long-living engine in every respect we can. Why do we need a 5.3L, a 5.5L, a 5.9L, and so forth? Make one perfect widget in that size with every design and material consideration improvement feasible...

Instead we get engines with really poorly thought out designs, like the C4 Corvettes had their ignition coil low under or near the water pump in a place prone to get wet. Who would design this so poorly? Fix that design problem from the start, or fix it later, and work the bugs out of that system rather than just dumping the engine entirely and going to the LT1 or whatever.

Take the modern variable cylinder technology that many companies employ under different names. These save very little fuel economy at the expense of poor reliability and expensive repairs. I think Chevy calls it AFS, Honda VTEC, Toyota VVTI, Chrysler MDS, etc. I read a lot of forums and these are near the top of the complaints and consumers seem to really hate this feature....
 

CharlesInCharge

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It depends on what you're trying to do. You have to decide that first.

An old saying is "a fast car can be made reliable. But a reliable car can't be made fast." So if you want to build very sporty cars, build them fast first and then work on reliability. But then again maybe your customer base always wants something new, so before you ever get to reliability you have to introduce a new model and start all over. Think Corvette. (My apologies to Corvette, it's not that unreliable, but it is regularly "all new".)

Over time you could build a reliable and fast car if you started with a fast car, and then left the design basically alone for decades while you worked on reliability. Think Porsche 911. (Porsche didn't start out that fast, but over time they've become both fast and pretty reliable.)

Wearing my engineers hat, I'd build a nice looking Camry. Even though I've never bought one. (Though a Solara was pretty close.)

And the other problems is scrapping excellent designs prematurely. GM is notorious for this. They had a real winner on their hands with the Grand National, based on the Regal. So to your point, GM took a very pedestrian car (like the Toyota Camry), and dropped a turbo charged V6 in it, and made it the fastest car on the roads in the mid-1980s, but canceled it. Ford took the very pedestrian Grand Marquis and created the monstrous Marauder for a few years, then canceled it. Nissan had a real winner on their hands in the 300Z, but killed it off for a decade or so. Toyota killed off the Supra. GM did it with another real winner too, but I cannot recall what it was right now... I don't understand this, since these cars are LUSTED after today. All that R&D money to create a great car, and then killing it off. It's horrible business sense. Even if production is slow, it keeps the brand young and relevant. I wish I could remember that other GM car I felt they killed off too soon...
 
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Some of those cars that were cancelled were because of government regulations. Fuel economy, pedestrian safety, crash rating, etc. Plus some of them were selling slow. The companies didn't just kill them off for poop and grins. There were likely very real business cases to be made for not pouring money into aging platforms that couldn't meet regulations without a full redesign.

The Grand National was a dated platform when it was brand new. There's no way GM could have carried that forward with the Japanese coming on as hard as they did in the 80's.
 
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Some of those cars that were cancelled were because of government regulations. Fuel economy, pedestrian safety, crash rating, etc. Plus some of them were selling slow. The companies didn't just kill them off for poop and grins. There were likely very real business cases to be made for not pouring money into aging platforms that couldn't meet regulations without a full redesign.

The Grand National was a dated platform when it was brand new. There's no way GM could have carried that forward with the Japanese coming on as hard as they did in the 80's.
Tesla S Plaid pulled off same thing. Use long outdated platform that was okay to decent not great with and build an insane performance model.
 
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65 MPH speed limit some till 55 mph, yep I need a 700 hp car. NOT. When I think about it the old MB 200D with 59 HP could go fast enough to cost you your license. Realistically for the USA 95% reliability 5% performance. A 300 HP 100 mph limit on electric cars to increase range seems ideal to me.
 
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