Eight out of the top 10 reliable carmakers in the Which? Car Survey 2010 are from Japan, with the remaining two from Korea. Why is the rest of the world lagging behind?
The top 10 reliability ranking for our 2010 Car survey (compiled from over 65,000 car owners) runs in the following order: Daihatsu, Honda, Toyota, Mazda, Lexus, Suzuki, Subaru, Hyundai, Mitsubishi and Kia.
These are manufacturers that car buyers return to again and again. A reliable car makes motoring life more stress-free and more predictable, which is especially needed when your motor goes out of warranty.
However, it’s a bit of a shame that the front runner, Daihatsu, is pulling out of the UK next year. It cites weakening exchange rates as the main reason for the withdrawal. Still, there will be plenty of other carmakers willing to fill its shoes.
Japan’s reliable car brands
But why are so many of the reliable carmakers from Japan? It stems from their superior production processes and more rigorous testing regime. Also, the Japanese brands tend to be more conservative when it comes to adopting complex new technologies – though hybrid technology is a notable exception to this rule.
Japanese factories have long been spotless and very tightly controlled, with key component suppliers located just outside the factory gates. This means that they can seamlessly respond to the flexible ‘just-in-time’ manufacturing processes that’s been pioneered by the Japanese.
Many European makers are still trying to emulate this system, but they’re up against it since they’re starting from a base of older working patterns and facilities, in less favourable locations.
Of course, lots of these Japanese factories are located outside of Japan – including the UK. Tellingly, the technological difference between Land Rover’s ageing Solihull plant and Nissan’s newer Sunderland factory is vast. Maybe that’s why Land Rover props up the bottom of our brand reliability list.
What about the rest of the world?
So where are the Germans in this list? What about their so-called ‘bullet-proof’ reliability? Mercedes-Benz sits in 11th, BMW in 13th, Porsche in 18th and Volkswagen in 20th (out of a total of 34 carmakers).
There’s plenty of work for these brands to do if they want to achieve the repeat buying levels the Japanese firms enjoy.
So what does the future hold – will the Chinese be next? Where will brands like Great Wall and Shanghai Automotive sit on this list? We wouldn’t be surprised if they beat established European rivals on both price and reliability – quality may be another matter.
You have just over a week to get your Which? Car Survey 2011 responses in, and also be in with a chance of winning £5,000. Tell us what you love and hate about your car by 28 March.