With the automotive industry yielding more scandals than some of the world’s largest governments, is it even safe to buy cars anymore? After all, that Takata airbag scandal has affected millions, GM’s ignition failures created all kinds of problems, and let’s not even get started on the sheer depths of Volkswagen’s Dieselgate scandal. The latter of the list eventually led to the discovery of a number of other “mini” emissions scandals among a large list of other automakers in the process. Add this to scandals from Japanese companies that involve doctored fuel economy figures, and the automotive industry starts to look like it’s as crooked as a barrel of snakes. And yet, here we are, more reliant on the automotive industry now than we’ve ever been. I’m talking about the same group industry that’s putting all of its efforts into self-driving, fully autonomous cars and active safety systems, among other things. The truth is that the last decade or so has proven that it’s becoming increasingly difficult to determine which automakers can actually be trusted and which ones are just taking us for that big proverbial ride. Do we take a big step backward in terms of mobility and shun the auto industry as a whole? No; that won’t fix anything. Instead, it’s time to hold those that have let us down accountable and identify those that we can actually trust.
On that note, it’s important to remember that every automotive company out there is run by humans. And, let’s be real – humans make mistakes, and we’re far (very far) from perfect. As such, there’s no perfect car company out there either. There are some, however, that have proven themselves as trustworthy as we could really hope for in a world that doesn’t place a whole lot of value on it anymore. These companies have moved beyond the drama that sank Volkswagen into a deep depression or have managed to deliver on their promises time and time again. So, I’m here to present you with the story of 10 automakers that we trust without doubt and 10 that have let us down the most.
20 We Trust: Mercedes
If you’re someone who’s into German luxury cars, you’ve probably sat down and wondered which one of the big three (Audi, BMW, or Mercedes) is the most reputable and which is the most reliable. Reputation seems to be a consistent argument as all three have their reputation for being some of the finest luxury cars in the world.
But, when it comes to reliability, it has been shown that Mercedes seems to top the list time and time again. BMWBlog brought this to light after going over findings published by Automotive Management Online.
The outlets report that after six years of ownership, Mercedes cars are the most reliable. It was even shown that high-end Mercedes models are cheaper to fix, most likely due to good build quality and better materials. Overall, it was found that Mercedes vehicles are the cheapest to own and maintain over time. That’s something a lot of automakers promise but never actually deliver. When you pair that with the fact that Mercedes is typically honest about what it’s doing, it’s a brand that can be trusted. If nothing else, at least you’ll know that its cars have been proven to be more reliable over time, anyway.
19 We Question: Tesla
Tesla may be the company that made mass-market, long-range electric cars feasible and it has done well with its vehicles once they are well-established on the market. Be that as it may, the brand never hits its preliminary timelines. According to The Washington Post, Elon Musk, the man behind Tesla, even admitted that he “has an issue with time,” and is overly optimistic. As such, the Model S arrived later than expected and the Model X, according to Business Insider, ended up hitting the market in 2015, two years later than it was supposed to. The Model 3 has also been late with production being plagued with problems. Still think you can trust Tesla? Well, how about Inside EVs report of Tesla downgrading the interior trim in the model 3 from Alcantara to a textile material without so much as a notice or discount to customers. Ouch. You can trust your Tesla to have decent range, but don’t believe much else the company says.
18 We Trust: Buick
With most of GM being a central hub for problems, bankruptcy, and horrendous badge engineering, it’s hard to believe that we’re listing even one of its brands on the positive side of this list. Be that as it may, Buick is actually the standout brand in the General Motors group of companies. The Buick brand isn’t exactly a luxury car brand, so it doesn’t compete with the likes of Mercedes, Audi, or BMW, but it still sits above entry-level models from Ford, Chevy, Honda, or Toyota.
It’s not alone in this niche, but it’s one of the few, and it offers upscale styling and materials for a price that’s more affordable than cars that sit well within the luxury segment. Some models in the Buick lineup are the victim of badge engineering but not all of them. And, while the rest of GM tanks in terms of reliability, CNN claims that Buick actually sits at No. 7 of the top 10 most reliable brands. As it turns out, Buick is a little different compared to its sister companies and can actually be trusted when you need a reliable car. It’s kind of funny how things work like that, huh?
17 We Question: GM
GM has had its fair share of problems over the years but what is the No. 1 reason we can’t trust this automaker? Let’s talk about ignition switch recalls and how badly the company tried to avoid admitting its mistake. NPR.org put together a timeline of the whole thing, and it’s incredibly long. The whole ordeal started in 2001 with a defect found during pre-production testing of the Saturn Ion. Over the next 13 years, people would lose their lives as a result of this defect.
It wasn’t until the end of 2013 when a program engineer of the Chevy Cobalt said that it was a “business decision” not to fix the problem and six months later, GM “determined” that the faulty ignition switch was responsible for at least 13 fatalities.
Over the next couple of years, GM would recall more than 12 million cars across the globe for a problem that it swore didn’t exist. And that’s how GM taught us that we can’t trust it as far as we can throw it.
16 We Trust: Koenigsegg
Koenigsegg isn’t exactly a mainstream brand. In fact, it’s far from it, producing cars for the world’s bunch of wealthy that want nothing more than to go as fast as possible and look extreme doing it. Be that as it may, it’s one of the most trustworthy brands out there. This is derived from the fact that the Christian von Koenigsegg promised that his cars would set a world speed record, and sure enough, the Koenigsegg Agera RS did when it beat out Bugatti by nearly 10 mph as it hit 277 mph.
That’s a world record for a production car, folks – not some one-off.
Now, Koenigsegg promises to beat its old record, and it could even topple that 300-mph barrier that every supercar manufacturer is gunning for. According to Bloomberg, a replacement for the Agera RS is on the way and will debut before the turn of the decade. There’s no confirmation that it will go 300 mph, but the Head of Communication of Koenigsegg, Steven Wade, said: “We’ll just have to wait and see.” That sounds like the next best thing to a promise and, considering the fact that it earned our trust by beating Bugatti’s record, we trust that the company could prove itself once again with the Agera’s successor.
15 We Question: Ford
Ford has been known to have some problems. It has long suffered transmission problems and let’s not even get started on that aluminum head problem that resulted in massive repair costs after attempted spark plug replacement – a basic maintenance procedure. This alone is enough to destroy trust in the automaker, but when you look back to the Ford Pinto scandal of the 1970s, it makes it even harder to trust the brand. Right up there with GM’s ignition defect, Ford essentially chose to put profits over safety. According to Popular Mechanics, Ford decided that spending $11 per car to prevent gas tanks from exploding during rear and side collisions was more costly than damage payouts it would make as a result of the same. So, Ford decided to put the Pinto on the road with the gas tank located in the worst location. Autoweek claims there were as many as 500 lives lost and serious injuries as a result and The Cheat Sheet claims that Ford even paid off families of victims as opposed to recalling the cars. Trustworthy? We think not.
14 We Trust: Honda
While most of the world’s big automakers came under fire for emissions or fuel efficiency cheating, Honda cruised right on through the battlefield unscathed. Honda isn’t free of scandal, though, as there was a scandal that involved dealer kickbacks and factory fraud – basically salesmen taking bribes from some dealers to offer up more inventory. That was back in the 1970s, 1980s, and early 90s and was more of an internal scandal than it was something that directly hurt consumers.
According to Automotive News, when the whole ordeal finally came to light, and the U.S. Department of justice started putting people away, Honda did the right thing. It didn’t try to cover it up and make it go away.
Instead, it settled with the dealers that fell victim to “The Honda Scandal” and fired anyone that was involved. So, while there was a lot of distrust floating around the company at the time, the mess was cleaned up and dealt with in the appropriate way, and justice was served. Honda has continued to build highly reliable vehicles and never fell into the mess that was emissions cheating. If there’s any car company out there that you can trust from a consumer’s standpoint, it’s Honda.
13 We Question: Fiat
If you take a look at Carsalebase.com, you’ll find that Fiat has embarrassing sales numbers in the United States. So embarrassing that its average monthly sales figure is just 1,360 vehicles. For a brand with a slogan that reads “driven by passion,” it seems kind of funny to see the brand have such a small following, right? Well, it’s probably because nobody trusts the brand enough to risk buying one of its cars. Consumer Reports made this as evident as possible when it ranked Fiat at the very bottom of its brand report card. That put it at No.34 next to every other major brand out there. As it turns out, Fiat has poor customer satisfaction and the worst predicted reliability. I guess that really puts new meaning to the old phrase “fix it again, Tony.” Carcomplaints.com sheds a little light on the reliability issue with people reporting problems that range from transmission issues to electrical problems and engine problems, among others. So, why don’t we trust Fiat? Well, because you never know if you’re going to make it home from work each day.
12 We Trust: Nissan
Nissan did get caught up in its own scandal, but the scandal didn’t trace back into the depths of high-level management. The initial scandal involved inspections that were improperly performed, and a more recent scandal involves emissions and fuel economy measurement. As bad as that sounds, it was simply employees misrepresenting temperature and humidity data during testing.
So, how does this make Nissan trustworthy? Well, according to Marketwatch, Nissan was made aware of the first scandal when a regulator discovered what was going on with inspections (it was being done by trainees without management approval).
And, when it comes to the emissions situation, that was uncovered by Nissan itself during internal investigations. In both instances, the company came out with the information voluntarily and has even hired a law firm to continue investigations. When a company will out itself for making a mistake, that’s called integrity. With integrity comes trust. It’s not free of mistake, but it has told the truth about it – that’s a rare thing in this world.
11 We Question: Jeep
With a model like the Jeep Wrangler in its stable, it’s probably pretty surprising to see Jeep on this list, right? Well, the Jeep Wrangler, in its own right, is an amazing vehicle. Some of its siblings, however, are far from. Take the Jeep Grand Cherokee for instance. As reported by DesignNews.com, the Grand Cherokee has fallen very low in reliability ratings for the last 7 years (2010 to 2017.) It has been said to have problems with everything from the climate control system to the transmission and even the powertrain. Does that make Jeep 100-percent untrustworthy? Not at all, but a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, and that’s why Jeep ends up in the bowels of this list. No matter how good and in demand vehicles like the Wrangler are, a model with as bad a reputation as the Grand Cherokee will always cast doubt across the brand as a whole.
10 We Trust: Mazda
Mazda was hit pretty hard by the Takata airbag scandal and was forced to recall nearly 300,000 vehicles as a result. The recalls even affected important models like the Mazda6, CX-7, and the CX-9. The problem is that there were no good parts available to replace Takata’s faulty airbag inflators. So, the brand was forced to replace them with more of the same.
They had less of a chance of failing as they hadn’t been subjected to the humidity and moisture that turned the old inflators into metal-slinging bombs. In short, they were an “okay” stopgap solution.
Instead of leaving those stopgap inflators in place, Mazda has decided to replace all of those, and all the remaining faulty inflators with new, permanent replacements that are safer. According to Cnet back in August of 2017, Mazda replaced the inflators in cars that hadn’t yet been serviced, then moved onto replacing the inflators in models that had stopgap inflators installed. In the end, Mazda did what was right for its customers and earned our trust in the process. Good Job, Mazda.
9 We Question: Fisker Inc
Henrik Fisker, the man behind the original Fisker Automotive, is at it again. This time with a car known as the Fisker E-Motion, and it’s said to be all the car that the Tesla Model S couldn’t be. The problem is that It is near impossible to trust Fisker and his new company, Fisker Inc, simply because of the nightmare that his last car company turned into.
According to Venturebeat.com, Fisker Automotive was, hands down, the biggest venture-capital-backed company to ever flop in U.S. history.
Over a period of about 10 years, the company raised $1.4 billion from investors to go with another $528 million from the U.S. Government. In the end, though, the company burned through the money with all of that leading to the production of no more than 2,200 cars. It’s been said that each Fisker Karma produced cost $900,000 but was only invoiced at $70,000, netting a total loss of $830,000 per vehicle. Ouch. The company obviously went belly up, and Fisker is taking a second turn at the wheel. Needless to say, we’ll have to see it to believe it and surely won’t trust him with any money.
8 We Trust: Volvo
There’s no denying that Volvo delivers some of the safest cars in the world. It proves itself time and time again. That was made even more evident when the 2018 Volvo S60, V60, and XC60 all received top safety pick from IIHS. This in itself makes Volvo a trustworthy brand, but there’s even more. Volvo pledges that it also cares for the environment and it’s taken two big steps to prove that. First, and according to independent.co.uk, all 2019 and newer Volvos will feature some form of electrification in the same of fuel economy and lowering emissions. Then, in early 2018, Bloomberg reported that Volvo would drop all of its diesel engines in Europe, a move that’s supposed to be good for the environment. And, it already started by removing any option of a diesel drivetrain for the new S60 across the world. Talk about a brand that delivers on its promises, right?
7 We Question: Volkswagen
Volkswagen shocked the world when the Dieselgate emissions scandal was unearthed. The scandal was one of the biggest in history and led to a number of executives ending up in trouble with the law as well as the company itself paying out some $25 billion. On top of that, the company was forced to settle with the customers that it took advantage of. According to BBC, it was a pretty elaborate system that included software that could detect when vehicles were undergoing emissions testing. It did so by monitoring speed, engine operation, air pressure, and the position of the steering wheel, among other things. That system was found to be in place on some 11 million diesel vehicles across the globe, but is that anywhere as bad as the same brand putting monkeys in a gas chamber? I kid you not – Autoblog and The New York Times reports that Volkswagen stuffed 10 monkeys into a small room and pumped it full of diesel emissions – just to see if emissions were harmful or not. You ask why we don’t trust VW? Well, it’s dirtier than its diesels.
6 We Trust: Subaru
If you thought Volvo delivered safe cars, take a look at Subaru. The brand received Top Safety Pick + awards from IIHS for not 1, not 2, not 3, but 7 of its 9 models. Basically, it’s entire lineup with the exception of the Ascent and the BRZ. Now, with that in the air, let me point out that Subaru had its own little inspection scandal, but the company has a whole managed to grow stronger because of it.
Once the scandal was out in the open, and nearly 400,000 vehicles were recalled, management was replaced, and board members were retired.
According to Reuters, President and CEO at the time, Yasuyuki Yoshinaga, stepped down. He told reporters, “I want to draw a line under the final inspection issue.” That, to us, sounds like an admission of error and an immediate solution put into place. Sure, those inspections were out of the norm, and it was the subject of a massive recall, but the company did what was right. It still builds some of the safest cars in the world and is a trustworthy brand to rely on when it comes down to it.
5 We Question: Hyundai
Automakers never seem to learn, do they? This time, it’s Hyundai that came with lies, but it wasn’t about emissions. Hyundai and sister company Kia purposely overstated combined fuel economy figures by as much as 4 mpg – all in the name of selling vehicles. This specific scandal was limited to 2011 – 2013 model year vehicles, but the number of vehicles affected crossed the seven-figure mark. According to Jalopnik, Hyundai and Kia were forced to pay out some $300 million in fines to the EPA and DOJ as well as close to $400 million to consumers to help make up for the losses from overstated fuel economy. It’s one thing to lie about fuel economy, but the truth is neither automaker actually admitted to any wrongdoing, blaming the whole thing on “improper engineering processes.” It may not be as bad as cheating emissions testing and gassing some monkeys, but it has tarnished the brand’s name and put a huge damper on any trust that we had for it.
4 We Trust: Aston-Martin
Aston Martin has been the subject of two recalls in recent news, which would generally be enough to toss it into the don’t-trust pile. In this case, however, the Automaker wasn’t directly at fault and has done everything it can to rectify the situation. One recall involves 17,590 cars (about 75-percent of Aston’s cars built since late 2007,) while the other involves just over 1,000 vehicles, all of which are limited to the DB11 lineup. Aston Martin found out that DB11 models had a faulty clockspring that could accidentally ignite the driver’s side airbag. As for the counterfeit plastic, it involves most other models with the exception fo the Vanquish. Apparently, a supplier was using fake Dupont plastic to build accelerator pedal arms. No reports of any failures ever came in, but it was found that, during routine use, accelerator pedals could potentially break off. According to Reuters, Both Aston Martin and Dupont (who Aston is really buying these parts from now) sent special inspectors to China to supervise and verify the production of the replacement parts. Bad things happen from time to time, but when a company steps it up to make things right, they are worthy of your trust. This is one of those cases.
3 We Question: Toyota
Volkswagen may have cheated on emissions testing, and Hyundai may have lied about fuel economy, but Toyota? Toyota covered up a dangerous defect that caused some of its cars to accelerate at random.
According to ABC News, the scandal was linked to at least five lives lost and Toyota which, apparently, “knew there was a problem,” was forced to pay out some $1.3 billion to avoid prosecution.
All in all, some 12 million Toyota vehicles from 2009 and 2010 were recalled, and Toyota will forever have a black mark on its name. So, despite Toyota’s reputation for building reliable cars, don’t forget that at one time, it is said to have blatantly covered up a serious defect – the exact reason why it falls on the list of automakers that we just can’t trust.
2 We Trust: Mitsubishi
Mitsubishi has been struggling like crazy and is barely able to compete in a world filled to the brim with SUVs. In an effort to take a new chunk of the pie, the brand even reintroduced the Eclipse name on a crossover (the Eclipse Cross.) Even that move, however, has been met with mixed reviews. With lackluster materials, dated designs, and no real clue of what consumers want, how can the brand even be trusted? Well, according to Automotive News, Mitsubishi just got itself a world-leading design master that goes by the name of Alessandro Dambrosio. He is officially Mitsubishi’s executive design director and will most likely breath some new life into the brand. For those of you who don’t know, this is the same guy that brought us the Alfa Romeo 159, Mito, Giulietta, and the Alfa Romeo Kamal Concept – the car that eventually became the new Stelvio. He’s also had a hand in designing cars like the Maserati GranCabrio, Bentley Bentayga, and a handful of Audis. You may not want to, but it’s time to trust Mitsubishi hands down because it’s making all the right moves to climb to the top once again.
1 We Question: Ferrari
When it comes to exotic brands like Ferrari, every little thing dramatically affects resale value – especially for those that will someday fall under collectible status. As such, the world of exotics turned upside down when it was found that Ferrari dealers had a device that could rollback odometers, a move that could make a vehicle appear to be worth much more than it really is. The worst part is that Jalopnik and The Daily Mail report that Ferrari headquarters even knew this type of activity was going on. And, this is a very big deal because we’re not talking about a Ford Focus or Honda Civic, either of which might see an increase of $1000 with fewer miles.
We’re talking about odometer fraud that could increase value by as much as $1 million.
Ferrari, of course, claimed that there isn’t any fraud going on and it’s used only in conjunction with applicable repairs, but you really have to wonder just how many Ferrari dealers got over on their customers by dropping a few thousand miles off the odometer before putting a used model back on the lot. Either way, it makes us question the validity of any low-mileage Ferrari on the market and has seriously impacted our trust in what has always been an amazing car manufacturer.