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Every American Car Brand Is on the Bottom Half of CR's Reliability Rankings (jalopnik.com)
309 points by luu 24 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 463 comments



I hate it when a vendor replies, as appeared in this article, that the problem was "a supplier-related issue". I purchased the product from you, not the supplier. You're responsible for what you shipped me.

By contrast: there are many reasons to criticize pharma companies but they don't take suppliers' word for any materials. Dell doesn't blame Delta when they ship bad power supplies, they take responsibility. But some industries (cars, aircraft, et al) are perfectly happy to blame someone else.

Note: it's OK if you say "we got some bad products and we failed to detect it..." That's defect analysis. But own it.


This is one of my favorite aspects of the writing in Outer Worlds: that no one who works for a corporation is ever, ever allowed to speak ill of it, of it's products, or anything even tangentially related to the corporation.

It's hilarious the mental gymnastics these fictional people will leap through to avoid earning the ire of their employer, and it's absolutely shocking how true-to-life it often is.


Why go fictional when you have Apple employees?


`Outer Worlds` the video game? I want to play it now.


Correct. It's quite good, though the combat is a little one-dimensional and cast against the design, writing, and world-building, it's very much turned into a situation where the game itself is sort of an obstacle to what I'm enjoying in the game. I don't think it will prompt a re-play but I am thoroughly enjoying it.


Lots of software companies tend to do this too. You had an outage? Oh that was just the vendor. Or failed software projects being blamed on a contractor.


We chose the cheap option but don't blame us! This was entirely unexpected!


It's the meaning of nobody every got fired for choosing IBM/Microsoft/AWS. These were definitely never the cheapest. You paid a premium for being able to pass the buck--"hey, we just did what everybody else did and which was considered 'best practice'".


Don't forget, big companies used to have QA. They actually tested stuff before barfing out the perpetual betaware we have now. So relying on a vendor with deep pockets and QA used to kinda make sense.


Yeah I work part time in a b2b company that deals at the 'enterprise' level. A small business could almost always do it better and cheaper, but the big banks need a big name or they have no one to hide behind when things inevitably go wrong. Inevitable because the customers usually aren't very technical and we're often stuck talking to marketing people who care more about colours than business rules :D


Good insight.

Another related excuse is "you aren't paying for this."


And rarely do the biggest vendors ever blame anything on one of their own vendors.


This is the problem though, all your competitors go cheap, you go cheap. Customers (often, not always) don't notice until it affects them, and eventually acclimate to the new normal that is trash service.

Just see for example how shitty phone bots have replaced call centers which were already outsourced. The thing is no one chooses a cellular provider based on the customer service, we generally just accept the service will be terrible and optimize on cost of plan which will be what we use it for primarily anyway.


Yeah, that's true in a lot of industries. Airlines are another obvious example.

I pay more for our internet company (Aussie Broadband) because they promise not to over-provision and they have local support staff on the phone. They've been very quick to answer and helpful when I had to call and are willing to skip the basic troubleshooting when I explain what I've done already. And I've never had the evening peak slowdowns that my friends have had. But is it worth $20 a month more? Probably not, but it's nice not having those worries occupy my mind.


In the US those options don't exist. The whole field has found its maximization of variables at worse service, where the variables do not include customer satisfaction.


> there are many reasons to criticize pharma companies but they don't take suppliers' word for any materials

There's reason to doubt that (from 3 days ago):

https://www.washingtonpost.com/science/a-tiny-pharmacy-is-id...


Umm, I read that article three days ago and again due to your posting it. The branded products didn't have the problem.

Sandoz and GSK are pulling their products anyway which you could take either way.

I am somewhat surprised to find myself defending big pharma and this event is only recently reported so we'll see how it turns out. But for now I think my example holds.


This seems like a different issue. "Pharma companies" are the producers, and in this case they're just denying the issue.

Pharmacies, on the other hand, can only do so much. Much like a car dealer can't properly ensure the reliability of the cars they sell.


The Tesla response as a whole was miles better than the ones from the other American manufacturers.


It's interesting to note the difference in communication styles when company PR teams respond to requests for comments. Fiat Chrysler and Chevy both responded in predictable marketroid speak, complete with extensive use of passive voice and grand, hand-wavey platitudes "We care committed to blah blah blah" "Quality is of the greatest importance blah blah blah" "blah blah above industry average blah blah blah" "blah blah launching with excellence".

And then there's Tesla: "We fixed issue XYZ, which affected people in exactly this particular way." "We proactively send bulletins and over-the-air fixes." "This particular issue was for this particular year, and has long since been fixed."


Words are cheap.

They’re under investigation for possibly hiding recall and issuing OTA instead that surprised people with sudden range loss (https://www.businessinsider.com/nhtsa-investigating-tesla-up...)

They force customers to go over arbitration to fix yellowing entertainment screen on cars as young as few months. They tell people it’s normal wear and tear due to using cat in the sun (https://teslamotorsclub.com/tmc/threads/yellow-screen-force-...)

Their service centers are over the capacity for years and cars can be stuck waiting for repairs and parts for months.


Perhaps the grandparent comment was actually talking about the quality of Tesla’s Public Relations department.

Otherwise it would strike me as odd that someone would boost a vehicle manufacturer that doesn’t sell spare parts, in a thread on vehicle reliability.

Edited a few words to better express my point.


The difference is, the other automakers have decades of experience tailoring public pronouncements so as not to provide fodder for trial lawyers. Hence the vaporous noncommunication. Tesla hasn't been sued as much yet, but they'll get there eventually.


Unless their PR and legal department are exclusively staffed by recent graduates with zero work or real-world experience, it shouldn't matter whether or not they have been sued. It's not like every corporation starts figuring everything out by trial and error, never referring to literature or hiring experienced professionals.


Yeah, I would've thought the same thing about their manufacturing & labor relations depts., and yet...here we are.


The PR department may have learned the wrong lesson from their environment.


Buy all the spare parts you want here: https://epc.tesla.com

Or just walk into a service center. Tesla now undercuts all third party prices on parts.


Have you actually tried this?

The last time I saw that site, every single part down to the simplest screw said "Contact Tesla for pricing" and instead of adding to a cart, it too had a button "Contact Tesla for sales"...

... almost like they were trying to barely scrape by a state mandate on spare parts being available for sale.


Parts was my number one issue - and epc.tesla.com does not solve this (yet) as there is no pricing and contacting tesla was recently a total pain with lots of dropped balls.

Anyone with current info? If they got a parts catalog with Amazon style fulfillment they'd be in business.


That sounds like a change for the better.

Has anyone tried this? Are parts delivered in a reasonable time frame?


GM knew of an issue with ignition key switches that killed 124 people and required a recall of over 30 million vehicles. Tesla definitely has fault, but legacy automakers have faired far worse in safety standards.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/General_Motors_ignition_switch...

Ford has had to recall over a million trucks due to engine block heaters that would cause your engine block to catch fire.

https://www.google.com/search?q=ford+engine+block+recall

Disclaimer: TSLA investor and owner, opted out of arbitration and have yellow banding on my MCU screens. Compromise is inevitable.


I don't think anyone is arguing that they're the absolute worst carmaker. A comparison to Toyota or Honda would have been a better choice.

I don't want a power plant that is advertised as "more earthquake resistant than Fukushima" in my backyard.


One person has died from radiation from the Fukushima accident. The possible range for casualties ranges from zero to hundreds. The evacuation killed over 2,000 people. This for an earthquake ~10 times greater than the tolerance it was designed for. I’d rather live within a km of Fukushima now than 10km of a coal power plant.


Can you compare Tesla to a manufacturer who innovates very little (Toyota or Honda) and simply churns out the same internal combustion engine 10 million times a year? I don't think so.

All depends on what you're optimizing for. I can't get an EV from Toyota or Honda (at least not one that competes with our S and X), so I deal with some fit and finish and reliability issues. Powertrain has been rock solid. Charging network has been rock solid (having driven coast to coast in the US in both of our Teslas).


Toyota and Honda brought the first two mass-market hybrids to market (the Prius in 1997 and Insight in 1999, respectively). I don't think it's fair to say they innovate very little or that they churn out the same internal combustion engine 10 million times a year. A bunch of my friends have plug-in Priuses (Prii?) that are effectively EVs, since if you're commuting you never need to run off gas.


Still no pure BEV from them, only hybrids and fuel cell. No charging network either. Owned two Toyotas and a Lexus before we sold them all for Teslas, really a shame as I liked the reliability of the brand, but buying EVs was more important to us. Personally, I want to support innovation, not the status quo.


I thought the Toyota hybrid engines were very innovative.


Innovative in 1997 (first Prius model year), not so much 22 years later. They're coasting on that tech at this point.

Tesla was incorporated in 2003, and has existed for only 16 years. What's Toyota's (an 80 year old manufacturing and logistics behemoth) excuse? Rhetorical. Entrenched interests (both internally and at dealers) and a lack of courage.


Excuse for what? I don’t even understand the rhetorical question.


For not building a non-internal combustion vehicle.


Toyota has been experimenting with and selling non ICE vehicles since before Tesla existed. They created the market for green cars. They were Tesla's first big contact back when Tesla was still unprotected l unproven.

Without Toyota, Tesla wouldn't exist.


There’s no sensible use case for one that isn’t more effectively satisfied with a plug-in hybrid?


Plug in hybrid is double the complexity (combustion and EV powertrains) when having a charging network negates the need for the combustion component.


Hybrid drivetrains can be simpler than ICE drivetrains.

Having a charging network doesn't solve all the problems of going >50 miles from home.


Until a fire results in the power grid going down...


Gas pumps stop working too when utility power is out. Can charge your electric car at home from solar if you have it (and in California, solar is mandatory on new residential roofs of new construction starting in January of next year).


This is false. Gas pumps utilize utility electric as their primary source of power, but are required by law (in CA at least) to have backup sources of power, like diesel, in the event that a natural disaster (like an earthquake) knocks out power lines.

And solar charging only works if you live in suburbia or rural neighborhoods. If you live in a city, you're SOL.


> Gas pumps stop working too when utility power is out.

And gas pumps can be powered by diesel generators. Especially because they happen to be built on top of giant-tanks of diesel.

I mean, the Tesla Supercharger at Nuburgring was a diesel generator for this very reason. Diesel (and gasoline) takes up very little space or weight, while giving a significant amount of energy storage. So its ideal for storage, transport, and distribution.

https://www.motor1.com/news/371593/tesla-diesel-generator-nu...


I haven't done the math, but natural gas might be able to serve the same purpose, is usually ran in parallel with electrical infrastructure, and can have its own distribution infrastructure powered by the same gas the system is pumping.

Diesel is of course a fine solution for isolated locations that require energy for whatever reason when utility or renewables are down, if you have to transport it a great distance, or you absolutely need a store of energy on site because you're concerned that natural gas would be down at the same time utility mains were.


Tesla can’t be that innovative: they still don’t support CarPlay.


And TSLA (16 years old) is already well on their way to accumulating a similar track record as GM (111 years old) or Ford (116 years old).


I felt the opposite. Tesla's answer came across the worst to me, and reads to me with the over-specificity of a student making excuses for why their paper isn't done on time.

> "It was a supplier-related issue".

Passing the buck is really not a great look to start with. It makes the rest of the response seem like a series of excuses.

Tesla chose the supplier. Tesla built and inspected and sold and shipped the car with those parts. This is a Tesla-related issue. The only time Tesla should mention a supplier issue is in response to, "why can't you sell me a car?"

> "[It] did not pose any threat to vehicle safety".

That's good, but this isn't the safety survey.

> "[T]here was a[...] false service alert [... that was fixed] within two weeks of being reported".

I'm not even sure how to react to this one. Bringing my car in to be told "false alarm" is really not reassuring. And two weeks to fix a false alert doesn't help me - I've probably already brought it in for service.

> "This proactive approach to improved reliability is one of the reasons why Tesla is the highest rated car brand among consumers, according to Consumer Reports." (Paraphrased:) Our cars are the safest and best performing, and Model S is #1 in satisfaction.

To me, blaming a supplier for the issues is a terrible way to start, and this is likewise a terrible closing.

"You just fell in the rankings to come in 3rd to last in our reliability survey. Any comments?" "Our cars are the safest and fastest and we have always ranked #1 on your customer satisfaction survey."

Those stats are undeniably good. They also make me think those are the stats the company cares about a lot more than reliability.


If I had to choose, I would choose specifics over platitudes.


Especially specifics backed by OTA fixes.


Yes, but the others don't say anything. That Tesla does this makes them look bad (e.g. your comment) but it's more information for the customer, and that's a good thing.


>Tesla chose the supplier. Tesla built and inspected and sold and shipped the car with those parts. This is a Tesla-related issue.

They are new at mass manufacturing and no doubt learned a lesson from this incident. And that is the whole point of their response, unlike the other American manufacturers they are successfully working away at rapidly improving quality and reliability. And you are angry at them for that.


But Tesla didn't say "we're new at this and we learned from it". They said it was a "supplier-related issue" that has been "addressed for cars in the field" and "resolved [...] with fundamental design improvements".

Nothing in the statement tells me that there won't be another "supplier-related issue" down the line. There should be controls in place for this.


Tesla is new at producing cars in large quantities, and it has greatly improved their quality and reliability. There is no way this could have happened unless they were learning from their mistakes, and that includes controls on suppliers. Do you really disagree?


I found this part very interesting: "In fact, the quality of brand-new Model X vehicles today is 3.5 times better than the quality of brand new Model X cars from 2015.".

(I have no idea what "quality" means here, and how you can put a number on that, that rises 3.5x, but that's beside the point).

With one sentence, Tesla is telling 2015 customers that they got screwed over, and future customers that they should wait 4 years after a new model comes out before buying it, because they need that time to figure out all the quality issues.


That rule applies to pretty much any car though - having bought a completely new model of BMW when it first came out I would never do that again, mind you I would never buy a BMW again! Personally I'd wait at least a year before buying any new model of car.


I bought one of the first BMW 328 convertibles off the line. I drove it 20 years with over 500,000 miles with minimal repairs - even the soft top was still working fine and looked "ok" when I finally hit a large pothole and totaled it.


Isn’t that somewhat standard practice in tech? It’s an industry that experienced exponential growth for decades.


The quality can be measured by cost of maintenance or more likely by the costs associated with warranty repairs (and product returns) incurred by the company.


in this case quality just means how likely is a customer to experience issues covered by warranty in the first x days. That's usually called "initial quality" in the industry jargon. Model X was particularly bad off the gates, it had tons of issues especially with the stupid vertical doors that broke all the time.


> "This particular issue was for this particular year, and has long since been fixed."

On the other hand, you don't have to fix a problem you haven't created.

Most of Tesla problems are self inflicted.

Moreover "Model X vehicles today is 3.5 times better than the quality of brand new Model X cars from 2015."

According to which metric?

It sounds a lot like "this is the fastest Mac ever built, 2.5x faster than the previous generation"[1] but on the market cheaper or faster options (or both) were already available.

[1] in small writings "according to bench X and taking the best result. On average the improvement is about +0.3%"


According to an article I read recently[1], they measure quality in rate of defects per car produced. According to this, we can get an idea of the scope of the improvements.

[1]: https://arstechnica.com/cars/2019/11/customers-rave-about-mo...


Thanks for adding the metrics.

As much as I think they are doing a great job and deserve to be there, I've also never seen a car in the $40k range (more 50-60k euros on this side of the ocean) not being "a pleasure to drive" or not having a good customer service.

For the same price I can buy this

https://www.audi.it/it/web/it/modelli/a6/a6.html


"We fixed one issue" isn't really any more informative than "we're committed to quality" with respect to overall reliability. One issue out of how many? How many customers are affected by those others, and how severely? How long are fixes taking on average? Tesla's response might resonate better in a community notorious for confusing specificity with truth, but it's still just spin.


[flagged]


I did read and understand the article, but the point stands. Over-specificity is as much of a smokescreen tactic as over-generality. It's not "unreasonably critical" to point that out, unless "unreasonably" has more to do with the sacred-cow object of criticism instead of the substance. Also, both the start and end of your comment violate site guidelines.

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html


Oh definately, I wonder why these giants cannot replicate the Tesla PR?

This is probably Tesla's strongest point, having a problem with the product you paind for and not having personalized response makes you feel powerless while response from someone who seems to understand the problem and the issues it creates is a such a huge difference even if the issue is not resolved. I always forgive companies that did sloppy job but cared enough to appologise and explain why it happend. You don't have to have a celebrity CEO to do that.


It has proven effectively impossible to sustainably project an incorrect image of a company. It’s not that they can’t do PR, their entire culture looks like that


Yeah, as a Kiwi, I'm entirely unsurprised. I've owned Japanese cars from various manufacturers, but the absolute worst I owned was a Toyota Cavalier - a rebadged Chevrolet as part of some trade deal between the US and Japan - that the Japanese steered well clear of and immediately exported to NZ and Aus.

It had a great wee 4 cylinder 2.4L engine, a hell of a lot of fun to drive, but it was of notorious build quality (which I learned after the fact). I spent a lot of time trying to keep it running, and in the end, it was worth a surprising amount at sale simply for the spare parts, because these buggers chewed through them and as they were gray imports into NZ, very hard to find official parts for them.

It was the little things - like the interior light you could only turn on by turning the dashboard brightness dial all the way up - the boot/trunk latch that was made entirely of plastic, and was held onto the boot/trunk by plastic pins. The perpetual thirst for an odd (for Jap imports) grade of oil (5W30 only). The coolant that drained out if you parked on a slope. The sunroof that always leaked and you could never quite fix.

The park lights that involved taking the entire bumper off merely to replace a bulb - in a country used to actual Japanese built cars, such European levels of PITA maintenance earned the Cavalier a deserved bad name.

I don't know if GM just half-assed it on purpose, or by mistake, but it was hardly a soaring endorsement of American engineering.


Why not both?

The J-cars (cavalier/sunfire/sunbird) existed b/c of the second oil crisis in '78. GM needed something FWD, smaller than the X-cars, that could get better fuel economy than the RWD V-6 and V-8 cars it had been selling in the '70s. The thought was that people in the US would buy these because they had to, not because small cars would suddenly become appealing to Americans in their own right.

The Js were never terribly profitable, the lower-end ones were almost certainly sold at cost to boost the company's mileage compliance numbers. The traditional easy way of squeezing costs out of a car is to pull them out of the interior & trim, which would explain the sunroof, the dash electronics, the trunk closures and taillights.

The engine you got in yours is almost certainly the Quad OHC, one of the last Oldsmobile powertrain designs...in its original 2.3L config, Olds had it making 185hp (in 1989, with no turbo!). Powerful but with no balance shafts, it pulled well but sounded & shook like a pair of wolverines trapped in a dryer, which is why the 2.4L version got balance shafts and was detuned to 150hp.


My then girlfriend had a Sunbird. She was a very nervous driver. I thought it was part of some other psychological issues she had. Then I had to drive her Sunbird somewhere. Terrifying! Somehow in a noisy gutless cramped smallish car GM had managed to reproduce the floaty uncontrolled body motions and vague imprecise steering of the full size cars of a decade earlier.


It might sound crazy, but according to one of Bob Lutz's books, there is/was a huge corpus of GM Engineering Standards, some of which dated back to the 1930s, that had a big influence on design. This might explain why a compact Pontiac Sunbird might feel like a fullsize 1979 Pontiac Parisienne-both cars might have to meet the same set of criteria regardless of market fit!


<pedantry> Replying to myself: the 2.4 in a Toyota Cavalier would be an LD9-series Quad 4, not a "Quad OHC" which was an earlier L40-series SOHC version of that engine. </pedantry>


In the US the J-bodies (Cavalier being one of them) are regarded as somewhat disposable cars. In the US, the repair story is somewhat better, but that was more a result of the abundance of them in the states.

The bigger reason that Japanese buyers stayed away from the Cavalier was probably due to it's engine size (JP taxes at certain displacements, I know going over 2.0L is a bump) as well as vehicle size (at least according to Wikipedia, it was too big to be taxed as a compact there.)

Of course, being a J body doesn't help. The fact that many of the automakers had/have an unfortunate tendency to cannibalize themselves doesn't help either. Another example of this behavior from the 80s was the way GM would treat any project that could hurt sales of the Corvette (That whole mess with the Fiero, the way the Turbo 3.8 was quietly shooed away and ignored...)

This infighting was at least part of the reason GM tried to start another car company in the US called Saturn. If you thought Subaru people were culty... Saturn had a whole thing where people across the country drove to the headquarters every year. They managed to build cars that were a bit more reliable than the rest of the GM line (Oh, they still had a couple of problems though. And the engines loved oil.) The original models also had a unique part line and were built in a plant that tried to follow a more Toyota/Honda style mentality. Oh. And plastic body panels. In any case, I tend to see more Saturns still on the road than any other GM small car of the 90s.

It worked for a bit, until GM got tired of waiting for their sales to get up to speed, and started meddling with them TOO.


The Saturn plant had the advantage of a greenfield factory site and a motivated workforce, but I don't think that the product was ever as defect-free as the the Corollas coming from Fremont-also a GM plant, with a UAW workforce. Pretty close at times, though.

...thing is, the designs for the car, the plant, the tooling, the engines and the transmissions (unique to the Saturn SL1&2, used in no other GM product) the marketing, the dealership subsidies...all cost $12,000,000,000 in today's dollars.

Chevy and Pontiac execs were fond of pointing out that the overhead of the Saturn project was so huge, that if GM just described the car to customers, and gave anyone who wanted a Saturn a new Cavalier, GM would actually lose less money than building and selling Saturns. You can buy a shitload of Cavaliers for twelve billion dollars.

Of course, the original SL1 and 2 were updated with new-looking plastic interiors and body panels, but the basic car was still the same one that they debuted in 1989 when they stopped selling them in 2003. If it costs you that much to design a new economy car, you can't do it often, so the product goes stale, and fewer people buy it, and it costs more per unit to pay for upgrades etc.

GM's inability to make its warring individual states cooperate is a goldmine of WTF moments in business history. Though I lay the Saturn debacle mostly at the Alden-shod feet of the late Roger B. Smith (of Roger & Me fame...)


My 2007 Toyota Camry was made in the US and has a known problem of burning oil because the sealing between the piston and the cylinder rent desire all the oil back or something.

My next car will not be made in the US, regardless of manufacturer.


I'm in the US and Toyota fixed my 2007 Toyota Camry's oil burning problem in 2015 for free!!! The dealership had quoted me something like $8000 to fix it (more than the car was worth) so I'd given up. Then one day I got a letter from Toyota corporate telling me my car was covered by this warranty extension. That made me a Toyota customer for life -- my next car was a Toyota Sienna, I won't buy another brand at this point.

My sister is still driving that 2007 Camry.

You should contact your local dealer and ask them about this. You are most likely covered. If they don't help, find a way to contact Toyota corporate.


I have a 2007 Camry... was there a recall for this? How would I know if I have the problem?


Only if yours was also made in Kentucky and even then Toyota apparently did the bare minimum they were legally obliged to do. From what I understand, mine was not part of the recall.

you should go to https://www.nhtsa.gov/recalls and put your VIN anyways just for your peace of mind

here's scotty kilmer explaining the issue: https://youtu.be/B0NwnbVN1cw


Its not a direct comparison, but having owned cars from Japan, the US, and Germany, watching the videos of cars being made by the major manufacturers makes the difference somewhat obvious.

I've linked them below, but just looking at the factory processes, the workers, and the methods used it seems the German process is just designed to build cars with tighter tolerances. The cars don't move down assembly lines with humans touching them (in the 911 factory). When a human is working on the car, the car isn't moving. Compared to the Corvette (much cheaper, but still "high end") you can see how quantity is prioritized, and how the car never really stops for any extended period of time, before moving down the line.

Again, this is a totally subjective opinion, but comparing my current car (VW) to a similarly priced Ford I test drove the other day (GT350) the difference in build quality is night and day.

This is a Porsche factory, building an expensive, high end 911 - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BbcKZ1lRDuA

Here is the Chevrolet Factory building a Corvette - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ccOrwFs3No


German cars tend to be less reliable than Japanese ones, as in this survey, possibly due to those tolerance. My 2018 German car feels a lot nicer than a 2018 Toyota, but has already had more problems, too. :|

Sometimes I wonder if the US auto industry suffers a bit competitively vs Germany and Japan due to a higher amount of "brain drain" to other higher-paying forms of STEM jobs in tech.


Japanese manufacturers have found a good balance between simplicity and modern tech (see Mazda, Suzuki).

German cars tend to be over-engineered; lots of modern tech in the vehicle + manufacturing, whereas American cars tend to be quite the opposite.


And historically when the Japanese _have_ gone overboard on tech, back in the bubble era, they also tend to back it up with overengineering.

Think of the fourth-gen Toyota Supra or any version of the Nissan Skyline GT-R. Or the Toyota Soarer/Lexus SC, which was basically a detuned Supra packed with luxury equipment and unique styling. They were technological marvels whose engines were overengineered beasts that could take ridiculous amounts of abuse.


At one point when my father was restoring a Mk 3 Supra, I got a look at the traction control boards since he had pulled one out to fix it. I was surprised at the lack of surface mount components, only to have my father point out the board had been made in 1989...

The Supra was a fundamentally ahead of its time design. Not without flaws but definitely pushing into new territory.


Maybe I misunderstand what you meant - but there were SMT components in 1989; indeed, some of the earliest examples of SMT can be found far earlier (late 1960s for example).

The reason it was likely thru-hole construction probably had more to do with reliability, as SMT work is more prone to damage from vibration (mainly), unless properly potted or conformal coated (and there may have been issues as to why they couldn't do that, either).

That said, consumer-level use of SMT components didn't really start until the early 1990s - but examples of earlier use do exist (for instance, one of my floppy drives off my first computer in 1986-ish had SMT components on the controller board - but it was still mostly thru-hole construction).


The 2JZ engine was one of the best (as in, most durable) engines that Toyota ever produced.

The sheer number of Supras, Lexus IS300s (1st generation), and GS300s that are still running today, most with over 200k miles, is a testament to the amount of over-engineering that went into that engine.

And then there are the crazies who took the NA version and added turbos...


A lot of E46 M3s are still running around with 200k on the clock despite having motors and chassis that chew themselves up. Same with the MK3 Supra and its headgaskets. IMO whether you still see cars around is as much a function of their value retention as it is of their robustness.


Very true, attribution error on my part :)


That’s not a testament to over-engineering — it’s just an indication that the bean counters weren’t the ones actually making decisions.


American cars had a lot of problems before software engineering brain drain was much of a thing.


Of note - I think the Porsche factory built on Japanese (Toyota) innovations on manufacturing. I recall reading something about in the '90's, Porsche and VW were in a bit of a crisis in terms of manufacturing, cost of manufacturing, tolerances of manufacturing, etc. Turns out a lot of steps relied on a person hand fitting something or reaching into a bin of parts, etc. They hired Toyota to consult and rejigger everything. This was also when they came up w/ the Boxster, and then their SUV's to save the company as the 911 was definitely not paying the bills...


Toyota Production System: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Just-in-time_manufacturing

Took a lot of concepts we take for granted today, put them together to build "lean" manufacturing; also loosely inspiring modern agile/kanban software development.

Most manufacturing is based on these methods.


If you’re ever in Stuttgart the Porsche factory tour is well worth it. Even just seeing the just in time supply chain in action is mind blowing.


it's worth pointing out that a porsche 911 base MSRP is ~$110,000, while a corvette base starts around $60k.


Last time I checked, everything was an optional extra in 911s too. Even stuff that is a standard feature on cheap econoboxes. Last I looked there was something utterly bizarre as an expensive optional extra, it was something like powered windows or remote locks. Something that I didn't even know didn't come as standard in a car. I wish I could remember what it was. (this was like 2010, so whatever it was might have changed, but it was still grossly out of place back then. It was not air conditioning, that at least makes sense from a weight perspective on a performance car.)


The Porsche Boxter is finished to a high standard too.


With similar HP ratings!


If anybody thinks the difference between major brands is due a difference in factory processes they would be very wrong. The reality is every large manufacturer now has a culture built around Six Sigma/Lean/6S/Continuous Improvement/etc. Vehicles aren't manufactured in underground hideouts of secret societies. If a process if found to work well in one corner of the industry it absolutely permeates to other parts.

Here is video of a Mercedes C-lass production line moving as workers assemble by the way: https://youtu.be/z6c_Zs5DG0s?t=531


I agree that those methodologies have permeated the automotive industry. But does that mean that all automakers are utilizing them to the same degree of effectiveness? Anyone who's worked in a dysfunctional "agile" environment has experienced the danger of cargo-culting in methodologies that have proven effective elsewhere.


I've also always noticed American factories seem okay with workers showing up in whatever they want - i.e. you see in that video they are wearing their own t-shirts. To me this shows a lack of seriousness and pride in the work and team unity. It also shows a lack of respect for safety workwear and process. It shows the employer is likely cheap, and doesn't want to pay for workwear, and furthers my impression that they view their workers as disposable. IMO, it looks absolutely ridiculous how in the Corvette video one guy is wearing basketball shorts and Vans and the woman next to him is wearing a different T-shirt and jeans. Compare to the harmony shown in the German video. Please don't try to tell me that individuality is important in a vehicle assembly line!


I'm an American and I will probably never buy another American made car again until we switch to EV.

Time for anecdotes! I'm in the process of changing our families vehicles: I've sold our Toyota Tundra and purchased a Toyota Sequoia, and I'm currently selling our Honda CR-V and will be downsizing to a Toyota Matrix or Honda Fit.

The Tundra has been one of the most amazing vehicles I've ever owned. I bought it used with 160k miles on it, and sold it at 200k. Over 5 years I have done my own brakes and oil changes, and have only had to replace the starter. I sold it for $1k less than I bought it (I got a good deal). We bought essentially the exact same vehicle, just in SUV.

The Honda has been a little less stellar, but still good. AC compressor has gone out multiple times (a known issue affecting multiple models), but we replaced it with a warrantied aftermarket part the first time it failed. It's currently at 220k and still kicking.

We only buy used and in cash, so finding the right car can take some time. Toyotas and Hondas have unbelievable resell value in the used market. A used Toyota can fetch a similar price as a brand new American made equivalent.


For someone who doesn't want to buy American made cars, you sure speak fondly of some of them. Tundra and Sequoia have only ever been made in the us, matrix was once upon a time made in the nummi factory that is now Tesla's, and have been made in North America since, crv have also mostly been made in the us, otherwise North American production, same with all newer fits. The only car you mentioned made outside of North America would be the first generation fit, made in Japan.

I had a friend's dad who was one of the few people I talked to who, as a Japanese brand enthusiast, went out of his way to find a Chevy/Geo prizm - same mechanical bits as a Corolla, built in the same factory, but way cheaper because of all the people who reflexively avoided American brands.


It seems you and OP aren't working from a shared definition of "American made."

OP seems to have a reverence for autos made by foreign-based companies (Toyota and Honda).

While you are rightly pointing out that both Toyota and Honda manufacture in America.

The key difference in OP's enthusiasm seems to be not in location of manufacture but in company process/ethos/culture that delivers reliable vehicles.


I'm an American and used to only buy american cars (until I finished college) because my father was a GM factory worker and that was the expectation (right or wrong, GM paid the bills for my upbringing.)

I've driven GM, VWs, Hondas, Toyotas and currently drive a Ford F150.

I've had the fortune of rarely having serious problems with any of them, but we haven't kept most of the vehicles for more than 4-5 years for a variety of reasons (VW Golfs are fine when you're single, but not when you have a couple of kids (at least not in America...we're spoiled.)

Hats off to Toyota though. My parents have been driving my wife's old 2003 Camry for the past 3-4 years. It still runs great and up until this past weekend had zero issues. The master power window switch failed and now the rear driver side window fails to come up. Amazon is delivering the replacement part today for a whopping $23.50.


That's not really a rare situation. Even the worst cars today are far better than the best were 30 years ago.


I'll call you anecdote with one of my own. I've put the same 40,000 miles in the same 5 years on my '01 GMC Sierra and have had no issues besides a power steering pump when I bought it and regular maintenance. I'll probably sell it after New year's and I'm not sure if it's a quirk in my area, the going rate is the same as what I paid 5 years ago.

A regular maintenance schedule does wonders for the reliability of a vehicle.


>A regular maintenance schedule does wonders for the reliability of a vehicle.

So much this. I have an entire fleet (7) of 25+yo shitboxes including three of one model (so my observations are fairly scientific). Amount of shit that breaks is proportional to how hard of a life each vehicle lived regardless of brand.

Toyota and Honda cost a little more up front and they don't do crazy financing deals so the people with a 350 credit score and barely enough to make the down payment don't wind up owning them so they get maintained and rarely get used hard This makes them hold a little value better so the people who are gonna be hard on them don't buy them on the used market.

Meanwhile the kind of person who buys a Journey because it is the cheapest thing with three rows doesn't maintain it until it cannot function without maintenance and uses it for literally any task it can possibly accomplish. That's a hard life. One 4Runner year is like 7 Journey years.

It's all a self feeding cycle. Vehicle reliability outside of the first part of the bathtub curve is simply a reflection of how it's treated and that's a reflection of who owns it. The longer a vehicle can stay high in the socio-economic ladder the longer it will live an easy life.

This pattern holds even if you take brand and model out of the equation. Look on Craigslist for 1990s Ford SUVs. You will see a lot of Eddie Baur trim ones relative to the number of Eddie Baur ones that were actually sold back in the day. This is because that's the most expensive trim and the people who bought those had the disposable income to maintain them so they hit the used market in nicer condition, were bought by relatively more wealthy people and so on and so forth.


I think how well a used car was treated over the years is definitely a true thing, but if you look at the stats for luxury cars, you do see that the Mercedes, BMW, Porsche & high end VW cars break down more than the equivalent Acura or Lexus cars in the first 5-10 years of life.


I think a considerable amount of Toyotas are actually made in the US, ironically, so you might still call it American made :)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Toyota_factories#Unite...


According to The Toyota Way, Toyota's first manufacturing plants in the US were built to work around the "chicken tax". The US imposed a tariff on imported light trucks to retaliate against French and West German tariffs on imported chickens. As a loophole, imported pickup trucks could be imported as "passenger vehicles" with the truck bed/box bolted on in an American finishing plant. Eventually the loophole was closed but Toyota, having built American manufacturing plants and trained a skilled workforce in the Toyota Production System, decided to keep using it anyway.


> CR says Chrysler’s Pacifica was one that contributed to the drop in rankings thanks to the minivan’s infotainment and transmission issues.

Every single "downgrade" I read about is either infotainment or transmission or both.

Except Honda, which apparently has shit locks on it's kid hauler.

I'm a bit skeptical of consumer reports after actually reading it. My car, a Subaru WRX is given low marks for "stiff ride and constant engine noise", which I think re reason why people buy WRXs, not avoid them.


CR reviews cars as appliances. Their target market is the mainstream buyer. If you're looking for a enthusiast review, they're the wrong publication.

What they do, they do well. Their reviews are consistently: "what my mom would say if she drove it".

Consumer Reports is not Car and Driver.


I haven't subscribed to CR for a long time but I found that was their approach to pretty much everything. Which is fine if you're buying an appliance. And, for me, isn't all that far off if I'm buying a car. Certainly, reliability stats are good to have at least. And, to the degree they're weighting criteria differently than I would, I can adjust for that.

Where CR really starts to diverge from my needs is when you are, as you say, an enthusiast or a prosumer type user of something like a camera, about which you have a lot of definite opinions. To the degree that CR lines up with what's important to you, it's mostly a coincidence.


Consumer Reports’ subscriber base trends older which is obviously not the same demographic as affordable performance car buyers. CR is still a great resource if you know nothing about a product market but enthusiasts outgrow it.


Also a lot of families - many of their other product reviews are either baby stuff, kitchen appliances, or cleaning products, which are lifesavers if you're a parent and...not all that useful if you're a single urban professional.

Safety, infotainment, door locks, and so on are of the utmost importance if you're carting a bunch of kids around. Stiff suspensions and engine noise are anti-features. Those priorities are reversed among driving enthusiasts, but that's not who the magazine's written for.


I dig the WRX, but I would love if the engine were quieter. IMO a quieter engine is always desirable - akin to how I always want my computers to have quieter fans for any given level of performance.


>I dig the WRX, but I would love if the engine were quieter.

As far as the WRX goes I would say you're in the minority. There was quite an uproar when Subaru ditched the unequal length headers on the WRX, eliminating the famous boxer rumble. That unique exhaust note is one of the reasons people love the WRX.

>IMO a quieter engine is always desirable - akin to how I always want my computers to have quieter fans for any given level of performance.

Aftermarket exhaust systems are quite popular, but I can't say that I've ever seen a computer fan noise amplification system. I understand not everyone wants a loud car, but there are plenty of cars coming out with factory valved exhaust so you can make the car scream when appropriate, and not just on high end sports cars either.


Yes, I know I'm in the minority, but I tend to think my preferences are correct, and that car enthusiasts who enjoy loud engine noises are as weird as PC enthusiasts who enjoy loud GPUs. :)


Are there PC enthusiasts who enjoy loud GPU's, or is that a joke that I missed?


Not to enthusiasts, who are driving for the experience of driving, including the feel, sound, etc


I have an Audi S8, and it's "holy fucking shit" fast... but the exhaust is so quiet :( It's quite an engineering achievement actually, that big V8 is moving a ton of air. I wish they hadn't done quite so well.


I consider myself an enthusiast, and still consider engine noise to be undesirable.

Among various other car things, I'm very enthusiastic for in-car noise cancelling: https://www.theverge.com/2019/1/9/18175748/bose-noise-cancel...


Interestingly enough, the industry is actually going the opposite direction. Engines are getting quieter externally, to avoid pissing off your neighbors (there are few things as annoying as a tuner with a fart-can exhaust driving down a residential street), but with artificial engine noise piped into the cabin via the speakers in order to give enthusiasts the noisy experience they want.


That should help with some of the fans of loud engines—those who just like listening to their own car.

But I can't shake the suspicion that a significant percentage of loudness fans want other people to listen to their vehicle (With bikers, this is explicitly acknowledged in the name of security: "Loud Pipes Save Lives").


>Among various other car things, I'm very enthusiastic for in-car noise cancelling:

This is one of the biggest gripes of automotive reviewers when it comes to cabin noise and I agree. My GT-R has it (that exact Bose technology you linked) and I find it quite obnoxious. It neuters the sound of engine and all I'm left with is more road and wind noise. Save that for an S-Class, it has no place in sports cars.


The article I linked is about a new, separate piece of tech that specifically targets non-engine noise, unlike Bose's currently available offerings, and isn't due to be available in production cars until ~2022 car models.


>The article I linked is about a new, separate piece of tech that specifically targets non-engine noise, unlike Bose's currently available offerings

That is the intended functionality Bose's current tech, but it doesn't work very well for sports cars in my opinion. It's probably just an update that they're re-branding as an entirely different technology.


>I consider myself an enthusiast, and still consider engine noise to be undesirable.

Same here. That said, the flat 4 has a really nice note (engines with a flat plane crankshaft generally do) so I can understand why people want it to sing when they step on it.


I can relate, I love the sound of a flat crank V8. Yet I'd be just as happy experiencing that as a convincing sound effect in the cabin of my EV, or well silenced ICE as actually bothering people in the real world with actually open exhausts.

Given some places are requiring EVs to actually emit a little more sound for the benefit of blind and partially sighted people, I'm surprised we're not moving towards choosing vehicle sound packs along with paint colours...


Yep you buy a WRX for the drivetrain and rally heritage ... the terrible plastic interior was a moot point.


The seats are comfy enough, the steering wheel is beefy, the only point of failure I've had is the battery. Otherwise, it's exactly what it's supposed to be.

CR give my other car, a Jaguar F-Pace low marks for "loud engine and cabin, stiff choppy ride and bad infotainment."

Which to me sounds like a lot of soccer mom's thought they were getting "luxury" utility vehicle but accidentally purchase a 350hp supercharged v6 "sport" utility vehicle.

Cars are for driving, not "infotainment".


> Cars are for driving, not "infotainment".

If you're one of the ~30 million Americans, crawling along in your single-occupant vehicle through rush-hour gridlock, you will care a lot more about the 'infotainment' part of your car than the 'driving' part.


Or you're just on a long drive. I care about how vehicles drive (though I mostly prioritize carrying a bunch of stuff over sports car performance). But I'm not sure I'd buy a car that didn't have CarPlay at this point having had rentals with it and without it. (My own vehicle basically predates all that stuff.)


These ratings are comparative. If youve mostly interacted with your two brands, and not the other ones at the top of the list, how can you compare them and say yours isnt worse?

Infotainment includes maps, air conditioning, heat, radio. Those are important things to do easily in a car.


HVAC is certainly not infotainment, there are safety implications if the defrosters don't work. The HVAC controls should never be at the mercy of whatever phoned-in UI the radio and satnav have in your car.


A lot of the issues may come down to whether management prioritize financial engineering / making huge bonuses / pleasing wall street vs making good vehicles. The same with Boeing - they used to be run by engineers who wanted to make great planes and then the shifted control to finance guys in Chicago who wanted to make big profits. You see the effect a bit with Tesla where I'm sure Musk would love to focus on quality but has to rush things out to make decent quarterly numbers or risk going bust by not getting ongoing financing.

The Japanese seem to have almost the opposite attitude to finance where they will keep putting money into loss making stuff for ages out of a kind of loyalty which may lead to it's own issues of course.


I worked for years as an engineer and manager at a legendary Japanese corporation, known for their quality.

It was a frustrating experience. Their obsession with quality made even the smallest tasks difficult and tedious. 3,000-line testing spreadsheets, where even one failure pooched the whole deal.

But you can’t argue with the results.

Good quality is difficult and tedious. I like to think that the work I do is of exceptional quality, but I am often met with outright hostility by American engineers, when I talk about my methodology.

I’m not being snooty, or projecting onto others. I’m merely talking about what I do, and I’m treated as if I’m eating a ham sandwich in Temple.


It's funny, because this is the kind of philosophy that makes software engineering in Japan so difficult, but is very ideal for automotive mass production.


Yup. It hobbled our software engineering efforts, but they make excellent hardware.

I quickly learned never to use the word "agile" in Tokyo. Frowny faces everywhere.

Since leaving that company, I have gone to "ultra-agile" methodology, but quality is still one of my principal axes.


> Their obsession with quality made even the smallest tasks difficult and tedious. 3,000-line testing spreadsheets, where even one failure pooched the whole deal.

Sounds good to me.


Yes. It taught me a lot. I am still obsessed with quality, to this day.

That obsession was not the problem. Frustrating, but it set them apart.

Note that I worked there for many years. That indicates that we probably shared many values, and that I was respected; despite sometimes holding orthogonal points of view.

I do feel as if we could have done more with software, though. What works for hardware does not necessarily scale to software.


> You see the effect a bit with Tesla where I'm sure Musk would love to focus on quality but has to rush things out to make decent quarterly numbers or risk going bust by not getting ongoing financing

"Tesla CEO Elon Musk ordered his employees to stop putting nearly finished Model 3s through a critical test before leaving the company’s factory in Fremont, California, according to an internal document viewed by Business Insider. It’s called the brake-and-roll test, and it ensures the car is correctly aligned. An industry expert told Business Insider that every automaker does this test to ensure quality and function."†

Tesla constantly make short term decisions that cost them massively down the line.

https://www.businessinsider.com.au/tesla-elon-musk-orders-en...


>A lot of the issues may come down to whether management prioritize financial engineering / making huge bonuses / pleasing wall street vs making good vehicles. The same with Boeing..

It's a funny thing to me that no one ever points this out in advance. Where were the articles about Boeing's move from an engineering culture to a financial one? Instead, we wait for the natural cycle of a business to arrive, then make up some answer, like "financialization" to explain it.

How come a hacker site doesn't acknowledge how difficult it is to "stay on top" as a business?

>You see the effect a bit with Tesla where I'm sure Musk would love to focus on quality but has to rush things out to make decent quarterly numbers or risk going bust by not getting ongoing financing

Again, more post hoc reasoning.

Elon Musk negotiated the biggest corporate pay package in history, but he didn't tie it to product quality, did he? Maybe that's why he focuses so much on share price and market cap and quarterly numbers? Nah, couldn't be...


>It's a funny thing to me that no one ever points this out in advance. Where were the articles about Boeing's move from an engineering culture to a financial one?

I had a google out of curiosity.

There was this from 2003: https://slate.com/business/2003/12/how-boeing-blew-it.html

>...The trouble is that his successor, Harry Stonecipher, is very much of the short-term-profits school... ...As one aircraft worker told a Seattle newspaper reporter after hearing the news of Stonecipher’s accession: “We are doomed.”

Although I don't know if that was really in advance - they had problems then too.


I must admit that's not what I expected - I've seen it repeatedly asserted that electric cars are so much simpler than ICE cars that their reliability should be much higher (which does seem reasonable to me). Mind you - its over twenty years since I've had an engine/transmission problem with a car (plenty of other faults - but not with those components) - maybe I've been lucky though.


They are, but the drivetrain is a very small part of a modern vehicle.

If we're talking about Tesla in particular, if you've ever watched those transplant drivetrain videos you can see that aside for the battery temperature control and a few other things it isn't super complex.

Where Teslas are complex is everything else. Tesla started as a luxury brand and you can really tell even in the Model 3. Everything is electrified. Everything. Even the door handles themselves have electric motors in them. That little flap that changes the direction of the airflow in other cars? Electric motor in a Model 3. The design aesthetic is almost a contradiction with the reality: minimalism brought to you by huge increases in back-end complexity.

I'm not claiming this is intrinsically bad (nor good). But I am pointing out that when you complicate simple things you add more points of failure. The "debate" is if the assembly/maintenance/etc costs are worth the benefits provided, and that is largely a matter of opinion (and how much people value the benefits).


> The design aesthetic is almost a contradiction with the reality: minimalism brought to you by huge increases in back-end complexity.

Isn't this the point of a lot of software?

Make things as simple as possible, regardless of what's happening behind the scenes.


Most of Tesla's problems seem related to the other parts of the car: doors, seats, suspension, etc. They are probably the best electric powertrain company in the world, but still not that great at being a car company.


A lot of those parts are from third party suppliers (not that it excuses Tesla completely of course). I watched a video some time ago, where Musk was complaining that the big automotive parts suppliers simply didn't take Tesla seriously, and therefore it led to quality issues, in the video it was the quality of the sun flaps. It's probably due to Tesla shipping much lower volumes, and the big suppliers not being familiar with dealing with a supplier that has low volumes but aims to be a mass market car maker.


> A lot of those parts are from third party suppliers (not that it excuses Tesla completely of course).

What makes you think that other automaker aren't using third party suppliers? Borgwarner, Denso, etc... are all third party suppliers that many company uses.

After the recession of 2008, many third party suppliers went bankrupt. There is a consolidation of third party so now many automaker share similar parts among each other.

Even the new Supra, Toyota tested the BMW engine and ask BMW to change some stuff.

It still up to Tesla to test the reliability.


So Musk is saying their finished cars have problems because they get bad parts and they have to put those bad parts on their cars?

I would have tough you did some quality assurance on all parts you put in the car, and not use the bad ones.


I really don't believe Tesla gets any worse parts than other manufacturers. Those parts come from the same production line. They are the same parts. Almost all of the automotive industry uses the same parts, chosen from a fairly limited variety of models, produced in great numbers.

The design of a car has a great impact on how long those parts last. It's easy to blame a parts supplier for faults that are because of your own design.

Let's take an example. The water that rains down on your windshield is cleared away by windscreen wipers. If the wiper motor or mechanism doesn't work, the car is not roadworthy.

Were does the water go from the windscreen? It flushes down along the edge into the scuttle between windscreen and bonnet (hood), and then usually goes down scuttle drains, to be released underneath the car. What happens if your scuttle drains are designed so that tree leaves that always fall on the windscreen in some places get stuck and block the scuttle drains? The water is not drained. Instead, the water level raises in the scuttle. The water may flush inside your car if the seams are not tight. Or the level just raises above the bearings of your windscreen wipers, you have a little pool in front of the windscreen.

So you have water in your wiper mechanism bearings. This water will freeze in the winter. It will push out and flush away any grease in the bearings. There will be corrosion. Eventually, your windscreen wiper won't move because the bearing is stuck.

Now, do you blame the wiper mechanism and bearing manufacturer (like Musk appears to do) or do you blame the design that floods the standard parts that everyone is using?

The former is of course tempting, but in the end, it's your responsibility to design and manufacture the car so that it keeps running for long enough.


Do auto parts manufacturers bin their products in a way similar to what Intel and AMD do with CPUs? Where the "less perfect" die become lower-end SKUs, or certain batch numbers are known for being better overclockers, etc.

If certain units are manufactured "perfectly" while others come off the line in spec but close to their limits, I could see the suppliers prioritizing their bigger customers.

I have absolutely no idea if this the case, I think your point about the system design is most likely the bigger factor here, but I'm curious nonetheless.


I don't really know, but I would expect that the different quality classes are marketed as such with slightly different product codes, and the buyer needs to be aware what he's procuring. And that you know what category of parts you buy for your manufacture is generally a key competence and an important process in car manufacturing.


Is there somewhere to learn about this type of engineering without going though education?

Just found your example a really interesting read and would like to read more!


Thanks for comment - alas, I can't really point out to any publically available training on-line or such. Probably automotive engineering courses and model-specific trainings for car mechanics bring up more of these.

What I wrote I've learned by fixing cars myself and by listening to the mechanics who've been doing things for me (I've been driving for over 30 years and mostly rather cheap cars, so I've seen a mechanic or two).


Based on the stories we hear about people waiting for replacement parts when their cars need repair, I'd wager that the are probably running too lean on inventory.

This creates a dilemma of either not delivering cars because then they'd have to wait for replacements, or delivering cars that have parts that are not 100% to spec.

And no, it's not about people cancelling orders because of waits IMO. If you're waiting for the part to finish the car, you can't really finish selling it and get the money you have tied up in that incomplete build.


Electric cars are not that much simpler than ICE cars.

The drivetrain is simpler, but most parts of the car are similar and share the same potential weaknesses.

The body may rust, the doors have hinges and seals that may leak water, the windscreen may crack or its seams may leak, the brake discs will wear out (even if more slowly due to energy regeneration feature), the brake fluid pipes may corrode and leak, the suspension system wears out with every bump on the road and the springs may break or the shock absorbers become ineffective; the steering has ball joints and tie rod ends that will become loose and need to be replaced, there are heaters and A/C which have pumps and pipes and sensors and controlling electronics, the lights have to work and they have alignment motors, the windscreen has wipers and their controls, there are mirrors and their adjustment systems...

All these parts need to work, and getting the design right requires immense competence and experience from the manufacturer. All of these are required in an electric car just like in an ICE car.

I've been frugal about cars and over the past 10 years have bought cheap ones (here it means French cars, because their quality reputation is worse than their actual quality, and therefore they are cheap to run).

None of the cars have needed replacing or major repairs in the drivetrain or fuel system (apart from one Suzuki 20 years ago that had rust in the gas tank). I've always given them up because the things that wear out are in the other mechanical parts, mostly steering, suspension and brakes. None of the cars I've had have been beyond repair, but the cost of new parts and work to make them roadworthy exceed the price of the car (I don't want to do too much of that work myself.)


The problems I've had to repair on the cars I've owned have mostly been things that don't exist on an electric car. If you weight repairs by cost, then it skews even further. And probably most of the ones that would still apply to an electric are maintenance tasks (replacing bulbs, brakes, tires). All of the non-drive bits of the car are still there, but in my experience those just don't fail as often, and they can generally be tolerated a bit before fixing it. Drive bits breaking in an ICE car tend to make the car undrivable.


Interesting. From what I have heard, Toyota Prius, which as a traditional hybrid has both an internal combustion engine with its drivetrain and electrical drivetrain and batteries, does not suffer from much more drivetrain defects than pure electric (or pure ICE) cars. Toyota is generally known for quality build and good aftermarket care.

Prius gets more rejects in the annual inspection in my country (Finland) than e.g. Avensis or Corolla which are powered by gasoline or diesel ICE, but the primary defect sources are - brakes - suspension faults - front wheel assembly defects (typically ball joints and tie rod ends) - tyres (which are too worn)

Why are suspension faults are more common in Prius than in other Toyotas? I would guess it is because of the weight of the drivetrains, engines and batteries.


It's not just the engine and trans that can have problems though, there's a whole car full of electromechanical gadgets and weather seals and sensors and nice finishes to worry about. That all still has to be got right too.


The industry has a lot more experience at making reliable ICE drivetrains, which helps to offset the increased complexity. After another decade or two they should be able to make the same reliability gains for electric ones.

It may also be the case that everything is reliable enough for that to no longer be a significant differentiator between brands, and development money will be spent elsewhere.


They're much simpler but they're still complicated and you still require experience to design and build properly. Tesla was too busy breaking the rules to stop and think about why things may have been done a certain way.


Actually, most of the problems we had were fundamental design flaws e.g. a Toyota my wife had where the instruments (speedometer etc.) started cutting out occasionally - problem was tracked back to, of all things, the sunroof! There was a small leak and the electrical connectors for the instruments were in the bottom of the passenger foot-well - where the water was collecting from the sunroof and shorting things out.

Similarly I had a VW that was prone to flooding the interior due to poor design of the battery compartment - if the drain hole from the battery compartment was blocked it would overflow into the interior of the car (we're in Scotland so problems inevitably involved water).

Edit: To anyone asking why we bought a car in Scotland with a sunroof, I do wonder and we'd never do it again!


I don't especially want a sunroof, as they inevitably leak, but it's becoming increasingly difficult to get a car at anything other other than the base trim level without sunroof - and when combined with other requirements I have (e.g. sat radio) presence of a sunroof is one of the first things I'll compromise on.


>Edit: To anyone asking why we bought a car in Scotland with a sunroof, I do wonder and we'd never do it again!

Actually I really enjoy a sunroof especially in cloudy weather as it makes the interior a lot brighter and less claustrophobic even in dark days.


I think it is a fallacy that EVs are simpler. You have just moved mechanical regulators to software so the complexity is hidden. I.e. instead of a timing belt you have an inverter etc. Instead of a water pump driven by a belt you habe an electrical pump cooling the batteries and motor.


That's a fair point that transitioning from hardware complexity to software complexity isn't making the design inherently simpler, but at the same time the software to manage an electric car doesn't have to be complex. Modern electric cars are complex because the manufacturers have chosen to make them so.

Electric motors are fundamentally simpler than gasoline engines, and motor controllers, charge control systems, and battery management systems aren't particularly complicated either, especially when compared to a modern engine and all its emission-control apparatuses.

I hope some manufacturer at some point decides to actually build a simple electric car for the mainstream market, with no over-the-air updates, no self-driving, no location tracking, no touchscreen infotainment system, or any of that. Just an FM radio and an aux port, and the minimum amount of software and hardware to manage the motor and battery and airbags and anti-lock brakes.


Agreed, but the potential is there even so, software can not wear out with use. (Corrupted flash notwithstanding.)


But with the constant OTA updates from Tesla, the software will degrade and turn to mush over the years.


> I've seen it repeatedly asserted that electric cars are so much simpler than ICE cars that their reliability should be much higher

That's only one side of the problem out of many. It has more to do with the general attitude and culture withing the company, which ultimately stems from wider culture.

Tesla is currently enthusiastically repeating all of GM's failures with their engineers screaming murder, and being dismissed.

https://www.google.com/search?q=tesla+welding+cracks


Evs not built in the USA are very reliable


push a vehicle hard enough or put enough miles on it and you'll run into engine/tranny trouble. maybe you just don't keep vehicles long enough, or you always buy Toyotas =)


Looks like a lot of discussion here is about housing, but the CR report suggests that most of the issues are with the infotainment systems in cars. And that includes Tesla. I assume that the ecosystem is big enough to create a 3rd player that’s better than android auto or iOS and better suited for cars specifically.


Maybe it's just me but the infotainment systems in cars, despite being more complex, aren't really better in any meaningful way compared to my 2007 Mazda 3 (RIP). I've got a new car with a touchscreen but it's more of a PITA then hooking up an MP3 player via the aux audio.


I have an older car. I replaced the head unit with one that supports Bluetooth, and it stays on Bluetooth 24/7. I have a suction cup mount for my phone which runs GPS. That's all I need. I dread having to buy a car made in the past decade or so, purely because of way-too-intrusive infotainment systems.


What you describe is what I did to my older Outback a few years ago, replaced the aftermarket non BT stereo my older brother had in it with BT. The swap wasn't too bad and It's been working great since then.

I just got a recent year Mazda3 that came with the free (from Mazda) upgrade to Android Auto/Apple Carplay. I'm and Android guy so can't speak to Carplay but the basic functions provided by AA like music/podcast playback, navigation, and overall interface are solid even without a touch screen. In fact, I'd say the lack of touch screen is a perk as I'm not reaching out to tap something vs using the console/cup holder area interface that I picked up quickly and like (other than a so far not re-mapable star/favorites button that only goes to the Mazda audio favorites list outside of AA). It's less distracting than a mounted phone, has a bigger screen for navigation, and works really well for me. I don't think Id buy a newer car without either a basic BT stereo setup or full blown AA.

That being said, I have the trade off now of requiring a cable for AA to work otherwise I'm only on the built in BT infotainment (which I still find way better than the Toyota Corolla interface I tested out recently). I'm still used to leaving my phone in my pocket or jacket so I have to remember to pull it out and often end up leaving it plugged in and walking away (the spot where it sits is well hidden so not too worried about theft in my location). According to forums, it is possible to hook my phone to AA setup via wifi and project wirelessly with some lag which I am interested in setting up but I think I need to update the software in my unit before it can make the wifi connection.

I'm really liking the AA setup in this car. It's pretty intuitive, easy to set up and control, and feels safer than another setup with the caveat that it needs a cable. Good news is it keeps the phone charged up (the Toyota Corolla USB didn't provide enough power to charge my phone, for some reason). I would recommend it.


I'm a luddite when it comes to vehicles, but I've already made up my mind that I'm not interested in ever purchasing a vehicle with a touchscreen interface. Big, tactile knobs and buttons are far more reliable, and you can operate them by feel, without having to take your eyes off the road.

Some of the newer vehicles I've had the misfortune of driving require three of four clicks to turn on the air conditioning.


Ive increasingly been disappointed that there arent better infotainment roundups, or some kind of constantly updating dashboard of comparison.

To your point though, FCA might have something pretty similar to that 3rd party player. Their Uconnect 4 drops into a pretty wide variety of brands they own, I dont know if any car company still makes as many skus and variants as FCA does. Abarth, Alfa Romeo, Chrysler, Dodge, Fiat,Jeep, Lancia, Maserati, and Ram Trucks, with Peugeot and Citroën coming.

FCAs infotainment system consistently ranks highly in multiple roundups. Overall, European companies rank much higher than Japanese ones.

https://www.cnet.com/roadshow/news/car-infotainment-system-a...

https://www.consumerreports.org/automotive-technology/choose...


VW are also rolling out the same "Virtual Cockpit" display, just skinned differently across Skoda, Seat, VW, Audi, Porsche, Lambourghini, Bentley, Bugatti :)


Not really a surprise. US manufacturing is optimized for the extrema (i.e. it's a saddle curve): inexpensive stuff to heavy to be worth shipping (e.g. paper) and inexpensive low-labor commodity product (e.g. grain) and at the other extreme: super high value, difficult to produce items (e.g. ultra-high precision bearings, cruise missiles).


That is total nonsense. I buy nearly everything either made in the US or Europe. Kitchenware, tools, outdoor equipment, clothing, furniture and just about everything else except my phone, tv and computers. It's always excellent, durable and unfortunately, expensive.


I agree about many European products (the appliances in my house are all 20 year old European ones that still work perfectly).

But inexpensive "made in USA" stuff I tend to find (folding outdoor chairs and the like) seems to pretty much last a short time or even single use, and as has been lamented publicly, is rarely exported. Most of the everyday product purchases seem to come from SE Asia.


Only on the extreme low end. If you want cheap crap, there is a certain national economy geared to that, and its not the USA.


This is a bit flame bait-y but I really feel like America is getting a super Galapagos effect compared to the rest of the world. Everything is super different and weird and kinda bad, and nobody seems to notice.

I go to peoples houses in the US sometimes. Some of these houses are multimillion dollar homes. The doors are all terrible. The plumbing is crap. The furniture just feels bad. The cheapest studio apartment in Western Europe or Japan ends up with better infrastructure than the $2M duplex in California

Then you get to grocery stores, and you have to go to the “fancy places” to even get the baseline of quality you see in the rest of the developed world. All the chocolate is bad.

My dad has a really expensive american-made fridge. It sucks. The UX is awful and it basically just looks shiny.

Maybe this is the result of 30 years of wage stagnation. I like to think it’s the result of people not really traveling abroad (reasonable! It’s expensive and far away). People don’t get that so many other places are just nicer and have higher quality things for cheaper.

There’s some quote about how somebody was super poor when growing up but was fine about it because they didn’t realize it. I think about that all the time when looking at some stuff in the US.


German citizen here. I travel to the US quite often - I find that the quality of the Grocery stores is on average one level up. The quality of the goods sold there is another story. But mid-and southern Europe likes it cheap when it comes to these things. There is a reason why we call them "discounters".

I really do hear you on the housing quality - it's ridiculous what people are willing to put up with over there. We have friends living in the southern bay area who pay 3.5k for a 2.5 bedroom apartment in an apartment complex - the whole thing calls itself "Luxury Residencies". Ain't no luxury there. Like you describe everything is built extra cheap: from the walls, to the kitchen appliances and the plumbing. There is a massive top-loader in their supply closet that sounds like it runs on it's own ICE, built in the 50s. In Europe this would be considered a very basic apartment but it's already considered 1-2 levels higher than average and not even 3 years old.

I do think there is something to your Galapagos syndrome theory.


Please don’t use the Bay Area as a proxy for US housing. It’s an extreme outlier.

Million dollars houses would be regarded as unliveable in other parts of the US.


From my experience of living in a college town where there seems to be a new "luxury apartment" building being built every week, "luxury apartment" is code for overpriced crap aimed at young people who are spending mom and dad's money


The effect on housing you see is a unique artifact of unconstrained unregulated capitalism: Property investment firms and private, "house flippers" have been buying up old houses at market value in many US cities for over a decade. They paint them grey, put new cabinets in, a new shiny refrigerator, and put it back on the market for double the price.

The first time one of these places sells (with black mold still in the basement, asbestos in the walls, and lead paint the children's room) the value of the nearby houses goes up and everyone starts looking to sell THEIR old beat up black mold and asbestos special. It starts a boom and suddenly a whole neighborhood of 300k$ houses become 1million$ grey monstrosities.

This all drives up the cost of new construction as well (which is always a little more pricey than buying an older home) and so you get overpriced mansions that you describe as well, but the root cause is the removal of the entire "bottom" of the market. It is now almost impossible to find what Americans call a "fixer-upper" in some cities.


It certainly takes something to look at a housing market where regulations enforce artificial scarcity and say that everything wrong with it is the result of capitalism...


Capitalism is the reason that regulations exist. Apartments cost less than single family homes. Makes total sense for developers to get regulations passed that prevent that sort of competition.


I mean, I suppose you could call regulatory capture 'capitalism'... But seeing as most people's response to 'capitalism failing' is to call for more regulation, I don't think that that's really fair.


I think you're under a delusion that 'government' and 'capitalism' are separate things.


Well, there exist countries that have government without capitalism, so yes I do believe they are.


sigh... you can't have capitalism without government.


I'm inclined to agree. I've lived in Japan (5 years), in San Francisco (6 years), and now live in Germany. The food quality goes Europe -> Japan -> USA, with a sharp drop between Japan and the USA.

I'm currently living in Leipzig, which still has bombed-out looking empty buildings from the time of the Iron Curtain (although things have finally been picking up over the past few years). And yet even here the infrastructure is better than in San Francisco or any other part of the USA I've visited. I'm originally from Canada, and I'm sad to say that, although some things are better than the USA (like the roads and the trash), it's not by much, and it's still terrible compared to the rest of the first world.


I'd ague that Japan's quality is a bit better than EU but also depends on what food you are used to. Mainly healthy options wise I think Japan stands out even more.


It’s so hard to get a proper vegetable conveniently in the US, while in Japan you can get it at a 7-11.


In much of the rural US, it’s easy (ask folks which farmstand they go to). In cities, it’s also pretty easy (asian or mexican grocery for non-organic, specialty produce shop if you want organic). The problem is the suburbs. Don’t live in the suburbs. If you must, get veggies at the farmer’s market.


Every suburb I've been in has a big box grocery store with a large selection of fresh produce. If you want something specific you might need to go to a specialty store, but there are plenty of vegetables where people buy groceries. You won't find them at gas stations, but nobody buys groceries at gas stations.


As identified in sibling posters, the issue with these vegetables, in as much as one exists, and speaking very broadly, is that they look pretty but are flavorless.


In North Carolina, it's very easy to get proper vegetables.


In California, proper vegetables are very attainable.


When I've visited, I've noticed that the fruit in particular look gorgeous in the shops, but taste like damp tissue paper. Weird


> When I've visited, I've noticed that the fruit in particular look gorgeous in the shops, but taste like damp tissue paper. Weird

Thank the market: the food companies have prioritized durability, yield, and appearance over taste.

https://www.npr.org/2011/07/09/137623954/the-troubled-histor...

> On top of that, the tomatoes you see in those supermarkets have been bred for high yields and durability, not flavor. "As a farmer once said — an honest farmer — 'I don't get paid a cent for flavor,'" Estabrook says.


Which shops? That's true of the big chains (Safeway, Trader Joe's, Costco can be hit or miss), but you can get ugly-but-great-tasting fruit in plenty of the local produce markets.


What I meant to say was “as convenience food” as in already cooked and not a salad. Plenty of good stuff in stores, but not a lot from the available quick food places


Infrastructure in Leipzig is awesome because it was newly created after joining Western Germany for the money from westerners. Infrastructure in Western Germany is crap! My wife uses subway in Munich and there is no week without complaining about delayed or canceled trains. Buildings of universities in Western Germany is a bad joke. University in Regensburg was literally collapsing while one in Dresden got many new buildings. It’s not fair comparison.


At least there are trains... and Munich in particular is slightly weird in that the subway (U-Bahn) is run by a municipal company and works very reliably given the amount of people they're moving, while the suburban trains (S-Bahn) are run by Deutsche Bahn and are often a mess at rush hour. In part that's due to the design flaw of having a massive central bottleneck.

Similarly for universities, the quality differs. Go to Munich's technical university and you'll see buildings in the top percentiles. Go to other universities and the substance is easily going to be much older - but then again, Germany sets its priorities to a good quality education without student debt, and the buildings themselves don't matter much for the education.

Generally, I feel like all these complaints need to be measured against what the alternative is. Which cities have a busy subway system where commuters aren't complaining?


> Generally, I feel like all these complaints need to be measured against what the alternative is. Which cities have a busy subway system where commuters aren't complaining?

Literally any city in Asia (or at least Japan, Taiwan, Singapore and Hong Kong, whose subway company has now branched out to run subways in many parts of the world like Stockholm). In one year of living in Nagoya the subway was late once.

That said it has a way more sensible layout than Munich where one failure in a central point does not cascade to paralyze the entire rest of the network. It is not the worst of course, since it is pretty extensive, but routing nearly every single line through Hbf or Sendlinger Tor couldn't ever have been a good idea.


Germany sets its priorities to a good quality education without student debt, and the buildings themselves don't matter much for the education

That is true to some extent. However, the noise of the rainwater dripping into many buckets at the central library of the University of Regensburg made it hard to concentrate on anything.

That was around 2010. Not sure if the leaky roof has been fixed since. Wouldn't be surprised if the answer is no.


> My wife uses subway in Munich and there is no week without complaining about delayed or canceled trains.

At least there is public transportation at all, unlike in the US.


Exactly. People in Germany think that if your train is late it is the end of the world. Their trains and subways tend to be very clean and punctual, yet very affordable. In the US this is not true. BART in SF nowhere near to the quality of service in Munich.


You could say that not having public transportation is better than having crappy public transportation. And I'm not talking about some occasional hiccup but the fact is that Deutsche Bahn operated trains are an enormous shit show. They are constantly late or even cancelled. You buy a ticket for a train and few mins before the train is supposed to arrive the board will say "zug fellt aus" (train cancelled). Have fun waiting 20-40 mins for the next one. If you have to be somewhere on time then you're going to have look for an alternative way of transport and you have practically no recourse for recouping the cost of your wasted ticket money.

Now if the public transportation didn't exist you'd just shrug and go by your car saving yourself a whole bunch of stress and fist clenching and cursing.


Our subway is good. I'm using it every day and just because one train is canceled doesn't mean anything because 10 minutes later the next one comes


Agreed, I lived in Munich for 5 years and its public transport is excellent and very extensive, some of the best I've seen.


10 minutes? Good for you - I get pissed off if I have to wait more than 5 minutes between trains in London.


A delay of 10m is different than a delay of 1h or a lack of public transport. The Munich Transport Corporation (MVG) guarantees a return of fare, equivalent to a full day's ticket, if they delay is more than 20m [0].

[0] https://www.mvg.de/dam/mvg/ueber/unternehmensprofil/mvg-imag...


Have you been to the US?

I used to hate public transport in munich, but compared to US (e.g. SF or NYC) it seems incredibly good.


I've seen others, Arianna Grande on a amateur video amongst them, complaining about the diff in quality between European and US street food being inconceivable .


Like, US street food being incredibly better or worse than EU?


What US street food ? There is none.

Even in NY, the traditional "American" food carts sell hotdogs, pretzels, ice cream or $1 pizza. All of which are IMO, pretty sub-par for street food. It is only since halal carts became a thing, that NY street food has started becoming alright. There are some other great food carts, but 1 off carts get overshadowed by the dozens of familiar NYC foods.

US's culinary strength lies in the diversity of cuisines. However, most affordable international food places are not opened by aspiring chefs. Rather, it is usually struggling immigrants who use it as a way to survive in the absence of other employable skills. While I respect the hustle, these people can obviously not cook at the same level as ones that run their operations in their country of origin out of more passion driven reasons.

When American born people with a passion for cooking start affordable restaurants in the cuisine of their roots, it is often heavily colored by their American upbringing. (which for me ends up meaning more sugar, more fat and less intense flavors) Not gate keeping, but at the end of the say the experiences of someone fully immersed in a culture will always be richer than those who've vicariously experienced them.

That being said, for every cuisine in every big city in the US, there is a gem. They can be hard to find, are often not the most accessible (non-commercial area, language barrier, sketchy hygiene), but damn are they worth it. The ability to have a gem for each cuisine of the world, is a trait possibly unique to the US metro cities and their biggest strength.


It can’t be better - the US basically HAS no street food outside of New York.


I visited Portland a few years ago and the quantity and quality of street food being offered was amazing. There were entire squares packed with vendors.

I enjoy the street food scene in London, but I'd choose Portland over it any day.


Most food carts in Portland charge about the same amount as non-food carts. For most people, if it's not cheaper, it aint street food.


Street food has a price threshold?

In China, street food might cost 20 yuan for a dish of something. The median income for all of China’s is 18,000 yuan.

In Portland, the median income is $53,230. A street dish might cost $10.

In China, street food is actually a lot more expensive than Portland, adjusting for median income levels. Even if you bought a dish for 10¥ it is still more than twice as expensive as Portland.

Are we to say that China’s street food ain’t street food? Because that’s what you are suggesting which basically means that no street food is street food.


I meant if it costs the same as a restaurant, it's not cheaper and thus I wouldn't call it street food. I wasn't comparing across cities. If a decent restaurant decides to ditch their downtown indoor restaurant, and decide to get a food cart and offer the same food for the same price as they did, is it really street food?

A number of popular food carts in Portland have a median price of $10 or above. For things like Mediterranean food I've often found restaurants charging the same or less. At the end of the day, I'm paying for the privilege of standing in the cold/rain.


Over downtown near the waterfront during a farmers market, or food trucks?


food cart pods, spread throughout the city. less than there were, but still quite a few. typically, they range an entire city block.


In my case: food trucks.


That is objectively false. Since I doubt anyone from my neighborhood taco stand or hot dog carts is on HN, I'm offended on their behalf


Interesting, I was under the impression that the food quality in Japan was quite good. Although I suppose I have no reason to believe Europe would be any worse, or different.

What makes you say that Europe has a better food quality?


Japan is not as strict over antibiotics or general conditions in livestock.

Japan has a huge problem with counterfeit fish meat (substituting inferior, sometimes toxin tainted, different species meat).

Japan's non-seaweed vegetables are generally watery and not as nutrient rich as what you can get in Europe (rucola & feldsalat, for example). Their staple "vegetable" tends to be a nasty variety of cabbage, and daikon and pumpkin.

Bread in Japan is blanched wheat flour. In Europe there are dozens of grains to choose from. Even grau brot tastes amazing. Japan's XYZ pan couldn't even compare. Home cooked food in France was a truly magical experience.

Bio (organic) is very popular and very strictly regulated in Europe. In Japan they don't care as much, and in the USA its a joke.

It's relatively easy in Europe to get prepackaged foods (such as canned goods/soups & frozen foods) made strictly from first ingredients (there's nothing in the ingredients list you can't pronounce, or that you wouldn't add yourself if making it from scratch).


> What makes you say that Europe has a better food quality?

More space to grow food and a large open market between EU countries, whereas Japan grows a lot of rice on the very limited space they have and is very restrictive wrt. importing foods from abroad. Which is why you can good food in Japan but sometimes fruits are ridiculously expensive. Also, bread in Japan is terrible (but then again, good Japanese food in Europe is tricky too).


>I'm originally from Canada, and I'm sad to say that, although some things are better than the USA (like the roads and the trash), it's not by much, and it's still terrible compared to the rest of the first world.

If you're from Canada you probably realize that it's a big place, and impossible to draw sweeping generalizations about. Saying Canadian infrastructure is terrible "compared to the rest of the world" is an ignorant statement.


Well, I’ve been to Vancouver, Calgary, Montreal, Quebec City, Halifax and live in the GTA; it’s pretty terrible compared to the European cities I’ve visited. Better than Cambodia but Thailand and Vietnam are catching up. Comparing to Tokyo is laughable.


American bread is particularly problematic as someone that moved from Europe. Until I found bread I liked I'd often joke that it was suitable for storage in a bomb shelter since it has an unnatural shelf-life and tastes like it.

After a tedious search, we wound up buying $2.60 "Sara Lee Artesano Style Bread" which is still less good than a 70c loaf of Hovis in the UK, and certainly less good than fresh made French bread (which in my opinion is world class). But it is very notable that it has a 7~10 shelf life, not one month like other supermarket breads, is actually soft, and not overly sweet.

It is kind of unfortunately that in the US basically passable bread is called "Artesano" and earns a price premium. Many living in the US haven't had the opportunity to try elsewhere to compare. The strangest thing about this is that you'd expect the US's bread to be much cheaper (given the quality reduction) but that wasn't at all my experience (in fact fresher bread in Europe was substantially cheaper than long-shelf-life-bagged bread in the US).


You’re shopping at the wrong places. There is good bread out there.

For better or worse, a lot of Americans like fluffy white bread that’s loaded with preservatives to give it a long shelf life. That’s what they ate as kids & they’ve never branched out.

I’m not defending US mass market bread, but I do think it’s largely a matter of differing tastes and values. Your comment (and much of this thread) comes off as “I have different values, I don’t understand mainstream American values in this or that regard so let me tell you why they suck and why we’re better than you”.

So yeah, it’s flame-baity & perhaps even unkind. Even if you’re right. A gentle reminder: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=21490714


I was comparing supermarket breads in Europe and the US. So while I may be shopping in the "wrong" places in the US that doesn't really detract from my overarching point. A lot of people, in both areas, buy their bread at supermarkets.

If supermarkets don't offer good products, that may also be a discussion worth having.

> I have different values, I don’t understand mainstream American values in this or that regard so let me tell you why they suck and why we’re better than you

But this critique doesn't address why the price is higher. You can call it "values" if you want but ultimately we're talking about a lower quality product at a higher price and shoppers that likely don't know they have other choices/are getting a worse product.

> So yeah, it’s flame-baity & perhaps even unkind.

I feel like attempting to place words into my mouth ("why they suck and why we’re better than you") that don't remotely match my tone or substance of my post and then calling it "unkind" is a much larger departure from expected decorum than anything I actually posted above.

To quote the site's guidelines:

> Please respond to the strongest plausible interpretation of what someone says, not a weaker one that's easier to criticize. Assume good faith.

Re-stated my argument in a much more negative and judgemental way then attacking it doesn't feel like a good faith argument or trying to argue the strongest interpretation but YMMV.


>I was comparing supermarket breads in Europe and the US

Every major supermarket I've ever been to in the US and Canada has a million styles of bread, including many freshly baked right there at the store.

>but ultimately we're talking about a lower quality product at a higher price

Do you have evidence for lower quality, outside of the roundly debunked "shelf life" argument? Or are these your preferences?


A million styles of bad bread in comparison to any one of the cheap loaves available in a German market. In many major US supermarkets, the freshly baked product is worse than the stale packaged product. Try it at your local albertsons or walmart. It's acceptable if you eat it warm and after that you can use it as a sponge to soak up spills. The $7 artisan whatever quarter of a loaf at Whole Foods is maybe in the same ballpark as what you find in Germany and you still have to be lucky enough to get it fresh. The normal packaged rectangular bread loaves people buy in the US are what we called "toaster bread" in Europe (bread to only be eaten toasted).

What would you consider objectively lower quality anyway? Is use of preservatives and corn syrup lower quality, or is that a preference for shelf life and sweets? Is a McDonalds burger low quality or is that just preference? I can take you to a generic bakery in my old rural small town in Germany where the 25-cent pretzel would blow the socks off any pretzel you can find for any price in any store in the US, but maybe you'd call that preference.


I love how long the bread argument thread is getting.

Reminds me of coffee discussions. “Peet’s is good coffee!”, “No it’s shit, you don’t know good coffee!”, “You just have an unsophisticated palate!”.


My experience (Germany) is different: You can't get a good bread in super markets here. Heck you can't even get a good bread at specialized bakeries (with some very rare exceptions). I bake my own bread as a result.


Are you comparing this to the US or some other country, or just broadly speaking? I have had better breads than Germany in other countries, and I've had bad supermarket breads in Germany, so I can agree there, but when comparing to the US it's like comparing apples to sawdust.


> “I have different values, I don’t understand mainstream American values in this or that regard so let me tell you why they suck and why we’re better than you”.

If your "values" are medically unhealthy... I'll let you draw your own conclusions ;-)


In a HN thread about bread some time ago, someone living in California protested that one could get top quality European style bread basically everywhere. I looked it up and the bread they recommended comes from a single industrial bakery that supplies the whole state of California.

So yeah, there's that thing again where they don't know that better is possible.


Industrial bakers can’t make good bread?


Good but not great, because that's what they choose to do. Plus there's the shipping delay and its effect on freshness.


I had a colleague who came over from Norway - not known as a center of culinary excellence - and complained about the bread. I suggested that he should find a Jewish or Italian bakery, which he did, and then he was happy. It kind of sucks that decent bread is only available here in specialty stores and not alongside everything else in the grocery store, but that's how it is.

P.S. This advice was hyper-local (near Boston). Just a few miles away, I'm sure there are great Armenian bakeries and I would have suggested those. In some other city, who even knows? Local patterns vary, but there always seems to be someone filling this niche.


It's the same in the UK, where most of the bread you can get is basically intended for a toaster.

But, it's down to volume and consumption; in my country (NL), bread is a daily staple, often featured in two meals a day - so a family will easily go through a loaf a day. It makes more sense to optimize the production and logistics for a shelf life of days instead of weeks. We can get reasonably fresh (factory-produced) bread daily, and a lot of grocery stores have an in-house bakery as well nowadays if you want to go super fancy. (I'm sure that's a logistical optimization as well, that is, dough or its components are easier to transport than ready-made bread, especially because some (like croissants) are very fragile).


I might be reaching a bit (also a tangent), but a lot of US's problems are rooted in their urban design and sprawl.

From my experience, Americans often do grocery once every couple of weeks, because the super market is usually a non-trivial drive away.

I can see how a lot of their foods developed to accommodate that shopping cycle, and forced preservatives that make things last those 2-3 weeks while compromising on freshness and taste.


> From my experience, Americans often do grocery once every couple of weeks, because the super market is usually a non-trivial drive away.

Overwhelming majority of Americans live less than 20 minutes drive from a proper grocery story (i.e. not a gas station convenience store), and most probably live 10 minutes drive. In my metropolitan area of 4 million, I can't think of a place that's more than 10 minutes from a large supermarket.

Americans don't do grocery shopping very often simply because it's such a waste of time: there are 5 large supermarkets (two Safeways, one QFC, one Whole Foods and one local chain) 5 minutes drive from my home, and there's also Costco 10 minutes drive. Despite that, I go grocery shopping once a week, because it usually takes an hour. Doing this more often would replace one hour-long trip with three 45 minutes trip. Since the drive is only 5 minutes, living literally next to them wouldn't change my habits much.

Also, let me assure you that most Europeans don't live in 5 minutes walking distance from grocery stores, so the travel time here is not what makes the habits different.


I think you are right. My individual situation is different, but it may just be an exception that tests the rule.

And even though we have a selection 2 to 3 stores in 20 minutes drive ( one we could walk to if we chose to forego convenience of one trip a week ), I remember living in locations where access was not as simple.


I actually hosted some couch surfers from the UK and other places in the world while in Germany. I had a local market with an old bakery(remember that even in Germany the great majority of bakers are now a handful of companies) very close to my place.

The bread they bake is genius it has just the right amount(little) sourness and never tastes soaky, crispy around but soft inside.

But the point being is that some of the couchsurfers would hilariously laugh at the strangeness of having bread that isn't white fluffy toast. I got that reaction from Brits and South Americans. The French would appreciate it and the cheese choices with it.

The UK is an interesting little phenomenon IMHO. Not quite the US but also not quite Europe. In a lot of ways more similar to the US(not always in a bad way). You also get plenty of HFCS there


Are you sure things have HFCS in the U.K.? What’s it labelled as? I often look at ingredients and only ever notice “sugar” ie. sucrose


I have never seen high fructose corn syrup in the UK. There is a bunch of chat right now about not watering down our food (and other) standards to allow US-quality food here after/if Brexit happens.

FWIW brown bread in the UK has been "a thing" since well before I was born, so there there is not just an expectation for white.

I would wager that the typical couch surfer is the sort of person who as well as focusing on value on where they choose to sleep probably also subsists on fairly cheap basic foods.

Certainly in the past decade or two the UK you'll see a lot more variety in what you can get even in convenience stores in London: white, brown, granary, soda, rye, sourdough, bagels, barbari, boule brioche, baguette, challa, chapati, ciabatta - you name it. It all seems to get sold and presumably eaten. Not saying it is any good of particularly authentic or "correct" but there is a lot of variety in the most common of shops.


I didn't know we had HFCS in the UK. What products contain it?


Most supermarkets in the UK have in store bakeries. Buying fresh, good quality bread, including sourdough, etc. is easy.

I don’t recognise your statement on most bread being made for a toaster.

Edit: admittedly not as good as some other European countries.


Life hack: if you want fresh yeast in the UK go to Tesco’s or Sainsbury’s bakery counters, they’ll sell you it by weight.


Until quite recently (five years ago) they didn't charge you for it. It's only a few pence though.


In Poland the in-house bakery in a grocery store is the cheap and convenient way to get bread if you can't be bothered to get actual quality (not made from deeply frozen dough).

So if the Polish baseline is super fancy for NL, NL is better than UK and UK baseline is artisanal US bread, I wonder what baseline US bread looks like. It's made of sponge and sugar?


It's made of sponge and sugar?

Yes, pretty much. It’s very bad.


Good grief. What kind of bread are you buying? I can find terrible bread in Europe too. There is a lot of great bread in the US. People, in these discussions like to take the very worst example of dollar-store bread and compare it to a dedicated boulangerie in Paris, however French supermarket sandwich bread can be just as terrible as the American equivalent. But go to an American bakery and the bread is really good.

It’s popular to characterize American stuff as “bad,” but America is a huge country.

Tortillas in France are pretty terrible and good luck finding a Jalapeño or a Habenero, but in any grocery store in the US, I can find high quality ingredients to make almost anything. Try finding a spice in the average French grocery store any stronger than “hot” Paprika.

These “other countries are better than the US” arguments are ridiculous. In the US, you have access to pretty much anything you want. Mostly not true in many European countries and definitely not true outside the capitals.



I bought some bread from Safeway earlier this year in August. I called the number on the package when the bread started to mould within four days of me buying it.

Outside of New York City area, I wouldn't think of doing groceries more than once a week. The place I've lived at are all terrible in terms of how grocery stores are walkable.


Here in the Netherlands I believe bread also starts to mould after four days. My solution is to have a stockpile in the freezer.


That's not a sign of bad bread. If you bake your own bread, you may find it also molds in 4 days, depending on your climate and how you store it.

I'm more leery of manufactured breads that keep forever.


Get a Zojirushi brand bread maker, buy your grains off Amazon, and bake your own bread. It's really the only way in the Americas...

Once you get into the swing of it, you can whittle it down to 10 minutes of preparation in the morning, set it on automatic timer, and have fresh, hot bread waiting for you when you get home from work. Just make sure the yeast is in a pile on top so that it stays dry during the day.


You say this like you don't trip over bagged bread in every supermarket in Europe. Including some places that have essentially crustless white bread slices in a bag.

(Source, traveling around Europe now, with recent experience of French, Portuguese, and Spanish grocery stores)


Maybe you should consider importing a consumer bread making machine from europe :)

(in case anybody wonders what that is, see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bread_machine)


The trick to finding real bread in the U.S. is to skip the “bread aisle” in grocery stores like Safeway. Instead, look to shelves in the bakery section for fresh-baked, un-sliced whole loaves of bread without sugar added.


Even that is a crap shoot. Here I end up buying a national brand that comes in frozen:

https://www.pepperidgefarm.com/product-finder?category=ecce-...

Nothing local has a crumb anything like https://www.pepperidgefarm.com/product/multi-grain-boule/


At that price you should just make your own bread if you care about the flavor of bread. Bread makers aren't that expensive if you really desire the convenience of not having to kneed anything.


To be fair, it’s often difficult to find good bread in many countries. In asia it seems to be down to whether there are still french influences in the city you’re in.

Good chocolate is even rarer. I’m from belgium and chocolate abroad is almost always disappointing. Most of the time if you look at the composition it wouldn’t actually be allowed to even call it chocolate when selling it in belgium.


I think there is something to this, but in my experience they just don't care. Their stuff is optimized for their own cultural values, which you perhaps expect to be more like your own than they are.

I have had American visitors marvel at the (German built) windows in my French home, calling them something you'd see on a space station. On the other hand they think I must be having money problems for not having a tumble dryer (only poor people hang their laundry to dry) or not having airco.


Could be.

I find it amusing that from a climate change point of view, both their comments are basically negative:

* good windows provide better insulation and reduce the need to heat/cool down a building, plus their reduce dampness since they keep moisture out

* while a tumble dryer uses electricity for something which is not much of a chore (it takes like, 5 minutes, to hang the laundry and 5 more minutes to pick it up when it's done)


A lot of Americans consider hanging clothes to be unsightly (it's even become an idiom: "Don't air your dirty laundry in public"). Some apartment managers will even get mad at you and ask you to stop or hang them indoors if you do.

There's also an issue with general social cohesion, inequality, and safety in American urban environments: many people are afraid people will steal their clothes if they just hang them up for a while. This is less of an issue in small rural towns, and indeed, hanging your clothes out to dry in your yard is considered more socially acceptable in small towns.


Hanging laundry in the UK is also kinda in the same condition - in your own back garden fine, but if you live in an apartment with a balcony it is usually a 100% hard no to hanging laundry.

Personally I never liked the smell of clothes that had hung dry, much preferred them "done properly" in the drier :)


>I find it amusing that from a climate change point of view, both their comments are basically negative:

It's almost like countries like Germany (350k sq km area) and the US (10 million sq km) have different climates and needs. This thread is filled with Europeans saying, "I went to the US once, and their grocery store didn't have produce like my French neighborhood market!"


You're making so many assumptions in 1 short comment that it's hard to dismiss all of them without writing a novel. But still, this is HN, so let's go:

- I'm not German and most of my points apply in quite a bit of the EU

- the EU is about 4m sqkm, which while smaller than the US, puts them in roughly the same ballpark (they'd both qualify as "huge countries")

- the EU as a whole has at least as diverse climates as the US

- I'm not even sure what to respond to the "needs" part

- I've been to the US more than once, to different places

Let's track back a bit and find out what exactly your argument against high quality German windows is.

Is it that you don't need them in hot climates? You do, to reduce the need for cooling.

Is it that you don't need them in cold climates? I don't even know what to reply to this :-)

Is it that you don't need them in Mediterranean climates, a la California (stable relatively warm and dry climate)? Even there, there is variation, houses do need heating and cooling and it can't hurt to have better windows. I'll grant you this, but that's probably an area which is 1/30th or less of the US territory.

Or was it about normal drying vs tumble drying? The only solid argument against normal drying that I can find is that normal drying requires more space (and a bit more time, but you can easily plan around that). But US homes, on average, are way bigger than EU homes. So Americans could easily find room to dry their clothes. If I can do it in 65sqm, an American definitely can do it in 120+ sqm.


>the EU as a whole has at least as diverse climates as the US

It's laughable to talk about "the EU" as if it's in any way homogeneous. It's an economic union, not a country. We are talking about France and Germany, which are tiny and far less diverse in their climate than the US.

>I'm not even sure what to respond to the "needs" part

Perhaps you're unaware that there are places in the US that have frigid winters, and others that have debilitating summer heat. But please, tell us about how you don't need air conditioning in France. That fact is relevant to those in Arizona.

>Let's track back a bit and find out what exactly your argument against high quality German windows is.

My argument here is that it's ridiculous to think that we don't have or use "high quality windows" in North America because you once had friends over to your home that were impressed.


> My argument here is that it's ridiculous to think that we don't have or use "high quality windows" in North America because you once had friends over to your home that were impressed.

That is indeed ridiculous, I agree! You're the one inferring that story though. I'm not about to write an essay with quotations of industry figures and national polls here.


> My argument here is that it's ridiculous to think that we don't have or use "high quality windows" in North America because you once had friends over to your home that were impressed.

I'm not the original poster :-)


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> even though it's against the rules to downvote someone because you disagree.

No, this is not true: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=16131314


> You have offended Europeans, therefore you get tons of downvotes

From the Guidelines:

> Please don't comment about the voting on comments. It never does any good, and it makes boring reading.

Also:

> Be kind. Don't be snarky. Comments should get more thoughtful and substantive, not less, as a topic gets more divisive.


Please follow the guidelines as follows: > Be kind. Don't be snarky. Comments should get more thoughtful and substantive, not less, as a topic gets more divisive.


Also, clothes last longer, so it promotes reuse.


I didn’t mention this in my original post and I kinda wish I did now, seeing the replies.

I am American. I grew up in Texas and generally feel at home with other Americans (to a degree, politics is weird).

At times in my life I’ve thought about moving back to the US and I still thought that it was easier to pay the quality of life costs of being a foreigner in other countries (being half illiterate and having a hard time with banking and real estate) rather than deal with the quality of life gap in the US.

My life would not be bad in America, but I feel like it would be less comfortable. In the future the feeling of belongingness might outweigh this, but right now that’s not the case, and it makes me sad


Ah, plot twist. Yep, I assumed you were not from the US. I hope you find the perfect place for you!


I had to live without a clothes drier and it felt like being a student again.

There is a reason they call them modern conveniences.


Yet I'm not inconvenienced. The expense would be trivial to me.


After hanging the laundry outside, won't you need to wash it again? Most countries have things birds, rodents, and pollen.

Do you always have dry non-freezing weather? If the humidity stays high, the clothes will get moldy before they dry. If the temperature is low, you'll get ice in your clothes. There may even be rain.


What can I say? These are just not issues to me. It's not that I choose the hard life willingly.

The clothes dry on a rack next to the washing machine. I have a large enough house with wooden floors and high ceilings that the humidity is not an issue.


One of the small, but significant things I noticed about German apartments was the lipped 'bezel'[1], where the door and the frame fit snugly into each other and there is a rubber/plastic seal between the door and the frame. This is a big deal in an apartment, because it reduces noise, reduces drafts, and eliminates the need to heat more than one room at a time. Also, the door itself seems to be very solid, you'd have to hit it with quite some force to make a dent - none of this cardboard sandwiched between 2 slides of thin MDF nonsense. I'm not from the US, I've just noticed this in Germany coming from another European country with less quality interior finishings.

[1] https://www.reddit.com/r/InteriorDesign/comments/8ths03/germ...


Thank you for linking this, I noticed this in every apartment I lived in Germany and was wondering what is it called. The door frame had rubber/plastic dampener that would literally create a vaccum like effect when closing (i.e the room door would slam if I closed the balcony door).

They really made a difference in terms of inside temperature.

Also the ability to tilt windows and even doors (vertically) was an amazing feature.


That's pretty standard feature in Italy, it's called door frame and it's basically everywhere, even on cheap doors.

I didn't know it wasn't common all over Europe.


Yeah, it is strange for me too. I live in Poland and such doors are the only kind that is being sold - it protects one from the winters.


It's not standard everywhere. My theory is that furniture and home fittings like doors have not really been disrupted by the internet (perhaps because of high shipping costs and bulky sized items). Therefore, there is wide variance in cost and quality from country to country.


Hah! And I have completely the opposite experience - with the exception of modern American cars of course (still miss my 90s Chrysler Saratoga!) Europe is very often about the looks and the function is secondary.

The most recent example - Vaillant vs Honeywell heating controllers. Vaillant looks fancy with decorative, smoothly flowing elements, knobs and fancy backlight, and the Honeywell unit is, well, spartan: big LCD letters, primitive graphics. Vaillant is crazy - it is too slow to react on temperature changes, the interface is just horrible: imagine no escape or back button - you just have to idle a minute to go back to the "main screen." It takes 30 seconds or so to connect wirelessly to the boiler, sometimes it fails or even freezes and requires a reset, and I can go on forever. I hate the fucking thing. Honeywell... Well it just works.


I wonder if this is because Vaillant is really a boiler company, so they are good at things involving gas and water, whereas Honeywell are an electronics company, so they're good at things involving electricity and information.


Every place I've lived in for the past 20 years here in the UK has had a Honeywell thermostat. They're pretty much the standard in cheap houses.


> Everything is super different and weird and kinda bad, and nobody seems to notice.

I have this a bit uneasy impression[1] that a really significant chunk of US is basically a developing country with bigger cars.

[1] Based only on visiting a few developing countries as well as a few states of US. Not on any statistics or data whatsoever.


Comparing the US to third world countries makes me think you never really visited a developing country. Maybe just flew through the airport?


To be honest, I have spent way more time in developing countries[1] than in US. Even some time in the least developed counties to understand that the developing/least developed countries are a really diverse group. As is US in my humble and limited opinion. Wealthier areas of developing countries and not so wealthy areas of US are easily comparable in many measures in my opinion.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Developing_country


[flagged]


I don't think I can get behind that sentiment. The USA is in another league from third world countries in most of those categories (except maybe gun violence and incarceration).

Ignoring Super-PACs for a second, we don't need to grease some palms to get things done in this country. USA does not rank that high in corruption. It's not that big a part of day to day government compared to countries that have a serious problem. We have effective government institutaions. Fox news is not state run, it panders to one political party that happens to be in power.

The metric system is not the best example or even a good one. I'm not going to defend the decision, but it's simply a tough thing to handle politically. Depite the issues that it causes, it's not a good indicator of living conditions in a country. It's a costly nuisance more than anything.

I can definitely agree we have our issues. Specifically, high incarceration rates, medicare, and infrastructure. These are issues I'm very upset about. That doesn't make us a third world country though. Just below average (amoung developed countries). You have to be delutional or out of touch if you think living in the USA is like living in a third world country.


Funny story about that, the US is actually metric [0]

Still doesn't stop the nutters from opposing it because it's supposedly a tool by the NWO to take over the world, with the US remaining as sole resistance [1]

[0] https://youtu.be/SmSJXC6_qQ8

[1] https://youtu.be/8jl5epgqHac


Funny story? Not a funny story. We are not metric. We would be metric if you bought items in metric. We do not. Doesn't matter what the scientist use. It matters what milk and bread is sold in. We buy drinks in liters and gallons. Those are not metric.


>It matters what milk and bread is sold in.

The FPLA requires metric units to be included on labeling.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fair_Packaging_and_Labeling_Ac...

https://www.nist.gov/standardsgov/compliance-faqs-packaging-...


Yeah, we all see metric on the items we buy. None of us understand what that means. We understand 1 Gallon, not 3.785411784 L.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_customary_units


To the contrary, I've seen 3.8L or 3.78L written on every gallon jug for my entire lifetime. I know that conversion off the top of my head... even before I had mandatory science classes where I formally learned the same.

But even if you haven't read any of the text on a milk jug over the past half-century, surely you've seen one of these before?:

https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/71x5rVYbJUL...


They said the same thing here in the UK years ago (the 90s I think) when they started forcing labels on food to have metric.

"I want a pound of sugar, not 453g!"

Turns out the world didn't actually burn down. The containers mostly stayed the same size, but I think they slowly gravitated towards logical sizes (so e.g. that 453g package became 500g or 400g at some point)


Litres are metric?


Yep, one litre is equal to 1 dm3 or 1 kg of water.


It’s not until I was forced to live in Europe due to circumstances that I realized that there exists a much better life than the North American one. Even though I’m in the East (Ukraine), everything is better here. Everything, especially the food, the prices, and the lack of racial tensions and militarized police. The only thing I miss here is trying to fill the emptiness in life with same-day Amazon junk delivered to my door.


> lack of racial tensions

Is this because of lack of diversity or actually accommodating masses ? Genuine question.


Both. Maybe the latter is caused by the former.


Well, just glide about 1000 km west and you can still have Amazon :p


In the US the power of large corporations seems to have run amok a bit allowing them to foist crappy bread, chocolate etc. In Europe things are more regulated and it seems easier for local producers to not be wiped out by the large corporates. I think the US need some political reform so it's less easy to buy political influence.


Yes it's regulations, but there's another factor too: population density. In Paris for example, you can find food markets where stuff is brought from small farms and is ridiculously cheap, right in the city central areas, though often hidden in the back alleys. The reason this works is that this type of commerce doesn't require marketing: local people just see it and use it. Only possible in higher density population areas.

I think this is one of America's problems: living far apart from each other has a lot of disadvantages and inefficiencies. Homes are much more expensive to build and maintain (just think of the road infrastructure and all the utilities alone). In a typical suburban there can be virtually no public areas other than shopping malls, which are owned by someone.

There's also research that confirms people are more productive in higher density areas from the point of view of economics.

We'll have to see if America can fix itself by moving to bigger cities, which seems to be the current trend among the millennials and younger, I hear.


Ridiculous generalization. In my suburb, we have a bikepath that runs along a protected area, a lake, and a park area. Nearby (within 100m) is an elementary school with an open 10 acre field. The nearest shopping center is 2 miles away.

What all the metrophiles advocating for the abolishment of suburbia either willfully forget or misunderstand, is that people like the suburbs. Especially people raising families.


I talked about this earlier in the thread, and I strongly believe that their urban design decisions have shaped and in-turn damaged a massive part of their lifestyle.

Car dependence, massive maintenance costs, density that's too low to support any social or public programs....so many problems created by an idea that is described as the American dream.


Decent parks are much more common in the US than huge shopping malls.


Still pretty limiting. Can you have a farm market in the park? Street performances? Protests/rallies? Small towns are not only inefficient, they are also very limiting. Just merge a bunch of typical American suburbs into a city with denser population and see how life becomes so much more full of opportunities and experiences.


The park here is pretty nice, it has a band shell, the city band and other groups use it lots during the nice weather. They also setup a portable stage in another area of the park and have some performances by the yacht club.

There's no space for a farmer's market in the park, but there is a dedicated space on main street.

It is a very nice park, and is quite large. In addition to the above, there are tennis courts, a relatively modern kids playground, a pavilion, accessible fishing piers, a basketball court, sand volleyball courts, a softball backstop, many picnic tables and grills and benches, a disc golf course, a few miles of multiuse trail, a public beach that is guarded during the summer, a boat launch, a decent marina and a sledding hill. There's also a historic lighthouse and small museum.

This is just a normal small town on Lake Michigan (the members of the Yacht Club have medium sized sail boats...). I guess the density matches up with lots of older suburbs, more dense than a lot of newer stuff, but not a lot of large apartment buildings either.


> foist crappy bread

A more charitable interpretation is "American consumers care more about price than quality."

Or perhaps it's a market for lemons. American consumers don't know which products are of good quality, and don't want to pay extra for the same quality, so they buy cheap to not be taken advantage of.

There is nothing stopping people from making good bread and chocolate in the US, and many do. They would/will succeed in the market if the demand is there. Trouble is, even though people will tell you they're willing to pay a bit more for nice things, for the most part those preferences don't come out where it matters -- in supermarket aisles.


This is it. Americans by and large care about price and quantity. Next comes basic taste sensations (sweet, salty, ect). We'll eat things others would turn their nose up to, as long as it has sugar, or is loaded with cheese. Boxed cardboard with frosting. Freshness, delicate taste/texture, simplicity of ingredients, buying local, ect. all take a back seat to price, quantity, and being "tasty" (but not as in well put together and balanced, just in terms of the comfort/dopamine hit).

I've had others from overseas comment on this. The nice restaurants with the freshest, highest quality foods, and really talented chefs take a back seat to cheap lowest common denominator choices. The "mexican" place with $1 tacos and $2 margaritas is packed, and the great spanish restaurant next door is empty.


There was an interesting anecdote from Scott Adams, the Dilbert guy about when he launched a burrito called the Dilberto. He got it in supermarkets but the merchandisers from large brands would go around the stores and shove them to the back of the shelf and their products in front. It's hard for small producers who can afford merchandisers to compete with that kind of thing. I see you point but the playing field is kind of tilted.


Wait. Your theory as to why there are differences in chocolate between the Us and Europe is paid political influence?

Or you know, it could just be differences in tastes!


>In Europe things are more regulated

Meanwhile, they are rioting over gas taxes and speed limit changes.


"I go to peoples houses in the US sometimes. Some of these houses are multimillion dollar homes."

Where in the US? First mistake is acting as if a house built in northern California is representative of a house built in rural Maine, or suburban Texas.

If you think it's remotely monolithic, it absolutely isn't. But there's definitely a pattern of lower quality building in very high-growth, high cost of living areas where the property's value isn't related much to the building, but mostly reflective of the land and it's location.


I agree with this comment. I don't know the actual cut off, but having done a lot of home shopping and some home owning, I'd suggest you look for houses built before the 1980s, and if you can afford it, in the less dense suburbs and rural areas. Say a place with an acre or more. Bet you'll find it was built with some care. Look at the standard 1/2 acre or less suburban development from the 1980s forward, though, and it's cookie cutter, cheap supplies, tight deadlines. Of course that's a generalization, but I feel like there's a broad spectrum of build quality to be found in the United States.


I've seen videos of people tripping in their home and punching a hole in the drywall.

My apartment in the Netherlands is 100% drywall but I need to run into it at full force to even make a dent. To make a hole in it I need tools.


> I've seen videos of people tripping in their home and punching a hole in the drywall

Did that last year. Went to stretch and pressed my palms firmly on the wall and one side punched in. Apartment complex made me fix it too. You could also easily hear neighbors and whatever domestic dispute they were having that week. I live in a nice place now. Advertised as "luxury", but everything still seems cheaply built


I think a lot of this is that people don't know what to look for, so they buy based on appearance rather than quality.


America has a trade deficit of ~600 billion, which roughly equates to every American having $2,000 to spend buying stuff from overseas. Then on top of that there are all the services America exports.

If foreigners are willing to give Americans stuff for paper there is a real pressure for Americans not to bother making stuff and printing more paper instead. That probably influences a lot of the decisions behind American made consumer goods.

> The cheapest studio apartment in Western Europe or Japan ends up with better infrastructure than the $2M duplex in California.

I live a long way from California, but the first stop should always be to check the local tax code, financial incentives and regulations. Most countries I've been to end up having strange tax incentives that influence how much money gets spent on primary residences; and taxes can put a real dampener on what gets done. I speak mainly from experience in Australia where there are massive tax incentives for a person to spend money on their primary home.


True. In Finland where taxation is high, you get a certain sum per year that you can hire home improvement work without tax. (Ie you can deduce it from your taxes). Also makes tax avoidance a little less attractive.


I live in Australia.

What are the tax incentives to spending money on my home?


When you spend money on your house the value of that house increases. When you sell your primary residence, it isn't caught by the Capital Gains Tax. So essentially if you are looking for a place to park money you have two choices:

1) Put it in your primary residence. Wealth is stored, no future tax liability, you are more comfortable

2) Buy a productive asset. Wealth stored, you will pay capital gains tax on the asset price rises due to asset inflation.

The most tax-effective place to store money long term is capital improvements to your primary residence, mainly due to how inflation and CGT interact. And the capital value of the property could reasonably rise more than the cost of the work done.

There are risks but there is also a lot of incentive to remodel the kitchen or upgrade something if money is available.


Thanks for clearing that up.


roenxi is possibly talking about the main residence CGT exemption.


This is a slight aside but the Wikipedia article on Galápagos syndrome is kind of interesting:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gal%C3%A1pagos_syndrome

It seems like a pretty useful metaphor that I wasn't familiar with.


I remember thumbing through the CR car ratings book in the early 1980s and the track record of American cars was terrible (by comparison) even then. The Japanese cars were consistently good. So I don't think it's 30 years of wage stagnation either.


My thoughts exactly.

Those of us “of a certain age” will remember that this is not new at all.

I can’t speculate on the reasons, but I agree about standard quality levels being higher in Japan and Western Europe; but so are costs.


I'd speculate that it is because people still buy them regardless.

That may sound overly simplistic but I think there's an element of truth to it. Foreign vehicle companies needed to fight to gain market share in the US, often needing to be much better just to be compared as equals. Look at KIA recently doing so, now they're doing very well reliability wise and offer a substantial free warranty, but ask random people and they'll be described as unreliable foreign cars.

The real mystery is why Americans still buy American made cars. The foreign competition has eclipsed them for whole generations at this point, but yet demand remains.


Americans generally don't buy American cars, right? We buy American-made trucks.

The US imposed a 25% tax on imported light trucks and has for decades (the "chicken tax"). I think that this has resulted in a weird distortion where American auto makers focus heavily on that one more profitable market segment, and advertise most heavily on that one market segment, and have done so for generations.


I think the Ford F-150 is the best-selling vehicle made by US companies.

There's a reason that Musk is building a Tesla truck.


So you may be right, but I'll point out that if your sample of American housing is "California" you're getting a biased sample. The housing stock in California (and particularly the Bay Area) is uniquely terrible in the U.S, for a variety of reasons:

1.) Much of the housing in Silicon Valley was built in the 1950s and 60s by a wave of migrants coming to work in the nascent defense & semiconductor industries there, sometimes with their own hands. They'd go to the hardware store, buy some lumber and build a house, something you definitely can't do today. Oftentimes they were in a rush to do so because they'd just taken a job in the area and were otherwise living in a tent. Of the ones that are professionally built, they were often quickly mass-produced to keep up with the flood of new migrants.

2.) There are a variety of disincentives to upgrading your house from the original build: you have to bring it up to the (now vastly upgraded) building codes, you need to deal with the year-long permitting process, you often need to get written permission from your neighbors if you're doing something big like adding a second story or rebuilding the house, you may lose your Prop 13 grandfathering if the value changes significantly. That's why you end up with ridiculous situations where the land under your house is worth $1.5M and the structure is worth $100K.

3.) California has forgiving weather. You can get away with stupid stuff like having doors & windows that don't completely seal, no heating (let alone air conditioning), no basements, etc.

4.) California has unforgiving natural disasters. Between earthquakes, wildfires, termites, mudslides, and floods, it's often not worth sinking a lot into your primary residence if it's just gonna get destroyed with the next earthquake anyway.

I lived in Massachusetts before California and there were houses in my town still standing from the 1700s. They were a bit drafty since they still had the original windows from then, but the build quality was a lot better than what you see in California.


> The cheapest studio apartment in Western Europe or Japan ends up with better infrastructure than the $2M duplex in California

This is a strange comparison, housing prices depend on many different factors and you can get really crappy small apartments (including the plumbing) in expensive parts of London or Monaco for that kind of money.

If the $2m home in California has mediocre doors and plumbing, it's probably just due to lack of attention/clue by previous owners, possibly also from abundance of crappy plumbers because everyone in the business makes plenty of money from rich people in the area.


There are plenty of shoddy new build expensive properties in the UK - I've been amazed when looking at some new properties how poor the fit and finish is but they still sell.


UK housing standards, especially the plumbing, is a joke.

Tiles misaligned, not sealed off, some bathrooms have no tiles but a bulge-ridden plastic ground cover. All the cupboards are loose. Doors don’t close. I have to manually fuck around with the boiler to get water for my shower. And it still has low pressure. It’s atrocious.

No idea where that comes from. I have a feeling that there’s a disregard for craftsmen. Plumbers, joiners, painters, are all looked down upon. There’s no pride in doing a good job in these areas.


Yes but so many of them are built and sell as investments that are banking on an ever-inflating property market. I guess it's also what happened in most of the US to drive the quality down.

I wouldn't bundle the UK in with the rest of Western Europe. We're much more interested in the American model.


If you want to see shoddy new buildings, go to Sydney.

Third Sydney apartment block abandoned

https://thebrag.com/third-sydney-apartment-block-abandoned/


Yeah, ROI (so not UK but similar in many respects) and I feel like the construction here is utter crap. Hell, houses are now being sold with 10 year structural warranties (rather short, that) because of a history of houses falling down because of pyrite. Nevermind that we always feel 20-30 years behind everyone else; god help you if you want a timber frame, or for that matter have a heritage building where the builders just slop cement on top of the walls (thus starting the destruction of the lime mortar).

The OP's comments remind me of how much nicer everything seems on the continent, groceries included (though increasingly everyone shops at Aldi/Lidl anyway)


Aldi and Lidl's quality is overall better in Ireland because they use local suppliers for certain items. The dairy and meat in Germany is quite low quality for example, although the beer is way better and cheaper in Germany.


When I worked in Germany people didn't seem to buy much meat or baked goods in Aldi/Lidl, there was always a local butcher or baker. In the UK nearly all the independent bakers and butchers disappeared years ago.


Yep particularly in London. Absolutely every new build is advertised as "luxury apartments", but it is all thrown up as quickly as possible to sell either to desperate people trying to get away from renting, or sold off-plan to investors who leave them empty as the price goes up, or to buy to let landlords. A lot of work is done by unskilled labour picked-up in the back of transit vans from street corners on a day by day basis, paid cash in hand.

Landlords especially don't care about quality so long as the yield is good. Who gives a shit if you can hear the neighbors behaving sex or taking a piss if you are not living there, but someone else is paying you £1500-3000 a month for the pleasure? A fancy "luxury" apartment with a flash looking kitchen worktop and fashionable bathroom allows charging a premium.

Any damage or breakage of the low quality construction comes out of the tenants' deposit at the end of the tenancy, and repairs are tax deductible too.


Having lived in Japan for a significant portion of my life, I would really disagree with you on all of this.

I lived in a very expensive, up scale apartment in Japan, and everything in it was very poor quality in comparison to the quality of my (not mcmansion) house in the US. My doors are good quality, plumbing works fine, furniture is much nicer and less expensive by an order of magnitude.

I do most of my grocery shopping at Aldis, and certainly you can get fresh fish more easily at the corner grocery in Japan, but otherwise the selection is better even at Aldis than at most groceries in Japan. There's nothing like a Wegmans or a Harris Teeter in Japan at all that I ever saw -- maybe somewhere upscale in Tokyo or something.


> The UX is awful

Wait, what UX does a fridge need? Mine just has a scroll wheel which goes from cool to cold.


Well, the fridge needs to be opened, closed, has inner compartments, you need to be able to regulate the temperature, possibly to let the user know the fridge is running/which temperature is inside... all this happens in the kitchen, possibly with dirty hands, or with wet hands, or while you're holdin ga handful of things... that's all UX-related aspects.

The Design of Everyday Things, by Donald Norman, had a nice example of how even the wheels for regulating the temperature can be very confusing (and indeed, in basic fridges you don't regulate the temperature, you set a number on the scrollwheel e.g. between 1-7. But is 7 a higher temperature or higher cooling power?).


- When you open a door, its hinges don't provide nearly enough friction so it starts closing immediately, instead of being able to be propped open (like when you're cooking and holding other stuff so need time to take stuff out)

- The drawers are all basically impossible to use without fully opening the door, but (see above) fully opening the door makes it swing back super hard as well so now you're fighting two different parts of your fridge at once

- It's huge but somehow the space inside the fridge is super small compared to comparable fridges. Probably a shelf thing.

- Some of the design leads to little cracks that are hard to clean up without pinching yourself with the door.

It's basically door-related stuff but it's also stuff I don't experience with my ... $200? Fridge from Hitachi. I feel like my own fridge is fine. It's a fridge. Nothing to write home about. It would probably get a wirecutter recommendation if they did "small-ish fridges for 1-2 people"


One important user interaction for a fridge is that when the door is open you grasp the handle and push toward to the body of the fridge, three things happen:

1) The door glides smoothly on its hinge toward the body.

2) The door connects with the body and provides haptic feedback that it is closed

3) The door remains closed.

The last one is the most important because user will likely walk away and stop monitoring the state of the fridge. If it changes to an open-state, it could remain open and thereby let the food inside spoil.


"Mine just has a scroll wheel which goes from cool to cold."

It not having a touch screen doesn't mean there is no UX.


American fridges have falcon wing doors with door knobs instead of handles


The handle, the different compartments, the drawers, …. That’s all part of the UX.


Of course there needs to be a clock that you then need to switch between daylight savings and normal time.


I go to peoples houses in the US sometimes. Some of these houses are multimillion dollar homes. The doors are all terrible. The plumbing is crap. The furniture just feels bad. The cheapest studio apartment in Western Europe or Japan ends up with better infrastructure than the $2M duplex in California

I think there’s truth in this, but the factors behind it are tricky. Unlike something like bread, it’s not easy for consumers to actively choose good plumbing over bad plumbing.

Installing new plumbing is something you do very rarely. Most often it’s done by a developer rather than the person who will actually live in a property. And when you’re buying or renting a property, plumbing quality is lower priority than other factors, notably price and location.

So developers go for the cheapest option they can get away with, property owners don’t necessarily like it but don’t push back enough because they have bigger concerns, and the result is that most plumbing is low quality.

Even if you yourself are the developer, it’s hard to ensure decent quality unless you spend a lot of money, do a lot of research, have a lot of time available, or ideally all three.

I’ve learned this to my own cost - on a renovation project, we ended up with some crappy fittings and crappy installation because we didn’t manage it closely enough and the builders don’t care. I would like nice stuff, but how do I get it?

Edit to clarify: I think building standards are driven much more by builders than by homeowners. I’d like to know more about the driving factors - is it purely a matter of cost? I hope not, because that suggests everything everywhere will inevitably become crap.


> I’d like to know more about the driving factors - is it purely a matter of cost?

My thesis on this is that people do what they can get away with. If you think you can get away with really low quality stuff, you do that.

Definitely helps to have a housing shortage, where there's probably no other choice anyways. So everything is cheap (since there's no incentive to make a nice place. You're gonna get someone in the apartment anyways!) and so nobody actually knows what "nice" is and just assume it's normal to be able to punch through your door.


I got the very same impression when I visited the US, particularly about housing and furniture. But I don't quite trust it: there must be a lot of quality metrics where the American stuff shines which I don't even recognize, for exactly the same reasons you named. But in the end I guess I still agree, chances are it's not even half as bad as it looks to my untrained European eyes, but still not good.


> Then you get to grocery stores, and you have to go to the “fancy places” to even get the baseline of quality you see in the rest of the developed world. All the chocolate is bad.

While I agree with you on other points, I take issue with this. American grocery stores are a real treat when visiting. Produce is colorful, plentiful, and delicious thanks to American embrace of GMO's and subsidies for farmers. Raw ingredients such as flour are available in huge variety (try finding something as simple as peanut oil at your local Lidl). Even the quality of "junk" food is comparably fantastic, as you won't find a frozen pizza like DiGiorno anywhere else. This is all before you visit a Whole Foods, which takes quality and variety to a point which organic supermarkets elsewhere in the world can't compare.

Europe, on the other hand, is so obsessed with the discount model, so disinterested in variety, and so opposed to GMO's, that their supermarkets are downright frustrating. Yes, the meat, cheese, and chocolate is great, but it stops there.


Lidl is a discount supermarket. It's not about choice, it's about the lowest prices possible with a limited amount of variety available in exchange. There are plenty of other chain supermarkets that have the huge variety of flour (?) you crave.

And "colorful" doesn't mean tasty with produce, unfortunately.


Also Lidl, at least in Sweden, does some things amazingly. One of the best shops for produce, for instance, both in quality and price.


Indeed, I'm not sure whether I would call Lidl in the Netherlands a discount supermarket, food and especially produce like you say is of a high quality, compared to other supermarkets. Usually they don't even have the lowest prices, as other supermarkets also have discount brands which are cheaper, but of lower quality than the cheap products you'd buy in a Lidl.


It's funny how both my favorite US supermarkets are German owned. (Aldi for price and Trader Joe's for quality).

The only better one's I've seen are local 1-off stores and sometimes kirkland brand stuff from Costco for good VFM.


Sure, but US supermarkets have ridiculous variety even when you compare it to Tesco's, Sainsburies, Waitrose, G20, LeClerc etc...


It highly depends on where in Europe you go. If you are using German discount stores as the yardstick for Europe for example, it's a very low bar. The dairy quality is crap, and a lot of the meat doesn't taste great. Carre Four by comparison in Italy or France is in another universe.


I have to agree that it depends on specifics. Being used to the famous and beloved Wegman's in the US, I'm finding the Sainsburys and Tescos of my neighborhood in London to be a real disappointment.


London supermarkets tend to have a bit poorer choice as real estate is so expensive. I found choice to improve the further out you go.


> Produce is colorful, plentiful, and delicious thanks to American embrace of GMO's and subsidies for farmers.

There are two problems with this statement. One is that the availability of plentiful and colorful produce is very much dependent on where you are in the US, and there are a large number of people who really don't have convenient access to it.

The other is that while produce is generally inexpensive, it is hardly generally delicious. Perfect looking tasteless hothouse tomatoes and peppers etc. are the rule, not the exception in a typical grocery store. Lot's of 'convenience' packaging (e.g. "baby spring mix" boxes), mountains of last years apples, not so much flavor.

If you have the means and live in the right places, you can buy very good produce from farmers markets and specialty stores, but it is expensive; the baseline is often pretty mediocre. And if you don't have the location and time and money to use these alternative sources, that's often what you are stuck with.

The silver lining on all this is that the industrial food system in the US has proven to work well as a very large scale optimization algorithm; unfortunately it's been optimizing on thing like shelf-stability, appearance, shipping convenience and food-science inputs while mostly ignoring flavor and nutritional content (see also why there are so many Holstien cows and so little decent butter). If the consumer demand is there for better food though, it should respond to that also.


This is kind of hard to square with the whole "food desert" phenomenon: http://americannutritionassociation.org/newsletter/usda-defi...

What I suspect is happening is that the "variance" of America is much higher - the nice neighbourhoods are full of vast houses and plentiful food, while down the road the not-so-nice areas are way below what would attract some sort of social intervention in Europe.

The UK has a smaller version of the same effect, containing some of the poorest (well, lowest GDP) regions in Europe. https://fullfact.org/economy/does-uk-have-poorest-regions-no...


The corn economy in the US is highly perverted, and that is just the tip of an iceberg. Agreed somewhat about Lidl, I'd be very frustrated if Lidl was the only place I could buy stuff in Sweden.


There’s a Lidl opening nearby, soon (I live in New York).


> is so obsessed with the discount model,

It is really not.

Nobody goes to LIDL to buy food, unless has some real money problem.

You have to make a different comparison: buy quality food from a local farmer and the same food from a local European farmer.

You will notice that in Europe is much more common than you think, it can usually be found in the local market in your neighborhood and it's much cheaper than in the US.

> the meat, cheese, and chocolate is great, but it stops there.

Basically every kind of raw food, except maybe for raw meat, in Europe taste better.

Including vegetables and fruit.


Oh, I just learned I have a money problem. Never heard that before. Sure, many Lidl products aren't great in quality, but some are definitely comparable with food bought elsewhere (at a much lower price). And buying non-local produce at a farmers market doesn't really make that much sense.


> Oh, I just learned I have a money problem

Sorry, not trying to be disrespectful, I was referring to where I live: Italy.

They usually don't even sell fresh food here and when they do, they are not much cheaper than the better alternatives.


> Nobody goes to LIDL to buy food, unless has some real money problem.

Then I guess most of Poland has "real money problems", as LIDL and equivalents is where we shop. However, I think it's just that we don't like to overpay for stuff.


LIDL is a discount from Germany, it is spread over northern continental Europe and especially the eastern block.

If you compare it to other western supermarket chains like Carrefour, or Auchan, their food is of a lower quality, despite being not much cheaper.

LIDL is convenient for packaged or canned food or "everything not related to food", but it's a discount, not exactly popular for quality.

Even Simply, the discount branch of Auchan, sells better food than LIDL. At least in this part of Europe.

And they are all of lower quality than Esselunga or Coop or Conad (but that could just be the Italian in me talking).

But honestly I've never been at LIDL in Poland, maybe it's better over there.

On a side note: many Polish people have a real money problem.

The average Polish salary is below 1k euros, while in Germany is over 2.5k euros.


You've got a point about GMO-fobia in Europe, but it's a tangential problem.


There are already 1873 German Aldi discounters in the US. Maybe it's not where the HN croud buyes their stuff (that would be trader joe's ;) ). But there is a way to get cheap fresh produce in the US now.


Unfortunately we don't have Aldi yet in the bay area, which makes up for a good proportion of HN readers. However we do have Grocery Outlet, which IMO is the best discount grocer in the US, having previously lived in the midwest and southeast.


Absolutely agreed, To add to that, I will post a link to a comment I made in the past: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=21256125.


If your countries ethos consists of being "the greatest in the world", then a part of that is the expectation that everything in the country must be equally as great as its sum.


That’s all I ever think of when traveling, even to relatively poorer countries. The US doesn’t even seem to try to be a top tier country in anything that brings quality of life.


I live in the middle of nowhere and rent a wonderful studio in a beautiful old building for next to nothing. The Bay Area is the armpit of America when it comes to value per dollar spent.


It certainly depends on what you’re comparing to. I’ve lived up and down the USD east coast, and spent time in London and Reykjavik, and traveled through Italy, Spain, and Portugal.

I was always left with the impression that everything in Europe except for trains and windows (why do Europeans have such nice windows and we do not?!?) is rundown crap.

I’m not saying I’m necessarily objectively correct. But I’m definitely not endorsing your subjective impression, either.


You could also lay some blame on a race to the bottom; i.e what is the minimum definition of a product that we can get away with making in order to keep those profit margins as wide as possible.

Less profit, though still plenty of it, can be made from high-quality goods. It's not that profit is inherently wrong, rather it's widespread business and corporate attitudes. An obsession with numbers and statistics rather than any pride in work.


> Maybe this is the result of 30 years of wage stagnation.

Don't think so. My family moved to the US in the early 80s and all the same observations applied back then.


This. America has always been considered crude by Europe when it fines to cuisine, craftsmen, etc.


As an American, I agree with your observations. Average food quality was higher when I lived in Europe, even in parts of the former Yugoslavia. Instant hot water was also more common; American homes typically use tank-style water heaters which take a minute to warm up once you open the faucet.


I think the Galapagos effect exists anywhere there's enough isolation, whether it be through language, geography, class, or politics. Different cultures have different values, preferences, and priorities.

These differences shape all of our opinions, whether it's you visiting the US, or me visiting the EU. Don't assume that your values are as equally important to someone in the US as they are to you, though. Many of our cultural preferences are just that -- preferences -- which all come with an associated set of pros and cons.

One person's "crappy hollow-core door" is another persons "ADA accessible, 2018 IRC-compliant, lead-free, contemporary-style door".


Shiny sounds right. In my experience with appliances in the US people either get the cheapest option or the option that matches the design of their home the best.

You hear people wanting stainless steel appliances...but never discussing their quality.


I could cherry pick examples from around the country to show exactly the opposite. There's a great Quora answer on this phenomenon, "Why do so many Europeans look down on 'American Cheese'?": https://qr.ae/TWJAc9


I was expecting to read a great Quora article but the author compared American speciality cheese to European supermarket fast serving cheese to prove that not everything made in Europe is superior.

What's next? Comparing an American ivy league university building to a newly built apartment somewhere in Brussels and prove that not everything is older in Europe?

Of course every place has all kind of extremes. I look down on West European cheese too because they don't have proper white cheese that is available in the Balkans and Turkey and when abroad I have to rely on low quality feta as a substitute and get depressed. That said, I am not going to claim that Balkans and Turkey have the best chease, it's just that the kind of the cheese I like is not available in western Europe in good quality and I am better of to stick with the local cheese(which is superior to the versions found in the Balkans and Turkey).

All those "country X is superior to the country Y" is inherently flawed unless you talk about specifics. Otherwise, all you do is some kind nationalistic masturbation.


Lack of white cheese is a real problem, I kid you not!


Ever tried Italy? ;)

I think quartirolo (https://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quartirolo_Lombardo) is the closest to the white cheese you're looking for and also salty ewe's ricotta is pretty similar.


Like how you have to adjust the water temperature everytime you take a shower in the US. It's a solved problem!


What’s that then?

I live in Western New Zealand (Tasmania), and we have to adjust the temperature too.


You can set a temperature on a thermostatic shower head and you just adjust the flow of water. Most newer bathrooms have thermostatic shower heads in Europe. But even the old ones with hot + cold valves allow you to not only set the temperature but also the flow.

I think most US showers have just a single faucet where you can control the temperature but not the pressure/flow. You always have to go from cold to hot (it looks like this: https://www.americanstandard-us.com/-/media/sites/asus/image...)


This is due to the law. Flow rate through a shower is limited. There is no point having an adjustable rate if everybody wants more than a legal showerhead can provide.


those are common in Europe too. A Thermostat is nice but it does not solve the "first water" problem. A shower will always run cold at first.


I guess it's a regional thing, the single "US" faucet is something I guess no one in Slovakia or Czech Republic has seen. I remember when we were on a first US business trip and it was hilarious to find out that I was not the only one of the group who tried to find Youtube videos how to control that thing and also to switch between the shower head and the tap. The second thing was that after having a shower I wanted to switch on the bed lamp - the switch was a small knob which I tried to push but nothing worked, then I found out I had to turn it in any direction to cycle between on and off.


Those are common in U.S. hotels but virtually unheard of in homes. Most U.S. homes have separate hot & cold knobs running through a single faucet/showerhead, with a knob or switch to select shower vs. tub. First time I ran into the single-control shower, it took me a while to figure out how to work it as well, and I've lived in the U.S. my whole life. It was pre-YouTube as well, so I just had to fidget with it.

I've seen the thermostatic faucets before (I assume those're the ones where you twist to adjust temperature & pull to adjust pressure). They show up in more modern upscale hotels, and in people's homes when they've remodeled their bathroom. I think they tend to be an aftermarket add-on rather than a typical part of construction, though - no idea why, they're much more convenient than the alternatives.


Also - there is almost no cold water if I switch on the shower. That's because (at least in new houses) there is a closed circle for warm water and the heating system cycles the warm water (2 pipes of warm water + 1 pipe of cold water for each water outlet) in the pipes to keep it ready for use. You have instant warm water.


> You have instant warm water.

You should try Arizona in the summer next time you're in the USA - we have instant hot water 24/7 - even our cold water is hot.

Yes - I'm serious. In the summertime, our water from the "cold side" is typically luke-warmish at best. From the hot side, we can actually turn the temperature down on our water heaters and save some money.

It gets a bit better during "winter" (in quotes because right now, the temperature is around 32C - yep, shorts weather in the middle of November!).

Anyhow - you can purchase the tankless circulation system you describe, but it isn't cheap so you only usually see it on new houses, and only as an upgrade. Retrofitting old houses just isn't really possible without a complete interior teardown. The only other option is tankless water heaters, but those require a decent electrical circuit to each sink. So, most of us just have the central water heater tank, and when we want hot water, we turn it on and let it run (ain't like the water is going to disappear, thanks to the "water cycle"). Or we deal with the cold water (except here in Arizona - where again, our cold water is warm).


That sounds great, but also expensive.

Electricity and gas are relatively expensive in Australia compared Europe or US, so I’m lead to believe. Might be better in a new house with good insulation on the pipes.


We have two levers on the tap. One adjust temperature, another flow rate. I can't remember last time I've touched the temperature lever. Just open the flow and take a shower.

https://www.hanakat.fi/sites/default/files/imce/oras_sekoitt...


"expensive american-made fridge" how did he manage to find something like that? People might have different priorities but nothing is preventing you from installing Grohe faucets, or Villeroy & Boch sinks they are widely available.


80% of that $2M home was for the land, no money left for build quality.


This is not true. America is highly non homogenous, and looks like you did not bother to find "something else". If you seek long enough, you can find the worse but also the best things in the world here, including houses, people, politicians, bread, vegetables, meat, businesses, service, amenities and so on.

Europe, especially its non-Mediterranean part, is boring in this sense (everything is kinda OK but mostly not that fun)


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