To the commenter above, VW quality has actually plummeted in recent years, not improved as you suggest, and to dismiss Japanese cars as "Jap crap" shows a level of ignorance that quite frankly beggars belief.
Japanese cars may lack the "solid" feel of a VW or Audi, but the engineering is quite simply first class. Whether it's a small shopping hatchback or a screaming 100 bhp per litre VTEC performance saloon, they will cover astronomical mileages with utter reliability given only basic servicing and maintenance. A previous employer recently disposed of their pool car - a 1998 Honda Accord 2.0LS which had racked up 265,000 miles. The car was absolutely thrashed by a variety of uncaring keepers, yet the original engine and gearbox were still as smooth and sweet as the day it was delivered. Apart from some play in the steering, and a minor tappet rattle on a cold start (silenced after a minute of running) it still drove like a 50,000 miler. This is not untypical - just look at the JD Power survey results for confirmation of this type of engineering quality. The fact that most of the top 20 cars are Japanese, year in, year out is no coincidence. Same with their motorcycles - I know of two 600cc Kawasakis which knock out something in the region of 165 bhp per litre from engines which rev to 14,000 RPM, that have done in excess of 100,000 miles without major problems. If Japanese products are crap, heaven help the rest of the industry!
As the former owner of both mk1 and mk2 Golfs, I am the first to admit that VW's once embodied everything we have come to associate with German engineering. Both cars I owned were beautifully screwed together, solidly (conservatively) engineered, and extraordinarily durable. Sadly, modern VW's are a pale imitation of these high standards. My father in law, a VW stalwart if ever there was one, purchased a Polo diesel new in 1999, after three previous Golfs (2 mk1's and a mk2). He had no end of trouble with it. I bought a mk4 Golf GTI Turbo which broke down twice within the first month, and suffered a veritable catalogue of stupid faults until the day I sold it. I would argue, based on my experience that the average Ford or Vauxhall now matches the average VW for engineering integrity now, the Japanese being in a different league altogether. The only advantage the VW badge has is in terms of residuals, and percieved "image" (whatever that is) but surely it's only a matter of time before the reliability issues become wider knowledge and these both start to slip.
Might I suggest that in future, you research your subject a little more carefully before making such obtuse and ill-informed generalisations like dismissing the products of the entire car industry of a nation as "crap"? Especially one which nobody with an ounce of motoring knowledge or experience would label as such.
I would concur that Volkswagen did hold a place in the halls of reliability, but sadly this is not the case any more. While quite a few Volkswagen owners will say they never have any problems, others will disagree. My mechanics are Volkswagen trained and tell me that the stuff is not in them anymore. They said for instance that the new Polo is not a good car. My Dads neighbor had a 2003 Polo, replaced the entire clutch after 2 months.
I have a 99 Passat and a 2000 Polo. The Polo is mainly a city car for my commute and the Passat is the car for family and long trips.
The Passat suffered quite a bit of electrical trouble. The central locking was replaced, the electric windows motors and contollers were replaced, the solenoid for the petrol opener, Dash lights, Power Steering oil pipes.
The Polo had it's power steering pump replaced at 20K miles, the water pump is noisy and the gearbox is a nightmare. Clutch Cable replaced at 15K.
I still 'like' Volkswagen for it's build and safety and I miss the door 'thud' factor on other marques. However, A year ago I would not think of anything, but Volkswagen . Now, I am not so sure. The new Toyota Avensis is selling well and maybe people want good engineering. I left Toyota to come to Volkswagen because the Japanese were light and I preferred the safety of the Germans. The EuroNCAP now shows the Japanese have caught up the the recent results of the crash tests.
I have to admit, VW have declined in terms of reliability.
In recent years, VW seem to be pouring most of their efforts into their daughter companies (Skoda and Seat), and spending less on VW itself. This probably accounts for the recent problems. The VW badge is an icon for solid engineering and reliability. If the relevant problems persist, it is only a matter of time before the VW badge acquires a steer well clear image.
To label Japanese engineering as "Japanese-Crap", is beyond me. Japanese products have to comply with strict regulations during manufacture. This is known as JIS or Japanese Industrial Standards. This means the products are rigorously tested at the factories for faults.
I have owned two Japanese cars. The cars have never needed any expensive repairs, although driven hard. Japanese cars are the most reliable I have experienced. I have owned many motorcycles, all being Japanese. Again, I will only by Japanese. I have a 1980 Honda motorcycle that never lets me down, even though it has been neglected by previous owners.
You can rely on Japanese products.
I did own (1st owner) a Polo for 30.000 km.
Due to a petrol pump failure I stranded on the highway.
The left front window dropped suddenly.
Service checks were around 400 EU average.
My cheaper, but comparable Suzuki Swift (11 years and 230.000) never let me down nor dropped windows. And service checks around 200 EU on average.
I rest my case.
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