Reply
Thread Tools Display Modes
#1
Old 05-09-2005, 11:06 AM
Suspended
Join Date: Mar 2002
Posts: 18,476
What makes Japanese Cars so good?

By any measure (defects per vehicle), failure rate per 1000 miles, initial quality, japanese made cars are good. Makes like LEXUS have very few initial problems, and the vehicle systems (like radio, alternator, water pumps, etc.), show a very low failure rate, over the life of the vehicle. So japanese manufacturers clearly enjoy a premuim over even highly rated european mfgs. like Mercedes-benz. What makes them so good? Is it better materials? Tighter tolerances? or simply better design?
I cannot figure out why GM-DELPHI cannot make alternators that last as long as Nippon-Denso alternators..they are built the same way. Is it because detroit is constantly "nickel and diming" the suppliers? Is this cheapening the final product? The germans clearly are losing ground-I hear from people who have lots of expensive problems with their M-B, Bimmers, and VWs..so what is the japanese 'secret"?
#2
Old 05-09-2005, 11:30 AM
Charter Member
Join Date: Jan 2000
Location: NoWA
Posts: 59,089
My impression (i.e., I'm talking out my arse) is that the Japanese are more devoted to turning out a superior product than their American counterparts. That is, it seems (to me) that the Japanese take more pride in their work.

American companies seem to be too concentrated on profits. Take the Corvair as an older example. From what I've heard, the original design was fairly decent; but GM cost-cutting made it 'unsafe at any speed'. For want of a few relatively inexpensive parts, they put the Consumer at risk. Then there's hubris. 'We know what Americans want!' In the 1950s and 1960s, when many people were turning to compact cars (source: I'm reading old issues of Road & Track), American carmakers' idea of a compact car was something like the Falcon or Comet. Still, gas was cheap. After 1973 people wanted fuel-efficient cars; but American auto makers still produced low-mileage land yachts.

Japanese auto makers operated under the 'Made In Japan' stigma of the post-war years. They had to ensure quality fit, finish, and operation to counter this stigma. American auto makers seem to have been resting on their laurels, and the push to make more cars for less money harmed quality. It seems to me that American auto makers thought Americans liked useless trim and gadgets, while Japanese cars were more 'functional'. As a result, American cars often had plastic bits that would fall off, break, or become worn.

The Germans had a reputation for excellent engineering. There was a saying that I heard that went like this: If an American can make something with ten parts, the Japanese could make it with six and the Germans can make it with ninety-two. The original Beetle was in production for 70 years. It wasn't over-engineered, as the joke may suggest. It was built to be cheap and reliable -- and it was. One advantage of low-power engines is that they can be very robust. The VW Beetle, which had only incremental changes (as pointed out in the ads, 'We don't make changes for styling's sake') bolstered the reputation for German Engineering -- despite it's shortcomings, powerwise, compared to American cars.

The Germans were also noted for their racing cars. The first Porsches, by the way, used VW parts. And early on, their high-end cars were noted for their luxury. With higher-end cars than the VWs (i.e., Mercedes Benz, BMW, Porsche, Audi) you were getting a race-proven design that was reliable and robust and also luxurious. (Well, maybe not 'luxurious' in the Porsches; but they featured very nice, functional designs.)

Basically, the higher-end German cars are thouroughbreds. As such, they can be expected to require more maintenance than a more utilitarian vehicle. I think the German propensity for ordnung is a factor as well. That is, if a machine is designed to have x done to it every y miles/kilometres, then the customer is expected to obey.

I think Americans are more lax in sticking to maintenance schedules, so a car that is engineered to certain criteria might need more emergency service than one that doesn't. The Japanese seem to understand this, and make cars that can operate well even when the owner ignores the scheduled maintenance.
__________________
'Never say "no" to adventure. Always say "yes". Otherwise you'll lead a very dull life.' -- Commander Caractacus Pott, R.N. (Retired)

'Do not act incautiously when confronting a little bald wrinkly smiling man.' -- Lu-Tze
#3
Old 05-09-2005, 02:51 PM
Suspended
Join Date: Mar 2002
Posts: 18,476
My point about he alternators: an alternator is a simple machine, made of standardized parts. it isn't assembled by humans anymore (robotic assembly), so there isn't any "pride in work' factor involved. but the fact is, most japanese cars go 100,000 miles without an alternator failure. Sadly, DELPHI alternators don't have such impressive reliability. As for the germans, they are (as you said) enamored of complexity. This is biting them, because germ,an cars seem to be bedeviled with all kinds of electrical gremlins-and a new alternator for an Audi will cost you >$600. I have a friend who owns his own garage, and he always has lots of high-end german cars on his lot, awaiting repair. But people tell me that the lexus line is superb-almost nothing breaks on those cars, at least during the warranty period. i don't know how they fare a high mileages.
#4
Old 05-09-2005, 03:07 PM
Charter Member
Join Date: Jan 2000
Location: NoWA
Posts: 59,089
Quote:
Originally Posted by ralph124c
This is biting them, because germ,an cars seem to be bedeviled with all kinds of electrical gremlins
I had a Porsche 924 with an electrical fault. The wipers would turn on for no reason. When the fault couldn't be traced, I resorted to pulling the fuse.
#5
Old 05-09-2005, 03:18 PM
Guest
Join Date: Jun 2001
Location: Obama Country Baby!
Posts: 2,099
In my business classes we were told that the Japanese had better cars because they have a style of management that involves constant worker input on how to improve the product. It was called Total Quality Management, I believe. It involves the workers constantly looking for better, faster, more efficent ways of creating the product and management actually implementing their ideas.

(When I worked for a big American company they tried it out. It did not work. Tip--don't give your employees a monthly quota for ideas, the ideas will be crap. And when you get a good idea, for god's sake implement it! Don't sit on it for a few years and then try to make everyone think you thought it up!)
#6
Old 05-09-2005, 03:22 PM
Guest
Join Date: Nov 2000
Posts: 3,469
slight HiJack, I am 6'3" and around 200#. why in the hell is it so hard to find a car I can actually drive? and why is it a Japanese car (altima) that fits?

you would think American cars of all the cars you can get would be built for taller than average people.
#7
Old 05-09-2005, 04:07 PM
Guest
Join Date: Mar 2000
Posts: 17,489
Quote:
Originally Posted by Critical1
slight HiJack, I am 6'3" and around 200#. why in the hell is it so hard to find a car I can actually drive? and why is it a Japanese car (altima) that fits?

you would think American cars of all the cars you can get would be built for taller than average people.
Consider minivans or the new Ford Five Hundred. Plus a plethora of American SUV's.

The Altima fits because of the very high roof line. A Maxima is similar.
#8
Old 05-09-2005, 04:18 PM
Member
Join Date: Jan 2003
Location: Minneapolis
Posts: 10,703
I'm 6'1" and ride very comforatbly in my Accord or my wife's tiny Corolla.
My father-in-law just got a brand new Monte Carlo which is huge, however if I drive it my head hits the ceiling.
I always wondered too why a Taurus can't last as long as a Camry or Accord,
or why a Sunfire can't last as long as a Civic or Corolla??
#9
Old 05-09-2005, 05:16 PM
Guest
Join Date: Jan 2001
Location: Gallatin, TN
Posts: 21,676
The Japanese hold tighter tolerances than US automakers do. This makes a big difference in the longevity of a component. Ford found this out when they had two production lines building the same transmission. One line was in the US, the other was in Japan. Ford was surprised that the Japanese built transmissions were lasting longer than the American built ones, so they took one of the Japanese built transmissions and dismantled it to find out what was going on with it. That's when they found out that the only difference between the two (they had suspected that the Japanese had done some modifications to it) was the tolerances.

The Japanese also aren't so rigidly divided when it comes to management and employees like they are in the US, so Japanese management can often be found in the showrooms or on the factory floor. This allows customers and employees to approach them and discuss issues, whereas that doesn't happen in US car companies. That's how Toyota ended up with a V-8 in their pick up. They unveiled it to the dealers, one of them asked, "Are you going to put a V-8 in it?", the Japanese exec said, "We're thinking about it." The dealer said, "If you don't, you might as well go home."

The Japanese are also driven to built a better product than US carmakers are. Japanese carmakers don't just have focus groups to tell them what customers like about their cars, but also what customers want in their cars. The Japanese also are more willing to pick up someone else's idea an run with it. Toyota is the only car maker to own a Tucker (the Henry Ford Museum is seperate from the Ford Motor Company and has been for decades now), and apparently, they've picked up at least one idea from it.
__________________
***Don't ask me, I don't post here any more, and I'm probably not even reading this now.***
#10
Old 05-09-2005, 07:34 PM
Guest
Join Date: Sep 2000
Location: Fifth corner of the Earth
Posts: 17,034
Don't GM executives get a free GM car every three months? That's gotta give a skewed impression of the quality of their products...
__________________
--R.J.
Electric Escape -- Information superhighway rest area #10,186
#11
Old 05-09-2005, 07:42 PM
Guest
Join Date: Jan 2001
Location: Gallatin, TN
Posts: 21,676
Quote:
Originally Posted by rjung
Don't GM executives get a free GM car every three months? That's gotta give a skewed impression of the quality of their products...
They did when Ross Perot was working there. Add to that most of the execs have limos, so they don't even drive the cars they're given.
#12
Old 05-09-2005, 07:52 PM
Registered User
Join Date: Jan 2005
Location: Soplicowo
Posts: 2,083
Quote:
Originally Posted by rjung
Don't GM executives get a free GM car every three months? That's gotta give a skewed impression of the quality of their products...
I've heard that was a factor in GM delaying the introduction of electronically controlled transmissions. The cars the execs got were always perfect, with shifts happening very smoothly and at just the right rpm. The production cars OTOH had a lot of variability, with some being way off.
#13
Old 05-09-2005, 10:34 PM
Guest
Join Date: Jan 2003
Location: 7-Eleven
Posts: 6,270
A few factors that may all come together in the "perfect storm" of quality:

1) I get the impression that the Japanese care about quality as a culture (this is based on what I have read about home building as well as cars etc.)

2) After WWII a man named Deming assisted the Japanese with re-building their manufacturing economy and he was a strong believer in quality. His ideas were ignored here but welcomed in Japan.

3) Survival. If you make products poorly, people don't buy them. (This applies everywhere except with respect to the big 3 automakers in the US, for some reason crappy cars still sell).

I think the combination of these factors (probably among others) has significantly influenced their style of manufacturing.
#14
Old 05-10-2005, 09:48 AM
Guest
Join Date: Nov 2001
Posts: 16,874
Recently, most american automakers have really rehandled quality and are back near the top, very close toe the japanese quality overall. The europeans carmakers are actually down quite a bit. GM is the most lacking of all american automakers.
#15
Old 05-10-2005, 10:00 AM
Guest
Join Date: Dec 2001
Location: New England
Posts: 3,055
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tuckerfan
The Japanese hold tighter tolerances than US automakers do. This makes a big difference in the longevity of a component. Ford found this out when they had two production lines building the same transmission. One line was in the US, the other was in Japan. Ford was surprised that the Japanese built transmissions were lasting longer than the American built ones, so they took one of the Japanese built transmissions and dismantled it to find out what was going on with it. That's when they found out that the only difference between the two (they had suspected that the Japanese had done some modifications to it) was the tolerances.
Were they building to the same set of prints? Tolerances are controlled by the prints. On the other hand, there tends to be an American attitude that "as long as I meet the print, nobody can punish me" whereas the Japanese are always trying to improve their processes even if they're already meeting the print. Thus they could be building to the same prints but getting better results in Japan.


Quote:
The Japanese also aren't so rigidly divided when it comes to management and employees like they are in the US, so Japanese management can often be found in the showrooms or on the factory floor.
I used to be a design engineer in the American R&D division of a "major Japanese automaker". We all sat at desks in a big room - we didn't even have cubicles. The president of the company had a bigger desk, in the corner of the big room, with a three-foot-high temporary wall around him. He ate the same crummy cafeteria food as everyone else. We had to share a common group of PCs and CAD scopes. And we all wore uniforms. And we liked it! (Easy to get dressed in the morning, and they did the laundry for us.)

When I first hired in, they made us all work in the factory for about a month, and they made us do the real shit jobs, like torquing bolts with a big, heavy wrench as cars passed overhead, or diving under the dashboard to put in wire harnesses. Then they put me and another guy in a room with a completely disassembled car, a toolbox, and no manuals. They said, "Come out when it's put together." The result was that I knew how the assembly line worked, I knew how the car was put together, and I could walk into the factory at any time and go up to a guy on the line and ask questions without feeling like a dork.

The Japanese home office was even more egalitarian. No three-foot-high walls for anyone. And most people had to share phones. If you wanted to call Miyamoto, you had to ring the phone at his desk block and ask if Miyamoto was around, and if he wasn't, the sucker who picked up the phone would have to try to find him. And over there, the new engineers not only had to work in the factory, they had to work at dealerships, waxing cars and crap like that. This would go on for six months or so.

Of course, Japanese society is more egalitarian than American society. I'll never forget the first time I saw a guy in a suit and tie riding a rusty old three-speed bike down a Japanese city street to work. An American in a suit-and-tie job would either drive, or if he did ride a bike, he would dress like Lance Armstrong and ride a $2000 racing bike to be ostentatiously parked in his office, announcing to the world that he cares about the environment and his health.

I'm overgeneralizing here, and I'm not really sure whether the egalitarianism has anything to do with better cars. It's just something I've always found interesting.


Quote:
The Japanese are also driven to built a better product than US carmakers are.
You're right, but it is not necessarily something that is so culturally ingrained that it can't be taught to outsiders. Most Hondas on the road these days were made in America. There is no discernible difference in quality between an Accord made in Marysville and one made in Sayama.

Plus, as has been mentioned, the Japanese learned most of what they know from American quality control gurus back in the Fifties. They definitely achieve their results through specific techniques that anyone can follow. For the most part, it's not a matter of culturally specific behavior or instinctive attention to detail.
#16
Old 05-10-2005, 06:29 PM
Suspended
Join Date: Mar 2002
Posts: 18,476
The other thing I can't understand..GM and FORD spend tons of money on recalls and fixing problems that could have been easily dealt with BEFORE the cars ever left the factory. Recalls are expensive! It must cost GM easily $200.00 for even a simple product recall-my wife's car(SATURN ION) was recalled last October (they had a run of cars with a bad LH signal lamp bulb socket-probably a $0.20 item. How do these things happen? This is not to say thatbthe japanese cars don't have recallls, but they seem to be more frequent with GM made cars.
#17
Old 05-10-2005, 06:43 PM
Guest
Join Date: Jan 2001
Location: Gallatin, TN
Posts: 21,676
Quote:
Originally Posted by ralph124c
The other thing I can't understand..GM and FORD spend tons of money on recalls and fixing problems that could have been easily dealt with BEFORE the cars ever left the factory. Recalls are expensive! It must cost GM easily $200.00 for even a simple product recall-my wife's car(SATURN ION) was recalled last October (they had a run of cars with a bad LH signal lamp bulb socket-probably a $0.20 item. How do these things happen? This is not to say thatbthe japanese cars don't have recallls, but they seem to be more frequent with GM made cars.
You have to understand that any more cars aren't built by the various automotive manufacturers, they're merely assembled. The subcontractors build modules, which are then shipped to the car maker, who merely bolts them on to the car. So a complete dashboard, with gauges, lights, and radio will be built by the subcontractor, and this then, will be dropped into the car body (which may or may not be built by the car maker [ GM SUV bodies are stamped out by the company that used to make Checker cabs. Remember that the next time some guy in his Escalade cuts you off. He paid big money for a Checker cab!]). All car makers do this. The difference between GM and the other guys, is that the other guys are "in bed" with their suppliers. They have their own inspectors who show up (often unnannounced) and check not only the items on the production line, but also the methods by which they make the parts. If a problem is found on the assembly line, they yank the suppliers people into the factory to show them the problem, and have them correct it on the line. They also charge the hell out of the supplier for this. GM obviously isn't as tightly integrated with their suppliers as everyone else is.
#18
Old 05-11-2005, 10:58 AM
Charter Member
Join Date: Jan 2000
Location: NoWA
Posts: 59,089
The Japanese seem more adept at adapting to changing situations and new technologies.

Part of this impression may be that, after the 1973 oil embargo, people wanted more-efficient cars. The Japanese were there. Of course, they'd been building smaller, more-efficient cars for a long time by that date. But Detroit should have seen the trend coming. As I've said, I've been reading old issues of Road & Track. Even in 1960 magazines were talking about fuel-efficient imports from Japan and Europe, and published mileage figures in their articles. R&T mentioned the trend of small efficient cars in several articles. Detroit responded with 'compact' cars that today would be considered medium- or even full-sized. (R&T said that a 'compact car' had a wheel base of 100" or less, though they included some larger cars in the class.) Americans seemed to be buying a large number of VW Beetles, Fiat coupés and saloons, and other imports whose mileage was in the upper-20 to lower-30 mpg range. R&T predicted that fuel-efficient compact cars would reach 50% of the new car market.

Even after 1973, Detroit still gave us land yachts -- and wondered why the Japanese were kicking out assets. The compacts Detroit gave us seemed crude and cheap next to the Japanese imports (Vega, Pinto, Mustang II).

As I mentioned, Datsun introduced the 240Z on the sports car market. The TR6, its nearest competitor, was getting old. British Leyland seemed unable to build a car that compete with the Japanese import. Instead they belatedly gave us the underpowered TR7. And what were Detroit offering? I don't really remember, since I was young at the time; but I can think of the 'pony cars' like the Camero, Firebird and Mustang. There was also the Corvette. Good cars for going fast in a straight line; but not maneuverable enough for the twisties, and not fuel-efficient.

It seems Detroit had the TTWWADI mentality. (That's The Way We've Always Done It.) In spite of a decade and a half of seeing small cars with big mileage figures coming to our shores, they continued to build big luxury boats and large-displacement, gas-guzzling quasi-sports cars. And it also seems (to me) that labour were getting greedy and lazy. Unions lobbied for higher wages, and there was a time when a guy turning a wrench on an assembly line was making twice what I was making crunching data. And American workers had the stereotype of putting in their eight hours and going home to drink beer, while Japanese workers had the stereotype of being 'devoted to the cause'.
#19
Old 05-11-2005, 11:14 AM
Suspended
Join Date: Mar 2002
Posts: 18,476
You are right (JLA): Detroit never seems to think ahead! Why this is, is a mystery-GM certainly employs enough economists, forecasters, and consultants to staff a good-sized university! FORD and GM made huge profits from selling SUVs (until recently). the reason why? SUVs are just a cheap body welded onto a 25-year old truck chassis-they could use the same chassis, engine, transmission, etc., that had long been paid for. Some estimates put FORD's profit on an "Explorere" at OVER $12,000! Now that gas is pushing towards $3.00, FORD and GM are really in trouble! They have no profitable line of small cars to sell, and they must deeply discount SUVs to sell them. GM will probably have its entire line of small cars built cheap in China and korea, and abandon the small car market to the japanese. The sad thing is, the UAW (although i don't care for their approach) BEGGED both companies to build small cars! The government didn't help any ..by keeping gas taxes low, they would up ENCOURAGING americans to buy the gaz-guzzling monsters! Will GM go bankrupt? I forsee the entire Michigan congressional contingent doing a full-court press upon Washington (massive bail-out, bonuses for the idiotic top management, and higher taxes for the rest of us).
#20
Old 05-11-2005, 11:48 AM
Charter Member
Join Date: May 2002
Location: Baltimore or less
Posts: 3,906
Over the years, I heard people claim that Japanese companies engage in sneaky, practices, one of which is sending their best, most reliable cars to America, to compete unfairly with US makers. I never put a lot of stock in it, and besides, what's unfair about selling a better car?

But a while back, I read in the Washington Post that while there wasn't some nefarious plot as alleged, there was indeed a bias, probably unintentional, in comparisons of Japanese cars to domestic models.

Specifically, Japanese cars sold here in the US have gone through more testing than their counterparts sold in Japan.

The reasons for this have nothing to do with trying to cheat the system -- rather, if you're going to have to fix a car 12,000 miles from the factory, you better make damn sure you've got the bugs worked out of that model first.

And, according to the article, American car companies do the same thing when they sell cars overseas.

Assuming this is true (and although it makes sense to me, I am not asserting so, since I can't find a cite), Japanese cars sold in the US may be the 'cream of the crop', and therefore, make US cars look worse than they are.

I also acknowledge that many US manufactureres have closed the quality gap in the last 15 years or so, perhaps making my info obsolete.

Perhaps Hyperelastic could weigh in on this topic?
#21
Old 05-11-2005, 01:02 PM
Guest
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 1,529
[Management degree hat ON]

What makes Japanese manufacturers so successful? Well, a lot of it has already been touched on before: Total Quality Management, a drive towards excellence rather than average, a general investment in reliability before ridiculous frills. One thing I'd like to expand on is the network of suppliers. Maybe you're aware of how Wal*Mart integrates tightly with its suppliers? Japan has been doing it for longer, but they don't do it via bullying. They form keiretsus.

What are these? They're consortiums of mutually owned businesses tied around (generally) a heavy manufacturer (Toyota would be an example) and a large capital firm (a bank or insurance company). Every company owns shares of every other company, and no company sells their shares to an outsider without consent from the entire keiretsu. In exchange, all the companies look out for one another. If you are a supplier to Toyota manufacturing, you will provide them with the finest product you can turn out. Why? Because they'll stick by you just as much. If you have finanical troubles, guess who will be there to help you. These bonds of loyalty and honor are held in great esteem.

In the USA, by contrast, we tend to have less loyalty to our suppliers. If another company offers you a lower price for their competing brand, you switch to that company even if it means losing a loyal friend.
#22
Old 05-11-2005, 02:39 PM
Guest
Join Date: May 2004
Location: UK
Posts: 260
Quote:
Originally Posted by F. U. Shakespeare
But a while back, I read in the Washington Post that while there wasn't some nefarious plot as alleged, there was indeed a bias, probably unintentional, in comparisons of Japanese cars to domestic models.

Specifically, Japanese cars sold here in the US have gone through more testing than their counterparts sold in Japan.

The reasons for this have nothing to do with trying to cheat the system -- rather, if you're going to have to fix a car 12,000 miles from the factory, you better make damn sure you've got the bugs worked out of that model first.

And, according to the article, American car companies do the same thing when they sell cars overseas.
I don't think this is right. Firstly a lot of Japanese cars are built outside Japan, and in Europe American cars have a poor reputation.

Japanese quality standards are maintained even when their cars are built in overseas factories, so it's not down to the culture, it's how the companies are run.
#23
Old 05-11-2005, 04:13 PM
2012 SDMB NFL Salary Cap Champ
Charter Member
Join Date: Jul 2002
Location: Albuquerque, NM
Posts: 11,353
These keiretsus, would they be legal under American law? It's an interesting idea, but for some reason it sets off alarm bells for me.
#24
Old 05-11-2005, 04:35 PM
Guest
Join Date: Nov 2001
Posts: 16,874
Keiretsus would be very sticky, legally speaking. Maybe not outirght illegal, but it would definitely get the Feds looking at you in askance. And it's gotten a lot of those capital companies in trouble in Japan, with certain kinds of uncollectible debts.



Quote:
Of course, Japanese society is more egalitarian than American society.
Don't believe that line for a minute. The differences may express themselves in different ways, and it's not all about showing it off, but the Japanese, if anything, are far more class conscious than you'll ever see in America. They don't show it neccessarily, and they don't have the ego thing going, though.



Quote:
The Japanese seem more adept at adapting to changing situations and new technologies.
The car companies, certainly. Most of the Japanese industries are not doing well, now, especially the banks.

Ironically, the most famous Japanese success story is also the biggest American failure story, and both are in great contradiction to the general flow of each country's economy.
#25
Old 05-11-2005, 06:52 PM
Guest
Join Date: Dec 2000
Location: Up The River
Posts: 13,944
Keiretsus also run certain functions of the government. Toyota, for example, runs the DMV.

Notice that a manufacturer has to submit designs to the DMV several years before the car can be released in order to get approval for the vehicle to be allowed on the road.

Notice Toyota's fine, Mercedes-like styling.
#26
Old 05-11-2005, 07:48 PM
Guest
Join Date: Jan 2001
Location: Netherfield Park
Posts: 3,021
Quote:
Originally Posted by Aagramn
I don't think this is right. Firstly a lot of Japanese cars are built outside Japan, and in Europe American cars have a poor reputation.

Japanese quality standards are maintained even when their cars are built in overseas factories, so it's not down to the culture, it's how the companies are run.


The OP's premise is faulty and throughout this thread, people are rehashing events from the 1970s and 1980s. We might as well discuss IBM's 8086 chip and its relevance to the exploration of Mars.

Consumer Reports and its parent company, Consumers Union, reports that American cars have made huge strides in quality in recent years, narrowing the gap between so-called American and Japanese cars (itself an inaccurate depiction) so that the quality is largely indistinguishable between *most* cars. True, some US manufacturers continue to churn out comparitively substandard automobiles, but the gap is narrow and narrowing. If "American" cars have a poor reputation in Europe, I'd surmise this bad reputation can be traced back to the bad old days.
#27
Old 05-11-2005, 08:22 PM
Guest
Join Date: Mar 2005
Location: Sydney, Australia
Posts: 1,483
Quote:
Originally Posted by ralph124c
Now that gas is pushing towards $3.00, FORD and GM are really in trouble! They have no profitable line of small cars to sell...
The exact same situation occurred in the 1970s. It was so bad that in 1979 Chrysler very nearly went out of business - they were instead saved by cheap loans from the US federal government. All three manufacturers were scrambling to develop small fuel efficient cars to compete with the Japanese imports and were losing enormous amounts of money and market share.

You would think after a near-death experience like that they would have changed their ways, but 25 years later the same thing is happening again. I really don't think the likes of GM and Ford really deserve to stay in business.
#28
Old 05-11-2005, 09:18 PM
Guest
Join Date: Nov 2001
Location: Kansas City, MO
Posts: 1,409
I thought the Japanese were better at building stuff (especially small parts) because caucasians are just too damn tall.
(A thousand points to the first person to catch that reference.)
#29
Old 05-11-2005, 09:20 PM
Guest
Join Date: Nov 2001
Location: Kansas City, MO
Posts: 1,409
So why are GM and Ford in such bad shape, but Chrysler is still kicking. Oh, wait...it's Daimler-Chrysler now. Hey, my truck is a Mercedes!! Cool!
#30
Old 05-11-2005, 11:07 PM
Charter Member
Join Date: Jan 2000
Location: NoWA
Posts: 59,089
Quote:
Originally Posted by DirkGntly
I thought the Japanese were better at building stuff (especially small parts) because caucasians are just too damn tall.
(A thousand points to the first person to catch that reference.)
Gung Ho (Michael Keaton, 1986)?
#31
Old 05-12-2005, 12:36 AM
Guest
Join Date: Dec 2003
Location: Indianapolis, Indiana
Posts: 6,730
How about this?

Idea: The dice were thrown and we just happened to end up in the US with three very crappy companies as winners in the auto game.

Automaking being such a capital-intensive business, domestic competitors can't pop up easily (poor Delorian). Several pretty cool makers were weeded out over the years, not necessarily because they had bad cars (Studebaker, Nash, Tucker, etc.). So we are stuck with GM and Ford now as the only major truly domestic companies. I'm not a fan of either company's wares.

But let's not forget that there are a lot of crappy car companies in Japan that refuse to die (or at least close down their shitty passenger car divisions): Isuzu, Mazda, Mitsubishi, and Suzuki don't exactly call to mind superior quality and innovative marketing. Subaru is excellent but a minor player.

I interviewed at Nissan in 2002. The French guy who interviewed me (not from Renault, BTW) said that, despite Ghosn's leadership, the company was still run by Old Boys who would never give a young foreigner like me anything to do. Depressing.

I've done PR work for two Japanese automakers (hint: they're really big and I haven't mentioned them yet) and have thereby peered deeply into their corporate psyche. Their quality is excellent but their self-images are totally clueless. Endless narcissistic blabbing. One is not given the impression that their management is on the ball.

I've also done PR work for Subaru and have no problem saying that that company is totally cool.
-----

Despite what I've said above, I'm going to go out on a limb and say that the real problem with American vehicles is not quality but dullness and a lack of excitement. We've seen a real devolution in style since the 1970s. GM just gave up on an initiative to produce cool new rear-wheel-drive cars.

Others have already said that quality in US cars is not really the issue, so here's my limb: Japanese cars by the Big Three (Toyota, Honda, Nissan) also share the same issue: dullness and clunk-o styling. Sure, Lexus (Toyota), Acura (Honda), and Infiniti (Nissan)--the premium marques--are comparatively decent with nothing from GM/Ford/D-C to really compete (Cadillac?!). They are good cars, they are advanced cars, but they are also fairly uninspiring cars.

In fact, if you want to get into the nitty-gritty of why Japanese cars are better, I would say that the three premium lines are it. They are well-positioned. They offer marginally better styling and quality but all-around superior performance (look at Symmetrical AWD on the Acura).

As far as your basic Japanese and US models, it is all the same shyte.
-----

The comment about Japan being more egalitarian was absolutely correct. Whether you look at the numbers (CEO pay is a much lower multiple of base worker pay, etc.) or cultural realities (very well-described by Hyperelastic), the point is proved.

I don't think the comment about keiretsu reflects today's realities in the Japanese business world and requires some cites or facts to back it up regarding the automakers. The prevalence and nature of keiretsu has always varied by industry.
#32
Old 05-12-2005, 07:48 AM
Guest
Join Date: Nov 2001
Location: Kansas City, MO
Posts: 1,409
[HIJACK]
Johnny L.A., It's from Crazy People, a Dudley Moore movie from 1990. He uses people in an asylum to create ad copy for major corporations, and the "honesty" of the ads draws the public. At the end of the movie, they play an "ad" for Sony, showing the efficiency of the Japanese workers constructing small circuits, etc., and then tall Americans fumbling at the same tasks. The clincher for the commercial is the last line (and the last line of the movie), "Sony, because caucasians are just too damn tall."
[/HIJACK]
#33
Old 05-12-2005, 08:56 AM
Guest
Join Date: Mar 2003
Location: The Lower 48
Posts: 1,835
Quote:
Originally Posted by DirkGntly
[HIJACK]
Johnny L.A., It's from Crazy People, a Dudley Moore movie from 1990. He uses people in an asylum to create ad copy for major corporations, and the "honesty" of the ads draws the public. At the end of the movie, they play an "ad" for Sony, showing the efficiency of the Japanese workers constructing small circuits, etc., and then tall Americans fumbling at the same tasks. The clincher for the commercial is the last line (and the last line of the movie), "Sony, because caucasians are just too damn tall."
[/HIJACK]
[continuing hijack]
Other good slogans from Crazy People:
Volvo: Boxy but Good
Porsche: too small to get laid IN, but you will get laid, trust us
Forget France- come to Greece. We're nicer.
Cum in the Bahamas
Most of our passengers arrive alive
[/continuing hijack]
#34
Old 05-12-2005, 09:35 AM
Charter Member
Join Date: Jan 2000
Location: NoWA
Posts: 59,089
Quote:
Originally Posted by Stonebow
Porsche: too small to get laid IN, but you will get laid, trust us
Erm... I got laid in the 924. Agus fágaimíd siúd mar atá sé.
#35
Old 05-12-2005, 11:08 AM
Guest
Join Date: Sep 2000
Posts: 1,389
I do not believe the OP has proven his initial conclusion, that Japanese cars are good. Certainly not all Japanese cars are good. The 1978 Honda Accord Hatchback was noted by Forbes magazine thus:

Quote:
Early Honda Accord buyers were delighted to have a small car that looked and drove better than comparable American offerings. What they weren't so happy about were young Honda's Fiat-like quality problems; had they remained unaddressed, Honda may have gone the way of Fiat in this country. The first Accord's fenders would rust from the inside out. Pieces of interior trim would change color or fall off. An Accord owner might change his transmission five or six times, as he watched his primitive aluminum engine blow its gaskets.
http://forbes.com/lifestyle/2004..._0126feat.html

Given a broad perspective there are some who argue that Japanese designs do not have the highest safety standards.

Quote:
American cars tend to be the best used car value because they give you more car for the money. While you may not think American cars are as good as Japanese, it’s just not true. That assumption helps American cars devaluate quicker so they become better used car values. Structurally and mechanically American cars appear to be some of the most durable cars in the world. In addition, they are often less expensive to repair with lower priced parts and repair facilities are more common than foreign vehicles.

If you study the history of crashworthiness you will see a pattern emerging. Going back ten years, Japanese cars, many of them smaller, have poorer overall safety histories compared with American cars. They may have better reliability statistics, but you cannot drive a vehicle if you’re not around. Some of the best used car values have names likes Chevrolet, Ford, Pontiac, Buick, Oldsmobile, and Mercury. You will likely pay more for both European and Japanese vehicles because of their perceived value.
http://autoadvisor.com/informati...?a=letsbefrank

There have been, and are, some terrible Japanese designs on the road just as the same can be said about car designs from any nation. Given that, I put forth that the OP is starting from a false presumption.
#36
Old 05-12-2005, 11:21 AM
Guest
Join Date: Dec 2003
Posts: 8,299
The Japanese sure seem to be more visionary these days. I've had my new Prius for two weeks now, and I love it. I love it. It's not a pig, and driving it is like playing a goddamn video game. I'm actually competing with myself to see if I can get to work in the same amount of time while using less gasoline. This exercise will probably wind up saving me $50 a year, if I'm lucky, over ignoring the little bar graphs and regenerated-wattage symbols. Who cares? It's fun!

GM executives did the math and said "Americans will never go for this. They don't care about green, and won't pay extra for Jappy bells-and-whistles. Gas is inexpensive, so everybody oughtta have SUVs with giant V8s and drive their land-yachts through the burbs with a big shit-eating grin on their faces, all on the cheap."

Well, Toyota is making record profits, the waiting-period is still at least three months for a new Prius, and GM's stock is in the crapper. Not only do they build an inferior product, they can't even figure out that some people give more than two shits, that gas prices might go up, and overall, Americans can be frugal, consceintious, and technophillic enough to pay a little extra for something, whilst demanding quality.
#37
Old 05-12-2005, 02:25 PM
Guest
Join Date: Sep 2000
Location: Fifth corner of the Earth
Posts: 17,034
All I know is, as a consumer, every American-branded car my family has ever bought has had "lemon" problems and/or fallen apart after a few years*, whereas every Japanese-branded car has lasted two or three times as long and had far fewer problems.

If Japanese quality is an illusion, it's a pretty effective one.

* The one notable exception being a Dodge Omni hatchback, but that was actually a French design re-branded for the States.
__________________
--R.J.
Electric Escape -- Information superhighway rest area #10,186
#38
Old 05-12-2005, 04:55 PM
Guest
Join Date: Nov 2001
Posts: 16,874
Quote:
We've seen a real devolution in style since the 1970s.
I agree. It's not just engineering: why aren't the companies putting a little flash in it? All the cars look the same nowadays. It might not have to be as big, but Cadillac still makes exotic, distinctive cars. make something that sets it apart form the competition. Give it a distinctive hood shape or a nice a neat tail.
#39
Old 05-12-2005, 07:09 PM
Guest
Join Date: Jan 2001
Location: Gallatin, TN
Posts: 21,676
Quote:
Originally Posted by Carnac the Magnificent!
Consumer Reports and its parent company, Consumers Union, reports that American cars have made huge strides in quality in recent years, narrowing the gap between so-called American and Japanese cars (itself an inaccurate depiction) so that the quality is largely indistinguishable between *most* cars. True, some US manufacturers continue to churn out comparitively substandard automobiles, but the gap is narrow and narrowing. If "American" cars have a poor reputation in Europe, I'd surmise this bad reputation can be traced back to the bad old days.
But Japanese cars tend to expire all at once (not really, of course, it just happens to seem that way), whereas American cars tend to have a gradual die-off, with little bits and pieces going wrong with the car (like the windows not working, the radio dying, etc.) and it starts much sooner with those than on Japanese cars.

As someone pointed out, one of the best things to happen to the Japanese was the oil embargo in the 1970s, but not entirely for the reasons people commonly think. While car makers in the US were idling their plants and laying off workers, the Japanese were ripping out the machinery in their plants and replacing them with newer, more energy efficient machines. The Japanese had figured out that even if oil prices dropped below their previous levels, the savings would be great enough to pay for the new machines (and they periodically do this now, since they still enjoy the savings), so not only did they benefit from the oil shocks by increased sales, they benefited from lower costs to produce those cars.
#40
Old 05-13-2005, 01:48 AM
Charter Member
Join Date: Mar 2001
Location: Pacific Northwest
Posts: 11,188
Quote:
Originally Posted by Aeschines
But let's not forget that there are a lot of crappy car companies in Japan that refuse to die (or at least close down their shitty passenger car divisions): Isuzu, Mazda, Mitsubishi, and Suzuki don't exactly call to mind superior quality and innovative marketing. Subaru is excellent but a minor player.
One slight nitpick is Mazda. Mazda is the one driving new product at Ford.

Without getting too revealing, I am driving the automotive strategy for China at the multinational I work for. from what I know, the US and to a lesser exent European auto industry has two major problems.
1. quality. If you don't build it right the first time, then it costs a lot more to fix it. US warranty costs were IIRC USD20+ billion in 2004. Build it right, have systems in place to catch problems and trends early, feed it back into your suppliers, etc. This whole loop takes way to long.
2. Build what people want to buy. If it's sitting on the dealer lot, it's costing the makers money. Someone's got to finance it, discount it, rebate it, etc.

toyota, Nissan and Honda are a lot better at the above two points. Also financially much healthier. Just a wag, but Toyota debt is probably rated A, whilst GM and Ford are Junk. Nissan is debt free. Contrast with the legacy issue is there with GM pension costs of about USD1,800/vehicle and Ford around USD1,500 (this means $1,800 is an additional cost for every GM vehicle).
#41
Old 05-13-2005, 06:38 AM
Guest
Join Date: Feb 2001
Location: right behind....YOUR EAR!
Posts: 1,672
Quote:
Originally Posted by Johnny L.A.
My impression (i.e., I'm talking out my arse) is that the Japanese are more devoted to turning out a superior product than their American counterparts.
Johnny nails in on the first attempt. Talking out of my ass, Japanese consumers simply expect the products they buy-be it a car, a pair of shoes, or an air conditioner-to be well designed, well-built, and reliable. If the consumer doesn't give a shit, then the manufacturer won't invest the time, energy or money to make it any better than what the consumer wants. Japan being the homogenous society that it is, manufacturers and designers have a pretty good idea of the values and mores of their market.
#42
Old 05-13-2005, 08:24 AM
Guest
Join Date: Oct 1999
Location: Belfast Northern Ireland
Posts: 6,610
Quote:
Originally Posted by Blackclaw
I do not believe the OP has proven his initial conclusion, that Japanese cars are good. Certainly not all Japanese cars are good. The 1978 Honda Accord Hatchback was noted by Forbes magazine thus:



http://forbes.com/lifestyle/2004..._0126feat.html
A classic car magazine I read from time to time often gave this warning regarding Japanese cars from the 60s and 70s. Just because they're more reliable than European cars doesn't mean they don't rust any less. Although in the UK I think the problem was that British cars rusted just as quickly so it was less of an issue.
#43
Old 05-13-2005, 10:39 AM
Charter Member
Join Date: Nov 2001
Location: Queens
Posts: 12,339
For those of you wanting "inspiring" designs, Pontiac tried that. They produced the Aztek. Car Talk's Click and Clack described it as two guys starting to build a car at each end and meeting in the middle. I think they were being kind.

Me, I want fins on my car. *sigh*
#44
Old 05-13-2005, 12:10 PM
Suspended
Join Date: Mar 2002
Posts: 18,476
The japanese also studied the US car market VERY well-they sent teams of experts to study the American car market. What they found out, is that the avaerage American keeps their car for 4-5 years, then sells or trades it in. They reasoned that the cars would sell best if they were reliable within the first 4-5 years (in Japan, cars of this age get junked or shipped off to Russia). So they designed the cars to have very few failures for the fisrt 75,000 miles or so..which is what Americans want! People criticize the Japanese for building appliance-like cars..but really, for an urban driver in America, the "joy" of driving is largely fictitious-who needs an expensive Mercedes benz, when you are going to spend a lot of time in bumper-bumper traffic!
#45
Old 05-13-2005, 12:27 PM
Guest
Join Date: Dec 2003
Posts: 8,299
Quote:
Originally Posted by D_Odds
For those of you wanting "inspiring" designs, Pontiac tried that. They produced the Aztek. Car Talk's Click and Clack described it as two guys starting to build a car at each end and meeting in the middle. I think they were being kind.

Me, I want fins on my car. *sigh*
Hah! The Aztec is what I cite when people tell me my rice rocket is fugly. I might cite the Gremlin, but a lot of people love the Gremlin. I can sorta see why.

Style is a mystery, but it's clear some folks got it, and some most definitely do not.
#46
Old 05-13-2005, 08:25 PM
Guest
Join Date: Jan 2001
Location: Gallatin, TN
Posts: 21,676
Quote:
Originally Posted by D_Odds
For those of you wanting "inspiring" designs, Pontiac tried that. They produced the Aztek. Car Talk's Click and Clack described it as two guys starting to build a car at each end and meeting in the middle. I think they were being kind.

Me, I want fins on my car. *sigh*
You'd have a point, except that Pontiac was overran by idiots at that point, and the automotive press had been raking them over the coals for quite some time over other cars, and Pontiac didn't listen. They were so stupid that they put a designer for a proposed revival of the GTO who'd never even heard of the GTO! The review of the unveiling (BTW, this is not the current Aussie built version of the GTO, but an idea for a GTO GM had had a few years prior to this.), in Car & Driver included the phrase, "We blew snot bubbles." as part of their description of their reaction to the car.
#47
Old 05-13-2005, 10:37 PM
Member
Join Date: Jun 1999
Posts: 27,130
I used to buy Datsun 240-Z's. Owned three of them. Very highly rated Japanese sports cars. All three of them rusted out so badly they became undriveable. These cars are almost impossible to find in Canada now, because the environment here simply destroys them.

On the other hand, I had a 1967 Impala that I got from my grandfather and drove when I was 18. It got parked out in the elements after I stopped driving it, and ten years later I had to move it. I went out to the car, put in a charged battery, pumped the gas a few times, and it fired right up. No rust on the body. We sold the car to a guy who used it in a demolition derby, and it put in plenty of good service for him.
#48
Old 05-14-2005, 12:37 PM
Charter Member
Join Date: Nov 2003
Posts: 4,870
It's a question of corporate culture. When the CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) standard was introduced in 1975 at the height of the first oil crisis the Japanese automakers went out and hired a bunch of engineers to help them meet it. American auto manufacturers went out and hired a bunch of lawyers and lobbyists to help them beat it.
#49
Old 05-14-2005, 04:23 PM
Member
Join Date: Apr 2000
Location: Seminole, FL
Posts: 8,528
Japanese manufacturers fix the problem, not the blame. US manufacturers seem to do the opposite. I bought a brand new 1978 Honda Accord Hatchback that was undoubtedly the worst piece of crap I ever owned. Based on my experience with that thing, you'd think I would never again buy a Honda. However, I own a 1991 Honda Civic that runs like a clock. It has 100K+ miles on it and I've never been rigid about the maintenance schedule. I wouldn't hesitate to buy another Honda, either. Point being, the Honda people saw a problem and FIXED it. GM and Ford have seen a jillion problems and haven't fixed them the way they should. Plus, the benefits of statistical quality control should never be overlooked. Deming could have revolutionized manufacturing in the US but was scorned; the Japanese listened to him, with results we are all familiar with.
#50
Old 05-14-2005, 05:43 PM
Charter Member
Join Date: Jul 2001
Location: San Antonio, TX
Posts: 19,988
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill Door
It's a question of corporate culture. When the CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) standard was introduced in 1975 at the height of the first oil crisis the Japanese automakers went out and hired a bunch of engineers to help them meet it. American auto manufacturers went out and hired a bunch of lawyers and lobbyists to help them beat it.
Cite?

Let's not forget that GM had the catalytic converter installed on all 1975 makes and models which enabled it to meet CAFE standards from year 1. As a matter of history, the person in charge of the catalytic converter project was Robert Stempel, whose successful leadership of this project eventually propelled him to the CEO position - the first non-finance guy to hold that spot since Billy Durant.
Reply

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is Off
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump


All times are GMT -5. The time now is 02:26 PM.

Send questions for Cecil Adams to: [email protected]

Send comments about this website to:

Terms of Use / Privacy Policy

Advertise on the Straight Dope!
(Your direct line to thousands of the smartest, hippest people on the planet, plus a few total dipsticks.)

Copyright © 2018 STM Reader, LLC.

Copyright © 2017
Best Topics: gs steps death star hyperdrive phoenix vs dallas pseudomonas aeruginosa smell paste jewels yuengling equivalent goatse clouds schoolyard songs lightning metal toilets clog frequently dog retching pho nutrition how to turn off water heater to save energy patel meaning in hindi hornblower books in order what is a well qualified lessee what is jct road sign how many ww2 veterans are still alive uk d&d 3.5 dieties navy soldiers are called buying a used car in massachusetts does pepper spray affect dogs can't find hole in air mattress why does sugar free candy give you diarrhea