According to the 2016 Lemon Car Report, published by consumer advocate Choice, 68 per cent of Holden owners had a problem with their new car in the first five years of ownership, the highest in the survey, followed by Ford on 65 per cent. Mazda was the best brand in the Choice results, with 44 per cent of owners having a problem.
“Australian brands are actually getting a bit better,” according to our ARMS source — cold comfort given both are about to shut the factory gates.
Choice’s report also backs up ARMS results in identifying Bluetooth connectivity as the most common problem area in new cars, followed by battery and electrics, the interior then the engine.
The industry benchmark in new car quality analysts, US firm JD Power, runs annual surveys of more than 30,000 American new-car buyers to measure initial quality — how their car performs over the first 90 days of ownership — and reliability over the first three years.
JD Power cautions against using its US results in the Australian context. However, its Initial Quality Study (IQS) and Vehicle Dependability Study (VDS) rankings, based on problems per 100 vehicles, are the most accurate publicly available information about the relative quality and reliability performance of new cars.
Its 2016 VDS, which covered 32 brands, also identified voice recognition, Bluetooth pairing, connectivity, and navigation issues as the most problematic areas on new vehicles. The Australian Consumer Law 2011 (ACL) says that if you buy a new car and it has a “major failure” you are entitled to take it back to the dealer and claim a refund, or a replacement — either an identical new car or a car of similar value. The choice is yours.
A major failure is when a reasonable consumer would not have bought the car if they had known about the problem, or when the car is substantially unfit for its normal purpose.
In other words, the car is a lemon.
To date, the Australian Consumer and Competition Commission has not
Lexus was the most reliable brand in the survey, for the fifth consecutive year, followed by Porsche, Buick (a GM brand not sold here) and Toyota.
Dodge took the wooden spoon, behind Ford, smart, Land Rover and Jeep.
Consumer Reports in the US is feared by the car prosecuted dealers or manufacturers for breaches of the law.
It has the industry in its sights, though, particularly over the practice of forcing consumers to sign confidentiality agreements as a condition of refunding money or replacing a car.
This year, the commission tells Carsguide, it has made a priority of “consumer issues arising in relation to new car retailing, including responses by retailers and manufacturers to consumer guarantee claims”.
“The ACCC is aware that in some instances consumers have signed confidentiality agreements as part of settlement agreements with companies because its opinions count among American car buyers. It analyses new cars based on road test performance, predicted reliability, safety and owner satisfaction, then publishes the results in its car brand Report Card.
In its April 2016 Report car manufacturers,” it says.
“The ACCC would have some concerns when a business seeks to impose confidentiality clauses as a condition of providing remedies a consumer is entitled to under the consumer guarantee provisions of the Australian Consumer Law.”
Tony Weber of the Federal Card, Consumer Reports also ranks Lexus as the most reliable brand, along with Toyota. Its “Worst” predicted reliability rating goes equally to Land Rover, Jeep and Fiat.
Choice found that 66 per cent of new-car buyers had problems with their cars in the first five years of ownership. Chamber of Automotive Industries says that car buyers have exercised their rights under the consumer law in a “very low proportion” of new car sales.
A review is under way on the effectiveness of the legislation. Have your say — public submissions are open until May 27. View consumerlaw.gov.au. Given the advanced, complex state of current automotive technology, which has produced cars that are infinitely safer, more efficient, refined and sophisticated than ever before, that’s not a bad result.
But the lemons are still out there, protected in Australia by the syndicate’s code of silence.