Why are Japanese so reliable?

oceanblue1

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I have not gone mad and I realise this a German automaker forum, but bear with me :)

I remember reading alot of MB literature emphasing the german precision engineering (e.g. how each components is laser cut to the accuracy a 100th of a human hair etc etc)...

But the truth is Japanese cars are simply more reliable at a much lower price point. When I was in Japan, I was looking at the price of Honda, Toyota etc and notice that it was only 2/3 and even 1/2 of the price in UK! My Japanese friends said that this is because US and Euro are scared of fair competition and slap huge tax on Jap car and heavily restrict the number of cars they can sell abroad each year.

Now he is bound to be biased and surely not £9000 import tariff on some of the car prices I saw.

I know it is not simply a wage issue as the average Japanese wage is quite a bit higher than Europe and most car makers outsource to other country for the actual manufacture anyway. There are little to zero government subsidies unlike in the US. And while they are not as plush or fun to drive as the German makers; they are catching up fast.

It troubles me why they can make such reliable cars at such low cost. And this is across the whole range of Japanese cars, not just one or two brand. In fact, it probably applies to all areas of Japanese goods, not just cars. I know there have probably already been huge amount of university study of this, but I am interested in the opinons of the car enthusiasts on this forum.
 
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merc7

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I agree had few Japanese cars in the past no trouble at all,i had few issues with MB ,however IMHO different cars all together can not compare apples to oranges:confused::D
 

*Thumper

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Where have you been for the last 30 years ................ lol
 

philmayfield

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Our three everyday cars are Japanese. My SL is just a toy!
I've had Mercedes cars over many years however and found them to be totally reliable.

Phil
 

oigle

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It is definitely an interesting phenomenom. Having sold Nissan for over 2 decades and also visited Japanese factories and been quite involved, I have come to the conclusion that it is partly a cultural thing. Japanese pride in their workmanship is very high. In years gone by, even if not quite so much now, a job with a car company was for life with all sorts of in house benefits and retirement packages etc. Houses provided, often within factory complexes that covered square miles or country. Some employees rarely ventured outside the company property - everything was there, including shops etc. To work for Toyota or Nissan etc., was a well paid job and much pride was involved. Loss of face for poor workmabship is a huge issue too.
Japanese vehicles built outside of Japan have never been as good because of the above issues. Aussie built ones were noticeably inferior.
Another factor is the quality of materials used. Japanese steel is unbelieveably good. An instance of material quality is when Nissan bought the rights to manufacture some Austin cars in Japan under the name of Datsun Bluebird back in the early 60's. It was always considered that if you owned an Austin A40 for example, you would need a decoke and valve grind every 30000 miles and probably a set of rings and bearings at least by 60000, and please don't thrash it or it will explode!!. The Bluebird, with visually an identical motor, astounded everybody by doing hundreds of thousands of miles with almost no attention whatsoever. They seemed unbreakable, regardless of how they were driven. They did huge mileages as taxis in outback conditions. Many still tootle around the 'burbs.
An engine reconditioner I used to deal with once said to me that he could regrind 3 GM 6 cyl crankshafts with one grinding stone whereas he would wear out 3 stones doing 1 Japnaese 4cyl crank - enough said.
Another material issue is brakes. Brakes on Toyota/Nissan etc vehicles last at least 3 times as long as Euro car brakes. The discs just don't seem to wear and the pads are long lasting and never squeal. Their stopping power is just as good too.
I have never replaced an engine mount in a Japanese car I have owned and rarely saw one changed in my workshops. My ML has had 3 D/S/F mounts in 100000kms. Not broken - just sagged and gone hard and transmitting too much harshness and noise - poor quality material, I hazard to suggest.
The story goes on ....... Inferior materials and less care in design, manufacture and assembly. Throttle cables that stick, dampers that don't. Frustrating for someone who has driven Japanese for decades and buys his first MB. One could forgive if it was a Fiat or something similar.
We talk about Jap cars being soul-less and like "white goods", but they do the job they were designed to do far better than most if not all. In this day and age of masses of electronics in cars, it is becoming even more important to have top quality in all areas for reliability. Going into limp mode is becoming more common as is evidenced on this forum. Fairly rare with Jap vehicles.
Sorry if this appears as a rant against MB. THere are design issues with MB that I like a lot and I still like the vehicle overall to drive, now that I have fixed a lot of issues. However, I am going to find it hard to buy another one if there is a suitable equivalent Japanese model available when the time comes.
 

whitenemesis

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The current Civic seems to be less than legendary in the reliability stakes??
 

Xtractorfan

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Japan for a long time levied large import duties on foreign goods, and almost made it a crime for their people to buy foreign goods. this is why they had to set up factories in other countries to get round the 'trade embargo'
They also made their own home grown products cheaper to entice their people to buy japanes made goods.
Another thing they did was to take the best of what the rest of the world had and make it better..
Also in Japan the cost of an MOT, when a car reaches three years old, is almost as expensive as buying a new car, so many people opt for buying a new vehicle, So in effect they have positively protected their motor industry.
Japanese companies spend a far greater amount of their profits on research and design than western or any outside companies do, they tend to see a companies wealth in its survival, rather than in its ability to generate large bonuses for its management.
and they do have a good work ethic as already stated...
Its just a pity they dont make MB cars..
 
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oceanblue1

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Oigle, are you actually saying Japanese cars use better materials than German's? That doesn't sound right. German cars seem heavier and the door shut with a noticeably satisfying thud. I have always made the assumption that because of higher price, German cars can afford to use thicker steel, better paint and higher quality components.

Are there any other mechanics or engineers that can confirm the quality and thickness of materials used?

BTW, where is the current Honda made?
 

keith100

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I was looking at the price of Honda, Toyota etc and notice that it was only 2/3 and even 1/2 of the price in UK! My Japanese friends said that this is because US and Euro are scared of fair competition and slap huge tax on Jap car and heavily restrict the number of cars they can sell abroad each year.
I would imagine a lot of Japanese cars sold in the US and UK are built locally, so hardly an import duty issue on those. And for a country infamous for it's non-tariff trade barriers, to complain about import duty is a bit rich. Though to be fair, your Jap. friend probably does not know about these barriers.

Reliability is good but no longer world shattering. See the 2009 USA JD Power reliability study of 3 year old cars.

http://www.jdpower.com/autos/rating...rand/sortcolumn-1/ascending/page-#page-anchor

10 years ago I imagine only J. cars got 5 stars, but not now. The competition fights back eventually.
 

teabag

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I have not gone mad and I realise this a German automaker forum, but bear with me :)

I remember reading alot of MB literature emphasing the german precision engineering (e.g. how each components is laser cut to the accuracy a 100th of a human hair etc etc)...

But the truth is Japanese cars are simply more reliable at a much lower price point.

Around 1950 an American engineer called William Edwards Deming went to Japan to Help them rebuild their economy after the second world war, he taught them the basics of quality assurance and statistical process control.
The Japanese then took these principles and developed them into manufacturing tools such as Kaizen, Hoshin Kanri etc, and implemented them utilising their philosophies of pride in what they can achieve by continuous improvement.

This has led to them becoming the best and most efficient manufacturing country in the world which is why they can produce quality goods at a much lower cost than the Brits or Europeans who are only now trying to get their heads around these principles.
 

oigle

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Oigle, are you actually saying Japanese cars use better materials than German's? That doesn't sound right. German cars seem heavier and the door shut with a noticeably satisfying thud. I have always made the assumption that because of higher price, German cars can afford to use thicker steel, better paint and higher quality components.

Are there any other mechanics or engineers that can confirm the quality and thickness of materials used?

BTW, where is the current Honda made?

One couldn't claim that across the board, but in general, I would think so. An example is that the Japanese started using a form of galvanised steel in their car bodies from around 1986. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think Euro cars really didn't get on board with that one until late 90's or later, with much rust as a result.
The engine mount issue stands out too. Maybe lack of research there too. Brake materials are certainly an issue.
The comparison I made with British steel of the 50's and 60's versus the Japanese wouldn't necessarily be valid against German. Their (German) quality has always been better than British. Japanese is certainly the best though in my book in that area.
I'm also sure that the Japs may not be up to the mark with interiors compared with Audi for example so it isn't a one way street.
However this thread began on the subject of reliability, I think, and the Japanese have pretty much nailed that one down. Some of the Jap cars built outside Japan leave a bit to be desired though. Nice to buy a Jap made one if possible. Same with other Japanese products - TV's and the like. Hard to buy a Japanese made one now due to labour costs. Panasonic seems to be one of the few genuine Jap ones left. Korea has taken over a lot of the manufacture and. to their credit, are doing it pretty well. Their cars are well made too but still rather bland and unexciting. Who's next? China? India? Around and around it goes depending on manufacturing costs.
 

oigle

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I would imagine a lot of Japanese cars sold in the US and UK are built locally, so hardly an import duty issue on those. And for a country infamous for it's non-tariff trade barriers, to complain about import duty is a bit rich. Though to be fair, your Jap. friend probably does not know about these barriers.

Reliability is good but no longer world shattering. See the 2009 USA JD Power reliability study of 3 year old cars.

http://www.jdpower.com/autos/rating...rand/sortcolumn-1/ascending/page-#page-anchor

10 years ago I imagine only J. cars got 5 stars, but not now. The competition fights back eventually.

As you said above, a lot of the Japanese and Euro cars compared here are manufactured in the USA and are really not necessarily representative of home country build quality. Merc and BMW fared rather badly there too as did Audi and Porsche - so much for the Euro prestige brands.
Seems some of the Yank manufacturers have improved markedly, unless their type of customer has lower expectations ???
 

keith100

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As you said above, a lot of the Japanese and Euro cars compared here are manufactured in the USA and are really not necessarily representative of home country build quality. Merc and BMW fared rather badly there too as did Audi and Porsche - so much for the Euro prestige brands.
Seems some of the Yank manufacturers have improved markedly, unless their type of customer has lower expectations ???



My point about where they are built was on the local pricing, not quality.

Still, on local build, the japanese have made cars in the States for at least 20yrs and recently slipped in their ratings. Nissan and Mazda by quite a lot! I don't mean to suggest that they aren't still good cars - just not the paragons of virtue they there were once.

Cheers
 

oigle

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My point about where they are built was on the local pricing, not quality.

Still, on local build, the japanese have made cars in the States for at least 20yrs and recently slipped in their ratings. Nissan and Mazda by quite a lot! I don't mean to suggest that they aren't still good cars - just not the paragons of virtue they there were once.

Cheers

I think it must be very hard for the Japanese to maintain their almost impeccable standards when assembly is being done by less caring/committed people. As was stated earlier, it is a cultural thing and can not be duplicated outside of Japan. Daresay it must be frustrating for the management.
I saw many examples of it here in Oz with local manufacture quality falling well short of imported models. I can only assume this occurs elsewhere too.
 

Rory

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I believe that it is currently made in the Japanese district of........Swindon.....:) (made in the USA and other places as well..)

They make Civic and CRV in Swindon, and have just added Jazz.

I didn't realise until recently that they even cast and assemble engines there - I thought they were just doing assembly.

We had the previous Jazz and have just bought a new one. The old one felt like is was hewn from a blcok of granite and I'm sure it will last for ever. In 6 years ours never even blew a bulb. I spent absolutely nothing on that car, other than routine servicing, MOTs, 4 tyres and a set of wiper blades.
 
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Rappey69

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Yamaha engines seem pretty bullet proof, can be thrashed to death for many thousands of miles and still run beautifully yet many of them are made in china !
China makes so much inferior cr*p but they also make quality items but would assume it is built to a specification and would greatly reduce manufacturing costs.
 

LSD

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I used to run a large fleet of taxis for rental (still do but on a smaller scale). Most of the vehicles were Toyota, the Carina and Avensis. Nothing else came close.

The Japanese- and British-built versions were very different cars. Jap versions would cover huge mileages with little more than services and the odd bulb, and that's no exaggeration - faults were very rare.

The British versions whilst still essentially reliable in the sense of major components were by comparison, plagued by many faults, often electrical. These faults were aways caused by the fitment of alternative/licence-made European components. Our old friend Valeo featured often. Anything Japanese on the cars gave no trouble, as before. The difference in quality between some equivalent parts was immediately obvious to simply hold in your hand.

Most British and European manufacturers constantly look for cost savings, however minute. Quality and potential reliability is allowed to drift a percent or two here and there in this pursuit.

The Japanese look for ways to retain or improve the reliability as a start, and then see if it is possible to reduce the cost.

Some years back (and I don't say I even look nowadays to know if it's still so), the purchase price of Toyotas was always a little higher than their competitors. This is where the quality and reliability lies: there is a minimum cost to it, pure & simple.

Not that we want to pay more for cars, but the truth is, it's a very competitive market. A few hundred quid on the production cost of most vehicles could almost eradicate the sillier faults, so often caused by a tuppence-ha'penny relay etc.
 

wemorgan

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Japan was early adopters of the Total Quality Control movement in manufacturing after WW2. Europe was slow to follow and it could be said that we're still catching up.

Today one of the more popular methods is 6 Sigma.
 

PeterCLK

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I own an MB, a Toyota and had 2 A40's in the past.
Agree with everything Oigle says - except he missed out the rust on the A40's.
Jap cars are not perfect though - Toyota have a had a lot of problems with dual mass flywheel failure on their diesels and I believe my petrol model is suceptible to oxygen sensor failure. However, unlike my MB, so far it hasn't missed a beat.
Give me a choice and I always drive the MB though.
 

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