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Are American Cars Getting Better Or Are Japanese Cars Getting Worse?

Illustration for article titled Are American Cars Getting Better Or Are Japanese Cars Getting Worse?

There's some debate as to whether selling cars is a zero sum game, but there's generally a certain quantity of people looking for mid-sized cars, sports cars, compact cars, et cetera. With that as a given, relative rankings become important as people look to buy new cars. Lately, America has been doing better when compared to what seemed like a Japanese juggernaut. Just today J.D. Power & Assoc. announced the initial quality results and two American cars, the 2008 Chevy Malibu and Ford Fusion, were in the top three.

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This follows Consumer Reports noting Ford improving and Toyota declining in reliability, and we'll have more news today about American companies catching up with the Japanese.

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So this leads to the obvious question: who is moving? Are American cars merely catching up with the Japanese? Are the Japanese getting worse? Are both getting better but American cars are getting better faster? Or is it just that our expectations for American cars are a little low? [Photo: StangBangers]

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DISCUSSION

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Rob Emslie

American cars are definitely getting better. Japanese cars are getting more complicated, and hence having more things to go wrong with them. The Germans have the same problem of complexity breeding problems.

A couple of years ago, the worst vehicle on this list was the Infiniti QX45, which was a first-year model with a lot of bells and wistles, that didn't get properly engineered before launch. It seems like a lot of vehicles get to market before they have been fully baked- the Toyota Tundra is a prime example.

I think that the American manufacturers are using many of the same sub-system suppliers as the Japanese these days, which is helping to drive quality up.

A point to note is that the JD Power Initial Quality survey covers both whether things break/are poorly assembled, as well as how they are designed. If someone gets frustrated with their new BMW idrive, it's going to hurt BMWs rating on the IQ survey. This goes more to the quality of the engineering and the money/time spent designing the car.