American vs Foreign cars.

Allrightee, then. Let’s have it out. :wink:
I’ve owned quite a few cars in my lifetime, all of them bought used.
I’ve had much more trouble with american cars than with foreign. I realize that many american cars are not made here, and vice versa, so my perceived problem must be due to management.
Here’s a partial list of problems with my present car, a 1998 Ford Windstar;
[ul] [li]Weatherstripping falling off. []Parking brake cable broken. []Car “creeps” when waiting at a stop. []Sometimes stalls when braking at low speed. []Transmission doesn’t seem to shift “right”. [*]Two minor recalls.[/ul][/li]I’ve made an appointment to have most this stuff looked at before the warranty expires, but it seems like a lot of trouble for a car with less than 30K on it.
I’d be interested in the opinions of other dopers on the relative merits of foreign vs domestic vehicles. And I do anticipate (relish) some arguement on the subject.

Cars driven by arl:

  1. Honda CRX
  2. Honda CRX
  3. Ford Escort
  4. Honda Del Sol
    Next planned car purchase:
  5. Honda Prelude

I’ve personally never liked Fords, and everyone I’ve known who has owned one always had problems with it. Some friends of mine tried dodge, not impressed. Chevy seemed OK, drove a chevette for a while but it wasn’t mine. Friends had teh old Celebrity which was a beast and never seemed to die.

I’m a Honda man. Seeing as they have plants in the US I don’t feel like people are justified in bitching at me for it either, but then, I don’t feel bitching about imports period is justified.
That they can pay huge import duties (demanded by auto workers)cover shipping charges, and still compete pricewise says enough for me.

I love Hondas over most other makes. The only Ford I ever felt comfortable in was a completely custom built Shelby Cobra replica powered by a 289 Ford engine. The rest are just blech. Too bad cause the 'stang would be a nice car otherwise.
I too lust after a Prelude.

I see a big difference in the design of the vehicles–not just manufacturing quality. I find foreign cars to be much better designed. (And I’m not talking about body shape either.)

[li]1988 Isuzu Trooper, bought used in 1991. Ran fine until last year, when the clutch hydraulics broke, the automatic 4wd locking hubs broke, and a gasket blew out. Those were all repaired but didn’t keep the car running for long; today it putters along at a top speed of about 25 mph, burns oil like a chainsaw, and gets about 10 miles per gallon.[/li][li]1991 Mazda 626. No problems to speak of.[/li][li]2000 Toyota Camry. No problems to speak of.[/li][li]2000 Chevrolet Astro. Spark plug wire broke within a few weeks of getting the (brand-new) vehicle. No problems since.[/li][/list=1]
I agree that foreign cars are designed much better. Recent American cars just seem to have ugly, bulging interiors. Many even have ugly, bulging exteriors - see recent Taurus sedans or wagons.

European cars in the US are often much more expensive than their counterparts so I guess that those manufacturers have to try that much harder to compete.

What I find annoying is that many cars built in the UK and shipped across the Atlantic are much cheaper in the US than here.Same is true of bikes, one day I’m going to save up lots of cash and coem over to the US, buy myself a 1800 Goldwing and ship it back.If I get a 2year old used example I will not have to pay import duty and will likely save several thousand $/£.

No wonder manufacturers of consumer durables call the UK ‘treasure island’.

good morning friends

it is difficult to discuss this topic without sounding as if i were a commercial for toyota.

mrs. longhair drives a toyota rav4, possibly the most enjoyable vehicle we have ever owned. ours is a 1998, and in february, we trade it in for the 2001 model. aside form the sheer fun of driving it, we have had no problems with it at all. good gas milage, cargo room, comfort, and reliabilty.

her last vehicle was a 1985 chevy s-10 blazer. to any of you who have ever owned one of these: my condolences. it was underpowered, a gas hog, difficult to do even the most routine maintenance. it was temperamental and almost impossible to rely on in the winter.

both of the little longhairs drive toyota corollas. these are also great little cars. one is a 1999, one a 1996. absolute reliability.

i have a company vehicle as part of my compensation package. usually when my lovely lady and i are out together, we go in her car and she drives.

for the rare occasion when i drive after work, i have a 1983 ford f-150 as the most recent in a series of "disposable " trucks. i never pay more that $1,500.00 dollars for a truck, and i drive it as long as it runs without repairs that i can do. when my truck needs a repair for more than $500.00, it is off to the boneyard with it, and i shop for another cheap pickup.


I only bought one American car ever in my life - my current favorite, my 1998 Mustang GT.

It is the poorest built and “roughest shod” car I have ever owned. Quality-wise, relative to a new Toyota, it is like a Ruinite Lambrusco compared to a Langtry Meritage. Thus, it is cheap, goes fast, and is incredibly sweet. :wink:

And I knew all of this before I bought it. So why did I buy it? Simple. If I wanted an overall decent car with lots of power, I would have had to pay significantly more for a Toyota with the same performance.

It’s not a bad car. But it’s not a quality car either. Which seems to be the case when one compares any American car with a Toyota or equivalent Japanese car.

I have worked in a Chevrolet Dealership for 13 years and I can tell you that I would not own one. As far as import vs. American, for the most part, imports win hands down almost all of the time. The reason? quality. Not to mention that dollar for dollar, you get more in an import car. IMHO

Well, I have owned a Datsun 210 and a Plymouth Colt (which is really a Mitsubishi product) and both have been quite reliable overall. So, I am biased a bit toward foreign cars too.

As for Hondas, aynrandlover, I’ll give you another reason not to feel guilty about buying them: In some recent study (by Union of Concerned Scientists maybe?), Honda was considered the greenest of the automakers. I believe this is based on such things as the mileage that their entire fleet gets. (Honda sells a much lower percentage of SUVs relative to regular cars compared to others, and I believe their SUVs are also greener, e.g., they are based on a car body rather than a truck body.) Honda also is one of two manufacturers (Toyota being the other) who have introduced hybrid vehicles. Even in boats, Honda has been introducing the 4-stroke engine which runs much cleaner than the 2-stroke (I think I got that right). So for my next car, Honda will be near or at the top of the list among the manufacturers I consider.

By the way, arl, aren’t those pretty nice cars for someone in your tax bracket!?! I’m having a hard time figuring out who you are and what you do!!!

Gee, all this talk about cars makes me want to get one.

First, I think quality-wise, them BMW’s and Mercedes are the best, if you don’t mind shelling out the dough. Another import car I love is the Nissan Maxima. ::Drool::

If I ever get a truck, I’ll get a 4 door Dodge Dakota. Of everyone I know who has one, I only know one person who wasn’t satisfied (And that’s because he bought it used and it turned out to have a cracked cylinder).

But then again, I’m a broke high-school teenager who’d do almost anything for a car. Any car. And insurance.


The reason that 2-strokes run dirtier than 4-strokes is two fold.
First the crankcase is used as first stage compression so the fuel has to have lubricating oil mixed in it for the main bearing journals and this oil gets burnt during the explosion phase.
The other is that being a 2-stroke the outlet port is open during the induction phase and some of the mixture is sucked straight out plus the combustion time is so short to allow for the induction phase that fuel is not burnt efficiently. At certain engine speeds when the back pressure wave in the exhaust expansion chamber is just right emissions do fall very significantly but an engine that is only efficient at a hahdful of particular speeds is not ideal.(harmonics of the pressure wave)

One solution to this is to keep the crankcase and fuel entireley separate and have a wet sump but the problem is that you cannot get the required compression unless you design an injected 2-stroke which is what Orbital have done.

Injected 2-strokes have a history of failure, Bimota, the exotic bike manufacturer, tried to make a 500cc injected engine where the fuel was atomised when it hit the face of the piston but the power band was impossibly narrow, less than 500rpm in an engine whose normal running speed would be expected to be in the region between 8k to 18k.This made for an inflexible unit.

I could explain about Orbital’s system but, better still, here is the link.

2-strokes have a much better power/weight ratio and since they do not have a valve train to drive should, in theory, be much more efficient.A 250cc injected 2-stroke will produce very nearly as much power as a 500cc 4-stroke.

Aprilia have licensed the technology from Orbital and it is already being fitted to their scooter but they are looking at putting it in small 4-wheeled vehicles too, these look a little like they are based on quads rather than cars.

There is also a new 4-stroke engine, which is nearly ready for use, that ports its valves using a sleeve inside the bore, actually the sleeve is the bore.
The sleeve rotates at half engine speed while the piston travels up and down inside it.
The sleeve has an opening which, when it lines up with the inlet and outlet ports allows movement of the fuel/exhaust mixture.
This engine has to be fed using a supercharger as adequate compression in not achievable in the bore alone, probably due to sealing problems.
It can rev far higher than a normal 4-stroke as there is no possiblility of valve bounce and since there is no wasteful reciprocating energy loss it is more efficient too.

There were experiment made with ported 4-strokes back in the late 1930’s (Armstrong I think but not sure) however they never managed to work around lubrication problems on the back face of the rotating port disk.

It is interesting to note how 2-strokes have borrowed 4-stroke injection technology and 4-strokes are borrowing 2-stroke port technology and precompression.

At the moment the 2-strokes are up and running, you will see them near you soon.


Thanks for the tutorial on 2-stroke and 4-stroke engines…Clearly a subject near and dear to your heart!

Wishing happy holidays to all before I take off to see my family!

Not only that (everything written so far here), but this: most of the frequency of repair data continues to suggest (still) that even made-in-America Japanese cars are more reliable than the conventional American cars. And, less meaningful, admittedly, the owner satisfaction data also support the contention (still)that Japanese cars are preferable. I’m on the tail end of 10 years with a Corolla and a Civic, and I may have to buy a car soon - maybe two (argh!) and I’ll definitely get another of one or the other - both reliable, excellent vehicles.

List of former and current vehicles:
1972 Buick Skylark : could not kill the thing it was a tank and being my first car I hold it near and dear to my heart.
No problems with it for 2 years I drove it.
1978 Toyota celica: Ran like a scalded dog and died a quick death when some fool corssed the median and tore the side off 2 weeks after I painted it (myself) a beautiful DR Pepper Maroon.
1960 Nash Metropolitan: Little MG engine ran like a sewing machine. Also managed to get 11 people in that. Myself and 10 high school girls! oh the groping was fantastic!
1966 Ford T-bird: sweet looking a bit of a gas hog and have to repair it a few times, transmission, exaust and such.
1979 toyota celica: Ran real well traded it for the T-bird listed above.
1980 Buick Skylark: POS nuff said.
1990 Ford Festiva: drove it from Clevland to Birmingham on 20 bucks in gas. It was totaled was great on fuel but not a safe car.
1984 Toyota celica: ran well sister drove it for years when Iw as done then traded it in on a truck.
1985 Toyota Supra: Currently own, right now needs an altenator and batery. Have owned it for 5 years and have spent 1000 in repairs/maintenace since then (including oil changes and tires)
The newest car I am drooling over is the Honda Inspire a cute little hybrid car that gets 80 miles to the gallon on the Highway and 68 in the city.

I prefer Forigen cars or classic cars. To many domesstic cars seem to keep having problems and recalls.


Generally speaking, there’s a bias in Japanese manufacturing towards good design that suits their zero-variation manufacturing processes. In other words, get the design right, and then figure out how to manufacture it in a way that is totally consistent; the net effect is high quality that’s cheaper to manufacture than in the U.S., which tends towards cheaper, volume manufacturing with a higher defect rate but a lower replacement cost.

For cars, this means that more expensive imports have a lower cost-of-ownership over the long run. I bought a Mazda Protege two years ago, and paid about $4,000 more for it than for an American car in the same class. My family all drives Mazdas or Toyotas for the same reason. I’ve had one problem with it, and it’s run fine since. I’m sure that an American car, while cheaper on the front end, would require more maintenance.

If this offends some “buy American” posters here, you should know that the manufacturing processes that the Japanese use to produce better cars (and other goods) were invented by an American, Homer Sarasohn. They’ve figured it out: we haven’t. This is a good article by Bob Cringely that tells the story.

A little joke:

Japanese: Our last cars were reliable but boring, our new cars are even more reliable but still boring.

German: Our last cars were fun to drive but expensive to repair, our new cars handle better and are twice as much money to service!

American: Well our last cars sucked, but our new cars look completely different!

From this point on a commercial for Audi:

1st car: 1978 Oldsmobile Custom Cruiser. Everyone called this car the BEAST, and it was. Impossible to kill. I would put oil in it only when the oil light came on, depite this it easily made it to 200,000 miles.

2nd car: 1984 Oldsmobile Cutlass Cierra. In the 80’s american cars went to hell and this one is proof. I maintained this car very well compared to the previous Olds and I had it for 6 months before the piece decided to throw a rod at just over 100,000. It was my last American car.

3rd car: 1987 Audi 400CS Quattro. Ahhh, the beginning of the love affair with Audi. This cars nickname was “bullet-proof”. I bought this car at 200,000 miles. After putting 50,000 miles on it as a daily driver, the only maintenence required for the engine was a new valve cover gasket($75). Of course I had to replace more expensive parts like the suspension bushings, but the big money problems never surfaced. Good at getting me from A to B, but the sunroof didn’t work, cruise control didn’t work, seat heater didn’t work, body looked like crap, etc… What can I say, it was a really high mileage car. So I sold it to my roommate and it still runs great. I would bet large amounts of money that it hits 300,000 no problem.

Present car: 1990 Audi Coupe Quattro. AKA: the dream car. Just got this one, it has 90,000 on it so I am looking forward to a long relationship. Unfortunately I just rear-ended someone with it and am waiting for the body shop put her back together.:frowning:

Yes, German cars are harder to work on and the parts do cost more. But, if you are good about maintaining them and not letting things get out of control they are right up there with Japanese cars in reliability. However, Japanese cars will keep running no matter the maintenence. I’d say if you just have economics on your mind buy Japanese. Although there are some realy fun cars Japanese out there, most of them made by Honda. If you want to spend a little more and get a car with more fun and individuality go German.

Re: BMW, I always thought highly of them until my current job. I work for germans and they drive between them a 97’ 525i, a 98’ 530i, and a 01’ 740il.
The 740 is three days old so there’s no data yet but the 97’ it replaced was pretty reliable.

The 530i had to have the ENGINE replaced with only 53K miles on it!! Thak God it was a lease!!

The 525 has had recurrent electrical problems which are extremely hard to find but profitable for the dealer to look for.
I now think of Beemers as money pits. That is unless you spend the really big bucks for the 740, etc. Even then routine maintenance is a killer!

Hmmm… both of my American cars tended to drive like boats or tanks… a 1987 Chevy Celebrity and a 1990 Olds Cutlass Supreme, both hand me downs from my father. The Celebrity had a number of problems if I recall, but the Olds seemed pretty solid.

Now that I am on my own and married, we have:

  1. 1996 Mazda MX-6LS: No mechanical problems in nearly 4 1/2 years of ownership. The primary flaws have been that it is an idiot magnet and people keep running into it… and the leather on the driver’s seat dried out and cracked after 3 years, probably a combination of my sweat and the intense Alabama sun beaming onto it. Oopsy. They replaced it under warranty though - so no probs there.

  2. 1998 Honda CR-V: No problems except a squeaky seat until last week when my wife found that she had no spedometer, gauges, or anything while driving - perhaps a blown fuse, but the car also wouldn’t start when she stopped it. Towing guy said the brake safety switch had flipped - says Hondas do that when something is wrong with the system so you don’t go out driving and die a horrible road death. No idea what is truly wrong yet, but still under warranty so no big deal.

Well, currently I am running a 1985 Honda Prelude with 291,943 (3/10) miles on it. The only parts that have been replaced on it are the alternator, clutch (of course!), water pump, various belts (of course), and the oil filter. Oh, and the gas cap (which I might add was the only problem found during her California SMOG inspection 3 months ago. She passed emissions with flying colors, beating out newer cars with her low emissions). And after all these years, I still don’t have any reason to think she won’t make 325,000, or dare I say 350,000. What I have decided already though is that when she finally does go, I am going to sell her to a junk yard and pull out her pistons and take a look inside. My friends and I joke that when I first take her head off we’ll see fairy dust float up from the engine.
Anyway, based on my experiences with this Prelude, and after talking with literally hundreds of other Honda owners, I can say with complete honesty that I will probably never any car except Honda’s. Their price/preformance/reliability/looks can not be matched. I know I sound crazy but hey, I love Honda’s.

But as far as bikes go, I will still take my YZF over a CBR anyday. Hell I would take a R6/R1 over any Honda/Suzuki/Kawasaki/etc…