Sign of the Times: Nissan Advertises Durability

Justin Berkowitz
by Justin Berkowitz
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sign of the times nissan advertises durability

Once upon a time, Americans didn't drive around in Kleenex-mobiles designed to be dis-car-dead after an obligatory three to four years. OK, they actually fell apart in that time. But the thrill of the new– what came to be known as planned obsolescence– wasn't always the industry's main selling point. A lot of folks bought the Model T or an early Buick because the cars were built to last. Outside of pickup trucks, I can't remember the last time I saw a car company advertising the longevity and mechanical quality of their products. Sure, there's some noise about "precision engineering" and "legendary reliability" (e.g. the new, more epically epic Toyota Sequoia). But when was the first/last time you heard a manufacturer claim that "our cars are built to last?" Well then, I guess it's time to rethink Nissan. The Japanese automaker has decided to tout the durability of its cars– especially the Altima– in TV ads and on the web. They're talking quality testing and "years of durability." Yes, an upgraded warranty would have placed currency in their oral cavity, but I think it's fantastic that Nissan is actually suggesting that you buy a car for more than 20 minutes. In these days of tanking vehicle sales, how long before someone nabs Patek Phillipe's strapline (so to speak): choose once, choose wisely?

Justin Berkowitz
Justin Berkowitz

Immensely bored law student. I've also got 3 dogs.

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  • Menno Menno on May 06, 2008

    Two points. I recall reading about the new 2.4 litre four cylinder Hyundai (and Kia) engines which were to be introduced in 2006, I think it was in Automotive News or possibly an SAE article. Hyundai specifically designed the engines to have at least a 300,000 mile lifespan. The engineers indicated that it would be "about" 3 years before the engines were fully built to spec, blaming some suppliers for not being able to turn out the exact specifications until then. Second. If anyone wants to get a reciprocating engine vehicle to last 300,000 miles, you need to know this little "dirty secret" that the auto industry does not want you to know. To help reduce their costs (and enable drivetrains to pass 100,000 emission durability tests) they've strong-armed (like a pretzel) the oil industry (via the SAE) to remove most of the ZDDP (just say "zinc" phosphorous) from the motor oils of today, and the US government was in collusion with them too. This is DISASTEROUS for engines, especially old (pre-1985) flat tappet engines. One solution is to use oil with ZDDP (well 'duh') but it is hard to come by. One such oil is diesel AND gasoline rated Shell Rotella T, which can be found (with difficulty) in SAE 10W-30 or (easily found) in SAE 15W-40. It is CJ-4 (diesel low emission system) rated "then" SL (gasoline) rated, which means it may (in fact MUST) contain ZDDP. Diesel engines cannot last more than about 5 minutes without ZDDP in the motor oil. ZDDP, suspended in very small quantieis in the motor oil, forms a sacrificial barrier on high-load friction surfaces (i.e. camshafts and bearings). Another solution is to add back the ZDDP by buying ZDDP additive. It's available from (an antiques car parts and resources supplier). Just search "ZDDP" on their website. It's about $10 extra per oil change. BTW, I do NOT work for either Shell or Eastwood. This information stems from research I've been doing at work, and I can't tell you any more than that. Sorry. Either you believe me or you don't; no skin off my nose. I'm switching my cars to Shell Rotella T.

  • Jjacob9105 Jjacob9105 on May 06, 2008

    I agree with NBK-Boston. My 11 year old panther just turned 116k. And I still have confidence in it. Performed great over a 600 mile trip last weekend. Except for the plastic intake manifold, no problems. Despite all of the lousy press, they still sell enough of them to continue to build them. Ford ought to find a few of the 400k miles plus owners (including cabbies) and base a similar advertising campaign on them!

  • Carguy1964 Carguy1964 on May 07, 2008

    I have to say... I am suprised about no one mentioning the major problems that is ruining Nissan's Altima,betwwen the years 2002-2006 Altima owners have been reporting excessive oil consumption, head gaskets failing, coolant loses, and pre catylitic failures, other than those major problems...not bad for a car made in Tenessee.. But sad considering these failures were occuring between 50k-100k miles...pretty sad for the "1 of the top 10 engines ever designed" I've been real lucky..mine is still going, it's at 114k.

  • Mikeolan Mikeolan on May 07, 2008

    I think the oil consumption / coolant / precat failures / and head gasket issue is all tied in with a bad catalytic converter design that caused particles to be sucked into the engine. This was corrected (hopefully?) with the 2005 refresh. I have no idea if that's been the case, or if the engine modifications to the 2007 model has changed this. It's one of those unfortunate flaws like Ford's cheapo Taurus transmissions and the worthless automatic Acura stuck in an earlier model TL. Nissan has been making a lot of strides forward in build quality and assembly, so let's hope long term reliability has done the same.