German cars score low on reliability; Mustang trots in for the prize

Want one! 

Automologist MAC takes German brands down a notch…and he wants/might get a pony. Read on and you’ll understand…

For years now I have been amused by the constant advertising of German technology and brands as (seemingly) having cornered the market in quality and reliability, or having the exclusive rights to dip into the mythical well of excellence. The recent VW emission scandal that seems to have originated over at Audi is just one bit of bad news that has beset brand Deutschland of late. You could highlight the stunning success of the Mercedes F1 team as evidence of German engineering prowess, of course, but then you would have to remember that this team is based in Brackley, a small town about 70 miles north of London, in the very un-German country of England, and is staffed by people who do not wear lederhosen or eat bratwurst.

Looking around the world’s press for more than a few years now, the German brands have been scoring very low in the reliability stakes in numerous customer-based surveys, such as the recent one by the UK’s Auto Express, in which the top ten spots were dominated by Japanese cars; Lexus being a firm favourite and only lowly Skoda being able to break the Japanese dominance.

Of course, with owner satisfaction surveys like these, the expectations of the customer comes into play and it could just be that customers who purchase German cars have higher expectations. For example, Skoda Citigo MkI scored quite well but underneath it is just a Volkswagen, a German offering really, but bought by people on a budget. However, you could also argue that German manufacturers NEVER had a reputation for reliability. In reality, it was the world’s automotive journalists that elevated them to superstar status over the past few years by being impressed with things like “ergonomic soft-touch dashboard plastics”.

I have often chuckled at how motoring journalists recommend a car as a ‘Best Buy’ on the basis of having spent a couple of days with the darn thing, and being ‘impressed’ by its “afterburner shaped exhaust” and “how it pulls like a freight train” and “how it corners at 150mph”, like you could go that fast anywhere except the German autobahn’s! For those of us who actually pay for our cars with our own hard-earned cash and live with our cars for a few years, factors like economy, cost of ownership, reliability and creature comfort matter a whole lot more.

So, perhaps we shouldn’t be massively surprised then that Germany, the country that has given us the legendary 911, Mercedes SL and Bugatti Veyron or the Audi TT is now being dominated by the iconic American Pony Car, which first arrived on their shores last summer but has taken the top spot in the sports coupe sector of the German market. Back in the sixties, when the Detroit Pony was first launched, it was not exported to Europe as it wasn’t thought suitable for the small roads on the continent; instead we got the Ford Capri, a good offering but not exactly a Pony Car. Ford has had a change of heart and decided that the old countries over the pond should benefit from the inclusion of the Mustang’s presence, and now the fabled land of automotive excellence has been dominated by a Detroit muscle car better known for quarter mile speed than any ability to handle the twisting roads of Europe.

So, if the Germans have fallen in love with the Ford Mustang, what does that say about the state of the German car industry? Or conversely, the quality and ability of the Ford Mustang? Well, I haven’t driven one yet nor seen one in the flesh, but Ford has – via its local partner, Auto Connexions – had the sense to launch it in Malaysia, where I live; so, maybe this weekend I can take a trip down to the local showroom so I can make my own mind up and perhaps get me a slice of an American legend…maybe, just maybe…

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