Last post on Nov 25, 2013 at 11:27 AM
You are in the Sedans
What is this discussion about?
Lexus GS 430, Acura RL, BMW 5 Series, Volvo S80, Audi A6, Infiniti M35, Infiniti M45, Mercedes-Benz E-Class, Cadillac STS, Sedan
#7463 of 10348 Re: [markcincinnati] Audi image
Jun 07, 2006 (8:43 am)
Mark … Although I'm not in marketing, about 25 years ago I read a book titled "Positioning". It became a small-time classic and was reissued in a 25th anniversary edition. The basic premise (not radical, just presented with lots of interesting examples) is that a major variable in the success-equation of any product is how well it manages to position itself -- in the collective consciousness of consumers -- among its competitors. Classic examples are "Kleenex" being used by us as a symbol for any product in its class, or hearing someone say they are doing some "Xeroxing" while standing in front of another brand name copier. BMW has been a champ at positioning itself. The inline six engine, constantly refined over the years, has become an engineering icon. The 3-series was hailed by Automobile magazine as "the best compact sport sedan in the world, a car that continues to get better and better with each evolution, when it would be so easy to, ahem, screw it up? In the process of not screwing it up, BMW has produced a car that is the gold standard for its class, something that all other automakers feel they have to measure up to. Yet, no matter how hard they try, they always come up short." Audi would have to had done that with, perhaps, Quattro, but that would have required their doing what Automobile described BMW as having done (whether everyone agrees that BMW did exactly what that magazine says it did is less critical, in what I'm saying, than that it's a virtual universal belief). My experience test-driving an A6 S-Line was unique. Nothing else (and I currently drive a 3-series) drives exactly that way and, if you like driving, the way it drives is not simply different but the best in certain ways. Whatever it would take to fill in the blank I left with the phrase "in certain ways," Audi marketing hasn't done it well-enough. I've only been considering "luxury" cars for about three years, so I've had to develop my own inner landscape of the category and its subcategories. I could, I suppose, rely on nothing but test-driving to develop such an internal "map" of what's what among luxury cars, but it's typical for me to also read and discuss, in the process of getting my bearings with something new. Here's a piece of research data that tallies with my own experience. When Consumer Reports asked its huge sample of car owners if they would buy their current car again, not one BMW made the cut where at least 80% of owners said they would definitely buy or lease the same car again. The Audi A6 did make the cut (80% exactly), as did the M35/45 (92%) and the Audi S4 (81%). Whatever that is, BMW (with our collective cooperation) retains its desirability, at least in the very important sense that led me, when I went to buy my first luxury car in 2004, to think something like "I've got to have one of those 3-series cars once in my life." This probably reflects inflated expectations (for any car) or an over-investment in driving-excitement as one life-pleasure, etc, but whatever, I'm probably among a subgroup (maybe, size-wise, an important one) that might not buy a car based on "I liked test-driving that one best." I'll probably buy a mental representation of a car and then I'll be (very satisfied, satisfied, neutral, unsatisfied, very unsatisfied) with what actually happens (day to day driving, longer trips, getting things in and out of the trunk, radio, NAV, hands-free phone, mileage) compared to that mental representation. Whatever doesn't let Audi capitalize on the fact that people who actually drive them everyday would buy another one, they need to change that. I like both the M35x and the Audi A6 (V8, maybe) S-Line. Viscerally, I like the Audi experience. In terms of the cars-in-my-mind, I lean toward the M35x. Probably, I'm never 100% aware of all the influences that have led me to buy one car over another, but right now, as best I can read myself, the Audi interior feels right, I actually like the MMI, I believe my Treo (soon to be 700p model from Verizon or Cingular) will work more easily with it than M, I hear niggling noise complaints online from M owners, I worry that sound-tuned exhaust in M would wear thin, Audi tires seem more practical, and I like going with the sales underdog (Audi down, M up, right now), and too many people don't even recognize what the M is yet (also get a bad feeling from fact that Nissan can't hone engine to give better mpg). As for the M35x, there are all those "one of the best cars ever" reviews, there was the like-a-shot-off-the-line experience, there are buttons for the radio and climate controls, the rear seats recline (mostly a wow factor for passengers, but, what can I say, I'll like hearing it) -- but don't fold down (that will annoy me), the curvy front where the fenders are stylistically separated from the hood (like on the Mini Cooper), there's the predicted reliability (I expect Audi engine to sputter one morning, even here in the SF Bay Area's mild climate -- as a Passat I owned did a few times and as some online and in reviews have reported -- you know there will never be a BMW review that says the test car engine idled rough on start-up), and the Infiniti's service is highly rated and the local place has been among the top 5 in the country (while I hated the service dept at the nearest VW/Audi dealer when I had the Passat) and Audi is phasing out the Audi Advantage. I go back and forth about liking/not liking the more luxurious (as in fancy hotel room) interior of the M, compared with the (I'm in a driver's car feel of the A6).
#7464 of 10348 Re: BMW & Audi [hpowders]
Jun 07, 2006 (8:52 am)
"BMW's horrible reliability."
That was years ago.
Even CR has upgraded BMW reliability to satisfactory.
I do think the word horrible is a bit off. However I wouldn't be boasting about "satisfactory" reliability. At this level of engineering, prestige and cost I would expect very high or above average reliability. BMW still doesn't deliver this but their owners haven't really demanded it - I'm not sure why but if I paid for a Kobe beef burger I would expect it to taste a whole lot better than McDonalds. Then again I could "brag" to my friends about my prestige dining experience which will justify my added expense : )
PS CR still doesn't recommend BMW's V8s.
#7465 of 10348 Re: [markcincinnati] Audi image [sfcharlie]
Jun 07, 2006 (9:06 am)
When Consumer Reports asked its huge sample of car owners if they would buy their current car again, not one BMW made the cut where at least 80% of owners said they would definitely buy or lease the same car again. The Audi A6 did make the cut (80% exactly), as did the M35/45 (92%) and the Audi S4 (81%).
Two other surveys come to mind (wish I had the URLs).
There was a survey of German consumers about perceived and actual reliability of Japanese vs. German cars. Germans believed that their home brands were more reliable but when they actually surveyed owners of each, the Japanese makes proved much more reliable. Despite this Germans still feel that their cars are better made!?
GM also conducted a survey evaluating car buyer's perceived ownership experience with actual ownership experience. For perception MB rated very high followed by BMW but in actual the MB scored very poorly, the BMW below average. So there still is a disconnect between expectations and real world experiences, but a strong brand still overcomes this. Lexus scored high in both.
Thanks for you intelligent post.
#7466 of 10348 Re: [markcincinnati]
Jun 07, 2006 (9:07 am)
I haven't seen the actual model breakdowns by sales (5 vs. A6, 3 vs. A4, etc.) for Europe, but just from what I saw in Spain at least there were easily 3 times as many A3's as any other model. I think one thing that affects sales here is that Audi did have some negative press years ago that granted was somewhat unfounded, but nonetheless obviously impacted the perception people in the US have about Audi's. I think Audi is beginning to get beyond that, but it is still there. Plus, the reputation that their brother VW has for poor reliability doesn't help. I honestly think they need more distance between themselves and VW at least from a marketing standpoint. I really do think a lot of people here just think of Audi's as more expensive Passats. Finally, given the smaller streets and generally less consumption oriented European culture both lend themselves to the abundance of A3's you see there.
#7467 of 10348 Re: [rich545]
Jun 07, 2006 (9:56 am)
What is Audi's repeat buyer rate in the US, do you know? I think one of Audi's biggest problems isn't the VW connection, or some "unintended acceleration" problem that no one remembers.
Audis from just one generation ago had pretty terrible reliability, and the problems were mechanical failures, not more easily fixed and generally less critical electrical issues such as on a BMW or Mercedes. Also, Audis service departments are generally not known for being the best. I know more than one last gen A6 owner who has told me "never again". It seems like Audi's quality is improving, but getting those customers back won't be easy.
#7468 of 10348 J.D. Power survey just on CNBC
Jun 07, 2006 (10:23 am)
They talked about their brand new Initial Quality Survey.
Cars with the biggest improvement included Porsche and Hyundai. Porsche actually moved up to No 1 overall followed by Lexus. Hyundai moved ahead of Toyota.
Cars with the biggest drop in the ratings include BMW and MB although Hummer and Land Rover still ranked at the bottom.
#7469 of 10348 Perhaps I'm an anomaly. . .(rant)
Jun 07, 2006 (11:16 am)
. . .I have read over the years that I have been participating in this blog (these town-halls), negatives descriptions of the reliability of certain brands (notably, Audi, BMW and Mercedes.)
I have seen enough Consumer Reports citings to make me wonder if it is not one of the world's Great Religions for pity's sake. I do not read the CR bible, nor do I attend the CR church, so I generally discount CR's prose on the subject of automobiles -- finding instead the writings of other folks here and on some other brand specific web-log sites to be able to lend credence to the "topic du jour" with far greater verismilitude and conviction.
Recently, I read the phrases about this that or the other (often German) car's "horrible" reliability. And, it gives me pause to read such declarations.
I read and pause when I read such stuff wondering "how many BMW's or Mercedes or VW's or Volvos or Audis or whatever. . ." the person writing that sentence actually has had.
I have never had a Lexus. I have test driven Lexi (if that is the plural), I have rented them and I have participated in comparisons of them with other competitive car brands, ostensibly aimed at the same demographic and overall market. I assume, cause "y'all" write it, that Lexus builds cars of such reliability that, on a scale of one to ten, they rate an eleven. I read and from my limited exposure as a renter or a tester, that they emphasize luxury over performance (in the LPS category for example.)
I have read many test reports of Lexus cars -- can't say I've ever read a negative review. I have, however, read several (many) remarks that suggest they can be boring if you are looking for an "involving" car to drive.
My rental and my comparo testing make me at least understand the possibility that that could be accurate. From another perspective, though, such comments could easily be reconfigured to arrive at the conclusion they are "perfect" luxury cars or appliances (that last word used apparently to suggest the test driver found the drive somewhat uninvolving.)
My point, to repeat, is I am not a good source of dialog and comment about Lexus cars since I have limited experience with them.
My experience with German cars from Audi, BMW and Volkswagen is, with no hubris intended, extensive both qualitatively and quantitatively. This is especially true with respect to Audis -- for Pete's sake I've almost certainly had at least one representative sample from every year since 1977.
So, the point is: when I speak about a car, I do, frequently, speak from personal experience.
When I read the cries pertaining to a brand "such and such and such ARE or HAVE horrible reliability haunting them," or words to that effect, I wonder if that poster is speaking from personal experience.
When certain folks, here, speak -- I listen. I listen because they have convinced me that they "know Lexus" or that they "bleed little blue and white propellers" or actually "have a car with a three pointed star."
Sometimes, recently, I wonder how many BMW and Mercedes and Audi bashers (either directly or indirectly, bashers, that is) actually have had multiple representatives from this brand so that they can actually support their allegations with first hand experience.
If I actually believed Consumer's Reports, I guess I could look it up myself. I want to know what personal experience you have had.
If you had a used Volvo (that was a hand-me-down) in 1979 when you and your live-in were first starting out and the darn thing couldn't pass a repair shop without a $100 visit, well that is a data point (perhaps a not too relevant data point TODAY, but a data point nevertheless.) I don't know if that would be sufficient evidence to proclaim "never again" as it pertains to your willingness to actually seriously consider a new Volvo for purchase.
Likewise, one bad experience with "A" (1) dealer of the XYZ brand persuasion is not enough to justify extrapolating that XYZ dealers "suck," and the whole world knows it.
I can understand, appreciate AND agree that you may be partial to Cadillacs or Acura's or (like me) Audis. This affection for one, however, is insufficient to crucify "all the rest."
I have no personal, direct evidence that Audi and BMW makes cars that are any less than "virtually" bullet proof insofar as durability and reliability are concerned.
I believe these two Germans, however, have a reputation for less than ideal marks in these two traits.
It is rare to find anyone with direct experience that will validate the negative experiences in this regard, however. If you have had 3 trouble-free Lexi that have each gone a minimum of 150,000 before their first break-down, even that is insufficient experience to allow you to proclaim "Mercedes have so many problems (and we ALL know they do), I wouldn't buy one with YOUR money."
Your XYZ positive experience, then, is sufficient to allow and perhaps REQUIRE you to report it, but it is not sufficient to allow you to somehow be critical of the one that is NOT the XYZ.
With folks joining and un-joining these town halls and blogs all the time, it is difficult (for me, and I am here lots) to separate the wheat from the chaff sometimes.
I care not if you like BMW's or Acura's or Audi's -- if you like the Infiniti M or loathe it is fine with me. I do want to know why you do or don't -- and I would simply like to know what part of your conclusion is based on experience.
"Consumer Reports says. . ." doesn't do it for me anymore (not that it ever did.) Your non-experiential based proclamations of "fact" likewise don't float my boat.
Your opinions are invited, sought after, indeed.
I really enjoyed, for instance, the discussion of LPS sound systems -- some was factual and I assume based on experience, some was opinion and highly engaging and virtually all was "enlightening" and entertaining.
Audis, in my experience -- spanning some 29 years -- are very reliable (not having had any one of them past 50,000 miles, however, I cannot with great veracity proclaim they are super durable -- but, they might be, for all I know.)
Our two BMW's too, have been very reliable. Ditto, however, the durability comment, since we've never had one beyond 50K miles.
End of Rant.
#7470 of 10348 STS V8 six speed automatic, etc Re: advice needed [markcincinnati]
Jun 07, 2006 (11:22 am)
Catching up here.
[ and skipping past most of the audio discussion posts ]
RE: STS – AWD, etc.
I have not seen posted here the fact that the V8 STSs will have the latest GM six speed (wide ratio spread) 6L50 trans. for 2007. Potentially enhancing both acceleration and (steady state, cruising speed) fuel economy. A recent GM Powertrain press release indicates that a “rev match on downshift” feature will now be included. Published acceleration numbers (and my test drives) indicate that the STS V8 is already reasonably quick – among the models discussed here.
Though the 2007 on-line order guide is up, few other 2007 details have been released. Some discussion posts are on the STS \ STS-v board here at Edmunds. I don’t think I have seen anyone who posters here regularly post there. Though (obviously) there may be readers who do not post.
If a a fully optioned 1SG (STS V8 with most everything included in the package except the perf. handling and the adaptive cruise & HUD) becomes available at an actual transaction price close to $50K once we are into the 2007 model year, I may seriously consider it.
Option package inclusions and separate option availability (& not) as well as the overall pricing strategy for the STS does still confound me . . .
The STS has now been rated “average” for reliability by CR, based on their most recent survey data. FWIW. Anything even approximating a Domestic Luxury Performance Sedan with a reliability rating “that high” in CR have historically been few & far between.
And the JDPower Initial Quality survey released today shows the Caddy Brand #7 – exactly tied with Infiniti. With both Audi & BMW below the Industry Average. Ironic.
Waiting for further details on the 2007 changes and an opportunity to drive the updated STS . .
#7471 of 10348 Re: [lexusguy]
Jun 07, 2006 (11:32 am)
No idea about the repeat buyer rate, but it would be interesting to know. I do know that people remember that Audi had problems in the past because when my wife bought one people mentioned it as a reason for not buying Audi's. Now whether the problems they remember have to do with the unintended acceleration or just general bad reliability (or both) I don't know. The VW connection certainly doesn't help the reliability concern though (at least not to me or people I know (my wife included before she bought her Avant)). It's hard to change perceptions once they're bad. It's funny because VW was bad for a while, then they got somewhat better in the late 90's (while Audi had problems). Now VW is having problems again with quality and Audi seems to be doing better. Wonder why they can't both seem to be good at the same time. Anyway, I'm just trying to figure out the root cause for Audi's relatively poor sales compared to the rest of the LPS group. I think there is a lot more to it than a lack of dealerships (as I stated before I think that dealerships open due to demand, not the other way around). I'll tell you what though, Porsche's VW connection with the Cayenne didn't help much!
#7472 of 10348 Re: [rich545]
Jun 07, 2006 (11:44 am)
I think one thing that affects sales here is that Audi did have some negative press years ago that granted was somewhat unfounded, but nonetheless obviously impacted the perception people in the US have about Audi's.
In '75, I purchased an Audi Fox, my first "German" automobile. It was strongly recommended at the time by CR and was one of the few cars that did not require a catalytic converter to meet the then emerging emission standards. The car had FWD and was a joy to drive but an ongoing maintenance nightmare. My vehicle was one that had suffered from high oil consumption (valve guide seals) and took a class action law suit before VW owned up to accepting some responsibility for the problem. This, coupled with a dealer attitude that was completely devoid of "customer focus", turned me off completely to the brand. I expect that I was not being uniquely discriminated against and other Audi owners also voted with their "feet" based on their experiences.
Fast forward 30+ years. During this period I never looked at Audi as a vehicle that I would consider again. I did, however, throw it into the mix when I was looking for an '06 AWD model. In the end, my short list came down to the A6 & M35x. Given my prior experience and the less than stellar reliability ratings for the Audi (as well as the other German cars, for that matter), it didn't help in "tipping the scales" in the direction of Audi. Another factor, and it may just be perception/sensitivity on my part, but I did not find my local Audi dealer to be as friendly or willing to work with me to purchase an Audi. Shades of a "lack of customer focus" kept coming into my mind.
Perhaps if I had not had the experience from 30+ years ago, I might have purchased the A6. That the A6 made it to my short list was, in itself, an accomplishment. I wonder if that may part of Audi's problem. It isn't sufficient to be the runner up on a short list, it has to make it over the top. I would be curious to know how many other buyers had Audi as the runner up to their final choice.....