All Maine Matters

May 2006



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Pacific Rim -10, Home Boys- 0
by Bob Sanders

Consumer Reports went ten for ten for Asian manufacturers in their last Dependability Rating’s issue, and Jim Guest, the president of Consumer Reports, already had his flame suit ready for action. In the same issue he wrote: “Our test methods and test center, along with staff member’s qualifications, have earned the respect of the auto industry and of our competition in the automotive testing and publishing field”. Lori Queen, a GM executive, was sounding a little less than respectful when she wrote in Automotive News : “ the editors and reporters who put together the Consumer Reports auto issue are the most unprofessional group of people I have ever worked with”. She added: “They are totally nonobjective and go to great extremes to paint a picture for their paid subscription readers, who primarily buy Japanese cars.” How did the Pacific Rim maker’s lock up all 10 spots? Jim Guest says: “Overall, they outpointed the competition in our testing and in the reliability information we collect from hundreds of thousand of car owners.”

The question, as always, is who’s right and who’s not so right.
I turns out there are some serious flaws in the data that CR collates and analyzes. Out of over 4 million questionnaires sent this year, the magazine received responses regarding about 480,000 vehicles. Since most households have at least two vehicles, this put the response rate at a measly 6%! (According to the Detroit News). When you factor in the likelihood, if not probability, that of this 6% of responses most are Consumer Reports Dittoheads, it is not hard to imagine these respondents chanting, in lemming fashion - “All Japanese, All The Time”.

This is not a blatantly unfair jab at Consumer Reports, when this publication endorses ten Japanese vehicles to the exclusion of anyone else in the auto manufacturing arena it says loud and clear, “Domestic vehicles are inferior”. In the real world trenches of the repair field independent technicians routinely see broken Japanese vehicles in more or less direct proportion to their market share. This is blasphemy to the Consumer Reports faithful, but “Yes, Toyotas do break down.”

Want some truly unbiased rating information on vehicles, from a company that doesn’t just proclaim to have “the respect of the auto industry” but actually does? Check out J.D. Power ratings. While Consumer Reports has the adoration of Yuppiedom, J.D. Power has the same power over auto manufacturers all over the world that Merrill Lynch has over investors. (You know, when they speak, everyone listens). J.D. Power rates vehicles in an initial quality category, but more importantly they rate them in their third year of ownership to the original owner. This is the category that separates Lexuses from the Kia’s, literally, because this is how most of us own cars, for the long haul, what you really want to know is how much money your vehicle is going to eat when the years and odometer start to roll by. This is the truest test of quality. Lincoln, Buick, Cadillac, and Mercury made the cut into the Top Ten Most Dependable. Lexus came in on top, Toyota was number seven. You can check out all the ratings at

Here’s a more than appropriate quote from an executive at General Motors, “ The corporate battlefields of the world are littered with the corpses of companies that would destroy the American automobile industry.”

Bob Sanders is a Master Auto Technician who works in Brewer.

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