Ran­kle file

We lift the bon­net on re­li­a­bil­ity statis­tics car mak­ers want to keep se­cret from buy­ers

The Advertiser - Motoring - - COVER STORY - BILL McKIN­NON

THERE’S lit­tle more frus­trat­ing than buy­ing a new car that starts throw­ing tantrums.

Life would be sim­pler and less stress­ful if, as part of your car buy­ing re­search, you could find out which makes and mod­els are re­li­able and which ones give their own­ers grief.

This in­for­ma­tion is avail­able here but the car com­pa­nies have an agree­ment among them­selves to keep it top se­cret.

You have prob­a­bly never heard of the Au­to­mo­tive Re­tail and Man­u­fac­tur­ing Syn­di­cate (ARMS), a coali­tion of more than 30 car mak­ers that runs an an­nual sur­vey of car buy­ers to find out how they’re get­ting along with their new car, from ini­tial pur­chase through the first three years of own­er­ship.

It asks about prob­lems and faults with the car it­self, plus the buyer’s opin­ion of the dealer’s cus­tomer ser­vice and the over­all feel-good fac­tor — or oth­er­wise — of their ex­pe­ri­ence with brand X, Y or Z.

Brands are ranked, from best to worst, and the re­sults shared among ARMS syn­di­cate mem­bers — but not with the peo­ple who buy new cars.

Cars­guide has tried to ob­tain the re­sults of the lat­est ARMS sur­vey, with­out suc­cess.

Hyundai is a mem­ber of ARMS. As a pro­ducer of high qual­ity cars, backed by a fiveyear/un­lim­ited-kilo­me­tre war­ranty, and one of the mar­ket’s boom brands, is it in favour of re­leas­ing the re­sults?

No. “They’re not re­ally meant for pub­lic re­lease,” says Hyundai Aus­tralia’s Tony Hut­ton. “Some­times what is per­ceived as a qual­ity is­sue isn’t re­ally a qual­ity is­sue and there are also va­garies with new cars that some­times mean faults aren’t faults,” he says.

So there you go. If you think your new car has a prob­lem, it may not be a prob­lem at all. You’re prob­a­bly just imag­in­ing it.

In the car busi­ness the strong usu­ally de­vour the weak but, when it comes to ARMS sur­vey re­sults, even those brands that con­tinue to make un­re­li­able cars are pro­tected by the syn­di­cate.

“Rule 101 says you don’t get far by point­ing out the prob­lems of your com­peti­tors,” says Hut­ton.

We don’t have the make and model rank­ings from the ARMS sur­vey but a Cars­guide source has pro­vided some de­tails about trends and the over­all qual­ity per­for­mance of new cars in Aus­tralia.

“It is im­prov­ing,” he says. “There are a lot fewer en­gines blow­ing up to­day and many of the nig­gles now are more to do with new tech­nol­ogy, such as in­fo­tain­ment sys­tems and smart­phone con­nec­tiv­ity.”

“Price and qual­ity are def­i­nitely not re­lated. If you want to know the re­ally bad cars, just use the net and so­cial me­dia.”

There’s an un­of­fi­cial, but pretty ac­cu­rate, qual­ity and re­li­a­bil­ity peck­ing or­der in new cars, based on their brand’s country of ori­gin.

The Ja­panese mak­ers are at the top, closely fol­lowed by the rapidly im­prov­ing South Kore­ans (“who are cer­tainly get­ting close to the Ja­panese,” ac­cord­ing to our source), then the Euro­peans (“they all have their idio­syn­cra­sies”), fol­lowed by the Amer­i­cans and then, at the back of the pack, the Aus­tralians, Ford and Holden.

If ARMS won’t hand over its re­sults, let’s see what we can find else­where.

Power to the peo­ple: The re­sults of JD Power’s 2016 US Ve­hi­cle De­pend­abil­ity Study

Main of­fender: Blue­tooth con­nec­tiv­ity is the most com­mon prob­lem area

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