'American-Made' Quality Still Seen as Inferior

Engine

The Detroit Three build plenty of high-quality cars. Buick, Ford and Lincoln scored above average in the latest Vehicle Dependability Study from J.D. Power and Associates, and Cadillac ranked third in the study's rankings. J.D. Power's three-month Initial Quality Study had Cadillac, GMC, Chrysler's Ram trucks and Chevrolet ranking above average.

But a Harris Interactive poll released Wednesday said car owners still view American-made cars as inferior. Of 2,634 U.S. adults polled 35% said they find the quality of such vehicles inferior to those of imported cars, outpacing the 24% who said they find import brands inferior to domestics. However, a larger chunk (42%) deemed quality about the same.

Recent studies don't help Detroit's case. Chrysler's brands ranked near the bottom of J.D. Power's three-year dependability study, though the automaker's sales chief told us last February that new owner Fiat brings a "maniacal" quality focus. Indeed, Chrysler's Jeep division ranked above average in Consumer Reports' latest 28-brand reliability survey, and it was the only Detroit brand to do that.

The biggest wrinkle, however, appears to be the Harris poll's wording. The company asked for quality regard among "American made vehicles" — a term that would lead many, but not all, respondents to assume Detroit brands. Foreign-owned automakers market their U.S. operations heavily these days, so at least some respondents had to question the wording. Detroit automakers employ many more Americans on the whole, but "American-made" doesn't automatically mean Detroit. Ford builds the Fiesta in Mexico, after all, and Volkswagen makes the Passat in Tennessee.

So take those results with a few grains of salt. We asked a Harris spokeswoman to clarify, but we haven't heard back.

Elsewhere, the poll found about a third of owners expressed interest in a hybrid, and 23% say their hybrid interest has increased from a year ago — despite a modest decline in gas prices when Harris administered the survey last May. Most of them pick something else, though; hybrids and plug-in vehicles still comprise just a small percentage of all new-cars sold.

Related

Cars.com's American Made Index
Which Carmakers Employ the Most Americans?
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Comments 

sheth

a poll like this is useless because many people have no clue where there cars are made. The intent is to gauge the perceptions of quality amongst US based automakers vs foreign automakers, but the wording really doesn't make that clear. With many "imports" designed and built in the US (mainly Hondas and Toyotas) its hard to understand why brand would be a major determination of quality. If the workers and engineers are the sources of high quality than it should be safe to assume there shouldnt be a huge variation in quality between US made "domestics" and "imports". Also, Im sure most people responding to this poll were primarily thinking of Japanese branded "imports" when they answered because many folks have questions about European car quality/durability.

Lance

Polls like this measure perceptions. We all know perceptions may not be based on fact but because people buy according to perception it therefore becomes fact or the old saying "perception is reality".

Just because two cars are made in plants in the same area doesn't mean those two cars will have the same quality. Sure the workers and engineers can be Americans but the management(brand) who determine the processes for quality control, purchasing, etc may have a complete different mindset. Parts suppliers can be different, quality of material, quality control testing, etc can be vastly different between brands with cars that compete in the same class/category. So just saying a car is made in the US so it must have the same quality as another is just plain naive.

Skankzilla

Lance beat me to it.

Brent

I have found most American cars to be far superior to the Japanese imports. People need to wake up to the fact that it is no longer 1983, and Nissan does not care how many times your 2011 Sentra has stranded you in the desert!

Matt

The company asked for quality regard among "American made vehicles"

We can still deduct whether people associate american made products with quality, regardless of where the cars are made or if they know where they are made.

If people are aware of the concept of an "american made vehicle" the statistic is still valid for associating american and quality together.

These are American brands vs. Japanese brands (also vs. European brands vs Korean brands, etc.) An "American" brand can be built in Mexico or Europe or Korea as easily as a "Japanese" brand can be built in the U.S.--all are large, multi-national companies who have a whole slew of issues to deal with--government regulation and monetary policies being the ones consumers don't care to think much about. They just want a nice car at a fair price. GM, Ford, and Chrysler will have to conquer the same tough EPA standards as the Japanese, and still give you an affordable car that you desire to buy. I believe the US brands have more style, the European brands have more cache, and the Japanese brands have more reputation for reliability.

Shorebreak

My Mazda MX-5 Miata is built in Japan and is of the highest quality. That's why it's still around and the Pontiac Solstice and Saturn Sky are dead and gone.

I have had a great deal of success wth American cars, my previous Ford F-150 I traded in for a new one with 366,000 miles on it, and I just bought a new Dodge Caravan to replace my old one (made in Sterling Heights, MI) that had 175,000 miles without anything other than normal maint. I would say when considering a new vehicle, I think American cars are 100% as good as imports.

Wow.

Initial quality surveys are absolutely meaningless.

Highdesertcat

You know, a lot of people in America had pretty bad ownership experiences with the domestic cars, for decades.

It was exactly those bad experiences that caused the mass exodus away from the domestic brands and into the open arms of the higher quality foreign brands.

That's why Toyota, Honda, Nissan and Hyundai are doing so well. They beat American car makers at their own game, on their own turf.

So when you're at the bottom, there's no place to go but up, right?.

And the domestics have made great strides in quality starting in 2007 but that was still not enough to keep GM and Chrysler from going bankrupt in 2009.

Ford and bailed-out GM are pegging their hopes and futures on the young, first-time buyers because all the people who joined the great migration to the foreign brands won't be coming back.

And why should they? Why reward ANY manufacturer for a bad product of the past by buying another one from them.

It's more than a perception. It's more like revenge.

japimportssuck

I've had better experiences with GM cars than jap crap.
I own three cars a '95 Chevy Caprice 5.7, a 96 Chevy Corsica 2.2, both of which I currently drive with I high mileage, and a 95 Toyota Tercel which I have not driven in the past 2 years and just sits in my yard. (the only jap car I ever drove).
The Tercel engine was reasinably well built, only burned a quart of oil every three months (time to change oil by then anyway) but sucked elsewhere. The body paint faded through with underbody rust, the thing had so many electrical problems and dash cracks and blew transmissions, and the seats were UNCOMFORTABLE.
The thing was so difficult to work on and had expensive parts, my Caprice and Corsica were much easier to work on, and more comfy to drive.
I will NEVER purchase a POS jap car again

Havalon

My Toyota Avalon has a domestic parts content of 80%, built in Kentucky, higher amount of American parts than most cars built in Detroit. Put that in your tail pipe and smoke it.

Jackson

Up until last year I worked for a fleet operations company and can tell you first hand the Japanese brand cars are more durable and better built. There are some exceptions among models but very few.
Take a door panel off a Accord and compare it to say a Malibu. It's like night and day.

Jay

I think surveys on reliability should only include on average an owner has to bring their car in for service other than regular maiantenance. Also, they should poll on the perception of how well a brand engineers their cars.

Highdesertcat

Jay,

when a car is brought in for regular maintenance to the dealership it is customary for the dealership to download the OBDII data and upgrade any software or firmware in addition to bringing the vehicle in compliance with Factory Service Bulletin alerts.

This is all done at no cost to you, but it often takes a little longer than just doing the regular maintenance.

The dealership gets paid by the OEM to do this. If they choose to vacuum the insides of your car and wash and wax the outside, it means that they can well afford to do so because of the reimbursement they receive.

Many of these tweaks are totally lost on the owner, unless they read the service sheet they receive from the service manager. Many dealerships itemize what was done during the visit.

Wain

For a year i worked selling cars (2 years ago) first i worked for a Toyota dealership stayed there for 8 months, during that time only one buyer returned with a meaningless complaint (his car was not getting the MPG the sticker suggested). Then i went to a Ford dealership The first car i sold had several issues (Confirmed by the mechanic who performed the job) i sold cars that broke down in the first few weeks of ownership, now to the repair shop: at Toyota most cars that came in for service mostly for routine maintenance, very seldom i saw cars being towed in. with Ford towing trucks had a field day every day. Toyota owners came in to trade their cars with 300k miles on the odo still running fine. at Ford people wanted to trade in their cars desperately because they already had 100+ miles on the odo.

Peppy

My family has always got horrid experience with the Jap cars we had. Throughout my lifetime (from what I remember) We had two K-cars, early 90's Escort, two 95' Neons, a 90' Subaru Legacy, an 87 Tercel, a late 80's Sentra.

The K-cars were great, except the rust that ended their lives, the Neons lasted forever. 1 died at 218k (but we did ZERO maintance except adding oil for the last 40k of its life) and the other Neon just recently died at 291,xxx miles from overheating. the Tercel died young at 130k and it was very well taken care of by us, the Subaru was a money pit and went through oil like it was going out of style, the Nissan had issues upon issues. After we had the Subaru my parents vowed NEVER to own anything other than American. My parents currently own 2 Chrysler Sebrings with over 100k on them without any issues at all. My wife drives a Park Aveune with close to 200k on it and it runs great and I currently drive either a 97' Neon or my 04' Grand Marquis that I've had zero issues with. I will never ever own anything other than American.

J

As soon as the above comment made a racial remark, the rest was simply skipped through.

Lance

K cars were the epitome of junk. Parents had one that the headliner kept falling out, tranny went out at about 45k and it was in the shop about a dozen times for warranty fixes. Sure the fixes were free but they sure spent a lot of time at the dealer. Years later one can read of just how terrible the K cars were.

Cary Briel

Chrysler is by far the worst quality/engineered vehicle in the "American" brands lineup. They're a great marketing company, which lures many people in, but all one need do is own one of their cars/trucks, or worse yet be a technician working on one of their models, to realize how poor the quality and engineering of their vehicles is when compared to their foreign counterparts. They sell out their current/eventual customers every day of the week.

Highdesertcat

Cary Briel, I was never a Chrysler fan. I thought they made crap cars. I owned lots of Jeeps over the years and a few Dodge trucks. They sucked!

But I have changed my mind since I bought my wife a 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland Summit 4x4 V6. It is every bit as good as our 2008 Highlander Limited 4x4 was, and still is. No problems, no warranty issues. Fit&finish is really good.

To me it appears that Chrysler got the benefit of German engineering when Daimler redid their vehicles and used Mercedes-Benz tech in them.

A lot of people seem to share my sentiment since the 300, 200, Wrangler and Grand Cherokee are selling like hot cakes, with waiting lines in many parts of the country, and Fiatsler cranking them out with over time.

M

Chrysler's are pure junk with the Sebring being the crown jewel. I was forced into one as a company car. Needless to say, I took the car allowance the next time around. Even though the car was free from the company, there is a diminishing rate of return if you are driving it 60k miles a year sitting in cheap foam seats surrounded by Play-skool grade interior materials.

Tzu

As an owner of a '00 Silverado and Impala and one old '91 Camry, I can say all have been reliable and trustworthy. The Impala has the least miles at 210,000 and the Camry the most at 271,000. The Camry is rusty, but still is mostly squeak free inside and gets pretty good MPG. The Impala's ride is fairly noisy when driving but has the GM 3800 that is one of the best engines every made IMHO. My Silverado 5.3 has piston slap like most do, but has been reliable all along. So first hand experience has me saying Toyota "feels" like a better car, is more costly for parts and to fix (even at home in my driveway, while Chevrolets have their quirks and noises, but will take you anywhere dependably. Parts for our Chevy's are cheap and easy to find. If I was looking for a new car, it would be either a new Cruze or Camry. The 2013 Malibu let me down with rear leg room and with the direct injection 4 cylinder only engine. Toyota still has the V6 optional and great mileage to boot. Both are made in the USA, so that makes me feel good. Chevy trucks only in this household. Have had great experiences with them in the past. No need to change. Chrylser and Dodge have always seemed to be great looking exteriors hiding sub-par powerstrains. Nothing they make is of any interest to me. They could be good, but let someone else buy them.

Highdesertcat

Chevies will run forever, badly.

CourtneeB

Some ppl see the truth as 'what I want it to be.' The truth is, once upon a time the Toyota was unquestionably the best car to buy in America. Now that they are manufactured in America they are a safety risk...junk! Now that is the truth whether anyone admits it or not.

CourtneeB

Chryslers were crappy, now all cars are crappy. What is needed is to stop mass production and try quality production. Is there a politician that can make that happen? Take the time to make a car that won't be recalled later. Pay workers by quality not quantity. You're not going to sell all of those crappy new cars anyway.

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