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Car Brand Prejudices and Preferences

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Car Brand Prejudices and Preferences

 
Old 01-22-2005, 07:20 PM
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Inspired by a post of Rob's in another thread, what preferences do you have regarding car brands? What prejudices have you encountered from other people?

My first encounter with Hondas was about 30 years ago. Someone in my extended family had bought a Honda which proceeded to rust through in less than two years. It even rusted through at the top of the fenders, so it didn't have the excuse of road salt! I noticed this pattern on other Hondas I saw, as well. I figured Hondas were cheap, poorly made cars, and continued to believe so until ...

Ten years later, when I happened to ride in a friend's new Honda Accord. It was small (unlike current Accords), but quite plush on the inside, and seemed to be much better in terms of workmanship.

But I had another reason for not buying Japanese cars. My mother is Chinese, spent much of her early life fleeing the Japanese, and actually lived through the rape of Nanking. She was a young kid at the time, and thus escaped unmolested, but that wasn't true of everyone. So throughout the big Japanese/U.S. auto battles, I continued to buy American.

Well, anyway, it's twenty years later now, and even my mom has forgiven the Japanese enough to consider Japanese cars. So I go into a Honda dealership to look at an S2000, and in answer to the salesperson's question, let him know that I'm also considering the Z4. Anyway, he doesn't seem to know much about the S2000, but he keeps making snide asides about "those German cars". I'm thinking, "instead of dissing the competition, how about telling me how good your car is?"

Later he asks me my religion, and mentions that he's Jewish. Suddenly I realize that he was assuming that I was Jewish (something that happens to me pretty regularly), and he was basically implying that no good Jew would buy a German car. And I'm thinking to myself, hey, if I can forgive the Japanese now that everyone who fought in WWII is dead, you should be able to forgive the Germans, too! Well, I didn't buy at that dealership - though the fact that they wouldn't let me test drive the S2000 had as much to do with it as the salesman's questionable attitude.

So does anyone else have interesting stories about car brand prejudices and preferences?
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Old 01-22-2005, 09:03 PM
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Sorry, it's not interesting but I'll tell you anyway. My mom and dad always bought Pontiac, Bonneville station wagons when I was a kid. They always had problems. Every time we towed our boat 300 miles for our only vacation, it would over heat and we'd crank on the heater in 100* weather. It had wheel bearing problems, and axel problems, and thermostat problems. The paint jobs never lasted. (Of course, I don't think my parents ever waxed a car in their lives.)

Anyway, I bought a used 1970 Datsun 510 for my first car and had about 130,000 miles on it when I bought my first new Honda, 1982 Honda Prelude. My Datsun never had any problem that wasn't just a normal thing, like needing a new clutch. My Honda never had any problem whatsoever in over 100,000 miles. I've bought only Hondas ever since. I never would have bought the S2000 except that since it was a Honda, and it was FINE , I could talk myself, and my husband into it.
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Old 01-22-2005, 09:05 PM
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I suppose I'm a bit close minded when it comes to car brands, but I've been so very satisfied by the 8 Hondas that I've owned and the Toyota that I own, and I've been so badly disappointed by the other cars that I've owned, that I gravitate to Honda or Toyota.

I've reached the point in my life where its no longer fun to be stranded on the side of the road waiting for a tow truck or to miss an appointment with an important client because the damn car won't start. I no longer find it acceptable when the a mechanic or dealer tries to explain away some problem or the other. I simply opt to stay where I've had no problems. I've heard too many times, "If you want quality you should buy a Honda."

I've owned 8 Hondas (including my S and my wife's Acura TL) and every one has been better than the one that came before it. I can't remember any serious trouble, or for that matter, any real trouble I've ever had with a Honda.

My Toyota 4Runner is the best vehicle that I have ever owned (in terms of quality and reliability). I have 107,000 absolutely trouble free miles on it. I have never put a dime's worth of repairs into it. I pretty much ignore it. If I babied it the way I baby my S2000, my 4Runner would last 1,000,000 miles. It's that good. If I had to bet my life on a vehicle, my 4Runner is the vehicle I'd choose. It is absolutely bullet proof. I am giving it to my son Andrew when he gets his license in April.

That's why when we started looking for a new car for Liz, we immediately narrowed the choices down to Toyota and Honda (Acura too). We thought about others, like the Mini, BMW and VW, but, we are so satisfied that we really want to find a Toyota or Honda that suits our needs.

Interestingly, the one complaint that most people have about Honda is the dealership service. Even here, we're happy. Our local dealer is a small dealership and we've bought 3 cars there. We've been treated fairly, the service manager knows us by name, and the manager (son-in-law of the owner) gets up from his desk to say hello to me every time I walk in to get oil filters and the like. This dealership treats me sort of the same way that Jeff (hardtopguy) treats the S2000 community. Why would I ever go anywhere else?

The one sidelight to all of this is Lexus. Even though it is a Toyota product, and has the usual impeccable Toyota quality, we tend to shy away from it. The emblem has way too much "cache" for us. It has become too much of a status symbol. It doesn't fit us comfortably.

Anyway, thats why we tend to stick to Honda and Toyota.
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Old 01-23-2005, 06:52 AM
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I have opined on this subject before and long time members know my position. I think it is funny how the members of our generation have become our parents. Mom and Dad had brand loyalty to one make. Reliability and quality were usually the reasons given for the one make devotion. Back then, the American cars were reliable and built to a higher degree of quality. When I would show up with a british or german car, people would laugh and say "buy a real car." The same jokes were made about the Japanese cars. Those of us who bought foreign brands viewed ourselves as more open minded and our cars were symbols that separated us from our parents and the way Mom and Dad viewed the world.

I never understood brand loyalty to cars, and I never will. There are just too many great, interesting and fun cars out there to limit yourself artificially. When I was a kid, I would often see British and German and Japanese cars broken down on the side of the road. But I would also see my share of Mustangs and Camaros, Falcons and Novas, Challengers and Chargers waiting on the side of the road for assistance. So I didn't agree with the reliability comments that others made about foreign cars. I would buy American and foreign brands alike and I would buy whatever car interested me.

I very rarely see cars broken down on the highway anymore. When I do, it is usually because of a flat tire. I also see cars of every make and model with well over 130,000 miles on the odometer giving daily service to their owners. That really was unheard of back in my youth. I remember when cars only had 5 places on the odometer, and when you saw one that had rolled over, it was unusual, and a car you would stay away from if you were in the market. Todays cars, from the lowliest econobox to the most expensive luxury car all have much longer life spans than the cars of our youth.

I guess I'm trying to say that I don't agree that the difference in the reliability records of most new cars is significant enough for me to remove an automaker's entire fleet from consideration. This is especially true today, when most warranty trips to the dealer do NOT involve a disabled vehicle. If I have to drive back to the dealer two or three times with warranty issues, I will. When weighing a couple of return trips to the dealer against the style and performance factors, the dealer trips are pretty insignificant.
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Old 01-23-2005, 07:29 AM
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After my experience with Mercedes - ('03 E320) I will say that I won't be putting them on top of my marque list.

Normally - I just buy what I like although I must say that I am certainly favorably predisposed towards Japanese cars. When the wifey's Lexus gives up the ghost (although @ 160K it still looks and drives beautifully ) we are looking at the FX35, the G35 coupe, the E46 M3 and hoping the new IS hardtop convertible is more than a rumor.

No domestics other than the Corvette (can't get over the stigma) and the new Mustang are really even slightly in consideration. If the CTS-V weren't so fugly it might be an option despite the marginal interior.
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Old 01-23-2005, 07:54 AM
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Bill I may be wrong but I am guessing that you have been very fortunate and have never experienced the pain of owning a piece of crap car. I'm not talking about a lemon, I mean a car that every one made and sold is junk and that the manufacturer knows is junk but still foists on the public.
I'll give you an example.
In the early nineties, as a second car we had a sunbird. Now everyone that I knew that owned one, including us, had alternator problems. Not once but many times in the course of a couple of years. One day I was in the stock room of a GM dealership with a friend who worked there, (getting a new alternator again by the way) when I noticed row upon row of alternators stacked up on the shelves. I said "you guys must really replace a lot of these to keep this many in stock. Are these the new updated replacements for the old problem unit?" To which he replied, "no. These are the same as the ones you and others have had replaced. GM knows these ones are no good also but we have to just keep putting them on until there are no more of them. Then they will make the improved alternator available!"
Last Gm I will ever own. If the manufacturer doesn't care that my wife or daughter (or for that matter myself) is stuck on the side of the highway at night by themselve, due to a problem which they are well aware of, screw them. This has nothing to do with brand loyalty or disloyalty, it's common sense.
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Old 01-23-2005, 08:44 AM
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Bill

I have disagreed with you before on this topic, and once again I disagree. I think that there is something to be said for brand loyalty. I'm not talking about the kind of blind brand loyalty of the past. I'm talking about the earned brand loyalty that is born out of customer satisfaction.

When I buy a car, or most any other significant purchase, I tend to buy it to keep for a while. I tend to keep cars 6 to 8 years. If I buy a car that is not reliable or satisfying, I am stuck with it for longer than I want. I know that there are people who are willing to take their loss, sell it and move on, but for me, it is important that I make the proper decision up front. I find it very difficult to rely on automotive tests or reports. For the most part, the reporters are testing a new car, and any brand new car tends to be reasonably reliable. Even those roadtests that claim to be long term are not satisfactory. As an owner, I live with the car every day, not once a week when it is time to put it through it's paces. My only alternative is my own experience.

I have found that the Hondas and the Toyota that I have owned have exceeded my expectations. Most everything else that I've ever owned has fallen short. Moreover, I have found that the level of satisfaction with Honda and Toyota is very high among people that I know whose judgement I trust. At this point in my life, if I can find the vehicle that I want at either of these companies, why should I take a chance on anything else?

Understand, that if either maker stops making the vehicle that I want, I will look elsewhere, that is why I bought a Toyota 4Runner in the first place. In 1988 Honda wasn't making exactly the S.U.V. that I wanted, and Toyota was. But, if they are making what I want, I favor them and my experience.

An interesting aside to all of this is that whenever I do buy a new car I always hear, "You really should give xyz brand a good look", or "xyz is a much better car now than it was in the past". Maybe it is, but if it isn't, I'm the one who gets stuck. And, I have found that for other brands, customer satisfaction comes and goes, but for Honda and Toyota, it tends to remain at a high level over time. Why fight it?
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Old 01-23-2005, 10:26 AM
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I have no loyalty to a specific brand of car. When I am looking for a new vehicle it is based upon my feel for that specific car as opposed to looking at a brand and trying to find one that I like.

In the last many 35 years I have owed a:

Saab
MG
Honda
Dodge
Plymouth
Pontiac
Chevy
GMC
Nissan
Buick
Ford
Renault
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Old 01-23-2005, 10:58 AM
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Benny, I think where I must differ with you is the "snap shot in time" view of the manufacturer that you apply based solely on your own experience. As every statistician will tell you, when you reduce the sample size to one, your results will be unreliable. (as an aside, I'd never own a Sunbird and I'm not surprised you had a bad experience.)

Benny, I assume you mean your "never had a lemon" remark with tounge in cheek. Of course I have had lemons. I have also got great service from cars that everyone else called lemons. I have also bought cars of the same brand as the lemon a second time, because I believed the vehicles manufactured by that maker had improved. Is that so hard to believe?

But let me ask you Benny, if all the people on this site who have experienced bad trannies, bad clutches and bad engines offered the opinion that Hondas were no good because of their bad experience, would you find their conclusions to have enough weight to sway your opinion about the car? If not, then why should your own bad experience sway you, absent some verification that the conditions are the same today and universal? I'm not saying that you shouldn't exclude one manufacturer or another due to whatever issues exist at the moment. Of course you should, that is only common sense.

The bottom line here is that manufacturers change over time. If your experience from 10 or 20 years ago keeps you from considering a manufacturer's car today, you are not really doing your home work.

Rob, most of the above applies to your response too. I'll just add that Mom and Dad believed their brand loyalty was correct for the same reasons you do. I don't see any difference at all, other than the name plate on the car. We all do what we have to do to get through this life. Loyalty to one brand of cars that have given great service is one way to avoid the dissapointment of a bad ownership experience. I find all the research that goes into a full flegged search for a replacement car to be quite reliable, especially if the car has been out for a couple of years. I guess the good experience I have withone car isn't a strong enough factor to prevent me from enjoying the new experience I get from a different brand. I'm not saying to "fight" your brand loyalty, I'm suggesting that there is more automotive life to live out there. In the end, I find your position odd because at heart I consider you to be a car guy. But your view on this subject is the same as the view held by those who see cars only as transportation and an expense, rather than a passion.
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Old 01-23-2005, 11:13 AM
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I've had Ford, GM, Lexus and Honda cars at this point, and I'll never buy an American car unless I plan on dumping it before the warranty runs out. Actually, the only American car I'd even consider is the Corvette - they don't have much else that appeals to me.

Our 11-yr old Honda Civic has cost a grand total of $127 in unscheduled maintenance in its 137,000 miles.

I always liked VW, Audi and Subaru, although VW/Audi haven't been as reliable as I'd like in recent times.

BMWs are nice, but can be high-maintenance as they age, which is no surprise. Great drivers' cars.

Mercedes was good until the bean-counters overrode the engineers, and decided they could sell cheaper cars and recoup the costs in maintenance.

I must say Lexus had the best service experience of all. I could just call them up, and they would deliver a loaner to my door, take my car in for service, and call for approval before doing anything extra.
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