Are American or Japanese cars more reliable?

Truth be told, American cars are nowhere near as reliable as Japanese cars, but that’s because Japanese cars are probably the most reliable cars on the planet. Brands like Toyota, Lexus, Mazda, Genesis, and Honda are leading the charts when it comes to reliability for decades now, and it seems that this trend is not going to change any time soon.

These charts only make sense if you take care of your car as recommended by the manufacturer. It’s also important to note that there are many variations on an individual level which can also sometimes make it seem like these charts are not portraying the big picture.

Why are Japanese cars more reliable

That being said, there are a couple of reasons why Japanese cars are more reliable. Starting with cultural differences, Japanese workers are usually more loyal and take more pride in what they do which in turn increases the level of quality control and output.

Furthermore, Japanese brands are more focused on reliability from the get-go, as opposed to certain German/UK/US  automakers which primarily focus on comfort, luxury, technology, and innovation. Japanese manufacturers focus on proven tactics and they rarely go out and try to change the game.

Cultural differences between the US and Japan

If you ask someone who lived in Japan for a while, chances are that they will tell you that the Japanese take great pride in anything they do as a profession. Even though European and American automakers do take pride in what they do, company loyalty is on a different level when it comes to Japanese workers.

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The entire regulatory aspects of car manufacturing in Japan were tailored to workers which led to a cooperative, more cohesive management-to-worker environment when compared to the Western world. The whole idea behind Japanese cars is to make them reliable, and that shows the moment you look at the factory.

A conservative approach to car manufacturing

As mentioned previously, the German car industry is often considered the most ‘’technology-driven’’ car industry. Such an approach is a double-edged sword, while it does increase excitement and innovation levels, it also leaves more room for error as many newer technology solutions are just starting to reach the market and are thus unreliable.

The Japanese car industry is usually more conservative from that point of view which sometimes results in outdated technology, even in the upper echelon. A great example would be the last-gen Lexus infotainment system which was extremely outdated and lacking proper functionality and accessibility.

Such an approach is understandable for Toyota or Honda, but it’s not for Lexus because Lexus should also be a technology and innovation-driven car company. Engines are used for decades before they are replaced with newer ones, and it’s the same story with many other powertrain components.

Japanese cars are primarily economy-level

Probably the main reason why Japanese cars rule the rooster is that they focus primarily on economy cars, and the economy car market values reliability more than other markets. As mentioned previously, the luxury segment is mostly about luxury, technology, comfort, and style.

This usually means that these cars are exponentially more complex and they always use state-of-the-art technology which can sometimes be rudimental and prone to issues. An average Cadillac buyer is not concerned about long-term reliability because the majority of new Cadillac buyers sell their cars after a few years of use.

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On the other hand, average Toyota Corolla buyers tend to keep their Corollas for longer, and they primarily opt for a Corolla because they offer superior reliability. Reliability is probably the number 1 priority for economy cars because Japanese manufacturers made it so.

 Individual-level – Stark variations

Finally, it’s important to mention that things might differ at an individual level. It’s all about how well you take care of your car, if you don’t do it properly, it does not matter if you are owning an American or a Japanese car.

Even if you do all your regular and irregular maintenance, it still does not mean that your Japanese car will outlast a car made in the US. It’s a chance game, and no one can tell for certain. In order to maximize your car’s reliability, always do the recommended maintenance no matter which car your own.

FAQ Section

Which American car brands are the most reliable?

To be fair, there are quite a few relatively reliable American car brands out there, and currently, the most reliable one is Buick. Buick offers a limited selection of models when compared to the competition, and they also release new models more scarcely, all of which favors long-term reliability and mid-cycle improvements.

Besides Buick, Chevrolet is also a fairly reliable automaker constantly trailing behind Buick both for new and up to three-year-old cars. The key to success was a more Japanese-like approach when it comes to innovation and brand strategy.

Which Japanese car brands are the most reliable?

Mazda is the most reliable Japanese car brand for 2021, but Toyota is continuously at the very top for decades. Besides these two, Lexus is also at the very top, while Honda is also in the 5. The reason why these brands are so reliable is discussed in recent paragraphs of this article.

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Genesis is a new kid on the block when it comes to Japanese ‘’upper-scale’’ cars, and according to many online outlets, Genesis has even managed to derail Lexus and become the most reliable Japanese premium brand for 2021 which is quite surprising for a brand new car brand.

Which German car brands are the most reliable?

As mentioned previously, most German automakers primarily focus on innovation which often leads to a more failure-prone platform. However, Porsche manages to offer technology, innovation, luxury, style, power, and reliability.

Besides Porsche, Volkswagen and BMW are also recently topping the charts when it comes to German car automaker reliability. Audi is currently beating Mercedes according to many online outlets, but the differences are only marginal at best. However, Audi’s A4 and A5 models seem to be the most reliable German models for 2021.

Marko Mikulic

Why do you love writing about cars? I love writing about cars as cars are a huge personal interest of mine. I was raised in a car enthusiast community and ever since I was young, I always wanted to do car-related work.

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