By on May 6, 2009

Consumer Reports drops a sly wink at the irony-free Daimler-Chrysler tagline while revealing that (surprise!) Fiat’s reliability is little better than Chrysler’s. Of course, pre-retreat American Fiat records speak for themselves. Usually in acronym form (Play It Again, Sam, as the old folks say). But even 21st-century Fiat ranked only three places higher than Chrysler in Britain’s 2008 Which? Car reliability survey. Did we mention Chrysler took last place? Honda and Toyota in first, etc. But CR plays it cool. Real cool. “By the limited indication we have, it looks like reliability may be a challenge,” is the money shot. Way to represent the data!

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19 Comments on “A Marriage Of (Reliability) Equals...”

  • avatar

    Finally, a fun article from CR!

  • avatar

    Granted, the Chrysler vehicles that are being polled for reliability now are still products of the DCX era.

    If I had to guess, 07, 08, and 09 model year vehicles will show better reliability, and then they’ll plummet again because of employee morale issues. (Making vehicles for a bankrupt automaker and all)

  • avatar
    A is A

    This Crysler-Fiat merger reminds me of the 1979-1987 American Motors Company-Renault Alliance (no pun intended).

    * The ailing AMC is now the ailing Chrysler.

    * The Renault 5 Le Car (“Americans are going to love this small European car”) is now the Fiat 500 (“Americans are going to love this small European car”).

    * Renault´s reliability (or lack of it) then was on par with Fiat´s reliability now.

    * There was a recession then, as now.

    * Jeep… is the only thing that does not change. It is the same Jeep then and now.

    The big difference: I think that the Chrysler-Fiat affaire is going to last much, much LESS TIME than the 8 years that the AMC-Renault did.

    How ironic that finally Chrysler bought the remnants of AMC to Renault in 1987. History makes full circle.

    I see Chrysler in AMC company in less than a year.

  • avatar

    So instead of buying a reliable Honda or Toyota the comrades will buy a fall apart Fiat instead?

  • avatar

    CommanderFish-until the most recent CR survey Chrysler was a bit ahead of GM but power dived for the ’08 models.

    I’m always bemused at the way many at TTAC seem to look at GM reliability as “average” and dismiss Chrysler as pathetic. They have been running neck and neck below average for a long time.
    Maybe it’s because both of the Mopar fans retreated to years ago and everyone gets tired of defending the obvious to the GM fans.


  • avatar

    I’m always bemused at the way many at TTAC seem to look at GM reliability as “average” and dismiss Chrysler as pathetic.

    GM has been complaining a lot lately about how quality reputations take awhile to catch up to current reality. This is an example of that phenomenon working in GMs favor.

    Chrysler has been fighting a rep for bad quality since the 50s, with uneven results. Up to the mid 70s, GM was the Toyota of the US car industry and Chrysler was, well, Chrysler. I think that this mindset carries on to this day. A lot of people still give GM the benefit of the doubt, but Chrysler lost that a long time ago.

  • avatar

    Not really related to anything modern, but I had a mid 80s Fiat 124 Spyder. A really nice car (and a BIG step up from my previous MG). The steering wheel and dash were wood, the top went up and down easily, it handled quickly, and was a hoot to drive. What I’d give for something similar, now.

    One day the timing went bad and destroyed whatever was inside the engine. Two months in the independent shop (dealing with guys that spoke mostly Italian) and a ton of money later it was back as new, but time to sell. I still have fond memories, yet I was younger then, and things like reliability meant less to me than now.

  • avatar

    CR should have put a positive spin on the reliability similarity: “As for reliability, Fiat and Chrysler are equals and so consumers should expect no jarring change in this category.”

  • avatar

    SunnyvaleCA :
    May 6th, 2009 at 5:45 pm

    CR should have put a positive spin on the reliability similarity: “As for reliability, Fiat and Chrysler are equals and so consumers should expect no jarring change in this category.”


    Sadly, that may not be true. When a grade C- student team up with another C- student for a project, the final grade could be D.

  • avatar

    CommanderFish – Daimler-Benz dumped a bunch of product-development money into Chrysler, they got work going on stuff like the 300C. Then they stuck the Pacifica and the Crossfire into Chrysler showrooms with pricetags $15K higher than the brand would support…

    “Zo Hans, you mean Chrysler is NICHT ein premium brand?”

    When they figured out they’d have to peddle cheap stuff at low margins they slashed product-development budgets and started looking for a way out and Cerberus has mostly continued that trend.

    Everything they’ve done since the 300C, excepting maybe the Grand Cherokee, look like they were done for $5. Why do you push something like the Caliber or the Patriot out the door when ON THE DAY IT HITS THE SHOWROOM it’s no better than seventh or eighth-best in its market segment, in some cases worse than the product it replaced?

    Okay, the new pickups look and feel pretty good. Dodge trucks and a couple Jeeps and that’s about all that’s worth keeping.

    In Europe Fiat sells on price and design. Not particularly durable, but cheap and clever. Kinda like an IKEA car. Great for the kids’ bedroom because you know they’ll trash it anyway.

    Every college student should have a Fiat 500 in their dorm room.

    They own Ferrari, Maserati, Lancia, and Alfa too. Maserati’s healthy again and the Quattroporte is the Big Sedan To Own these days, They could really use a solid near-luxury brand, unless they want to pull Maserati down into the BMW/Audi arena, ’cause Lancia and Alfa are kinda Fiat’s Buick and Pontiac. They’ve got a long history but they’re not pulling their weight in the market.

  • avatar

    Fiat cars have been crap since the 1970’s (that’s why they got ran out of the US)and evidently still are crap, according to CR. I know many Americans have short memories and may not remember when Fiat sold crap cars here, but I do. CHrysler/Fiats won’t be any better. I really wish that Chrysler would have merged with GM. BTW, AMC sold an interest in that company to Renault. When CHrysler bought AMC in 1987, they shitcanned most of the Renault vehicles, as they were tin cans.

  • avatar

    I remember 2 Fiat’s I had, one was the 127, 1976 model, very small and very bad, rust all over and coming apart.
    The other one was here in the US,(1983) it was a 5 speed manual Fiat 131, 2 doors, I got it for $500 and sold it for $400, drove it while using the clutch only for first and reverse because it was in a very bad shape and I was trying to save money by not fixing it.
    Someone did left me a note on the car when I parked it with a for sale sign.
    “Fix It Again Tony”

  • avatar

    Of course, pre-retreat American Fiat records speak for themselves. Usually in acronym form (Play It Again, Sam, as the old folks say).

    Isn’t it Fix It Again, Tony? Or is there a joke or reference I’m missing?

    The thing about Chrysler versus Fiat is that when a Chrysler product breaks, you’re happy to be rid of the damned thing. If a Fiat breaks, you’re happy to fix it.

  • avatar

    CR should have put a positive spin on the reliability similarity: “As for reliability, Fiat and Chrysler are equals and so consumers should expect no jarring change in this category.”…

    When MB and Chrysler joined to make the “merger of equals”, they were correct in terms of reliability. Both car lines had crappy reliability.

  • avatar

    My friends in other countries (NOT IN CANADA) tell me that Panda is an excellent car all around, and the rest of the line-up is so-so or plain bad. FIAT seems to be able to make one great car at the most. Unfortunately, Panda is really tiny.

  • avatar

    So, I’ve been lurking for a month or so and now its time to weight in.
    I’ve owned Alfas and Fiats since 1977. My 1991 164 with 180K miles has been head and shoulders reliable over previous products over the decades. My 98 Olds Silhouette was such a piece of crap, intake manifold gasket, head gaskets and 2 transaxles by 110K. If Fiat/Alfa has progressed at all in 19 years, quality could easily be on par with the other European makes. The key will be the dealer service network. Those who trash Italian quality on the basis of the 70’s are xxx. Alfa’s failure in the 90’s was due to the ARDONA (chrysler) distrubution network that ordered 80% automatics vs 5 speeds. How stupid is that? This time Fiat will make the decisions. Alfa will never be a Honda or Toyota in reliability. Japanese cars will never match Alfa or Fiat in sheer fun and style. Fun, style, good gas mileage and reasonable reliability will make for very competitive products,

  • avatar

    @djn: very rational assessment.

    BTW: The Caliber triplets everyone loves to hate for their “cheap” interiors and etc seem to be holding up well as they have better than average reliability ratings according to CR. The best Chrysler is producing. Next best is one of the trucks with “average” across the board.

    I don’t think the Neon ever pulled a better than average rating.

  • avatar

    I think if Chrysler can introduce Fiat to their futuristic material known as “Galvanized Steel”, Fiat might stand a chance in the US… ;-)

    I’ll take a Brera, minus the pleated hood, please.

  • avatar
    Daniel J. Stern


    You’ve got it wrong on the relative quality track records of GM and Chrysler. Chrysler vehicles’ build quality (and resultant durability) has been on a more or less sinusoidal curve for decades. They alternated having their shit together and building really good cars (1946-’56, 1963-’73, etc.), and foisting off complete garbage (1957-’59, 1978-’83, 1996-date, etc.), with transitional “Do you feel lucky?” periods between these extremes (1960-’62, 1974-’77, 1990-’95, etc.).

    GM’s quality has been somewhat more consistent but generally lower, with variability according more to engineering and cost decisions than to production quality.

    A friend of mine who has been a D3 engineer for decades sums up the American auto industry:

    In general, GM do a mediocre job of building a mediocre design, Ford do a good job of building a lousy design, and Chrysler do a lousy job of building a good design.

    I think that’s about right, plus or minus this model or that one, disregarding those factors that cancel out (Ford AXOD, GM TH200R4, Chrysler A604).

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