BUYING A CAR IN 2017
(WITHOUT HAVING HEADACHES IN 2018)
Just because the advertizement says something, it does not have to be true. There is a law called “Truth in Advertizing”, but although it may be followed to the letter, advertizing can be written that is designed to be interpreted to imply what it does not say.
A few years ago, Chrysler advertized that it had increased quality of its cars by 700%. You were supposed to think that Chryslers had become quality vehicles. Do not count on it. They just had that far to go. And more.
At Ford, quality is job one, right? Nope. Money is job one. So sayeth the stock holders. Quality is something that is defined by the manufacturers, and their definition may or may not be the same as your definition. A vehicle is defined as being “quality” when it does what the vehicle was designed to do, not when it does what the consumer expects it to do or what the market demands for it to do.
In the late 1960s and 1970s, the catch phrase in American vehicle manufacturing was called “Designed Obsolescence”. The manufacturers were trying to build vehicles that would fall apart in three years with the idea that you would have to buy another vehicle sooner. If they made a vehicle that lasted three years, it would be defined as a “quality” product because it met its design/build criteria.
The new catch phrase is “Design to Cost”. The target market’s leading product is copied feature by feature, and then the quality is cheapened until the target cost/profit goals are achieved. More about Design to Cost later. Oh, why wait? Designed Obsolescence and Design to Cost are accounting terms, not engineering terms, but they determine how products are designed. They are designed to increase short term profits, but they destroy long term profits because, once burned by low quality, customers tend to change brands for their next and following purchases. The Japanese manufacturers caught onto this in the late 1970s when the concepts were really catching fire with the US manufacturers. They are the major reasons that there are very few American consumer electronics manufacturers now. They are, also, the major reasons that the Japanese car manufacturers are gaining US market share, and the US car manufacturers are losing. It is the desire for short term profits that drives the stock markets, and it is that desire that created the accounting scandals of 2002. Is there a cynic in the house?
How about the various quality surveys? If it impresses you that a vehicle placed first in a survey, please read the description of the survey to see what the survey really means. JD Power does several types of surveys. Some are about vehicles. Some are about the dealers. The most famous one is called the Initial Quality Survey. This survey asks new car owners what problems they experienced in the first 90 days of ownership. Reason for this time period is that after that point, the manner in which the vehicle is cared for and driven starts to have a greater impact on maintenance problems. Can you really determine if the vehicle is a quality vehicle after 90 days? Well, yes and no. The 90 day test determines if the vehicle is put together correctly and if the vehicle manufacturer uses defective parts. It does not determine whether the vehicle will last (or is designed to last) for five years or whether it will go for 100,000 miles without major surgery. Also, a customer appeal survey or a dealer satisfaction survey does not even remotely indicate the quality of the vehicle.
The way this economy works is that the market makes what the customer buys. If you want the manufacturers to make better vehicles, then you must buy the best vehicle available for your purpose. Period. It does not matter who you write letters to or what some senator says to the manufacturers. The only thing that matters is where you spend your money.
Bottom line: Buy what is right for you, especially if you want what is best for America.