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Japanese automakers led by Toyota (TM) and Honda (HMC) topped Consumer Reports' annual ranking...

Japanese automakers led by Toyota (TM) and Honda (HMC) topped Consumer Reports' annual ranking of automobile brands while U.S. automakers (GM, F, FIATY.PK) lagged further down the list. Though initiatives by the Big Three to freshen up their lineup could boost sales, the magazine thinks that there might be growing pains. CR: "...when you come out with new models and new powertrains, you end up with reliability woes."
Comments (14)
  • All three American manufacturers are doing great with their new models. But what they are missing is more quality from their dealers to their customers. At "" there are horror stories about Volt owners and their dealers. GM must improve their service quality all the way down to the dealer and their customers. Then they will gain more loyalty through repeat sales.
    27 Feb 2013, 09:06 AM Reply Like
  • Unfortunately, by US law, automobile dealerships are independent, privately owned and operated, contract franchise businesses. The automakers cannot do much more than use cash incentives, or threat of cancellation, to influence dealerships to play nice with customers. Even if customers complain directly to the automaker, they are, by law, referred back to the dealership for resolution.


    Also unfortunately, customers are unaware of this, and assume the automaker is at fault, and often go to another brand if there is a problem with the local dealer.


    This weirdness is baked into the anti-trust franchise laws, and would take an act of congress to change.
    28 Feb 2013, 08:41 PM Reply Like
  • That's not true Tdot. Who you talking to in here? Automotive companies can and will step in on individual cases and make adjustments - settlements - and refunds through and around the dealerships.


    That's why people are referred to District Managers who represent the company when customers make a claim against them and the dealer decides he doesn't want to foot the bill for manufactured issues.


    Too often dealers are expected to cover warranty problems at their own expense while Ford and GM walk away from their responsibilities.


    I just had a transmission fail in an Acura at 150,000 miles. I sent a letter to Acura about how unhappy I was. They responded in a professional manner, inspected the car, admitted they had some transmission problems and paid 75% of my cost for a replacement.


    Now over the years I've had similar problems with Ford and GM over bad radiators - and they would rather die than admit or pay a claim even if it's in warranty.


    Sorry, there buddy, you're riding the wrong horse in this race, and you can tell by how people respond to CR investigations where customers feel they get a good value for the dollar.
    1 Mar 2013, 08:28 AM Reply Like
  • Yes, automakers do take calls from customers and try to solve problems with customer satisfaction. However, vehicle problems are always dealt with at the dealership / service manager level. Automakers supply dealerships with instructions (eg: Factory Service Manuals and Technical Service Bulletins and other documents) on fixing vehicle problems that come up repeatedly, and dealerships service managers are expected to perform the repairs.


    In the case of lemon law claims and other serious matters, automakers do step in to try to help a customer find relief, and even that is mostly dealt with through the dealership at the end of the day. But in general, in the 99.99%+ cases of customer vehicle problems, the automakers work exclusively through the dealership network when there are customer issues with a vehicle.


    Now, if a dealership is not cooperating with a customer or the automaker, and they are not owning up to their contractual obligations, then the automaker can seek to terminate the franchise contract. The franchise operating contract is the legal means by which automakers and dealerships deal with issues. Dealers are not stuck with covering warranty repairs "at their own expense". That is simply false. Generally it is just the opposite - dealerships try to stick automakers with false warranty claims - replacing a complete engine for example instead of changing the injectors or spark plug coils.


    In any case, if the components are covered under warranty, the automakers cover the expense of replacement, including parts and labor. The problems arise when customers break their vehicle doing something that it was not designed to do. For example, a customer tries to drive a Mustang through a sand dune, or tows a heavy trailer up a steep hill with a Focus, and then complains of vehicle problems. The dealership service manager is expected to determine if the problem is from a defective system or component, or from customer abuse. Collisions and abuse are not covered by warranty, although there is no shortage of customers who attempt to get it anyway.


    I too have had serious vehicle issues, with a Toyota, which came with a 5-year 60,000 mile warranty. One day after 4 years it began repeatedly overheating at highway speeds. The dealership flushed the coolant, and did other things, but the overheating persisted. After 5 or 6 dealership visits with no fix, tried another Toyota dealership. They replaced the thermostat, and the problem went away. All this was covered under warranty. However, the repeated overheats had damaged the engine, and the crankshaft cracked at 60,057 miles, causing major vibrations at high speed, destroying the engine. Since it was after 60,000 miles, the bill to replace the engine was going to be around $5,000, with no warranty relief.


    By the way, I had already documented and proved to Toyota and the Dealership that the odometer and speedometer both read 5% too high due to a calibration issue, so the vehicle had only been driven 57,054 miles, and it was less than 5 years, thus it should have still been covered by the warranty. The contract language however specified the odometer reading, regardless of the error which was later fixed on other people's Toyota and Lexus automobiles.


    I had another dealership problem. A Ford product put up a Transmission code at 5000 miles. The dealership service manager did not know what it meant, and replaced the entire transmission at the automaker's cost. It happened again at 10,000 and 15,000 miles. Bad transmission? NO. It turns out, the code was simply to change the transmission fluid every 5000 miles for the first 15,000 miles. So the dealership turned three simple $25 trans fluid flush and fill operations into $7,500 in wasted transmissions that had absolutely nothing wrong with them, other than having a year-long break-in period that required fresh fluid. Eventually Ford discovered the trend, and "corrected" the dealership service manager's approach to transmission service.


    We've all had vehicle and dealership and automaker problems.
    1 Mar 2013, 09:37 AM Reply Like
  • I'm surprised you'd support either Toyota or Ford.


    I got burned on a GM Van with that stupid radiator fluid they were using that was a joke. GM lost the class action suit and was in line to lose billions. I said heck with the class action suit my damages were higher and I took GM to court. GM admitted they were at fault and they were going pay off millions of claims. But my judge had family working at GM, they were her biggest campaign donor, and she threw the case out after they admitted the fluid was bad. I filed a grievance against the judge when I realized the person representing GM didn't even have any paperwork for the trial, because he knew he didn't need any.


    I lost 2 grand but the judge was busy over the grievance for a year. Then GM goes into bankruptcy and walks from the whole class action loss. I got a Ford story too..................... ;-)


    1 Mar 2013, 11:31 AM Reply Like
  • Yeah well, by the way, that Ford vehicle, after that transmission fiasco (which was the service manager's fault) lasted me 12 years and nearly 250,000 miles, with no other problems of significance. After getting about triple my money's worth, sold it to a neighbor kid for $1 as a fixer-upper. He still drives it.


    As for the Toyota, also sold it - to another kid to fix up - and it was junked with under 100,000 miles.


    So, just who's horse would you think I would be "riding ... in this race"?
    1 Mar 2013, 12:17 PM Reply Like
  • Some more crap from Consumer Reports. Any auto enthusiast will tell you that. Those cars put at the bottom by CR are at the top with J D Powers. What a dishonest company!
    27 Feb 2013, 09:59 AM Reply Like
  • It is a completely different polling group. JD Power bases their quality data on actual repairs and warranty data. Consumer Reports is strictly on annual subscriber "union member" reports.


    So, for example, anyone can subscribe to Consumer Reports, and then once a year report "major problems" on a car they don't even own. Perhaps they are reporting on behalf of a neighbor. Or they are just making it up out of thin air. Or they are exaggerating the problems they do have, so a routine scheduled maintenance plan including a fresh air filter, cabin AC filter, oil and oil filter change, trans, wiper, and brake fluid, wipers, brake pads, and tire rotation somehow become major reliability and quality issues.


    Meanwhile a Chevy Camaro owner can claim to have had serious problems in a Ford Mustang, just to get the numbers moving in favor of his preferred brand. People do this all the time, and Consumer Reports encourages it by not investigating, or demanding VINs, to prevent fraudulent reports. They gleefully report problems that do not exist in reality.
    1 Mar 2013, 12:46 PM Reply Like
  • So Ford's reputation could be even worse, except an army of paid supporters go on CR and try to keep the air in Ford's balloon right?


    Let's be realistic here, people complain but they rarely go on a crusade to destroy a big corporation. How many times would I have to lodge a complaint against Ford with CR to impact the final numbers? And why are you claiming Ford is the target? Why not GM or Toyota?


    No that logic doesn't work. You're a good numbers guy - stick with that.


    How about these numbers, everybody claims the average car on the road is 11 years old. I think that's high, but let's work with it. The average personal income is dropping dramatically and now we're facing major personal income hits with the new SEQ. College students can't find jobs in their field of interest - or at all - and many laid off people can't find work at even half what they used to make. But the cost of the average car is still going up dramatically every year.


    So I don't believe you'll see a sustained increase in new car sales because car prices have exceeded wallet capabilities. Just my personal observation.


    2 Mar 2013, 10:35 AM Reply Like
  • Anyone can be the target of a smear campaign, nothing special about Ford. That was simply an example.


    It is pretty well established that consumers with US brand automobiles are especially picky about quality, and will report the slightest repair, or even routine scheduled maintenance, as a major defect. Asian brand auto owners don't seem to do this - they seem to let things go as minor, mild issues, no big deal. Luxury car owners are similar - they have someone taking care of fixing the car, and the free loaners from the dealership are often nicer than the ones they have. The cost of repairs is no big deal to them - they have other things to think about.


    And I can tell you that I have personally interviewed a number of Consumers Union members (aka Consumer Reports subscribers) and surprisingly many have admitted to exaggerating the claims of unreliability of their vehicles, and they have reported problems on behalf of their friends and neighbors and co-workers. Many were Toyota and Honda owners who reported problems on Ford and GM vehicles they never owned. They feel it is a way to punish and shame the US automakers into extending warranties and improving quality. In other words, they made it all up, based on false and outdated impressions of reality. But they honestly feel that they are doing a service to society, by essentially lying. The ends justify the means for them, and they see historically improving quality by the US automakers as the fruits of their labors. Amazing.


    It should also be noted that the problems Ford has been having is more software related. The MyFord Touch system has been twitchy and unreliable for some users. I have seen cases where the touch screens went black, and the capacitive "buttons" on the radio and AC are very easy to activate inadvertently by brushing by them while looking for the proper button, or even by a knuckle when shifting. Clearly these are problems that need to be fixed, but it is not like the car broke down and left the owner stranded in the wilderness to die.


    Also the dual dry-clutch automatic transmissions, which are mechanically similar to manual clutch-shift transmissions but with automatic hydraulic servos and no torque converter, "feel different" during shifting from traditional automatic transmissions with torque converters. They have a significant fuel economy benefit relative to the slush-box approach, but some US consumers find the sharper shifts to be disconcerting, and they come to believe the transmissions are defective, and adding six or more gears to the system just makes it even more so. Never mind that Europeans have been driving around with these ultra-efficient transmissions for years with no problems - they are accustomed to them. Nevertheless, the Consumers Union types take their car back to the dealership for "transmission repairs", and the dealership runs some diagnostics and tinkers with it, but there is nothing to fix. After 3 or 4 complaints the dealership swaps in a new transmission, still no change. So a design feature for 25% better fuel efficiency becomes a "defect" to the ignorant, they report the "lemon" to Consumer Reports, and Consumer Reports dutifully reports "poor quality".


    You can't fix stupid.


    The point is, there is a huge disconnect between what Consumer's Union Members report on the reliability of "their cars", and the actual repairs data from the dealerships. In fact, many dealerships have had to sharply cut the mechanics on their payroll, because there is little for them to do. There is clearly a large gap between the subjective opinions of Consumer Reports subscribers and the objective data produced by JD Power. How is that? Either the objective data by JD Power is incomplete, and missing a massive number of repairs, or the Consumer Reports reports are heavily exaggerated. Are there any other conclusions that can be drawn? And which explanation seems more plausible?


    But feel free to go ahead and produce your own hypotheses based on the available data.
    2 Mar 2013, 11:45 AM Reply Like
  • Well, my jaw dropped over this short novel of yours. You have personally interviewed enough people to prove that CR is biased against Ford and people report problems their friends and neighbors have just to damage Ford. And even better - people are to stupid to know a new transmission feels different - so Ford gets a bad rap for that. I can't believe you wrote this - doesn't sound like you. And your statement doesn't contain "data" it's all hearsay and personal opinion.


    Just software problems? Last Monday Ford recalled 750,000 cars because some of them just lost power while driving.


    There's a certain amount of desperation in this novel of yours. If you want to consider coincidence - every time Ford pushes up it's stock price it's before the "bad" news comes out a few months later. Get ready!!!!!
    4 Mar 2013, 09:46 AM Reply Like
  • Consumer Reports is run by a bunch of morons who have no idea what a good or bad is. All they know is to report what the uneducated drivers rate their cars. Many times those uneducated will give a bad report to a perfectly great car. That how the system works with Consumer Reports. They ought to be put out of business which I suspect will happen someday after Toyota and Honda stops lining their pockets.
    4 Mar 2013, 08:31 AM Reply Like
  • "Toyota and Honda stops lining their pockets."


    2/3 of the cars it seems in San Francisco are Toyotas and Hondas.
    4 Mar 2013, 08:43 AM Reply Like
  • I have a Ford Fusion Hybrid with all the B&W's, close to 10,000mi and am pleased with it. Go Ford, Go America.
    4 Mar 2013, 08:20 PM Reply Like
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