THIS week’s cover story is bound to spark a few disgruntled phone calls from car industry executives.
They’ll point out that the figures we’ve used to rank various brands on their reliability and quality could be inaccurate and misleading — and they may well be right. But if they’re looking for someone to blame, the mirror might be a good place to start.
The table we’ve used for our story is from arguably the most respected automotive research company in the world, JD Power.
Problem is, the figures are based on a survey of US owners rather than Australian. Some of their cars are built in different factories from ours, so the results may not directly correlate with Australian buyers’ experience.
That’s not our fault. The figures are the only ones available because car company executives in Australia refuse to share similar research with customers here. They collect it, but have a gentlemen’s agreement not to publish it.
It’s a ridiculous situation — their parent companies overseas are happy to be judged publicly but they are not.
It all goes back to a time when the local car industry ruled the roost. Holden and Ford — and to a lesser extent Mitsubishi and Toyota — controlled the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries.
They also built some pretty slipshod cars, hence the veil of secrecy over the quality data.
When the results were leaked about a decade ago, the witch hunt would have done Salem proud.
With the local industry winding up — and the quality of most cars improving markedly — surely it’s time to lift the veil.
US makers have openly said that the public scrutiny of quality figures has forced them to focus more on quality.
As for the findings, they are no surprise to the crew at Carsguide, largely because they correlate with our readers’ letters. Some brands generate lots of mail, others not so much.
Some technology is also more trouble-prone than others. JD Power reports that one in five problems relates to audio, communication, entertainment and navigation. Again, that’s no surprise to our road testers — the quality of Bluetooth, audio and navigation is one of our most common gripes.