PART I: WHAT LEMONS ARE LEMONS AND WHO MAKES THEM
To most, Lemons are a versatile fruit that works great in Tea, helps freshen the air, and remove the occasional stain. To the auto industry, however, lemons are anything but useful.
A Lemon is a slang term referring to any car that was an absolutle piece of junk right off the assembly line. Was it bad parts? Poor engineering? Hasty assembly? It’s hard to pinpoint exactly, but it happens, and it’s expensive.
All data concerning the amount of lemons made by each car company below comes from a 2016 Study done by AutoGuide. You can view the data on their website, AutoGuide.com.
Too Tart to Tame
FCA produced the most lemons. Of the nine car brands they sell, five were below the industry average. Fiat was hands down the worst on the list, they made one 1 lemon for every 76,808 cars produced. Jeep made one for every 131,574 cars, Dodge made one for every 402,728 cars, Chrysler made one for every 596,377 cars, and Ram made one for every 856,136 trucks.
Background Info: Chrysler has played hot potato with istelf many times over the last few years, constantly changing names and owners. After being partnered with Mercedes-Benz owner Diamler for years, Diamler bailed out during the recession and shortly after filing for bankrupcy, Chrysler was purhased by Fiat.
Ford Motor Company
The majority of their brands did not make this list, but flagship Ford did, and it didnt do well, making one lemon per every 676,484 cars. Their F-Series of trucks are highly touted as quality, so the lemons are likley coming from the Sedans and SUV’s. (by the way, Ford is axing all sedans in their lineup except for the Mustang and Focus.)
Background info: FoMoCo is not the first car company Henry Ford started (ever heard of Cadillac?) but it was the one to actualy keep bearing his name in the end. Ford is one of the longest standing automakers in the USA, and was one of the few American car companies to make a profit in 2009.
Sweet & Sour
General Motors Company
GM is a curious case, as they have both the 5th best and 2nd worst brands on the list. Buick was stellar, manufacturing one lemon per 1.26 Million vehicles. Cadillac, however, was only bested by Fiat for the brand with the worst quality control with one lemon every 103,167 vehicles. Flagship Chevrolet was well below industry average with one lemon per 640,438 cars.
Background Info: Though it’s brand is over 100 years old, General Motors Company is technically only 8 years old, as the original General Motors Corporation went bankrupt in 2009 and sold off it’s brands to New GM. The Majority of General Motors statyed intact under the new company because the GM trademark as well as most major brands were purchased. Not everything was saved, however. Rest in Peace, Hummer.
Honda Motor Company
Honda was second best, with only one lemon per approximately 3 Million cars. Luxury brand Acura, however, made one lemon per 516,436 cars.
Background Info: After nearly being purchased by Mitsubishi in the 1990’s due to a hostile takeover attempt, Honda quickly entered the SUV and Minivan market, stole American autobuyer’s hearts in the process, and haven’t looked back yet.
Toyota Motor Corporation
Toyota built their legacy on longevity, and today that’s no different. they did a whopping 10 times better than the industry average, making one lemon per 11 Million vehicles. 2nd place Honda was 8 million cars behind.
Background Info: Toyota is credited with having the most efficent assembly line of any industry and holds the unique distinction of being “more American” than 3 of it’s actual American counterparts by building 61% of it’s fleet in the United States – more than Buick, Chrysler and Lincoln.
Diamler AG, BMW.
Mercedes-Benz, and BMW took 3rd, and 4th respectivly. Mercedes and BMW almost tie at approximately one lemon per 2 million cars. German engineering once again proves it’s consistency.
Next time, we’ll talk all about Lemon Laws in North Carolina.
Have you ever owned a car that seemed to spend more time in the garage getting fixed than in your garage at home? As you sit in the waiting room of the auto shop you find yourself asking “Is it time for a new car? I’m here it seems quite a bit.” The answer to that question, like many other things in the auto industry, isn’t as black-and-white as it may seem.
Consider Current Repair Costs.
It isn’t fun when you have to give up your car for a day to have it fixed. It can seem tedious when you go to your local shop almost monthly, but consider the average dollar amount of what you spend fixing your car – is it less than $509 a month? According to Cars.com, that was the average price of a new car payment in the first quarter of 2017. If you’re spending more than that on average, it’s time for a new car (or a new-to-you used car with low milage – cars just off their first-owner’s lease are great buys!)
Consider A New Car’s Future Repairs.
Buying a new car isn’t like buying a TV. You can’t just save up for it, buy it, and be done spending – even with a new car, you’ll have to visit the shop. Though maintaining a new car is inherently cheaper than maintaining an old one, oil changes, factory-required tune ups at specific mileage, and the like still have to be done. Bottom line – if you can afford a car payment, but can’t afford the car’s maintanence that goes with it, you can’t afford a new car.
Consider the Time Value of a New Car.
Let’s say you spend only $1,800 a year keeping your old car running. Averaging just $150 a month is great for a car 15-20 years old, but what if it is your only mode of transportation and you can’t make the time to go to the shop? It may be time to get a new car. Though you’ll likely be paying more monthly due to a car payment, you’ll be in the shop far less – probably just once every 3-5 months for those oil changes and factory-reqired jobs we talked about earlier. That may be worth more to you than the money you’re saving repairing the old car, depending on your job or health.
Finally, summer is here! The older kids are back from college and the younger ones will be done in June. It’s time to start planning that family road trip, and you’ve already picked a spot, booked the hotel, and packed your bags, but there’s one thing left to do – make sure the car is ready. But what exactly should you do though to get your car ready? Here’s a few key checkpoints to look over:
Tires are important all the time, but especially so on a road trip. After all, they are the one thing separating you from the road. Check tread wear and make sure the tire has not worn unevenly, and check tread depth to make sure it is above 2/32″. If a tire is not “ready” it should be replaced before a road trip, especially if its a long one.
This one you should take your car to the shop for because a proper fluid check looks at more than just the fluid itself. An old hose carrying coolant, for example, may be able to take the workload of your 20 minute commute fine, but could bust on a 7 hour drive, so its best to replace before that happens. A proper fluid check for road trips doesn’t just top off fluids, but checks for leaks that may be hard to see and, if needed, replaces old, worn-out lines and cracked hoses
Don’t forget, you may need to have your A/C fixed, if you’re already in for a fluid checkover, that’s the best time to do so!
Gas is expensive, and it adds up quick on a road trip. Don’t take the biggest vehicle you own if you don’t have to. Bigger vehicles and bigger engines consume more fuel and have worse MPG’s.
A First-Aid Kit is a great thing to have in a car at any time, but especially so during a road trip. A summer-ready kit should contain the basics such as band aids, gause and snacks, but should also have sunscreen, a portable battery pack to charge phones (some of these packs double as jumper boxes for your car, that’s always a plus) as well as a warning sign (they are triangular and orange) and some over-the-counter style scrape cleaner.
It’s unfortunate, but things break. Sometimes they break away from home. Though hopefully this never happens to you, have some money set asside for incase you have to make emergency repairs.
PROTIP: Most independent shops have a nationwide warrenty program. Go to these shops. For example, if you have your vehicle serviced at a shop with a TechNet warrenty program in Texas, and that part needs to be warranteed out back here in NC, any shop that uses that program can do the job here at home, and vice-versa.
Some cars break more than others. For example, an Ol’ Reliable 2000 Chevy Tahoe with 240,000 miles is something to be proud of, and is a great daily driver, but it’s 18 years old and is more likley to break down on the road. If the miles are high on your vehicle, it is probably best to rent something else for the trip.