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German Engineering and other myths …

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Listening to several people I know that own VW’s and other “German” cars, I am struck by a phenomenon that seems to manifest itself quite strongly in these car owners. Despite the anecdotally horrible reliability of VWs and the crippling cost of BMW maintenance when you actually talk to most owners they say “I haven’t had any problems with my <insert brand name here>”.

But, when you actually ask them about particular incidents they have all had strange electrical problems, handling issues, falling head-liners, failing water pumps and bent frames (bent from the factory no-less). That’s the VW owners… the BMW owners may experience fewer problems, but in exchange for the perception of “superior handling” (i.e. stiff suspension) they get cars that are ungodly expensive to maintain, with a dealer network that generally treat them like they’re doing them a favor taking their money and “servicing” their car.

The same mass-delusion can be observed among “domestic” loyalists, so it’s probably not a result of subliminal messages in German car commercials (at least, that’s not the only cause 😉 ).

I have been driving primarily “Japanese” vehicles of late (Toyota, Honda and Subaru specifically). I’ve observed an interesting thing. It seems that for some reason Toyota can move an assembly line to Indiana (or even Tijuana), or Honda move Accord assembly to Mexico and still continue to maintain reasonably high standards of quality, while BMW moves to South Carolina and builds 318’s with the overall build quality of… well… “American made cars” (in the pejorative sense of the word) while VW moves to Mexico and builds Jettas that are (debatably) of worse quality than the original 60s-style Beetles still being made in that same country (and who knows, possibly in the same plant).

Now, my “Japanese” vehicles haven’t been perfect… my WRX had a ding in the hood when it was delivered (which Subaru sent back to the paint shop 3 times without my asking, as they were dissatisfied with the quality of the work done), I ripped the bottom out of my CBR1100XXs motor when I hit a chunk of metal on 280 South and my WRX’s ignition system “came out of spec” and had to be re-flashed, but those are the only problems I’ve had in the last 5 years of driving 4 different Japanese vehicles over almost 100,000 miles. Strictly speaking, only the ignition module chip could be fairly blamed on the manufacturer.

Don’t even get me started on recent BMW Motorcycles!

Written by jthurber

July 21st, 2003 at 2:03 pm

Posted in mild-rantings