Car quality or lack thereof

Inspired by a reddit thread.

It seems Jeeps have a reputation for not being the highest quality. Every time I see a list of worst cars, Jeep has two or three models on it. My question is why can’t a major auto manufacturer produce something that doesn’t break at a much higher rate than competitors? What is the issue? Poor design? Cheap materials prone to failure? Poor workmanship? All of these things? How much more would it cost to build a reliable vehicle versus consistently poor crap? I know people love 'em. I’d think they’d happily pay a bit more for a reliable 4WD but maybe they’re overpriced already.

keep in mind that “poor quality” describes a great many things, and means something different than it did 30 years ago.

30 years ago, a poor quality car would regularly fail to start or strand you out on the road; would have trim and other stuff falling off; would have oil/fluid leaks at a young age; etc.

a “poor quality” car today has a glitchy infotainment touchscreen, or a check engine light on every so often, or a transmission which shifts “funny.”

IME a lot of today’s quality issues are electrical/software related. Modern cars can have anywhere from 12 to 40 active modules talking on the network.

Cause auto companies do not want you holding onto a vehicle for more than five years, they want you to buy and new and can’t figure out why no one is taking out a 7 year mortgage every two years, and only trade in when maitenance work exceeds a thousand dollars on a single trip to the shop.

Dealerships cant quite grasp the concept that we buy cars and not service. Individual dealerships vary, but a vehicle might get on the list, due to how they were treated at the shop (not to mention bill shock, for a repair that cost X on their old sunfire, now costs XXXXXX.XX on their present one.)

Anywhoo, the old saying the military uses about being built by the lowest bidder, thats your car. I made the brake pedals for the Jeep line, the high end soccer mom mobile, and I made good parts, perhaps even yours. I will bet your children’s lives on it, its stamped and folded, and then seam welded and then handed over to another robot that welds on the pad, pivot pipe, and ABS mounting tab. Then it and a billion other parts that are engineered to be the cheapest possible that will last five years are shipped to final assembly, and a car is born.

If you want a reliable Jeep, buy a willys from WW2

Jeep doesn’'t care as long as people keep buying them. And they will. Why mess with a good thing.

I purchased a Grand Cherokee with an AMC in-line six engine new in September of ‘99. The transmission and engine have been rebuilt at 268k and 278k. I still own it at 402,000 plus miles. Very low maintenance vehicle. The truck has never been garaged. A little rust above the front wheel wells but a great truck…my own theory is that the readers of one particular magazine have for years been down on American cars and SUVs. To them the Germans and Japanese can do no wrong, and they have an inherent bias against union built vehicles…and yes, I have owned both a Mazda 323 and RX7 back in the day. Great cars. Also had a Volvo that was junk, and a VW Dasher with bad wiring at 200k. Whopping 48 horsepower and plain scary when merging…

This is true, and it’s encouraging that cars overall are definitely way more reliable than they were 30 years ago and tend to last much longer. But the fact remains that there are significant reliability differences between makes and models, and it’s not well correlated with price. Two examples that come to mind are the high scores for quality and reliability of the Toyota Camry and the reputedly shitty quality of the Dodge Journey. I believe that Chrysler-made Jeeps have tended to be rated below average in reliability. Before buying a car I’d definitely look at a few reputable sites that list their frequency of repair statistics.

The same reddit thread had an automotive engineer explain, well, you can read the original here.

But, basically what he says is “I give you 100 stones to use as currency to design a car. You can chose to spend those stnoes in areas like reliability, sports performance, gas mileage, comfort, space, etc. We all understand that companies will spend those stones differently and as consumers, we appreciate that.
Those stones are directly related to the amount you spend on a car. There are sort-of-levels associated with the classes of vehicle like “light pickup”, “economoy”, “full size”, “luxury”, etc.
Cars are hyperdesigned and have been for years. This means that, with almost no exceptions, you won’t find a company making a car that is converting those “stones” to car-output at a different rate than the others, unless they come up with some crazy new tech, which is super rare.

So this is the reason why Toyotas and Hondas are generally “boring”. The automakers paid a premium for higher reliability parts, and that gave them less money to spend in sexy features. And Chrysler/Jeep apparently do approximately the opposite.

Ah, Jeep. Where do I start…

I drove a Jeep Wrangler for many years. Absolute piece of junk. I eventually sold it to my nephew for $1. (Seriously.)

Specific to Jeeps, folks often buy them to achieve a certain off-road lifestyle. First-timers really have no idea of what is reasonable to expect these vehicles to do. They have been watching these extreme competitions on youtube and don’t understand that you can not both perform those stunts and have a street legal vehicle. So they wind up breaking things, and ragging out the car in the first few months.

I have an online sub to Consumer Reports so I looked up the Journey.

as I said, in the past few model years the biggest knock against it has been… in car electronics.

The new Jeep Compass is generally good with a knock against “brakes.” no detail whether that means short brake pad life or other issues.

Back in the day, a “poor quality car” regularly failed at being a car; you couldn’t rely on it to get you where you wanted to go. Today, a “poor quality car” might irritate you a bit more than a competing car.

I’ve owned 5 Jeep Wranglers and was happy with each one. My current 2015 has 47,000 miles on it. I’ll trade it in on a new one when it hits 100,000.

plus you have people like the one I saw on another site who lay on the hyperbole real thick. This person posted (I am not making this up*) “We bought a Chevy Citation when they first came out. We’re still reeling from that one.”


You are not.

if you are still “reeling” from a bad car you bought almost 40 years ago, I don’t think anyone can help you.

(* and I don’t mean this in the Dave Barry sense)

But the manufacturers aren’t limited to 100 stones. They could spend 125 stones if they wanted and get style, performance and quality. But maybe the market won’t bear a car that sells for 150 stones (allowing for profit). I gather that is what Tesla did. Top rated car ever but at $75,000, who can afford it?

yes they are. There’s only so much e.g. Ford can charge for a Fusion, 'cos potential buyers also have the Accord, Camry, Malibu, Sonata, Optima, Altima, etc. as options.

the new car market is completely saturated and hotly competitive. every single car and truck on the market (with rare exception) is built to a price point so as to be more or less in line with its direct competitors.

The post addresses that. For a given market segment, there is a range of prices that manufacturer can charge. Charging too much means no sales, even if it’s a better vehicle. So for 2 vehicles from different manufacturers at the same price point, if one has a neat feature, it means the manufacturer must have cut corners somewhere else.

Unless it’s from Chrysler or Jeep. Then it means they cut corners everywhere and you’re paying 100 stones for a 90 stone vehicle.

I’ve had two new Jeep Wranglers, they were nice but not practical buys for me. I wasn’t an off-roader and the 2013 6-cylinder wasn’t much more powered than the 4-cyl '00 one. I liked the used '07 Cherokee I sold last year, but it started to get expensive at around 90 K (4WD module died, oil pan replacement, TPS always malfunctioning).

I have an old BMW sedan and a newer X3. The X3 is, like many modern cars, extravagantly electronified to a silly degree. I did, however, back into a tree pretty hard this morning, and there’s nary a scratch on the bumper; I did the same in my Cherokee and the bumper crumpled like papier mache. The Wranglers were basically made out of Diet Coke cans. I firmly believe German cars are far safer than most makes.

ETA: I test drove the Audi, Mercedes, and Acura/Lexus versions of the X3; the Germans were better made IMHO.

Chrysler has a corporate culture of substandard quality. What SamuelA says has a lot of merit.

Chrysler has always trailed behind GM and Ford in the market, not to mention the foreign competition (which really raised the quality standards). It gives you less cash to play with. When you trail in the market you have to allocate your cash while remaining price competitive. Chrysler seems to have chosen flair and design over quality. I mean, cummon, selling a 840hp car just for media buzz:

To the corporation that brings attention to the brand. Raising the quality standards on the production line is an investment that costs money and isn’t at all sexy.

The worst car I ever owned was a Jeep. The aggravation they cause makes them not worth driving. If I won a free Jeep in a contest, I would put it up for sale the next day.

And this just in . . . BMW recalling million+ cars for randomly bursting into flames! LOL