LEMON LIST: The top 20 worst cars to buy in 2019
Australia has 51 automotive brands selling passenger vehicles. Let’s shred that list, so you don’t buy the wrong new car.
If you’re buying a car, there’s an overload of choice - 30-plus different competitors in the most popular segments.
Who has time to assess them all?
If you research online, using manufacturer websites, you quickly find that every brand gives you 100 reasons why theirs is the best.
Clearly, this does not help you derive a short list.
The easiest first step to buying the right new car is to eliminate the dud brands - the irrelevant detritus of the market, and the brands with unreliable products and bad support. So let’s do that.
Keep reading, or jump to my list of the market’s best cars >>
The extravagant, overpriced & irrelevant
A quick caveat: This is mainstream advice for mainstream car buyers - so before we start we’re collectively going to leave all the exotic brands behind. If you want a Rolls Royce, an Aston Martin or a Ferrari, form an orderly queue to the right. Knock yourself out.
So, in alphabetical order: Goodbye Aston Martin, Bentley, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Maserati, McLaren, and Rolls-Royce. These things are not actually cars. They’re fashion accessories and status symbols that coincidentally happen to have wheels and an engine.
And suddenly we’re down to 44 brands.
Taking out the trash
Next, let us do another vital collective assassination. We’re just going to leave the shit behind. And by ‘the shit’ I mean the brands that are just too risky.
They could be irrelevant, too new, no track record, tiny sales volumes, and known unpopular lemons from the shallowest end of the pool.
So goodbye Alpine, Chery, Foton, Great Wall, Haval, LDV, Lotus, MG, Morgan, Proton, Ram and Ssangyong.
Nobody deserves one of them; why do it to yourself? If you want to be a lab rat in a consumer satisfaction experiment, go nuts - but I don’t recommend it. 12 brands biting the dust there, and we’re down to 32. Looking good.
Kicking off the top 20 mainstream brands to eliminate now:
LEMON #20: Infiniti
I always find it hilarious that the name implies an unattainably huge number, and yet after five full years of trying and countless millions in marketing here in Shitsville, those dicks cannot even sell 1000 cars annually. (In a market of more than one million vehicles.)
Infiniti is a bad idea, done badly, with no traction.
Nissan had a look over the fence one day at what Toyota had managed to do with Lexus, and said ‘we should do that’. Ridiculously enough.
If you’re wondering how bad owning an Infiniti is, if you were stupid enough to purchase an Infiniti QX70 S Auto 3.0 diesel SUV in 2014 - early $90,000s on the road, you’ll trade it in today for about $27,000.
Call it two-thirds of the capital investment up in smoke in four years.
Buy a Lexus instead. At least it’s a properly differentiated luxury car.
LEMON #19: Citroen
Don’t do it to yourself. Gorgeous design. Average reliability at best. Crap support, historically, although a new distributor might put a dent in that over time. But virtually zero sales - they don’t even manage to sell 50 Citroens a month.
Nobody, statistically, wants a Citroen. Good luck selling yours at the end of the affair. Sales have halved in the past two years. From almost zero to almost closer to zero. Resale disaster.
LEMON #18: MINI
I know. I watched The Italian Job, too - both versions. I get it.
But the novelty is going to wear off. And you’ll get that legendary British (or Dutch) build quality.
Reliability has been crap, plus there’s an options list longer than your arm on every model, pumping up the price. Some poor bastard paid about $65,000 for the shitbox convertible MINI roadster John Cooper Works auto in 2014 and trades it in today for early $20s.
That’s gotta hurt. (You don’t need this pain.)
LEMON #17: Volvo
The Swedish minimalist Mercedes-Benz wannabe, or as we know it: Volvo.
Don’t waste my time. Volvo is nowhere, commercially. It’s a joke. Styling is great; they drive OK, too. But reliability and support in Australia is shit. And that’s putting it mildly.
But resale is where Volvo really is number one in the department of number twos. Imagine being the poor sap who bought the flagship XC60 T6 R-Design. (The MY15 car, but purchased in 2014.)
If you were that sap, you spent more than $80k on the road back then. And that’s if you didn’t get stitched up with the $20k worth of options you don’t need.
(Like a personal car communicator. I’m not kidding - that was an option. And no, I don’t know what it does; I just know you didn’t need it for $1575 extra.)
Anyhoo - from $80k down to about $30k for a trade-in today. The term ‘loser’ springs to mind.
LEMON #16: Jaguar
Jaguar has been through its trials and tribulations. Fatally wounded by Ford, and then off-loaded to the Indians with Land Rover. And realistically I think the Indians are doing a better job. (Not difficult.)
But in ‘Straya, reliability and support are crap - that’s the price of admission. Sales have plummeted since 2016, and resale is a disaster. But aside from that, great idea.
LEMON #15: Land Rover
Land Rover. It’s everything I said about Jaguar, with added off-road capability. Very nice looking vehicles, which go well enough when they’re not broken, which is often, and support is also shit. You do not need a Land Rover in your life.
And they are beginning to look ridiculous - like the Land Rover Captain Kirk always wanted.
LEMON #14: Peugeot
Another joke brand: Peugeot. Sales, nowhere. Reliability, nowhere. Support, nowhere. Resale, nowhere.
Beautiful styling, though.
The fantasy that gets people across the line is: European quality. A step up.
The reality is that the totality of European quality is slightly better styling but significantly worse at everything else than the best Japanese and South Korean Cars. Get over it, Europhiles - this is the objective truth.
LEMON #13 & #12: Nissan & Renault
Let’s do two for one now: Nissan and Renault. When these companies merged, it was a bad deal for Nissan and a good deal for Renault. And Renault’s quality did improve somewhat. (Not hard.)
But, inevitably, Renault ‘tech’ metastasized into Nissan’s lineup. That was bad. Then the GFC hit, and Nissan suffered irreversible brain damage.
And then there’s Nissan’s appalling Jatco CVT transmissions, which are the least reliable in the universe. They truly are shit.
RenaultSport does some good work - and I have some sympathy there - but it’s nothing that’s not done more reliably, and with better fundamentals, in cars like the Subaru WRX STI >> and Hyundai i30 N >>
It’s very difficult to make a compelling consumer case to buy either a Renault or a Nissan - and Mitsubishi, which has now joined them for a threesome, could well go the same way in the future.
LEMON #11: Mercedes-Benz
This is guaranteed to give some people the shits - fine by me. Dollar for dollar, Audis have better fit and finish, and BMWs drive better. So if you buy a Benz, you get a car that’s not quite as well finished as an Audi, and which drives almost as well as a BMW.
But it’s got the badge - the venerated three-point swastika. Yessss!
Unfortunately, Mercedes-Benz is the worst premium carmaker for customer support. They are the Antichrist at this. This company seems to think Australian Consumer Law is optional, or negotiable. Something those dicks are above.
They are complete arseholes when you have a problem, and they will fight you every inch of the way - to the point of exhaustion.
Mercedes-Benz seems to think it’s doing you a favour by allowing you to drive one of ‘their’ cars. And they are total money pits.
My strong advice is: Buy a BMW or a Lexus.
LEMONS #10, 9, 8, 7 & 6: Everything Fiat Chrysler
Let’s do a mass extinction now: 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10: Everything from Fiat Chrysler. That means Alfa Romeo, Fiat, Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge. This company has the worst combination of poor reliability and shit support. They are truly terrible.
The merger took place in the GFC, and today you get Italian engineering brilliance plus legendary Retardistani build quality. What could possibly go wrong? (Answer: Everything.)
Jeep sales, Australia, 2012-2017
And sales have plummeted. Jeep - the biggest of Fiat Chrysler’s crap brands - managed to inflict more than 30,000 of its shitheaps on unsuspecting ‘Strayans in 2014. But word quickly got around.
They sold only about 8000 in 2017 - ouch - and they’re on track for 7500 this year. That has to be commercially unsustainable.
Fiat Chrysler is the market’s biggest loser, and you are not required to swim out and prevent them from drowning in a pool of raw sewage they poured for themselves.
Lemons #5, 4 & 3: Volkswagen brands
Another mass extinction now: Numbers 3, 4 and 5: Volkswagen, and related shitbox brands Audi and Skoda.
This is the company decided it was OK to kill thousands of people prematurely by cheating emissions regulations in a massive, global criminal conspiracy, which came to light in 2015.
Volkswagen arseholes sold 11 million cars with the cheat devices installed, in total. About a quarter of those - 2.6 million - were sold in Germany.
Seven eminent atmospheric and environmental scientists working for MIT, Hasselt University in Belgium, and the Atmospheric Chemistry Modelling Group at Harvard say:
“We estimate the median mortality impacts from VW excess emissions in Germany to be 1200 premature deaths in Europe, corresponding to 13,000 life-years lost and 1.9 billion Euros in costs associated.” - Public Health Impacts of Excess NOx Emissions From Volkswagen Diesel Passenger Vehicles in Germany, Environmental Research Letters, March 3, 2017
It is completely immoral and unimaginably wicked for a carmaker to do this. This was not an accident. It was a calculated criminal conspiracy.
If that’s not enough to convince you - reliability of Volkswagen, Audi and Skoda products is very poor, and customer support is terrible. It’s Russian roulette, German-style.
LEMON #2: Ford
Ford is in the worst shape of all time. Globally they are looking to cut $11 billion (US dollars) from the salary budget and more than $20 billion in total from operating costs.
Markets like ours don’t make Ford any money. There are going to be major cuts. So you can expect a few things: falling sales (which are already on the nose), worse support (ditto - it’s already shit) and worse quality (if that’s possible).
For Australia sales 2010-2017
Ford’s engineering is reprehensibly bad, and the company also seems to take delight in not only breaching its consumer law obligations, but (reprehensibly enough) bending you over and profiteering from you, when you are up against it with one of their shit cars.
Also: Resale. Resale is driven by supply and demand. There’s never been a lower demand for Ford products. You are going to get burned.
LEMON #1: Holden
But the gold medal here, the number one brand that you should not buy, is Holden. Holden is on the fast track to failure. Poor quality, shit products, terrible support. It’s the unholy trinity of dice rolling with every purchase.
The new French/German Commodore is an abject failure. Sales are through the floor. Resale is appalling. They’ve burnt the brand. Holden is as bad as Ford at customer support - a photo finish there.
Holden sales, Australia 2010-2017
But what really does it for me, with Holden, is trust. You cannot trust Holden. You just can’t. In 2012, Holden accepted a $275 million taxpayer-funded government rescue package. A parachute, stuffed with your money. At that time, here’s how the alleged ‘Holden rescue’ was was reported >>
In exchange for more than a quarter of a billion dollars of your money, they promised to invest one billion of GM’s money in Australian manufacturing, to develop and build two new cars here and keep Australian manufacturing alive for at least a decade.
There was nothing vague about this; it was an objective, publicly agreed, bilateral commitment.
The next year, they announced the closure of the factory >>. They kept the money. They didn’t make the investment. And if that’s not enough of a kick in the balls for you to decide not to buy a Holden, ever, how about this:
In January 2017 Holden quietly sent $150 million back to Detroit >> as part of a bullshit balance sheet restructuring. We only know this occurred because of documents lodged with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission.
Kinda says it all right there, don’t you think, about Holden’s purported commitment to Australia? Doing business with Holden is like joining Hannibal Lecter for dinner.
So we started with 51, eliminated the crap and the irrelevant, got down to 32, and pulled the 20 worst mainstream choices. So if I were you I would choose my next new car from one of these 12 remaining brands (in alphabetical order): BMW, Honda, Hyundai, Isuzu, Kia, Lexus, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Porsche (I know it’s a Volkswagen brand, but it’s probably the best pure performance option out there), Subaru, Suzuki or Toyota.
If that’s all you do, in terms of selecting your next new car, you have sidestepped 80 per cent of the potential problems right there.