QOTW: How Do You Define Quality and Reliability?

Frank Williams
by Frank Williams

Once upon a time, a car that could crest 100K miles was a pampered piece of technology. To make it “round the clock” most machines demanded a tune-up every three to five thousand miles— at the very least. Today, high-mileage used cars with nothing more than a routine oil change under their [fan] belt are par for the course. Now that the goal posts have moved, how do we measure a vehicle’s “quality” and “reliability”? To some people the terms mean “the car starts when I turn the key and I don’t have to mortgage the house to keep it running.” To others, they mean “it looks and operates as well today as it did when I bought it.” And to others it’s like pornography to a Supreme Court Justice: they can’t define it, but they know it when they see it. What’s your definition of reliability and quality? Are the two joined at the hip? Please post your answers below…

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  • FunkyD FunkyD on Aug 21, 2006

    Quality is such a catch-all term that it really defies a universal definition. To me, it comprises a few parts. Once part is the stuff from which the car is made. Is it cheap plastic that will crack, break, or fade in a couple years, or it is good stuff that will last the life of the car. What about the "fit and finish" of the paint job, alignment of doors, trunk lid, and other such parts? Will pieces of the interior start falling off (like they seem to do with GM)? Attention to detail in design or assembly can define quality. Or it could be something so sujbective as the overall "feel" of the vehicle. Then there is reliability. That is how few times the car will fail to perform its job or be out of service. Will it start every time you turn the key. Will it not leave you stranded somewhere away from home? "Built to last" defines durability. Ultimately, how many miles can one reasonably expect to get out of a vehicle before it reaches the end of it service life (major failure, repair expense beyond justification, etc.). An engine that will run 200k miles before an overhaul is very much durable, even if it's gone through a dozen water pumps. None of these facets strictly corrolate with each other. I had a VW Cabriolet that wasn't the most reliable of cars sometimes, but was durable beyond belief. My new GTO seems to have excellent quality, but will it still be around after 100k miles? Who knows.

  • Aldg Aldg on Aug 22, 2006

    One concept of quality and reliability also has to do with how easy the car is to repair. That is, is the car laid out in such a manner that repairs are easily made rather then with difficulty and excess cost. For example, to access the oil pan on my 1995 Olds Aurora (with a Northstar type V8 engine), you have two choices to replace the oil pan gasket when a leak occurs (and leaks are very common on Northstar engines): 1. Remove the engine to access the oil pan; or 2. Remove the transaxle to access the oil pan. Either was is extremely labor intensive (and our local Mr. Goodwrench charges almost $80 per hour) just to replace a simple oil pan gasket. This to me is a very good example of poor quality design and reliability. I sometimes ask myself, Why would anyone in their right mind buy a GM car with a Northstar engine? I would have more respect for the automotive companies if they would do the following: 1. Lower the price of replacement parts for their cars; and 2. Disclose warranty reporting information to the public about ALL models of cars they manufacture. If the 2nd item was done, it would force the auto company to improve their quality and reliability of their products. What do you think? By the way, I just signed up at no charge at the TrueDelta website that is monitoring auto quality and reliability. Their URL is: http://www.truedelta.com/index.php

  • CRacK hEaD aLLeY CRacK hEaD aLLeY on Aug 22, 2006

    Reliability: you always get there. Quality: you always get there, happy. Why would anyone in their right mind buy a GM car with a Northstar engine? Answer: they wouldn't.

  • Qualityg Qualityg on Aug 24, 2006

    Comapnies need to start asking questions about quality and reliability, don't just go by lowest-price buying. Stay clear of suppliers where price of service/product has no meaning without a way to measure quality. From: http://qualityg.blogspot.com/2006/08/leadership-knowledge-management-people.html