Mitsubishi Lancer tops reliability survey
Readers often call asking what the most reliable cars are, and over the past 10 years, the usual suspects from Skoda, Honda, Toyota and Subaru tended to crop up, usually from research in Europe, where regular polls involving tens of thousands of owners are published.
The latest study from British automotive warranty specialist, Warranty Direct, based its research on 200,000 live and historical policies spanning some 450 models over the past 15 years.
Their reliability index puts the 2005-2008 Mitsubishi Lancer JT at the top of the tree, taking into account factors such as how often the car breaks down, how much it costs to repair, plus average age and mileage.
Japanese makes dominate the latest Reliability Index, with the top five all having Japanese connections. Vauxhall's diminutive 2000-2008 Agila - based on a Suzuki design - is in second place, and Suzuki's 1997-2000 Alto is third with the 2005-2012 Toyota Aygo fourth.
Honda's small HR-V SUV from 1998-2006 is in equal fifth place with the Volvo S40 (1996-2004 model).
Seventh was Mazda's MX-5 from 2005 onwards, with the 1999-2005 model also taking 11th place. Mercedes-Benz's current E-class, introduced in 2006, was the first placed German in equal eighth spot, alongside Toyota's 1999-2003 Yaris.
Honda's 2001 to 2008 Jazz rounded out the top 10.
One query is that while Citroen's C1 and Peugeot 107 are production partners of the Toyota Aygo in a Czech joint venture plant - the only differences being minor styling tweaks and badges - the two French cars finish well out of the top 10.
And what was the worst car of the 450 models research? Citroen's XM.
RARE MINI UP FOR GRABS
Not likely to be quite as reliable as the Lancer, but 10 times as cool, is this custom 1969 Margrave Wood & Picket Mini Cooper S which is coming up for sale at the annual baron's Yuletide Classic sale at England's Sandown Park on December 18.
A Wood & Pickett coachbuilt Mini was "the" car for the rock and pop stars of the 1960s and 70s to be seen in, and this particular example has transported its fair share of them. The car has had just six careful owners from new; three of whom were the same man!
The vendor - a well-known figure in the music industry - first acquired the car in 1973. He used to drive around in it with Stevie Marriott of Small Faces and Humble Pie fame, who described the Mini as "a 100mph pair of shades". It is believed to be the only Wood & Picket Cooper S (as opposed to Cooper) ever built.
In the late 70s the vendor sold the car to Denny Lane of Moody Blues and Wings, but after just eight months he bought it back, and started restoring it. In the early 1990s he sold the car again, but asked the buyer to give him first refusal should he ever want to sell. A few years later he bought it back for a second time.
The car - used as the vendor's everyday car for many years - has since been the subject of a nut and bolt rebuild and is in quite superb condition. It carries an estimate of around NZ$60,000, and represents a chance to acquire a unique little machine with a fascinating provenance. All the buyer needs to drive back in time is a Les Paul guitar and a pair of flares...
If you fancy it, look at barons-auctions.com and you might make the right phone bid from New Zealand, the place where all good Minis deserve to live.
LOGIC IN TATA's CHINA PLANT LINK-UP
China is the largest market for Jaguar and Land Rover, so Indian parent company Tata's willingness to spend NZ$2.2 billion to build a plant there is understandable, especially when cars imported directly into China have to pay a 25 per cent tariff.
This will help JLR cut prices significantly.
In China, non-Chinese carmakers are allowed to build cars only if they are part of a joint venture with a local company, and the Tata-owned British luxury pair will partner with Chery, a company that already sells cars in New Zealand, though it suffers a little from the same bigotry here that many buyers years ago used to have for Japanese and Korean cars.
The new Chinese Chery-JLR set up will include an assembly plant, engine plant and a research and development department and both companies are to collaborate on developing a new brand for the Chinese market.
It is known that by insisting on this kind of joint venture China's agenda is not just to associate marquee brands with its own, though this is a good reason.
China also recognises the need to develop its own designers and engineers to world standards.
The Chinese car industry does have engineers and designers, probably more than anyone, but so far they haven't been able to create brands to world class from scratch. The most successful Chinese cars so far have all been associated with foreign brands, with Ford, GM and VW having great success. Most brands without foreign help have had to modify, borrow and copy existing western designs.
By learning from these joint ventures and exposing its own engineers to influences like those from Tata's Jaguar Land Rover set-up, China is hoping to learn enough, quickly enough to remove the need for such JVs altogether.