When you buy a car, the last thing you want to do is drive it straight of the lot to the repair shop. Some makes, such as Toyota, Honda, and the old Datsun cars made by Nissan are famous for driving to the moon and back without falling apart. Other makes are known for falling apart on little more provocation than a dirty look or a snide remark.
However, a lot of these reputations are based on the average car from that make over a long time. For example, you probably know somebody with an authentic piece of ancient history otherwise known as the “1980s or 90s Honda Civic” that is still running after a couple millions of miles or so. Because Honda’s reputation is based on the longevity of these vehicles from 20 years ago or so, they can sort of rest on their laurels.
Similarly, the beloved Jaguar hasn’t always enjoyed the best reputation among our friends across the pond, in large part because the Yanks get the impression that a Jag costs an arm and a leg to get, and a firstborn child to keep up. Again this reputation is based on cars made a decade or two ago, and may or may not be remotely applicable to cars made today.
While judging a person on past successes or failures might be an indication of future performance, car manufacturers are competitive and need to be evaluated each year, on present merits.
The following looks at how cars made in 2015 stack up against each other. The evaluation is independent of how likely past creations from these companies would have been to last forever or disintegrate within minutes of diving off the lot, and looks simply at how much owners of the 2015 models reported problems.
Source: J.D. Power 2015 U.S. Initial Quality Study (IQS)
Note that these data are for cars made in 2015 only. Based on all of our pre-conceived notions about how bomb-proof Toyota and Honda are thought to be, you’d expect to see them near the top of the chart. But, although they do better than the industry average, they don’t do much better. Honda cars only have one fewer problem per hundred vehicles made than average.
And some cars that have a reputation for being not very good, such as Jaguar, Kia, or Hyundai, are the best. How could this sort of upset happen? Well it could be that makes that aren’t typically thought of as particularly high-quality are simply getting their acts together in an attempt to regain some momentum.
For example, according to a major Las Vegas Hyundai dealership, customers tend to be very happy with purchases of their new vehicles, mainly because they tend to get high quality at a relatively low price. Because these emerging brands such as Hyundai and Kia haven’t yet established a reputation for creating quality, the prices haven’t caught up.
And brands like Jaguar are now a great buy, both in terms of brand and quality. Unlike the 60s when the company’s emphasis was on looks and power at the expense of longevity, today Jaguar, at #3 on the list, is a great buy for virtually any reason you can think of.
What can we take away from this? When you’re looking for an older used car, take the advice of friends and family who have actually test driven your target car for a few decades. But for new cars, brands that haven’t always had the best reputation, but which are getting their act together now, might be worth a second look.