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Old 03-17-2011, 01:09 PM   #1
AVANTI R5
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Default Not All New Cars are Better Than Their Old Models



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A typical pattern in the life cycle of products in a competitive market is that a new product will be introduced, and it will be incrementally better than the one it replaces. Many times, its manufacturer will also at least attempt to benchmark the category’s leaders, and then either meet or beat the best attributes of those. Then, after a period of time, a competitor will launch a new product, which may set a new benchmark.

Continuous improvement is known as kaizen in Japanese, and it’s the principle that helped Japan, Inc. take a significant share of US new-car market since the 1970s. It’s also perhaps the worst-kept secret in the auto business that consistently applying incremental improvements over an extended period of time results in outstanding products that your customers are eager to line up to buy the new version at some point.

Perhaps it’s unusual, then, that Consumer Reports specifically called out six new-for-2011 automobiles as being worse than the 2010 model-year vehicles they were created to replace. Regular readers of Autosavant should not be surprised to see some of CR’s comments, since we’ve made similar observations. Here are the six cars with scarlet CRs affixed to their grilles, their former and new scores out of 100, plus the problem areas that CR identified with each:
  • Volkswagen Jetta SE 2.5 (from 76 to 60): Handling, steering, braking, noise, interior fit and finish
  • Toyota Sienna FWD/AWD (from 93/89 to 80/79): Steering, road noise, interior fit and finish
  • Toyota 4Runner (from 66 to 55): Ride control, handling, noise, driving position, front access, interior fit and finish
  • BMW X5 3.0 (from 77 to 67): Controls, shifter, visibility
  • Mercedes-Benz E350 (from 88 to 79): Steering, ride, fuel economy
  • Honda Odyssey (from 91 to 83): Handling, braking, cargo area
It’s not that VW, Toyota, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Honda forgot how to build good cars, any more than the US forgot how to send a man to the moon. Just as NASA can barely afford to send the space shuttle into low-earth orbit, today it’s just very expensive to meet ever more strict fuel-economy and crash-test standards, while simultaneously adding comfort and luxury features, more interior room, and more performance.

All vehicle designs are inherently about compromises; to have one new feature, you either have to charge more for the vehicle, pinch your supplier, or take something else away. You then have to hope that the “something” that you’ve taken away is not noticeable to the buyer.

The Odyssey, E350, and Sienna still score fairly well in CR’s evaluation, but it’s a problem when vehicles that you spent millions – if not hundreds of millions – of dollars to develop can’t quite live up to the benchmarks that their excellent predecessors established.
Back to the drawing board.
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Old 03-17-2011, 01:11 PM   #2
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How long have I been saying that change does not automatically equal betterment?
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Old 03-17-2011, 01:15 PM   #3
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Default VW Jetta Leads Pack of Cars Worse Than Their Predecessor



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In the auto-industry it’s all about moving forward, building cars with more safety, fuel economy, features and space. In other words: more value for your money. Never one to shy away from having an objective opinion on cars, Consumer Reports has earned a reputation for reviews you can count on, so when the outlet announces a list of models that aren’t as good as the vehicles they replace, well, it’s worth taking pause.
Of all the vehicles they’ve tested this past year, six stood out as heading in the opposite direction of progress, and leading the pack in this downward trend is the all-new 2011 Volkswagen Jetta. Accumulating just 60 points compared to the 76 point score of its predecessor, it has the largest margin between the old and the new. Other offenders include the BMW X5 3.0 and Toyota4Runner, with all three being called, “clear disappointments.”
The other three offenders are, surprisingly, the ToyotaSienna, Honda Odyssey and Mercedes E350. Not earning as harsh a criticism, Consumer Reports says they, “don’t quite measure up to the standards set by their previous generation models.” That’s not to say they aren’t good, however, with CR calling all three “still very good” and even pointing out that they all come recommended by the publication.
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Old 03-17-2011, 03:00 PM   #4
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didn't everyone say that this was going to happen to the Jetta?
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Old 03-17-2011, 04:28 PM   #5
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Um I would go to say MOST (ok many) new cars are worse than their old models.
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Old 03-17-2011, 04:36 PM   #6
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I agree overall but better is subjective...

The Jetta needed to change. I, like most of you will miss the performance and interior of the old model (which, BTW may resurface in a GLI) but the lower cost and larger size is going to attract MOST consumers. Just because interior materials are not as high quality and performance isn't on par, that doesn't mean they won't sell well.

My friend is getting a Jetta wagon for his wife now. The old, more expensive, smaller model he would'nt have even considered.

-Mike.
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Old 03-17-2011, 04:41 PM   #7
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Kinda how I felt with the new size/style of the Legacy considering how much fun the old GT was
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Old 03-17-2011, 05:06 PM   #8
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I'd Throw Subaru into this pile as well. The Legacy and Impreza used to be fantastic cars in a ton of ways. Then Subaru went out of their way to try and make them mediocre.
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Old 03-17-2011, 05:08 PM   #9
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I'd Throw Subaru into this pile as well. The Legacy and Impreza used to be fantastic cars in a ton of ways. Then Subaru went out of their way to try and make them mediocre.
but from a business standpoint it worked though
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Old 03-17-2011, 05:39 PM   #10
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Henry Ford said it best.

A company that makes only money, is poor indeed.


A product should not need to get WORSE, in packaging, appearance, materials, or feature set, in order to get increased sales.

The qualities that make the car more salable are not mutually exclusive with good taste, and simply being salable is not the only measure of what is actually good.

Lots of people buy poor quality items of all types. That doesn't make poor quality = good quality, just because it sells.

Good quality at appropriate price = value, and VALUE can sell very well, especially if it is presented as such. Tell people what is better about not paying absolute bottom dollar for something, but rather getting much more usefulness and value out of just a little more price.

That also requires producers who care about what they are producing, not just the revenue that comes in.
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Old 03-17-2011, 06:01 PM   #11
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I had the same thought today. Was reading through a comparison test between the Ford Fiest/Honda Fit/Mazda 2. I'm a big fan of the Fiesta and its stripper cousin the Mazda 2, but couldn't help thinking, 'What if there's a cheaper way, cuz newer isn't always better'.

Looking over their specs/prices I thought 'How is that any better a deal than my 1st gen Focus'. If I was in the market for a commuter car I'd just look for an '04 Focus hatchback with the 2.3L motor and call it a day.

Much lower cost ($5k) than the $16-19k for the above named B-segment cars, better performance (25-50% more hp/tq), nearly same vehicle size & curb weights, well equipped, and still solid fuel economy (known to average 30mpg). What am I missing out on? The Ford Sync system, some fancier styling? A couple more airbags? Feh I say, I want that value for my money.

Now I know the contrarians & pundits amongst us will immediately pitch up and say 'you can't compare a used car to a new one! what about warranties and maintenance and newer amenities?' Well in the 6 years I owned my Focus; there were no 'Found On Roadside Dead' moments other than needing the clutch replaced at 30k miles, no thanks to the hills of San Francisco. The motor and transmission were deadbolt reliable, and that was just the 2.0L Zetec, the 2.3L Duratec motor was an even better design.

Besides, if I went Charlie Sheen one day and lost my mind (okay that's a redundant statement), I could always plunk down the $10k I saved on my G1 Focus (versus a new B segment car) and convert it to RWD with a Mustang V8. Eat your heart out Ken Block.
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Old 03-17-2011, 07:36 PM   #12
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Or with the 10K, just buy a used mustang also.

I am finding it hard to justify the high prices and significant depreciation of a new car, over the theory of a well and thoroughly chosen used car or even two.

I am not even convinced that the new cars are styled any better.

They are as wide and tall as ever, and short of length makes them look even more cartoonish, especially supposedly "efficient" cars like focus and fiesta that are almost square when viewed from the front, and look like a big lump from the side, and even worse from the back.

Long, low, and sleek have gone away, mostly thanks to meddlesome over-regulation.

I know a new 370Z has more power, but is it really more fun than what I imagine that taking the t-tops off of a nicely preserved 300ZX on a warm spring day would be, versus having to settle for the fanged-frog looks of the new car? (with no t-tops, only the cowl-shake convertible bathtub version.)

Is a new Legacy 3.6R really that much better than a depreciating 2009 3.0R or 2.5 GT Spec B?

How about a new STI, compared to a lighter, smaller, 2006 or 2007 model? Is there something big that offsets the hunchback looks of the newer body style?

I want a newish car for a daily driver, for things like warranty coverage, and current parts availability, low mileage, etc... but I have a harder and harder time liking them.

The FT-86 project isn't likely to cut it for me on technical reasons, but I hope it works for others. I guess we'll see about the upcoming impreza next-generation, and what sort of daily driver it might make... at least the roof is sleeker than Legacy, even if the body is still a bit bulky.

But I have a hard time imagining that there are new cars in the pipelines as sleek and nice looking as the Ferrari 308 GTS, DeLorean DMC12, or the Z32 300ZX, or even the Subaru SVX, on the way.

I guess they really don't make them like they used to. Technically, far superior today, but aesthetically, not really.

And the price of new cars continues to climb, as well as the expenses for running it, while average wages in this country aren't climbing, making people's choices narrower, not wider.

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Old 03-17-2011, 07:38 PM   #13
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I'd Throw Subaru into this pile as well. The Legacy and Impreza used to be fantastic cars in a ton of ways. Then Subaru went out of their way to try and make them mediocre.
I drive a 2005 Legacy and thought that the new Legacy was fine for what it is, compared to the Camry and the Accord.

On the other hand, Honda is the worst. The current Accord is worst than its predecessor and looking at the new Civic, they should have just kept the old one in production.
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Old 03-17-2011, 07:56 PM   #14
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I drive a 2005 Legacy and thought that the new Legacy was fine for what it is, compared to the Camry and the Accord.

On the other hand, Honda is the worst. The current Accord is worst than its predecessor and looking at the new Civic, they should have just kept the old one in production.
Agreed... Honda recently has been biting the big one pretty hard.

Legacy used to be compared to Audi A4 as a better value at a lower price, and I am very disappointed that they aren't comparable to that anymore.

If Audi put 250+ horsepower in the base A4, and the decent options didn't cost 5-10K in addition, it would be a no-brainer. 211hp from the 2.0T is kind of pathetic, when they have a 260+hp version of that motor in some of the VW -R models, and the Audi with the stuff you want is 35-40K, and the A5 is automatically 5K up from that, option for option.

05-09 Legacy GT had most of the good looks, and not bargain-basement features for 25-32K, and 250 horsepower stock. It was a bargain, and an easy value choice compared to the A4. Too bad nobody knew about it.

The Camry and Accord are not more worthy targets... they are just more affordable appliances. As mentioned, not particularly good cars, other than the fact that they roll under their own power, and steer.
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Old 03-17-2011, 07:57 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by mpaone View Post
The Jetta needed to change. I, like most of you will miss the performance and interior of the old model (which, BTW may resurface in a GLI) but the lower cost and larger size is going to attract MOST consumers. Just because interior materials are not as high quality and performance isn't on par, that doesn't mean they won't sell well.

My friend is getting a Jetta wagon for his wife now. The old, more expensive, smaller model he would'nt have even considered.

-Mike.
Yes, they decontented the car to hit a price point. I tend to think that's a change for the worse - they went from the Jetta being a premium small car to being a basic small car.

I'm glad my gf bought an '08 because the new ones seem like junk.
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Old 03-17-2011, 08:02 PM   #16
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Yes, they decontented the car to hit a price point. I tend to think that's a change for the worse - they went from the Jetta being a premium small car to being a basic small car.

I'm glad my gf bought an '08 because the new ones seem like junk.
It became immediately obvious why the Jetta turned into cut-rate junk, when this was shown in Geneva.




Audi A3 turned sedan, and redundant with the previous A4, with cheaper VW-grade transverse drivetrain, rather than Audi's longitudinal Quattro.

Arguably, that is where the Impreza Design Concept is headed, on the BL Legacy's heels, as well, although thankfully not to a transverse drivetrain.
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Old 03-17-2011, 09:00 PM   #17
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CR really, really hates the new 4Runner. They gave it an "average" expected reliability rating even though the 2010 model has full red dots on 13 of 16 categories, half red for 1, and white circle for 2. The categories where it didn't score the red dot were body hardware*, power equipment, and audio system**. The previous 4Runner has way more non-red dots but it gets the red dot for reliability! The fact that the 5th gen 4Runner is more offroad focused, since Toyota has the Highlander carrying the CUV torch, drives CR bonkers.



*I presume this is for the tin sound when you pull the door handles. Definitely doesn't make you think quality by the sound, but the handles operate perfectly. I'll probably throw a smidgen of dynamat in there and it will sound perfect.
** I have a feeling this is for iPod integration errors. Certain models give an error code if you leave them plugged in all the time. There is a TSB to correct the issue. I use the bluetooth streaming with my iPhone 4 and it has been flawless.
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Old 03-17-2011, 09:33 PM   #18
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The 90's is where it's at.
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Old 03-17-2011, 09:48 PM   #19
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The 90's is where it's at.
Damn. Straight.
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Old 03-17-2011, 10:36 PM   #20
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Originally Posted by HipToBeSquare View Post
Agreed... Honda recently has been biting the big one pretty hard.

Legacy used to be compared to Audi A4 as a better value at a lower price, and I am very disappointed that they aren't comparable to that anymore.

If Audi put 250+ horsepower in the base A4, and the decent options didn't cost 5-10K in addition, it would be a no-brainer. 211hp from the 2.0T is kind of pathetic, when they have a 260+hp version of that motor in some of the VW -R models, and the Audi with the stuff you want is 35-40K, and the A5 is automatically 5K up from that, option for option.

05-09 Legacy GT had most of the good looks, and not bargain-basement features for 25-32K, and 250 horsepower stock. It was a bargain, and an easy value choice compared to the A4. Too bad nobody knew about it.

The Camry and Accord are not more worthy targets... they are just more affordable appliances. As mentioned, not particularly good cars, other than the fact that they roll under their own power, and steer.
Judging by the looks and size of the new Impreza, it seems that it will take over from the 4th generation Legacy, since the current Legacy is too large and soft to compete against the A4. Here's hoping.
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Old 03-17-2011, 11:10 PM   #21
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I'd Throw Subaru into this pile as well. The Legacy and Impreza used to be fantastic cars in a ton of ways. Then Subaru went out of their way to try and make them mediocre.
I think you mean more American instead of an import vehicle.
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Old 03-17-2011, 11:56 PM   #22
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I agree with CR at least on one of their calls. I didn't like the visibility ("driving position") in the new 4Runner one whit.

Other cars I feel were better in their previous generation:

Toyota Prius
Honda Fit
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Old 03-18-2011, 12:10 AM   #23
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You folks do realize it's not 'them', it's us. Or more properly stated, what we've proven we will buy and not buy.
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Old 03-18-2011, 12:35 AM   #24
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Wow, I didn't know it was possible to make the E350 any worse, especially as far as steering and suspension were concerned.
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Old 03-18-2011, 12:54 AM   #25
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You folks do realize it's not 'them', it's us. Or more properly stated, what we've proven we will buy and not buy.
Speak for yourself, perhaps.

I cross the country to buy exactly what I want, or pay for it to cross the country to me.

"us" or "we" doesn't describe a widely differentiated populace very specifically.

Usually that sort of grouping requires more than just geographical proximity within a certain border.

Usually with that amount of diversity, a more diverse product mix is called for, not a narrower set of options to choose from.

How many people have refrained from buying, because what they want is not offered?

How many people have refrained from buying new, because the only thing they could find that they wanted was used, and the new product is not better than the old product, which is the topic of this thread?

How do you quantify missed sales? The same way the guber-ment likes to fictionally quantify jobs NOT lost?
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