Wondering if true quality has a place in today’s push for cost efficiency through globalization?
A study released yesterday among luxury car brands claimed BMW ranked #1 on quality and Toyota ranked 5th! I don’t think we know what quality is anymore, and perhaps it’s the consumers fault.
Most “economic historical” books that compare life then and now, when discussing the products available today, claim that we now have better products at a cheaper price than ever before in history.
I thought I was too young to experience nostalgia, but I’m beginning to think that somewhere in the last 7-15 years, quality as we used to know it disappeared.
I think perhaps it began to happen in the late 80’s/early 90’s. First, Americans thought Japan was taking over, not just the global auto market, but all markets. Japanese investors bought up US real-estate, and we thought we’d all be eating rice very soon. I think quality made a little comeback then. But then the East and Southeast Asian economic crisis of the mid 90’s gave us the false reassurance we were looking for. It had all been a fluke. See! America was better…
But then again, perhaps in reality we lost it well before the 80’s?
In any case, I posted about a bad experience I had at the BMW dealer on my blog recently and this has made me think about quality, more recently about Volvo. Volvo, like Saab, was originally a Swedish brand, recently purchased by US companies Ford and GM. Volvo used to have a High Mileage Club. You could join the club after 100K miles. For each 100K miles you got another badge. I’ve seen several Volvos with well over 5 badges in Sweden - No Joke. There are Volvos that have well over 10 badges, one at least that has gone well over 2 million miles (see image at bottom of post). Now that’s standing behind your product!
The motto Volvo used to have for their club went something like “It’s a pretty popular club, considering you have to drive 100,000 miles to get there” and “VOLVO FOR LIFE… A Volvo can last your lifetime and many others after you…”.
I don’t think this is a major push by Volvo anymore. While I’m not sure products are purposely built for obsolescence, our temporal perspective is just so short, especially here in the west. That wasn’t the case originally, with cars like Volvo, Mercedes, etc.
I’m wondering if it will reach Japan as well? I’ll give you an example from Lexus in Greenwich, CT (whom I really like by the way).
I just gave away an LS 400 with nearly 200,000 miles that we had since 1990! Their service department was always excellent and the car really ran well up until the time I gave it away. However, towards the end, even though it ran INCREDIBLY well, my wife had brought it in and had been persuaded to let them run some sort of “safety test”. The list of “safety” fixes they suggested would have cost many times over blue book value, a fact that I pointed out to them. To which Lexus replied, “Yes, perhaps it’s time to buy a new Lexus”. Now I can’t blame them for trying to up-sell me, LOL. However, I rather liked the way Volvo used to treat their customers with older/high mileage autos.
What do you think, is this type of true quality a thing of the past?
PS, I’m posting a few shots of the badges and old Volvos below. (We used to have an old Volvo Amazon, these too were amazing!).
1st level badge
2nd level badge
Volvo with over 2.6 million miles!