25 September 2013

Why Car Reliability Doesn't Seem To Matter That Much

The previous blog showed that some cars are consistently more reliable than others. However, providing the car isn't always in the workshop, then reliability isn't a deciding factor. Why? I have come up with a few reasons:

1) When buying new, the warranty covers the repair cost anyway. Therefore, that assurance is enough reason for some no doubt.

2) It's desirability is what entices the purchaser. They like the car and want to own it.

3) A love of a particular brand and and even becoming a loyal supporter of it.

4) Image. The car they buy has prestige and they want to be seen driving such a car.

5) A problem with a car brings contact with the dealer. If they handle the problem well, it reassures the customer that the local dealer of this marque looks after you. You then trust them and even build a rapport with the dealership.

6) Even when you see some cars more reliable on lists, the truth is even the lowest ranked brands are not breaking down that much anyway. Not enough to question whether to buy one.

In Summary: Of course, those who value reliability above all else will choose on that basis. Unfortunately, the cars that seem to go and go are also the dull ones to drive. So what do you want? Driving pleasure or total reliability? It seems you can't have both!

23 September 2013

Dependability In Cars

We expect things to work. With technological advances, why wouldn't they? Humans are pretty clever designing things to work and work when we need them....well maybe not.

Anyone familiar with this site will know that I am totally underwhelmed by Google. This was once a simple blog with limited features, but it worked 100%. Then it was upgraded with features that would enhance the experience for the blog owner and you the user. The problem is it is now so seemingly overloaded with amazing features that barely works at all from my end! It now offers less than the simpler, reliable blog did.

This reminds me of cars. I bought a new car eight years ago now. It was simple in design but user friendly. It didn't have all the bells and whistles of other models but I don't want them anyway. It has has never broken down once. This is what I want and expect.

Unfortunately when cars get more technical, they seem to break down more often, much like Google. I was at the Car Reliability Index website and noted the ten least reliable cars listed:

1) Audi RS6
2) BMW M5
3) Mercedes V Class
4) Porsche 911 996
5) Mercedes CL
6) Mercedes SL
7) Audi Q7
8) Bentley Continental GT
9) Audi A6 Allroad
10) Mercedes R Class

I looked at that list and thought nine German brands, and all ten German owned. All premium quality and all at the forefront of vehicle technology. All these marques are respected and very popular. Yet do car buyers really want features over dependability? Can't these car makers make sure that things work before releasing them on the public? Lexus can.

The more complex things are, the more likely to breakdown. This is because not enough testing is done these days to sort the issues out before they are released. Everything has to be better to impress. However, I am not impressed with undependable products and frankly human technology. Compared to design in nature - which works splendidly and is superbly executed - it isn't very clever. Often it doesn't even work very well at all.

PS. If you want to know what I drive,  it's at the top of this list.

13 September 2013

Simplifying Cars

Cars of years ago were simple. Comparing a car of 50 years ago and today and you find the modern vehicle is so much more complicated. 50 years ago there seemed quite a gap between say a Mercedes and an Opel car. Today there isn't much difference, a Ford is not far off an Audi for example.

Which makes me wonder why. I can understand that premium brands such as BMW and Jaguar have to be special to command a premium price tag, but what benefit is there for a mass market brand getting close in quality them in quality? The premium brand can sell their car at a strong price, while the mass market cars cannot. In Europe, it is hard for regular car makers to make money, and trying to almost match cars with prestige image in quality but not price is part of the reason.

The Renault Group makes far more money per car with the Dacia brand than it does with its Renault brand. This is despite Dacias selling for a lower price. The difference is too much money is wasted trying to make a Renault a better car than the public want it to be. Surely mass market car brands need to be simplified and prices lowered. Many Europeans can no longer afford new cars at the price they are now. Dacia has shown that the potential for lower quality, lower priced cars is there.

According to ACEA,  in the first six months of 2013, Dacia sold 145,000 cars in Europe, for 2.2% share. It outsold Volvo, Honda, Suzuki and Mazda for example. If you add all the Dacias sold in Russia (not included in the ACEA figure and which are sold as Renaults), then Dacia models are proving popular. At least 90,000 Dacias - as Renaults - were sold in Russia for the same period as above.

When the Chinese come, they plan to arrive with inexpensive cars and of reasonable quality. Maybe Dacia will be a benchmark they will aim at, but with lower prices. I'm picking that if they do it properly they will establish a solid sales level in Europe.

In Summary: Brands like Ford and Opel need to make their cars less complex and more affordable (more profitable too). There will also be an increasing demand for even cheaper cars than those too, cheap and cheerful that is. Renault has highlighted potential in this segment and I am sure others will follow.

10 September 2013

Suzuki Production Cars/LCVs By Nation : 2013

Suzuki are particularly strong in Asia

Coming 8th on my list is the Suzuki brand. It is a very popular brand in Asia, where most of its cars are made (94.2% to be precise). Because of that, it is surprising it does as well as it does around the world. It stopped selling cars in North America during 2013 and it's worldwide market share slipped in that year. That would have been part of the reason I guess.

Making money selling small vehicles is a challenge, and yet somehow they pull it off. It is the dominant make in both India and Pakistan. It sells well in places like New Zealand, where it offers reasonable value as it's pitch. Making so many cars in low wage India must be a major factor in how it can make money.

In January 2010, VW bought 19.9% of Suzuki. The deal soon went sour and Suzuki wanted to buy VW out, but they refused. It is now before arbitration to try sort the issue out.

11 12 13 Nation Prod Share

1 1 1 India 1,171,914 41.2%

2 2 2 Japan 975,320 34.3%

3 3 3 China 225,421 7.9%

4 4 4 Hungary 161,106 5.7%

5 5 5 Indonesia 181,244 6.4%

6 6 6 Pakistan 71,654 2.5%

- 7 7 Thailand 53,421 1.9%

- 8 8 Brazil 2,011 0.1%

7 9 9 Vietnam 42 0.0%

Total 2,842,133

Data source: OICA and Suzuki.

07 September 2013

Toyota Trial Mitigate Impact System (M.I.S.)

Toyota is trialing the Mitigate Impact System, or M.I.S. for short. Of course it is better if the other car does MISS you, but if there is a crash this system mitigates - or lessens - the impact. Some say visually it isn't attractive, but as the manufacturer says "Do you want to protect your precious paintwork or not?"

If the trial is successful - and I cannot see how it wouldn't work - then they will gradually start appearing on new models in 2014. I applaud the initiative, but question whether the tyres should be colour matched to the car. Apparently au naturel means impacts won't require any touch up to the tyre. Smart thinking.

01 September 2013

GM Car Production UK: 1979 - 1995

In the late 70's, GM's Vauxhall production in the UK was poor. It was pulled around by the Cavalier, Astra/Belmont, Vectra and Frontera models in the next decade. Why GM later pulled back to the one model today is a shame. The UK supports GM Vauxhall.

Yr Total Cavalier Astra Vectra Frontera Chevette Carlton Viva
79 58,800 - - - - 50,800 - 8,000
80 55,000 - - - - 55,000 - -
81 69,900 23,200 1,700 - - 42,500 2,500 -
82 112,700 59,300 29,300 - - 22,100 2,000 -
83 126,500 77,300 31,700 - - 17,500 - -
84 117,100 82,700 30,100 - - 4,300 - -
85 152,600 102,000 50,600 - - - - -
86 161,900 87,800 74,100 - - - - -
87 184,000 94,500 89,500 - - - - -
88 176,700 87,100 89,600 - - - - -
89 208,300 121,100 87,200 - - - - -
90 256,300 151,300 105,000 - - - - -
91 259,000 94,800 90,300 70,700 3,200 - - -
92 319,100 100,900 117,500 69,500 31,200 - - -
93 273,900 103,600 111,100 17,900 41,300 - - -
94 289,900 92,700 102,500 55,300 39,400 - - -
95 262,600 61,700 108,600 61,300 31,000 - - -
Av 181,429 89,333 74,587 54,940 29,220 32,033 2,250 8,000