How reliable are cars made during to Covid pandemic?
June 4, 2021 1:58 PM   Subscribe

I have been searching to buy a Honda Certified Civic and just discovered that there are brand new Civics at price points that are slightly higher. It may be too soon to tell, but does anyone know how reliable cars made during Covid are?

I am going to buy a Civic, but thought that making the question more general might make it more useful for others.
posted by Aville to Shopping (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I drive a 2021 Honda, and it is comparable in reliability and fit & finish to the 2019 I was driving before. The 2021 was made in fall last year.
posted by Atrahasis at 2:25 PM on June 4, 2021 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Interesting.... Does that mean a 2020 likely (or definitely) would have been made before Covid?
posted by Aville at 2:47 PM on June 4, 2021

Car model years start in the summer/fall before the named year, so yes, a 2020 vehicle would have almost certainly been made in 2019.
posted by obfuscation at 3:13 PM on June 4, 2021 [1 favorite]

Can you say more about what your concerns are? My understanding is that manufacturing problems have been related to supply chain issues and plant closures.
posted by bluedaisy at 4:18 PM on June 4, 2021

Response by poster: Covid/social distancing could have altered the standard manufacturing process. This could have meant changes to the assembly line to accommodate social distancing, fewer employees at the plant, different/less oversight to accommodate social distancing, use of parts from different suppliers than usual due to shortages, etc...
posted by Aville at 4:41 PM on June 4, 2021

Modern automotive assembly lines are highly automated. I would doubt any discernible reliability effects will emerge, and in any case it’s impossible to know that now.

It is absolutely a time to buy a new car if you can find one you want, as opposed to a late model used one. The price delta is very small with used cars fetching ridiculous prices, financing rates are super low, and you get a real warranty.

Unless you plan to replace the car in less than 5 years, the depreciation hit of buying new amortizes away over time. At ten years you’re even on most reliable commuter cars.

I am extremely dubious about manufacturer “certified pre-owned” programs.
posted by spitbull at 5:00 PM on June 4, 2021 [5 favorites]

Also cars are made throughout a model year, with the next model year production starting toward the end of the prior year. A 2020 could have been made any time from fall 2019 to fall 2020.

Exact manufacturing date can be ascertained from the car’s door frame tag.
posted by spitbull at 5:04 PM on June 4, 2021 [1 favorite]

Due to COVID-19 worker shortages, the Honda plant in Marysville, Ohio needs some of its white collar office workers, like those in accounting, to work on the assembly line with little training. (NPR, Aug. 1, 2020) The Honda staffer NPR spoke to said employees do not get any training until the day they show up. Many are also concerned about working closely together during the pandemic. Many of the reassigned employees have been working from home.

In COVID Crisis, Honda Plant Puts Office Workers On Assembly Line (Aug. 3, 2020) When the coronavirus pandemic first flared up in March, Honda paused production at its U.S. factories. [That story: Coronavirus In Ohio: Honda Pausing Production At North American Plants] It restarted the lines two months later. [May story: Honda Restarting Factories In U.S. And Canada This Week]

Honda in America plants and capabilities. Honda facilities worldwide, if you'd want to try sourcing a made-elsewhere-in-2020 Honda.
"Honda will continue to sell the Civic hatchback and Type R hot hatch [in Japan]. Both are manufactured in Great Britain and imported into Japan. But the car that made the name Honda a household word in the US will not be sold in Japan." - June 23, 2020, Sedans Are So Dead Honda Is Dropping the Civic In Japan
posted by Iris Gambol at 6:08 PM on June 4, 2021 [3 favorites]

Well you could always play it safe by buying a Union-made car. UAW rules would never allow office managers on the line.

Then you’d be buying an American brand.

I seriously would not think twice about buying a car made during the last year. A modern assembly line is mostly people checking to make sure the machines welded right. I have heard nothing about quality issues.
posted by spitbull at 2:52 AM on June 5, 2021

Yes, the assembly line is mostly robots these days. To correct a poster above, the vast majority of Hondas and Acuras are made in the US, if that is a concern. Ironically, it’s the “American” brands that tend to manufacture outside the country, perhaps because their customers will buy an “American brand” regardless of the place of manufacture.
posted by Atrahasis at 5:54 AM on June 5, 2021

Plenty of American branded vehicles are still made in union shops in the US, albeit with globally sourced parts.

So as the resident Mazda shill, I’ll point out that a Mazda3 is entirely competitive with the Honda Civic (in my view a noticeably nicer car for similar money). Mazda has been rated “most reliable brand” by Consumer Reports for two years running, and by USNWR for five years. Every model they sell has an IIHS “top safety pick plus” rating (true of no other brand), and best in class fuel efficiency (for an ICE platform) and best in class interiors. Mazda shut down its Hiroshima factory for a few weeks in March 2020, but as one of three automakers (alongside Tesla and Volvo) to actually grow market share in the US through the pandemic (they’re still tiny), they resumed double shifts at Hiroshima in April 2020, with no reports of replacing workers with managers.

Many US-sold Mazdas are made at a Mexican factory. But Hiroshima-made units are out there too and can be identified by the J that starts their VIN number. In my (admittedly fanboy) experience, Hiroshima-made Mazdas have some of the best fit and finish qualities of any car I’ve looked at in recent years, and I am an amateur mechanic.

So if I were looking to buy a new compact car I’d definitely give the 2021 Mazda3 (available in turbo and AWD too) and look for units made in Japan.

My 2014 Hiroshima-made Mazda3 just turned over 90k miles and has needed only one actual repair in that time (a shot wheel bearing, totally typical for any car driven in NYC as mine is). It’s been dead on reliable and just clocked 41mpg on a four hour drive yesterday, same as when new.
posted by spitbull at 6:01 AM on June 5, 2021 [4 favorites]

I've worked in vehicle (though not passenger automobile) manufacturing for close to 20 years now, a large chunk of that as quality engineer supporting the assembly line, and now as a buyer. So what I can tell you first of all is that the supply chain interruptions are real, and they are painful. At least at my facility, the labor shortages haven't been as bad as the part shortages. We've had to get creative to keep the line running through this all--usually by spot buying parts from alternate suppliers, and sometimes going as far as replacing a machined cast part with a welded equivalent. Labor shortages have primarily been solved by shifting people from line to line when appropriate and by using overtime. So I can understand that this all sounds concerning to a potential customer, but it really shouldn't be a huge cause for concern if you are buying from a reputable manufacturer. Manufacturers have entire departments devoted to ensuring the quality of output, and the company must adhere to the guidelines encoded in its quality system. The pandemic hasn't affected our quality system and nobody has suggested abandoning it, the same should be true at the auto manufacturers. Parts from alternate sources have to go through a thorough approval process before they can be used, just like before the pandemic. Before the machines were ever built, there was a thorough analysis of each component of the design and assembly process, potential failure modes were identified, ranked, and depending on the ranking were designed out, or had process mitigation assigned to them. This is all done with the understanding that humans aren't perfect and that relying on operator skill or knowledge is a path to failure. So, for example, we have tooling that will count fasteners and torques, and if critical joints are missed, the line stops until the missed operation is completed. Inspection and audit processes never stopped running. Low-hour warranty analysis never stopped. Long story short, if the auto company you are buying from has a good quality track record, it's a sign that their quality system is strong and you should feel comfortable buying a car from them that was made this year.
posted by TrialByMedia at 6:38 AM on June 5, 2021 [16 favorites]

Best answer: It breaks the guidelines but I have to point out that reading a comment like TrialByMedia’s above is the best thing about metafilter.
posted by spitbull at 7:38 AM on June 5, 2021 [4 favorites]

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