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Looks like the press is finally catching on to the myth of...

Posted on March 10, 2005 at 02:07:55

Posts: 8851
Location: Northern Virginia
Joined: June 13, 2003
German automotive reliability. A recent Wall Street Journal article as well as another in Automobile have focussed on the increasingly problematic nature of German car ownership.

What took them so long? In my experience, German cars have been mechanical nightmares for well over the last thirty years or so, and I gave up on them after my 1985 Audi showed no improvement over any of the other examples I'd owned. Over-engineered pretty faces, and now that even the pretty faces are gone, what's left? Huge repair expenses, dealer service dept. indifference, and a lot of frustrated owners who didn't do their research.


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Any accounting for US produced models in those stats? *, posted on March 11, 2005 at 13:25:30

Be right there, Mom.


Re: Any accounting for US produced models in those stats? *, posted on March 11, 2005 at 14:13:22

Posts: 8851
Location: Northern Virginia
Joined: June 13, 2003
No specific breakdown, but for example, the Mercedes M-series SUVs, which are built in the U.S., were bad enough to knock the erstwhile cellar-dweller, the Land Rover, out of position in whatever J.D. Power owner satisfaction survey it was that they were in.

On the other hand, the article in Automobile shows two tables based on responses to a 2004 ADAC ( German auto association ) survey. The first reflects an image-ranking among Germans of thirty-three different auto makes. At the top of the list are Mercedes, BMW, Audi, Volkswagen, and Porsche, in that order.

The second table shows the ranking of German customer satisfaction. The top five, in order, are: Toyota, Subaru, Honda, Mazda, and Nissan. The bottom five are, in order, starting with the bottom: Land Rover, Mercedes, Volkswagen, Fiat, and Smart (Mercedes off-shoot). Audi is eighth from the bottom, BMW a more respectable 11th from the top, and Porsche even higher at eighth.

In other words, image is one thing, ownership quite another.


but the NATURE of the problem is more important, posted on March 14, 2005 at 13:10:29

Most of my friends & family who've had German car problems had niggling electronic things - window regulators, power seats and the like. It's all the luxury electronic crap they've had to add to sell their cars over here. But in many years of driving Porsches and BMWs (currently an '04 M3), I've had virtually zero defects - and NONE that would render the car of lower quality than the American crap. And the German cars still enjoy a wide margin of handling, braking and all-around performance excellence.

You must also remember that these surveys are normally based strictly on number - not severity - of defects, and that perfectionist drivers of high $$ cars are more likely (rightly so) to bitch about minor problems which your average Taurus or Cavalier owner might ignore.


I'm afraid I can't agree,..., posted on March 16, 2005 at 12:03:12

Posts: 8851
Location: Northern Virginia
Joined: June 13, 2003
and would suggest that, based on my own experiences, the problems extend beyond those annoying electrical glitches to which you refer. I keep hearing that those glitches are the result of the adoption of "cutting edge" technology in the design of electronic controls and gadgetry. But what is so advanced about the design of power windows and other accessories, which fail with depressing regularity in so many German-made (or designed) autos? As a relatively minor but typical example, the power antenna on my Audi failed after less than two years, and I discovered the fault to be in the choice of a flexible plastic "tape" as the drive mechanism for the antenna mast. This material simply dried out and broke into multiple, unconnected segments, immobilizing the antenna in its retracted position. After being told by the dealer that the antenna was unserviceable and that the only remedy was a $275.00 replacement, I installed a $75.00 aftermarket unit, constructed with, guess what?--a proper, stainless steel drive cable, which worked flawlessly for the rest of the time I owned the car.
I wish those were the only types of problems I had, but major mechanical problems (fuel and coolant systems, a/c malfunctions, etc.) were all part of the fun, appearing well before one should expect such headaches.

As far as the breadth of the surveys, there are plenty which specify other than mere frequency of defects. Have you ever taken a look at (for the last several years) the Consumer Reports surveys? Internet complaint forums? The most amazing eye-opener I've read in recent years is the Tech Q&A column in Bimmer, the author of which is responsible for the most brutally honest assessment of the types of problems faced by BMW owners that I've ever seen. It's a wonder he's still an enthusiast!

Re: the proclivity of "perfectionist drivers of high $$ cars" to complain about minor problems: I would argue that just the opposite is true; that the greater the outlay, the more likely an owner is to deny the reality. I'm always amused to hear former owners, glowingly effusive during ownership, bemoan the experience once they've rid themselves of the burden.

I do think that duration of ownership is a huge factor, and for those who replace their cars while still relatively new, the experience may indeed include nothing more than an occasional failure of some electrical gizmo. But for those who purchase for the longer term, caveat emptor.

I know--I've been there.


as must I, posted on March 19, 2005 at 23:46:39

There is no way in my experience that high $$ buyers complain less than owners of "appliance" cars. These are demanding people used to getting their way. And "Tech Q&A" columns, by definition, are a forum to discuss problems - happy owners are out driving, not writing letters seeking help. I'm sure the tech columns in American car club mags are just as full of gripes.

And you conveniently ignored the point regarding the dynamic superiority of the German machines - setting aside the quality of the antenna or window switches, it's much more important to me how the car accelerates, handles, brakes, makes me feel.

I'm sorry that your old Audi was problematic, but my direct experience with many Porsches and BMWs over the past 20+ years says otherwise. We'll just have to agree to disagree.


If you want a dependable car buy a Honda. :), posted on April 14, 2005 at 22:00:29

Posts: 7759
Location: B.C.
Joined: January 15, 2002
If you want a great car buy German. :)
Seriously, I've had a few friends with Audi's and none were satisfied owners. Their next car wouldn't be another Audi. I've also known some with Bimmers (and have an older one myself) and most would stay with BMW if trading in (again including myself). In my early years I owned mostly American cars and have not had my share of good ones.
Are BMW's the most dependable cars in the world. No. Do I care? No. I'll deal with the small problems while I grin driving down the road every day. :)


VAG.... and Mercedes, posted on June 21, 2005 at 05:59:21

Posts: 1029
Joined: May 11, 2000
Ok, lets take a closer look at these imposters.

Mercedes - Benz - key protoagonist in ChryslerBenz, and many toys are from the Chrysler parts bin. Competantly designed chassis, and body shell, and can be mechanically a bit wayward. Expect electrics and the odd mechanical to fail

VAG - Volkswagen Audi Group, includes Skoda, and SEAT, as well as large scale collaboration with Ford. Never owned one, never will own one. The number of people I know who've had major issues with VAG cars is very high - ironically Skodas seem to fair better than Audi's and Volkswagens, so the Czech quality control must be better than the homelands.

I liken audi to citroen - technologically interesting, but generally unreliable.

I have an e36 touring - 130k miles on the clock, drives like a dream on regular servicing (but then the garage I go to is good...)

Just my perspective after 6 years of ownership..



Re: Looks like the press is finally catching on to the myth of..., posted on December 21, 2005 at 05:27:40

We can only go by out own experiences. I own an ML320 and a C230K Mercedes. They have been great and I am hooked on Mercedes. My brother has an 89 300SEL and a friend has an 82 or 82 240D. The older cars have had a few normal "issues", but we are all very satisfied. My other brother has owned BMW 3 series for years and keeps getting new ones and his son has a Porsche Boxster S. Again, we all love our cars, so maybe we are the lucky ones.

On the other hand, I have known a number of people who had trouble with Volkswagon Jettas. I would never buy one of those.

Yes, I have owned Toyotas and Hondas but I get out my ML after 4 hours of driving and feel great. Getting out of my top of the line Honda after two hours and my back would be crippled. It was a reliable car, and seemed comfortable until it was time to get up.

Anecdotal data such as this may not be statistically significant, but it is enough for me to stay with Mercedes.


Re: Looks like the press is finally catching on to the myth of..., posted on May 15, 2007 at 19:40:47

Posts: 23
Location: Wisconsin
Joined: March 3, 2005
I will have to agree. German cars and European cars in general, are best leased, providing a lease is doable as you consider your annual mileage. After three years, or less, Volkswagens are money pits. Transmission and engine will last until the end of time, but every other part will fail at the most inopportune time.
I have owned two VW's in the last 10 years. Never again. My repairs on an annual basis averaged 125 a month. And some of the work I did myself! At sticker pice, VW's are a nice ride. Total cost of ownership is a different matter.


My Audi experience., posted on May 25, 2007 at 11:56:26

Posts: 497
Location: Indiana
Joined: June 25, 2003
I purchased my A4 in July 98, so it's almost 9 years old with 148K on it.

Turbo went out at 10K, replaced under warranty, no biggie.

Coil out at 35k, replaced under warranty, no biggie.

Problem free until 110K when clutch went out. $900 repair bill.

Airbag light comes on at 120K, requiring a new airbag, also need a new throttle body and thermostat, about $1400.

Busted water pump 2 weeks ago, requiring timing belt, tensioners, etc. $800 repair bill.

I guess if you factor my out of pocket over the 9 years of ownership, it's not too bad, but these recent repair bills have me thinking about getting something else, though there's nothing I really want. My car still looks great and drives like a dream.

Vinyl is final


German Cars, posted on June 21, 2012 at 12:14:53

Posts: 382
Location: On the road
Joined: June 7, 2012

German Cars are built like tanks. Perhaps the Audi is not the best example. They win because the do not fall apart.
Hide it ~ nothing looks better..


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