Conventional wisdom is not immutable; it can evolve, and it does. In the case of the automotive world, the notion of the infallibility of Japanese automotive manufacturing has finally been discarded … or so is to be expected. Unfortunately, some people will continue to avoid American cars in favor of imports simply on the basis of conventional wisdom that is far out of date.
In fact, according to the “2009 Vehicle Reliability Study Results” from JDPowers.com, the most trusted car brand is Buick, a GM product. Lincoln and Mercury also scored very high; other Ford and GM nameplates scored “better than most” in this survey. In the 2010 version of this study, the Buick remained the top midsize brand, with the Mercury Milan in second place, both ahead of the Honda Accord, which ranks third.
What is remarkable is that in all categories except the compact or midsize “premium sports car” niches (dominated by Mercedes-Benz and BMW), an American manufacturer is present. In 5 of the 6 car categories that are not “premium sports cars,” an American car is the top-ranked model. It’s not bad at all.
This is not to suggest that American automakers did not earn their previous reputation for poor quality, but rather they did. The fit and finish of American cars had always been poor and their reliability, especially in the 1980s, was quite poor. The focus in those days was marketing and accounting; engineering and quality were much less important.
Unfortunately for their American counterparts, Japanese automakers invested heavily in engineering and quality. They built a better product and their focus on build quality and reliability eventually took a large chunk of the market away from Ford, GM, and Chrysler.
Although American automakers were slow to react to the threat from Asia, they have recognized the problem and have reacted.
The highlight is that American cars have evolved in terms of features, refinement, and reliability. They are better than ever, and it is about time. They clearly have some market leading products that deserve consideration and it is up to anyone in the market to include them in a new car, and they do. GM, Ford and Chrysler are reporting double-digit sales increases in January and appear optimistic that this will continue through 2011.
Conventional wisdom can catch up with the idea that American cars are worthy investments. The informed consumer has already done so.
Copyright 2011 by George F. Jones