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