July 21, 2009 The growing availability of information afforded by the internet will ultimately make all entities more accountable, whether they're made of flesh and blood, or bricks and mortar and concepts. Corporations will need to change if they are to survive in this coming age of accountability and automotive manufacturers in particular will need to reassess their communication strategies. Despite the financial magnitude of an automobile purchasing decision, the masses have until now been content to read the spec sheet and subscribe to the copywritten dreams rather than assess the real costs of owning the car - reliability, cost of repair, time-off-road and resale value - because those factors have been hidden. Now those figures are becoming publicly available and some of the big names don't fare at all well. Read on to find out how much more it costs to repair a Porsche than any other brand, which British marque is the least reliable, which European brands dominate the cheapest to repair top 10, and why Honda fares best with everything considered. Read on for the top 10 most expensive to repair, top 10 least expensive to repair, top 10 most unreliable brands, and the top 10 most reliable brands. Fascinating stuff!
Firstly, do the figures we're using here have any cred?
The Reliability Index is derived from the figures of the UK's leading independent automotive warranty specialist, Warranty Direct and is based on vehicles older than three years (3-6 year old), because people don't start buying independent warranties until the standard warranty finishes.
Warranty Direct studied the reliability and cost of repair of 250 of the most popular models during the last 12 months. A total of 30 manufacturers from a database of 50,000 policies were analysed.
What we do know from Warranty Direct is that one in three vehicles outside the manufacturer’s standard three-year warranty will suffer a mechanical failure this year. Sadly, getting accurate data on new car failure is nigh on impossible, as the manufacturers are unlikely to release it.
There's additional integrity in the data of the Reliability Index in that although the company warranties and hence tracks well in excess of 150,000 vehicles, it does not include makes and models for which it doesn't carry enough policies and claims to provide a fair reflection of that model's place in the UK market as they will skew the overall picture and are hence excluded until a significant sampling is available.
As the Reliability Index site is automatically linked to claims processed by Warranty Direct, the data on the web site is updated daily and the small number of omissions will therefore get smaller as the number of warranties grows.
As a transparent data source for the car buyer, the Index provides invaluable information on the sort of costs you can expect with your car, how frequently it might go wrong and which parts you should expect to go wrong.
It won't come as any surprise that Japanese manufacturers hold sway when it comes to building the most reliable cars. What was surprising from the survey data was that if things did go wrong, the Japanese brands are more expensive to repair than European cars in general and French cars in particular – Skoda proved to be cheapest to repair, boasting an average yearly garage bill of UKP 215.94, but the three big French marques Citroen, Renault and Peugeot ran 2,3 and 4 in the top 10 list with Honda being the only Japanese representative amongst the top 10.
Although Porsche is the 10th most reliable car on the road, the German marque has the most expensive average repair bill (UKP793.05) of the 30 manufacturers analysed by Warranty Direct – and it was SO MUCH MORE expensive that it's almost hard to believe – 47% more expensive to repair than second placed Jeep and 64% more than third placed Jaguar.
Honda claims top spot as the brand least likely to break down with fellow Far East manufacturers Mazda, Toyota, Subaru, Nissan and Mitsubishi close behind in the Top 10. At the other end of the table, off-road favourite, Land Rover, records failure rates of 47 percent in an average year – that's nearly one in two vehicles and clearly just doesn't measure up for any brand, let alone a premium brand name.
Renault and Saab also perform badly in terms of reliability, both with a 38 percent chance of breaking down in an average year, while another premium 4x4 manufacturer Jeep no longer stands up to the promise upon which its name was built. For brands supposedly defined by rugged reliability, the pair of off road manufacturers are at the wrong end of the table.
“It can be a painful experience owning a car,” says Duncan McClure Fisher, managing director of Warranty Direct. “Perhaps buyers should canvass for Health Warning stickers in the same way the industry has adopted low emissions tax band grading. Maybe that’ll incentivise improved reliability and quality?”
Now before anybody runs off and starts bandying these figures around in other countries, we should point out a few things to be fair. We expect the reliability figures will prove similar across all countries, but the cost of repair might be a very different matter, and could depend on the distributor in other countries and their pricing policy on spare parts.
Similarly, Porsche was probably quite unfortunate to be one of the few premium brands to be popular enough to make it into the 30 manufacturers being analysed, and although its cars might be far more expensive to repair compared to non-premium brands, we don't expect it would be any more expensive than comparable brands.