TrueDelta's Car Reliability Survey: Good and Not-So-Good Germans

Michael Karesh
by Michael Karesh

If German cars had a stellar reputation for reliability, Lexus would not be where it is today. TrueDelta’s latest Car Reliability Survey results, based on owner experiences through the end of March 2010, provide some evidence that a corner has been turned, but other evidence that work remains to be done.

Two years ago the current Mercedes C-Class had a relatively trouble-free launch, and in the latest results the 2008 is better than average. Nearly three-quarters of owners haven’t had a single repair in the past year.

The redesigned-for-2010 Mercedes E-Class appears poised to go down the same path. TrueDelta’s first reliability stat for the car, 56 repair trips per 100 cars per year, is very close to the average for all 2010 cars. For an all-new car with above-average complexity this is quite good. It’s also far better than the record compiled by the make’s SUVs.

Initial stats for the new MkVI Volkswagen Golf, GTI, and Jetta SportWagen are mixed. Gas-powered 2010s barely managed an “about average” score (74, lower is better) while the diesel-powered TDIs, plagued by faulty O2 sensors, scored considerably worse than the average (143). Both scores are considerably worse than those for the 2008 and 2009 model year cars.

TrueDelta also has its first stats for the 2010 Ford Taurus. With a reported repair frequency of 73 repair trips per 100 cars per year, the redesigned sedan has, like the gas MkVI VWs, barely managed an “about average” score. The related Ford Flex and Lincoln MKS had similar scores a year ago, and have since improved. The second model year of the Flex scores a “better than average” 25.

In February TrueDelta reported a “worse than average” initial reliability statistic for the new 2010 Chevrolet Equinox and GMC Terrain. Though only three months have passed, this score has improved dramatically from 94 to an “about average” 48. This suggests that GM quickly identified early glitches and rapidly implemented fixes for them.

Will the new VWs improve like the Equinox and Terrain have? With prompt quarterly updates, TrueDelta’s Car Reliability Survey will continue to track these and hundreds of other cars well ahead of other sources. Full results: Car Reliability Survey results

Participants in the survey receive full access to the results for free. The more car owners participate, the better the information TrueDelta can provide.

Michael Karesh
Michael Karesh

Michael Karesh lives in West Bloomfield, Michigan, with his wife and three children. In 2003 he received a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago. While in Chicago he worked at the National Opinion Research Center, a leader in the field of survey research. For his doctoral thesis, he spent a year-and-a-half inside an automaker studying how and how well it understood consumers when developing new products. While pursuing the degree he taught consumer behavior and product development at Oakland University. Since 1999, he has contributed auto reviews to Epinions, where he is currently one of two people in charge of the autos section. Since earning the degree he has continued to care for his children (school, gymnastics, tae-kwan-do...) and write reviews for Epinions and, more recently, The Truth About Cars while developing TrueDelta, a vehicle reliability and price comparison site.

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  • Telegraph Road Telegraph Road on May 28, 2010

    It would be helpful, Michael, if you provided standard errors or confidence limits for your reported statistics. The small sample sizes require this.

    • Michael Karesh Michael Karesh on May 28, 2010

      The amount of information I currently provide with the results generates a fair number of complaints. Many people are looking for less rather than more. I used to provide confidence intervals, and the standard errors are actually in the results table in the database, but they confused a lot of people. A solution might be to somehow layer the information on the site--I need a really good designer. There is also the question of how to appropriately calculate the standard errors. Currently the the formula I use assumes that cars are the relevant unit. Combine this with the interval values for individual cars (0, 1, 2 repairs trips) and the tendency of the results to cluster around a half, and you necessarily get large standard errors, since every single car is distant from the average and so contributes substantially to the calculated error. It might make more sense to treat individual months or quarters as the relevant unit, but I haven't further explored this.

  • Equinox Equinox on May 29, 2010

    I notice Audi is missing from the article as well as all the comments. Any ideas on how the A4 is doing compared to the Merc and the BMW?

  • Kwik_Shift_Pro4X Funny comparison:
  • Kwik_Shift_Pro4X Some insight.
  • Amwhalbi I know this is apples and oranges, but I'd rather have an Elantra N, a Jetta GLI or a Civic Si than either the Mustang or the Z.
  • Scott Miata for the win.
  • Kwik_Shift_Pro4X On a list of things to spend my time and money on, doing an EV conversion on a used car is about ten millionth.