Avoiding bugs in new models and redesigns
Eager to scoop up
a brand-new, never-been-seen-before car model? Or how
about the sleek, new redesign of a tried-and-true favorite? You
may want to wait.
The 2003 Initial Quality Survey
by J.D. Power and Associates found that the stigma of buying a redesigned or newly
launched vehicle in its first year is definitely declining, but not entirely.
The new and supposedly improved Honda Accord, Saab 93 and Saturn
Ion all did worse than their predecessors in the initial quality study, which
tracks problems in a vehicle's first 90 days of ownership.
the other hand, several first-year 2003 vehicles showed superior quality to their
predecessors in the same survey, such as the Cadillac CTS, Mercedes-Benz SL, BMW
Z4, Mitsubishi Outlander and Nissan Murano.
some cachet in having the newest and the greatest. But along with that benefit
there's the risk of working the kinks out of a car," says John Nielsen, director
of AAA's Approved Auto Repair Network.
good news is it's in warranty, so you don't have to pay for it."
after all these years
More problems cropping up
in a car's first model year has been an auto industry certainty for decades. And
while overall auto quality has improved immensely, first-model-year glitches remain.
You'll get a higher quality vehicle when you
wait for a hot, new design to enter its second model year. Being a patient car
shopper can really pay off.
"Look for a model that has relatively
few problems in the first year and buy it in the second year," says Clarence
Ditlow, auto author and executive director for the Center
for Auto Safety.
Ditlow has been urging buyers to steer clear
of first-year car models since 1970, when the first lemon book was published.
"There's never adequate testing to get
rid of all the bugs," Ditlow says.
This is especially true of brand-new, never-been-seen-before
"It just takes a little while longer to
get things running smoothly," says Brian Walters, director of product research
at J.D. Powers.
"Many times there are brand-new factories,
totally new suppliers. They're starting from scratch for the most part."
And even though computer-assisted design has
improved new-car quality in recent years, some problems don't come to light
until the cars are driven off a dealer lot.
Consumer guinea pigs
"The first people who buy the car end up being guinea pigs," says
Rosemary Shahan, president of Consumers
for Auto Reliability and Safety.
"Sometimes it's just fit and finish and
minor details and it's not that big of a deal. But if it's 'Does it start? Does
it stop?' then it's a serious problem."
Just look at the PT Cruiser. DaimlerChrysler
recalled more than 460,000 PT Cruisers -- every one built for the vehicle's
first two model years -- because of fuel-pump leaks.
Why don't auto manufacturers delay the launch
of a new model until every glitch is ironed out? They're driven by money, just
like every other business, and hot, new designs tend to be big sellers, bugs
"A brand-new design tends to have more
appeal than an older design," Walters says. "Dealers tend to make
more profits on vehicles with high appeal. Manufacturers have to spend less
money on incentives on vehicles with high appeal."
If you can put up with a few kinks in your
dream car, go ahead and snap up a hot new design as soon as it comes out.
If you're looking for the highest quality,
most hassle free ride, hold off on your shopping for a year or so.
"If no trouble whatsoever is the most
important thing to you, you're much better off in the second or third year,"
-- Updated: Oct. 29, 2003