Reliability Statistics Bonanza: Thirty Years Of Pannenstatistik

Paul Niedermeyer
by Paul Niedermeyer
reliability statistics bonanza thirty years of pannenstatistik

ADAC is who responds to essentially every automotive Panne (breakdown) in Germany. And with the Germanic proclivity for thorough record keeping, they have kept them all, and analyzed them more thoroughly than any of Freud’s patients ever were. Did your mother have a flat in 1983? ADAC knows. And they’ve been using it to publish annual best and worst reliability rankings since 1978. If you caught the Toyota Starlet CC, you’ll know that it was the queen of the ADAC numbers, and the bane of Mercedes and the other (once) proud builders of the world’s most presumably durable iron. Since ADAC doesn’t have an easy way to see all thirty year’s worth of the good and naughty, my Germanic side kicked in and I spent a chunk of last night transcribing them unto a spreadsheet, because…well, that’s just how Germanic I am.

A few caveats: The category definitions changed slightly over the years, but they’re close enough. Also, these only show the winners in their respective categories, not an overall ranking. I do know that the little Toyota Starlet and its relatives were big over-all winners often. And to anticipate your concerns, ADAC notes mileage on each vehicle of every call in order to adjust the raw data. And they do the actual response under contract for many of the manufacturer’s mobility program, so they’ve got that covered too. The Germans are very thorough.

I almost left off the most recent decade because there are some questions about whether the numbers are becoming increasingly irrelevant and less reliable due to a number of circumstances. But the number from the eighties and nineties are considered by the automotive manufacturers as very accurate. The reality is that mechanical breakdowns have been dropping pretty steadily the whole time, so that the relative difference between cars is becoming less relevant. Or is that an excuse by the Japanese makes because they don’t show up as often? The German brands are certainly trumpeting their recent improvements. You be the judge.

Join the conversation
3 of 36 comments
  • Sinistermisterman Sinistermisterman on Jan 21, 2010

    Ah it's nice to see that my slightly xenophobic view of French, Italian and Spanish cars are actually backed up in fact. They are as sh*te as I've always thought. Nice to know. Interesting that the Opel Omega is in there - does anyone know if it's twin sister the Cadillac Catera is as bad?

    • DweezilSFV DweezilSFV on Jan 22, 2010

      Yes. And the Saturn L based on an Opel design, equally awful and built here. For years the most reliable "Opel" available here in the US was the T Car [Kadette]based Chevette. Seems the Delta platform is a vast improvement over what came before it.At least as used in the US. Even GM NA couldn't destroy the basic competence of it with the ION and Cobalt.

  • Alanv Alanv on Aug 09, 2012

    This is a complicated subject and one I have given much thought. Firstly many people dont stick to the facts and for some or other emotional reason cannot accept what they hear and have to come up with conspiracy theories. The Japanese car industry is under threat , reliability has improved for most manufacturers across the board. adac is pretty much accurate and far more factual than a survey such as jd prove a point in a recent survey in the uk skoda was tops and vw was average yet most off them share same mechanicals so dealership expectations are one factor together with demographics , so imho a waste of time.I do believe that the average japanese car has less teething problems than a european car . However when it comes mechanical the difference is almost irrelevant .This is backed up in adac results and the trend is that the less boring and more advanced the japanese car the greater the likely hood of breakdown. the other bit of usefull info is that the two camps have different structures dealing with quality control . this favours the Japanese .The pressure from South Korea ie: Kia and Hyundia are going to be the death knell of the likes of Mazda and Nissan as they are using German engineering and a more conservative quality program. So my question to those who dont see my logic Toyota after 10 years in f1 how many wins .. 0 to be exact.All the brilliant engineering came to 0.Lets look at Le Mans and how many attempts results 0. So if we look at a smaller co. like Audi things look like shall I say different.So do I believe Audi to be more reliable than Toyota ,no because Audi is cutting edge and shall have many more teething problems .On a different angle more people are employed directly and indirectly in the motor industry in england er no , sorry in Germany than any other .

  • Azfelix From certain angles the bonnet appears oversized with respect to the rest of the car - like a skinny teenager wearing a bulky sweater nicked from her older sister's wardrobe.
  • Tassos This is way too god damned OLD, 21 years old to have all the necessary options you need TODAY. You need a 10 year old or less car. AND if you give us THIS POS, a 21 year old model, that is not even a LUXURY car, whoever pays $10k for a Golf, And I Do NOT care what anniversary it is (they are all UTTERLY INSIGNIFICANT) deserves to get this MOST UNRELIABLE AND COSTLY TO REPAIR OF ALL LOUSY ECONOBOXES< EVEN THE DOMESTICS AND THE KOREANS.
  • Tassos As you say, Toyota confirmed this on TUESDAY. Today is WEDNESDAY. Why is everything on TTAC held back one or more days before you tell us the NEWS when it is NO MORE THE NEWS?
  • MRF 95 T-Bird You can find a decent and far more stylish Audi TT or an S4 of a similar vintage for under $10k.
  • RHD "In all situations, the grip of the tires (225/40R18 front, 225/35R18 rear) brings with it road noise."Are the rear tires actually smaller than the fronts??!! Adding just a bit of sidewall would take care of the bumps and rough ride. I'm not a fan of BMWs, personally, but this is a very enjoyable car. There are times when driving a convertible is pure bliss, and with a bit of power it's fun as well. (And certainly a better drive than a gussied-up, overpriced German taxicab!)