Why are some pricey cars not reliable?

If I was going to spend $50k on a car I would expect top notch reliability. If Honda can make a reliable car for $20k then why are some expensive cars bad in terms of reliability?

Jaguar for example has made utter crap for a while. I guess those buyers only care about leather and wood and not what is under the hood.

Some cars are not necessarily built with reliability as the defining goal. Some sports cars would fall in this category. For them performance in the form of speed and handling may enjoy a larger design consideration. A lot of the “pricey” cars also attempt to incorporate new technologies. The reliability of these technologies will hopefully improve over time but they’re not going to always hit a home run right out of the gate.

Seems to me that for top dollar you should be able to have performance and reliability. It’s not like they are building race cars that are designed to run at 15,000 rpm and 150 mph. (except in a few cases )

Because reliability is not what sells those cars. It’s not that the people at Jaguar are incapable of making reliable cars, it’s that it’s not a priority to them, because it’s not what their customers base purchasing decisions on.

I guess you are right - the buyers don’t care.

I just find it very odd that someone has the mindset of paying $50k for a car and they don’t care how long it lasts. To be fair many people who pay $20k also don’t care how long their car lasts.

Another thing is that if I am an engineer I would be embarassed to design a $50k car that has bad reliability. But clearly not all engineers think like I do.

Really the problem is that these are small companies making small runs of cars. They can’t sell the car for all that significantly more than a regular car, but they simply can’t afford to put the cars through all the pacings and tests that a large corporation can, they would have to hire a bunch of people who sit around most of the time, and subsequently raise the cost of the vehicle.

At the moment, they make more money by selling at a lower cost with less reliability. Almost all cars were unreliable before Japan started mass production of vehicles, and they still tend to be more reliable than any other country’s cars, but you’ll note that people still tend to want to move away from the Japanese cars if they can afford to. People buy cars to be cool, not to be reliable.

Define “bad”. If you think for a second that the engineers of every company don’t hit their design goals exactly, you’re not giving them near enough credit. The difference is that they’ve not necessarily set “bombproof maintenance-free reliability for the next 30 years” as a design goal.

Every component of every car is designed with performance goals, reliability goals and importantly cost goals. If you can achieve 90% reliability for 50% of the cost, that component is likely the better option than one that never breaks yet costs twice as much.

In the high-end market, you’re also dealing with new and increasingly complicated technologies all over the place. Dual-clutch transmissions, direct fuel injection, infinitely variable valve timing - the list goes on and on. It’s pretty difficult to get this stuff exactly right straight out of the gate.

Have you ever heard of a lease?

I realize that some of these pricey cars are sold after 2 or 3 years (or leased) so that is another factor pointing to why they don’t care how long they last.

I also know that cost is a factor but as I said above, a $20k car can be reliable so it’s not that hard to make a car reliable.

I noticed long ago that Car and Driver, Motor Trend, etc. almost never mention reliability in their reviews so I guess they know their readers don’t worry about it.

I assume in part because reliability is something budget conscious people look for. If you are economical and on a budget, you are going to spend $14k on a slightly used honda or toyota and drive it for 10 years.

However if you have 50k to spend on a luxury auto, then I guess people aren’t too concerned with keeping maintenance bills low.

However, you’d assume some luxury autos like the acura or lexus have high reliability compared to comparably priced autos like the Benz or Jaguar (both of which I’ve heard bad things about). But I really don’t know if the sales of lexus or acura are higher than Benz. Nor do I really know if acura or lexus are even good cars, I am just assuming so since they are hondas and toyotas.

Yeah, but a $20k car makes significantly more money than a $100k car. Jaguar sold 65,000 cars last year (in the US), Honda sold 1,428,000. Say that the average cost of a Jaguar is $70,000 and the average cost of a Honda is $30,000, then Jaguar has made $4,550,000,000 and Honda $42,840,000,000. Jaguar has 4 car lines, Honda has ~13 models, giving Jaguar $1,137,500,000 per car line and Honda $3,295,000,000, or about three times as much.

There’s a huge difference between “reliability” and “how long a car lasts.” Okay, if the engine is prone to seize at 160,000 km, lots of people are relunctant to put in a new engine; you’d then say that the car only “lasted” 160,000 km or a few years. But in fact most reliability problems are easy and (relatively) cheap to fix.

It’s also incorrect to assume that a single automotive designer is responsible for designing an unreliable car. Let’s say that the Jag’s headlights keep burning out. There’s not a person at Jaguar that designed that headlight; it’s someone at Sylvania (probably). Of course there are Jaguar engineers that are involved in the purchasing process, but in the end, the purchasing people are the ones that award a contract based on an engineering assessment. If the Sylvania is 2¢ cheaper per lamp than the G.E., and the assessment is that only 1 per 1000 cars per month will have a burnt out headlight, then that’s deemed acceptable, even if the G.E. lamp were to have half the failure rate. The mindset of the buyer is certainly influenced by marketing, and so in the end, the buyer for Honda is going to have different values than the buyer for Jaguar. In turn, the Honda buyer is not going to pay $4 per unit for a mahogany switch, whereas the Jaguar buyer will enthusiastically pay that instead of $1.50 for the cheap plastic.

If you think Jags are bad now, you should have seen their quality prior to their Ford ownership (which was recently divested).

What’s the old maxim among car people (well, among motorcycle people, anyway – I don’t know if car people say it too)? “You’ve got performance, reliability and economy. Pick two. You can’t have all three.”

Its already been said upthread, but certain car lines (accord) have more cars made and destroyed in testing, than other luxury cars make -total-.

We’ve owned a few Corvettes and they weren’t problem free. Things like the seat memory not working or the steering wheel lock (motor actuated) needing a recall.

Part of it is that the Vette is the car GM debuts technology with. If it doesn’t work so hot there, it’s cheaper to fix 30,000 cars than 1.4 millon. Serpentine belts, active handling, throttle by wire, magneto rheological shocks… Lots of stuff started in gm’s lineup on the vette. (To be clear, I’m talking first at gm, not first worldwide, though that is sometimes the case.)

A few years back Jaguar got back into F1 racing after being out for a while - and in their first race their car died on lap 1! I got a good laugh out of that. They are no longer in F1 , they quit again.

A $20K car is meant to be a conveyance. A $100 car is meant to be an experience. I don’t know about high-end luxury cars, but I used to have a Porsche 911. It was designed to go fast and handle well. There is a lot more stress on a sports car’s engine than on my Jeep’s; and all of the other components are designed to take a certain amount of abuse. But a sports car will face a lot more abuse than an economy car, and so it will require more maintenance. FWIW, Porsche’s boxer engine is pretty much bulletproof. Just don’t break a timing chain. My mechanic said he knew a guy who decided to see how long his 911 engine would last, and ‘never had any work done to it’. (I assume he had tune-ups and oil changes.) This guy pounded the hell out of the car, and the engine finally blew up with 300,000 miles on the clock. During a hill-climb race. The 4.0l six in the Jeep is also said to be bulletproof. But I doubt it would stand up to the flogging that sports cars take.

My R1 has all three. :smiley:

I think it’s a simple matter of complexity. More fancy stuff = more to go wrong.

The engineers might. The people managing the engineers probably don’t. Remember, cars sold by car companies aren’t made so that engineers can show everybody what a good job they can do. They’re made to make profit for the people running the car company. This is true of both low-end and high-end cars.

All else being equal, if you charge more for a car, fewer people are going to buy it. Adding more reliability on top of performance, styling, and whatever else these high-end cars have costs money. To add it, you’d either have to get less profit from the car, or charge more and therefore sell fewer of them, which again leads to less profit.

By adding greater reliability, you might get people who wouldn’t have bought your car before to do so. But if the number who would buy it if it were more reliable is less than the number of customers you’d lose by raising the price, then it’s not a good business decision to add more reliability to your car. If you’d have a net gain in customers by adding reliability, of course in that case it would be a good business decision to add it. Someone at Jaguar has probably run the numbers and found that working on the reliability of their cars isn’t likely to get them much (if any) more profit.

My 2003 BMW has 130,000 miles on it. Since new, other than wear items, I’ve replaced the ignition coils, belt tensioner, control arms, window regulators, passenger side door speaker, and had a few minor hassles with a leaking seal on the differential. Other than the control arms and the second failed differential seal, these all occurred within the warranty period.

However, now, at 130,000 miles, it still drives like new. The interior has held up excellently, and other than some wear on the driver’s seat, it still looks like new. It doesn’t rattle, it doesn’t creak, and the engine and transmission are still smooth as silk.

For expensive cars, this is mostly the type of stuff people are talking about when they say they have “bad reliability”. It’s not at all the same thing as a car “not lasting”.

If I had bought a Honda, I might’ve saved myself some maintenance headaches. But the car looks great and has been infinitely more fun to drive over the past 130,000 miles and eight years than a Honda. I’d buy one again in a heartbeat (and probably will, soon).

To me that’s really an unacceptable amount of things to go wrong, and no doubt the car has been in a garage quite a few days getting all those things replaced. Maybe the car is so fun partly because you’ve missed it when it’s away! :wink: