Tuesday, March 6, 2018

American Car Brands - and my problems with them

American Car Brands - Once, they had the highest quality ratings in the world, and now I'd rather buy a Japanese Car built in America than one from an American brand.

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You might be wondering what troubles did I have with my American cars? The three cars I had before the Honda were:
  1. 1996 Plymouth Neon
  2. 2001 Chevy Malibu
  3. 2007 Chrysler PT Cruiser
With the Neon, everything to do with the wiring harness was suspect. Gradually, all the dashboard gauges failed. And for years, I was driving a car without the ability to tell how fast I was going because of speedometer failure.  (The speedometer had to be replaced twice under warranty.)  After I gave this car to my brother, he found out that the soldering on the dashboard was faulty, and I fixed it for the car's remaining life on the road.

The Chevy Malibu was another story. This car had strange quirks, including a fan/air conditioner switch that wouldn't work for the AC when on the lower 2 notches and wouldn't work for fan only operation on the other notches. This had to be replaced under warranty, and yet, the problem came back.  The car had faulty front seat welds, and the seat would have failed early had this not been taken care of by the dealership.  But what was most troublesome was a tendency to have idiot lights come on when making a sustained right turn, such as taking a dog-leg exit off a highway at speed. I was glad to be rid of this car when I bought the PT Cruiser.

I wasn't sure if I could trust Chrysler products again, after my experience with the Neon. Yet, I loved the Cruiser. But I would never buy it again, given the quality problems with its electronics. Over time, the electronics had a nasty habit of shorting out, leaving me unable to use my radio, unable to read any of the indicators, and eventually unable to read the gas gauges or speedometer. Usually, everything came back to normal. But you couldn't count on the electronics. What was most frustrating was the front seat. It was electrically operated, and all the switches were attached to a plastic panel on the side of the seat. Over time, the seat would no longer be supported properly by its springs and would break the plastic panel on the side.  No amount of repairs could fix this, as the seat was designed poorly. So I ended up duct taping the panel to the seat AND using seat covers to hide everything. When the car's transmission died the year before I was laid off from the bank I then worked for, it was a big blessing. I was able to buy the Honda I now own, and pay it off while I still had the extra money to do so.

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There is no mention of Ford above.  Why not?

When I purchased my Honda, I test drove cars from Ford, GM, Hyundai, Toyota, and Honda. I ruled out Hyundai simply because they supplied a tire reinflation kit instead of a spare tire. This is penny wise and dollar foolish, as it doesn't deal with side punctures which would force you to drive on a rim (ruining the wheel) or having to have the car towed. The Toyota was too expensive for value provided. And GM's offerings felt cheap. This left me with Honda and Ford.  

Have you ever driven a car where one needs read a manual to tune the car's radio to a specific radio station?  This was the case with the Ford I test drove. Some asshole wanted to show how many cute gimmicks he could add to the car's electronics and made the radio impossible to operate. If this was the problem with the radio, I could only imagine what other screwed up design decisions would show up in the car afterwards.  So I nixed the choice of Ford, even though in other respects the car was a good car. (A few years later, GFJ rented a Ford for a trip to Cleveland. And the rental agent had to show her how to use the radio and associated electronics.  I guess the lunatics still run the asylum over there.)  As long as Ford's electronics are so complicated that I need to read a book to tune in the car's radio, I won't even bother considering this brand next time I buy a car.

As you can guess, I'm likely to buy another Honda.  Each time I discover something new about the car (including how they want to prevent you from using hands-free phone dialing when backing up the car), it is always well thought out. I don't need a manual to figure out most things about the car, and the few quirks I've discovered do not affect the overall pleasant experience of owning this car. Let's hope that it keeps running well, until I have the cash on hand to replace the car....

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