Hooniverse Asks: What's the Worst Case of a Brand That Has a Reputation for Quality But is Really Crap?

If you pay a lot of money for something, it should be pretty good, right? That’s not always the case, and in fact with cars sometimes it’s the most expensive ones that are the finickiest. Price isn’t always the inverse to quality however, as there are some cheap cars that are pretty painful to own too.
In fact there doesn’t seem to be any specific criteria that drives a brand’s reputation for durability as some have gained such cred without actually fulfilling that promise. What we want to know today is your opinion on which which is the most egregious offender of this bunch.
Image: Pistonheads

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47 responses to “Hooniverse Asks: What's the Worst Case of a Brand That Has a Reputation for Quality But is Really Crap?”

  1. Fred Talmadge Avatar
    Fred Talmadge

    For me Chevy trucks. Especially my 1999 Silverado. AC, brakes, interior, stereo, plastic radiator, plastic intake, burnt valves and more all within 150000 miles. I bought an Audi to replace it and went 100,000 miles with only a rear wheel bearing failure.

    1. Joe Avatar

      Audi is POS had an A6 nothing but trouble — all my domestics are approaching 200K with only normal wear and tear

      1. engineerd Avatar

        This is exactly what I thought when I read the Hooniverse Asks question. It’s going to be subjective based on personal or anecdotal evidence. Every manufacturer has a car come off the line that winds up being less than stellar in the reliability department, and whoever bought that car then draws a conclusion about the brand despite what the data says. The reverse can be true. I know someone with an early LR Discovery that has never had a major problem and winders what all the hate is about.

        1. Rust-MyEnemy Avatar

          Yup, my ’98 A4 1.8T is still dependable – and that’s with Me maintaining it!

    2. JayP Avatar

      It’s that 100,001 mile that is the bitch.

      1. Fred Talmadge Avatar
        Fred Talmadge

        Yea I hear how unreliable Audi’s are and I wanted to buy a new car before I moved to California. Still that little A3 was the best new car I ever had.

  2. 0A5599 Avatar

    Cuban cars. Sure, you can make them durable enough to last 60 years, but only after you replace everything mechanical with whatever farm equipment you can scavenge.

    1. Maymar Avatar

      How much of the Cuban car reputation is that the cars themselves are durable, versus the ingenuity of the Cubans who keep them running with limited resources?

  3. neight428 Avatar

    Tough to deny depreciation, it generally sorts things out.

    1. Kiefmo Avatar

      One might say that the presence of shorts… sorts things out.

      1. neight428 Avatar

        If one were of the mind to further monetize perception/reality mismatches, they could theoretically buy and sell warranties on an exchange market. I think the used car market pretty much takes care of that in reality, what with the whole process of getting someone to physically repair the car and get paid what they ask to do so to overcome.

  4. P161911 Avatar

    Mercedes-Benz. Biodegradable wiring insulation?!? http://www.badmercedes.com
    Admittedly not the best of the breed, but my mother’s ML320 was one of the worst cars that my family has owned in the last 20 years. Mercedes is designed to last for the 3 year lease, no longer.

    1. Kiefmo Avatar

      Unfortunately, that is currently the case, but it wasn’t always that way. Mercedes rightfully earned the reputation, then started squandering it in the 90s. I think the worst was the Daimler-Chrysler years, and it’s been getting steadily better since, but now they compete on price with the other German luxury marques, whereas before they seemed dedicated to cost-is-no-object engineering.
      Case in point: my 1981 300SD doesn’t have much in the way of features, even for a car 10-15 years newer. AC (doesn’t work, but currently getting fixed), power windows (works), central locking (works), power sunroof (works), power front seats (works, but needs new switches on driver’s side), 4 wheel discs (awesome), AM/FM/casette (originally, nothing in there now). No ABS/TC, no airbag, no electronic engine or trans controls, no heated seats, no leather — and yet it cost the equivalent of $80-85k in 1981 (depends on source for inflation). Why? Because it was engineered to last as long as you want it to, and built with materials of sufficient quality to back that up (with some exceptions — no one’s perfect).

    2. JayP Avatar

      The C230 we had puked trans fluid all over the garage right after we bought it off the lease.
      Then it was a parade of failures, electronics, engine… name it.
      The total repair was going to be in the $6k range and they’d started the work without my authorization. Had the tech lower it from the lift, paid for services and traded that POS in for a bigger, well established POS.

      1. P161911 Avatar

        The rear hatch got stuck closed on my mother’s ML. It was going to be $1500+ to get it repaired. They traded it in on a used 1st Gen SRX. Luckily the dealer never tried to open the rear hatch.

    1. neight428 Avatar

      The maintenance requirements (valve adjustments, etc) on the boxer engines always gave me pause when viewing these through the lens of world dominating adventure bike. If your shaft drive fails, the whole “YOU HAD ONE JOB!” indignance must be off the charts.

      1. Kiefmo Avatar

        The boom has to be attributed to Long Way Round. If KTM had been their supplier, as they originally wanted, the GS Adventure would still be a niche bike.

      2. Peter Tanshanomi Avatar

        Similar to my amazement that Taco Bell can’t seem to get my drive-through order correct more than 50% of the time. I can’t help thinking, “This isn’t a side job for you; it’s literally the only thing you do. What part your business model are you doing well?”

        1. Alff Avatar

          It’s Taco Bell. Does it matter if they get the order right?

          1. Peter Tanshanomi Avatar

            When you’re lactose intolerant it certainly does.

          2. Vairship Avatar

            Does Taco Bell use any actual dairy in their cheese-like products? I thought that was all orange plastic that they drizzled over all their food?

          3. Peter Tanshanomi Avatar

            Lactose is a very cheap dairy by-product.

    2. Hillman_Hunter Avatar

      They were clever with their belt-driven bikes: the front fails instead.

      1. Professor Lavahot Avatar
        Professor Lavahot


    3. Maymar Avatar

      You say flaw, I say feature – just the thing to start the fire you’ll need to keep warm when you’re camping in the Gobi desert. BMW thought of everything!

  5. 1slowvw Avatar

    My name should indicate my feelings. After owning a dozen or so VW’s all I have to say is that they know how to build a tough engine. The rest of the car is up for debate, more so with some particular years.

    1. JayP Avatar

      Getting around the sludge, head failures, coil packs fails, turbo fails, intake hose failures, exhaust pipe failures, timing tensioner failures, water pump failures… I guess the engine is tough.
      (Just personal issues with the early 1.8T)

      1. 1slowvw Avatar

        I’ve only owned a single 1.8T and I’m putting it for sale next month. It wasn’t their best work. But you compare that with the work horse that is the ABA, the mega mile performer that is the ALH TDI, the very reliable (apart from timing chain) VR6’s and they really have built some fine engines.
        Exhaust, coil packs, and intake area really just things failing “around” the engine anyway.

        1. JayP Avatar

          Yeah – the 1.8t wasn’t their best work.

  6. engineerd Avatar

    Toyota. They built a reputation for reliable vehicles, but in recent years have been living more on that reputation than reliability. They are still top tier when it comes to reliability, but their supremacy is no longer a given.
    More importantly, reliability should be looked at on a model-by-model basis. Any and every manufacturer has models that are standouts and laggards on the reliability front.

    1. Peter Tanshanomi Avatar

      Nissan seems to be the one manufacturer with the most variation in reliability. One model is a cockroach, the next is a damselfly.

    2. boxdin Avatar

      And every couple of years Toyota recalls every truck they ever made because of; “tire separating from frame” which is actually the frame rusting apart. Total lies from Toyota.

    3. Sjalabais Avatar

      But…have they had true lemons? Did it affect customers? From what I gather, they never had a Mercedes-like rust debacle, and they quietly changed bad engines for new ones without charge. The current collaboration with PSA leaves scope for desaster, but, so far, I wouldn’t point fingers at Toyota first.

      1. Inliner Avatar

        Only their trucks ever had rust debacles. Their cars, which is what most people know of and buy, are still relatively reliable and have fine resale, but little more than the competitors.

  7. Alff Avatar

    Subaru. I have no idea where all the love comes from. It certainly isn’t a byproduct of build quality.

  8. peugeotdude505 Avatar

    Picture is very relevant. I’ve never taken the plunge on a BMW, heard enough stories

    1. Rust-MyEnemy Avatar

      Yeah, but bear in mind, in the 21 years that E36 has been on the road it will have passed through a whole list of owners, each of which are likely to have driven it hard Because BMW Coupe.

      1. Vairship Avatar

        True, but similar things are true for many other cars. For example, I bought a used Hyundai Excel with 48.000 miles and proceeded to add an additional 100.000 miles to that. I never had any major problems other than an alternator replacement and a new auto trans at 100.000 miles.
        So was this an unusually good Excel, or were the other Excels mostly bought by first-time car owners who were unaware of things like oil changes?

    2. salguod Avatar

      I’ve been daily driving a 318ti for the past year and a half with few problems. It had 239K when I bought it, just turned 268K. Once I got past the issues it had from sitting for a while, it’s been very reliable.
      Of course, mine was a two owner car that was well loved and cared for up until the last year, that probably made a difference.

  9. nanoop Avatar

    Porsche, after they turned over (once again) and began optimizing for production efficiency, and narrowing the perceived durability.
    I’m not talking about VW parts in the mix, and their new cars are still very good I guess (I’d expect perfection from a 100kUSD car, but I’d be a big mouthed parvenu anyway), but a 911 used to be easy to wrench on, and only typical wear items actually wore out.
    I’m rather thinking of AOS (a general VW and Porsche weakness, it’s always an afterthought and hardly left unaltered throughout the production years), 997 liner casting (changed maunfacturing process in favor of price, costing quality), IMS (just google it), RMS leaks, the strange not-a-dry-sump dry sump lubrications on the M96(?) (to be fair, this won’t starve your oil while sitting in traffic).

  10. Borkwagen Avatar

    It pains me to say it, but Saab. Even before the GM era, they seem to develop their cars 95% of the way and then leave an Achilles heel somewhere as a time bomb. See the sludging issues on the B205/235 engines, cracking coolant expansion tanks on the 2.8 V6 turbos, and transmissions that couldn’t cope with the power of the turbo engines on the classic 900.

    1. Amoore Avatar

      That’s not an Achilles heel—that’s built in excitement!

  11. Mr B Avatar
    Mr B

    The 7 series BMW. Flagship car and plagued with problems. Outrageous service cost to boot.

  12. Grant Linderman Avatar
    Grant Linderman

    This is one I wouldn’t have believed https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/027ba46c6edbc018fab96fd1405faa7b1fca7f3e97cbb9a5cb7e4c90260770cb.jpg before my dad went through it… AMG-variant Mercedes S Class. W221 with the M156 V8 being the worst offender, but the W220 wasn’t exactly reliable either (though most of its issues were electrical aside from a handful of semi-normal mechanical failures).
    The AMG models should have bulletproof engines. They are thoroughly engineered. They are hand-built. The engine builder proudly festoons the engine with his/her signature.
    My dad’s 2008 S63 had an engine failure at 44k miles. Would’ve been under warranty mileage-wise, but was 6 years old at that point. MB quoted $78k for a new engine. He bought it from the original local owner with all service records from the local MB dealer for slightly less than that when it had around 22k miles (it was 5 years old at that point – hence the depreciation).
    The issue was bad enough that a class action lawsuit was filed, though the suit was dismissed primarily due to the plaintiffs’ cars being out of warranty. http://m.jacobregarlaw.com/Blog/2013/February/Update-Mercedes-Benz-AMG-Class-Action-for-the-M1.aspx
    Quite a few more owners of AMG’s with M156 engines have had failures since. Failure seems to arise from inadequate oil in the top of the engine and the result is usually wrecked camshafts. There’s also a head bolt issue. From my research, it seems to happen more often with cars that weren’t driven regularly. Anyway. There’s my best example of a car with a high reputation for reliability that has a terrible flaw in actuality.
    For the few that may be interested in what we did – the engine was rebuilt using improved parts (a combination of Weistec parts and redesigned MB parts… Why’d they bother to redesign if there wasn’t a huge flaw?). He’s still got the S63 and still driving it regularly. After dropping close to $20k on a rebuild, I imagine he’ll have it for a while. I doubt he’ll buy another AMG after this one, though.

    1. Fresh-Outta-Nissans Avatar

      A seventy eight thousand dollar engine.
      If I bring my own Honda V6, will they sell me an S-Klasse for ~$30k?