How reliable is your car? Here’s the breakdown
You'd be surprised which car brands are most likely to break down. photograph: getty
We have all, at one time or another, been seduced by the appeal of the German car. The combination of a quietly classy image with the promise of peerless engineering standards mean that anything made with a German badge sells like the proverbial heated confectionary. Proof of that is that brands such as BMW, Mercedes, Audi and Volkswagen have all managed to defy the worst ravages of the global recession, increasing sales, developing more models and powering to the top of national sales charts.
But the image cracked a little this week, when Warranty Direct, a UK-based aftermarket warranty provider, released details of the rates of total engine failure for various brands, and it makes uncomfortable reading for many of the big German names.
Bottom of the list came dear, defunct MG Rover, whose cars (even though they haven’t been in production since 2005) suffered one total engine failure for just every 13 cars built. Given the apocryphal tales of shoddy quality from MG Rover’s old factory in Birmingham, that is perhaps not too surprising, but the surprise comes when you see the brands in second- and third-worst place; Audi and Mini, with failure rates of one in 27 and one in 40 respectively. They are followed by another defunct brand, Saab, which has Opel (represented in these UK-centric figures by Vauxhall) and Peugeot hot on its heels, followed by BMW, Renault and Volkswagen with tenth place taken, rather surprisingly, by Mitsubishi.
Whatever about Mitsubishi’s case, the fact that five of the bottom 10 brands for engine failure are German will make for some unpleasant board meetings in Munich, Ingolstadt and Wolfsburg. Of the big German names, only Mercedes can breath easy – it came third-best overall, behind only Toyota and Honda, with an engine failure rate of one for every 199 cars built.
High repair costs
Even that figure seems a touch high, though, considering that we have become used to our cars being more or less faultlessly reliable, especially when they hail from Germany. “If it used to be true that all cars built by German manufacturers were reliable, we certainly don’t see that any more. While some models fare well in our data, others prove to be unreliable with high repair costs,” Warranty Direct’s managing director, Duncan McLure Fisher, told us.
“Japanese brands now set the standard in terms of reliability. We’re not just talking about cars built in Japan or Germany – many of the most reliable Toyotas and Hondas are built in the UK – it just seems that they have consistently higher standards of quality. Whatever you buy though it is a game of averages. Even the most reliable cars break down sometimes.”