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Are 'new car' and 'quality' antonyms?

Started by michaeld, 13 March 2006, 06:37 PM


Quote from: michaeld on 19 March 2006, 10:57 PM... Ozbenz said his 280SE was a boy ("I acquired him when he was 11 years old"); my 450SEL is definitely a girl.  How is it that we determine our cars' genders when there are no genitalia? 

Really? I though all cars (well, at least large and/or powerful and/or noisy ones) were - like guns - penis substitutes!   ::) ::)

I have had some "girl" cars, too, but my Benzes (despite being part-named after the girl called Mercédès) are all boys. They just seem to me to be "masculine" (whatever the hell that means!) cars.
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To answer your question: as I don't believe any post has done so to this point.

New means things that were made a short time ago. It is the [antonym] opposite of old.

Quality refers to the distinctive characteristics or properties of a person, object, process or other thing. Such characteristics may enhance a subject's distinctiveness, or may denote some degree of achievement or excellence. When used in relation to people, the term may also signify a personal character or trait. When used in relation to management, the term may be easily defined as "reduction of variability" or "compliance with specifications".

Quality can be used as a tool of measurement, like metric or Fahrenheit, as it is used to judge both subjects that are esteemed as credible and agreeable as "high quality" and subjects that are viewed as confusing, offensive, unhelpful, or incredible as "low quality." But quality is also used as a positive word, as in the sense of "this is a quality chair." Its antonym can be perceived as poorness, incredibility, unhelpfulness, and a variety of other words that reflect the concept of having low quality.

Quality in itself has no specific meaning or definition as to a standard.

Is one an opposite for the other, NEW  opposite to  QUALITY?

The answer is no!

Are old cars better made than newer cars, arguably no.

Are new cars more reliable than older cars, sadly no, because they have a thousand more add-ons and gadgets, not found in older cars.


Whoa, whoa, whoa, there, Mr. Spock! :-*  I never intended my post title to be a precisely formulated statement conforming to all known principles of logic; rather I was merely trying to humorously communicate the gist of my post topic!  [It is a sad fact of my life that my attempts at humor are all-too-often misunderstood :'(].  I'm asking a question that most people understand: have new cars experienced a drop-off in quality in comparison to older cars?

Actually, both I and others on this forum clearly understand that there is a subjective element to the term 'quality' as it is applied to cars.  See another post I started -,345.msg2264.html#msg2264 - as just one example of this.  At the same time, we are talking about cars here; and cars are concrete, commensurable things.  As such, they can surely be compared and contrasted with other cars from other periods of time.  And there are only so many 'qualities' that most people apply to cars when they consider 'quality': the value and amount of materials, the degree of craftsmanship in assembly, performance, reliability, durability, safety, beauty, comfort, ride, 'driving experience', the list is actually pretty finite.  What actually makes any argument over why one car has greater 'quality' than another subjective is the fact that it depends on one's ranking or prioritizing of that list of 'qualities.'  To wit, if you value durability foremost above all else, you will likely view diesels as having the most quality; if you value performance foremost, diesels may then have the least quality.

Having said this, I respectfully disagree with you: quality DOES have a specific meaning or definition as to a standard when the underlying presuppositions are defined (or listed) and ordered (or ranked).  Let me put it this way: if you are correct, then the statement, "The '74 Mercedes-Benz 450SE is a quality car" would be just as valid as the statement, "The 74 Ford Pinto is a quality car."  But that can't be right; the Pinto was a poorly constructed death trap that exploded on impact! :o  If nothing else, you have to agree with the words of that Supreme Court Justice who said (of obscenity), "I may not be able to define it, but I know it when I see it."  The question at hand is, how do you prioritize your list of automotive qualities, and why do you think a certain car, car maker, or era of cars best conforms to that hierarchy of qualities that you've enumerated.  It may not be as scientifically precise of a discussion as the laws of mathematics, but it is a meaningful discussion nonetheless.

So, for example, your statement, "Are old cars better made than newer cars, arguably no" is perfectly acceptable in the context of our discussion as I intended it IF you proceed to offer your reasoning why such a statement is true.  What do you mean by "better made" and just what are your arguments for saying 'arguably no'?  Now, the sentence you ended your discussion with is very interesting: that reliability has been adversely affected by unnecessary add-on gadgetry.  My question then is, are old cars without the add-on gadgetry more reliable than new cars with it?  And just how important should 'reliability' be in a discussion of 'quality'?

I wonder if the car makers are asking themselves such questions.  If they're not, would they build better cars if they did?

In any event, I really didn't intend to try to play host to a symposium on logic or philosophy of language here: I just wanted to kick the can around talking about cars.

I'm sorry, I had to go back in and modify this because I missed Ozbenzhead's post: You mean Mercedes are boy-cars?  Is that why I got such a good deal on my Benz, because it's one of those "trans-gendered" cars? ???  I should have KNOWN better than to buy a car near Hollywood, CA!!! :'(


Hi there

I was attempting to respond at a higher level and not become specific.  In so far as, humour or not, newer models are not as well made as previously.

Fact is current 'S' class cars are not the ultimate feats of engineering as they once were or a no compromise solution. A mistake recognised by MB after Audi started taking sales away from them.

The current S class leaves that mantle to the Maybach [of which sales volumes only just exceed the number of lunar landings by the space shuttle].

Quality in basic construction and build: well that imrpoves with manufacturing processes, metalurgy and science in general.  Features and safety come with social and political influences together with the huge increase in cars on the road since the W116 first rolled out of the factory.  So one must accept that sat-nav, airbags, crumple zones, distronic and other features [maybe night vision] will be included as and when technology is developed.

So maybe one can say that S class are an improvement over the W116: but will the modern S class still be enjoyed 30 years after their birthday as we enjoy our 116s - I dare say no.  none of us can afford the thousands of currency units that it will cost to replace an ignition control module, or any of the other dozen or so comuter units built into the newer cars.  All these computers designed to improve efficiency, comfort, safety and security will and do, contribute to the 'lead parachute' fall in resale value of the modern car.

Durability of the vehicle as a whole, well there is no argument.  The 30 yr old 116 will survive longer than a new S class or any other Mercedes.


Hi there  ;D

You know BAR, you should come run for office in France, while true, your statements are like those of a french politician !

QuoteQuality in basic construction and build: well that improves with manufacturing processes, metalurgy and science in general.

True, true but ....are those improvements actually USED in new cars ? and if so, where and what for ? more knowledge is not enough, one must have a desire to use improvements and right now, improvements are opposed to the ROI god  8)

Manufacturing processes that reduces costs are IN, the rest is OUT. Manufacturing processes that increase PERCEIVED quality is IN, the rest is OUT....

So I propose a WYSIWYG test :

On a well lit table, lay down a 1973 Mercedes W-116 relay next to a 2006 JUNKMOBILE relay. Now imagine that you must use ONE of these relays to power the fuel pump  in a single-engined airplane in which you are seated that is flying over the ocean.  Which relay would you choose ? really ?

While a car is not just a sum of parts, I have seen a LOT of current production car parts whose quality is far inferior to what you find in a W116.

So while the "perceived" quality of a new car definitely surpasses that of a W116 (the fit on modern cars is incredibly good, merci robots), many components are designed for a planned life cycle if not downright substandard. Part X is designed for a statistical MTBF of 2000 days, part Y for 1115 days, and part Z for about 550 days  >:( and so on...modern cars have a very planned life cycle. MTBF : mean time between failures.

Did you know that airbag systems should be completely replaced after 10 years of existence ? that is related to the reliability of their firing mechanisms (pyrotechnics). Replacing these systems with OEM parts is easily equal to the value of most cars when they are 10 years old.

Knowing this, how long do you think that these cars are designed for ?  ::)

Contrary to what most people believe, consumer goods today are often significantly more expensive than in the past. What lasted 12 years now last two but the price is the same in currency (people like to fool themselves into good deals) and not marvelously lower in constant dollars (economist talk taking into account that a dollar of today is worth less than a dollar of ten years ago).

I have a real problem talking about QUALITY with planned obsolescence and only "perceived" quality as a criteria.

My 0.02cts of an Euros's worth


Paris, France


Denis, you are the hammer that nailed the point right on the head!  When I see that you have written a post, I open it with much the same delight of a child opening a candy bar.  Yes.  That is exactly what I think, just expressed better!

We live in a postmodern world.  And postmodernism dismisses truth and reality as artificially imposed constructs by people who "create" truth in order to subjugate others.  It's all about will to power; and he who shapes reality for others has the power.  It's not about what really IS anymore; it's about creating or shaping a perception of how you want others to imagine the world.  This is a cancer that is eating away at the soul of the western world, and it dominates academia, culture, politics, art - and marketing, advertising, and corporate philosophy.  We swim around in a postmodern sewer, and don't realize that the pollution is clouding our vision.

I was reading up some articles available in the library that gave me a thought about the whole "German quality and reliability in the past vs. now" issue.

I was reading an article (Sep 99 Unique Cars, "Class Distinction" [which is found in our site's library]) on 450SELs and read, "...the legacy of Messrs Daimler and Benz; big, comfortable and prestigious but above all exceptionally durable transport over roads that could destroy most European luxury cars within months." Now, I was in Germany a couple times on NATO Reforger exercises, and my experience was that the roads were frequently awful as a general principle. Here's a quote that essentially says that MBz was designing and building cars that could handle driving conditions that tore apart other cars. The USA has a marvelous modern PAVED road system that is worlds ahead of what passed as roads in much of Germany.

And if you think about it just a little more, you will begin to consider another, more popular feature of German roads: the Autobahn. Here again, Mercedes-Benz was building cars designed to cruise at 120 mph for sustained periods and reach a top speed in the mid-to-high 130s. Now, again, this kind of extended high-speed driving just isn't done in America. It's overkill to design engines that can handle those kinds of conditions here, just as it would be overkill to design suspensions capable of traversing dilapidated and pockmarked cobblestone roads.  From my reading of w116's (and the Benzes before them) "overkill" is a good choice of words to describe the design mentality of these fabulous cars.

I dare say that Mercedes was at its best when it built cars with its native flora and fauna in mind. In the USA, we don't put anywhere near the kinds of stresses on cars as was routine in Germany. From crappy roads to the high speed free-for-alls; you needed a spectacularly well-made car to deal with those kinds of demands. Cars built for Germany would be WAY overbuilt for American conditions.

Given the fact that Mercedes-Benz buyers increasingly purchased from the American market, did Mercedes begin to transition its design to reflect American driving conditions? I'm asking this as a question; I genuinely don't know.  But I do know that up until about 1984, Mercedes cars were ALL built in Germany, and that today they are built all over God's creation (including India and Brazil).  It's hard to believe that they're still being built for the original driving conditions that forged these cars in the first place.

Here's another quote, this time from "Mercedes Benz 450SE: Sophisticated Excellence" (Modern Motor, June 75 [and also in our library]): "Mercedes engineers set out to make precisely the car they designed, with virtually no expense spared. You probably think that's what all manufacturers do, but there's many a change between drawing board and release day. The 450SE is a car of little comprimise."

I have a feeling that this is no longer true of Mercedes, and in fact is no longer true of any but VERY small, specialty performance car outfits (such as Maserati, perhaps). Everyone else is completely market-driven rather than engineering-driven. A marketing-oriented approach dominates the automotive industry today.  Mercedes-Benz at the time of the above quote from Modern Motor was an engineering-oriented approach. In the 70's, Mercedes-Benz was still building the best cars they could, and then setting a price. Today, a price is set and features are determined based on focus studies, and then the car is built to satisfy a market (or a targeted market segment) demand. Advertising used to focus on informing the marketplace about a product based on facts; today advertising seeks to create an impression (if you buy this car you will be cool) based totally on feeling.  This is what Denis is talking about: creating a perception rather than focusing on the genuine reality.

This transformation has been the result of the carcinogenic postmodern influence, and mass-marketing has picked up the ball and ran with it.  And people (let's refer to them as corporations view them - consumers) are just eating it up without even being aware of this great cultural bait and switch.  It used to be that Mercedes-Benzes were fabulously expensive cars which drew doctors, engineers, lawyers, and other professionals who were drawn to the quality engineering. Today Mercedes-Benzes are still fabulously expensive; but now they are drawing image-conscious consumers who want the perception of success that they feel tooling around in a Mercedes will give them.

One of the big reasons that Mercedes - and other automakers - are slacking off in any dedication to genuine quality is that the people who buy them today are more concerned with appearance than they are with reality.  The marketplace had a choice between perception or substance, and substance lost.

It's like Denis said: it's not that we aren't capable of building much better automobiles today; it's that we don't WANT to.  The advances in engineering and physics are being put to use to minimize cost more than they are to maximize quality.  Cars are being desinged with the same mentality as plastic packaging: the calculus is designed to minimize costly material, not maximize utility.  And the like the crap we find in those plastic packages when we're finally able to pry them open, the lion's share of the automakers' budgets is going into advertising rather than production.

But thank God I can get in my 450SEL, close the door with iron-clad finality to all that nonesense, and drive off to that better world of "the way it used to be."


Thanks guys for the excellent posts! What you guys write make me appreciate all the great qualities of a W116 even more!
1977 450SE [Brilliant Red]
2006 B200


Mister michaeld, thank you very much for the appreciative note, I am almost embarassed  :-[

But some comments here reminded of something I wanted to launch as a new thread...but not here.

One last peep from me on this subject : I was at the stealership today and has a look at a nicely outfitted S-class.

Wow, they have outdone themselves : never did the leather look more like plastic, never did the wood look more like plastic. Does anybody remember what real leather looks like ? It's not that hard to find out. Any good store, say the Galeries Lafayette in Paris, will show you what beautiful  leather is in the form of a 1000â,¬ you mean that nobody can afford to put stuff liek this in a 115 000â,¬ car ?

Frankly, if I had 115 000â,¬ for a new car , I would pass up the Mercedes because it "looks" too cheap...


Paris, France


Wow! You chaps - BAR, Denis, michaeld - have really raised the quality of discussion with these last few posts: just brilliant!

I particularly treasure the following paragraph from michaeld:

QuoteWe live in a postmodern world.  And postmodernism dismisses truth and reality as artificially imposed constructs by people who "create" truth in order to subjugate others.  It's all about will to power; and he who shapes reality for others has the power.  It's not about what really IS anymore; it's about creating or shaping a perception of how you want others to imagine the world.  This is a cancer that is eating away at the soul of the western world, and it dominates academia, culture, politics, art - and marketing, advertising, and corporate philosophy.  We swim around in a postmodern sewer, and don't realize that the pollution is clouding our vision.

That, my friend, has been extracted and filed in my collection of worthy quotations! (Yes, apart from Benzes, I also collect words; millions of them! I've been collecting quotations for 40 years. As an editor and publisher - and occasional lexicographer - I love words, especially when well assembled.)

I doubt that any discussion on any car forum has ever reached such heights of intelligence, understanding, wisdom, and articulacy; this forum is truly blessed, and stands apart as a shining example of not only brilliance but mutually respectful camaraderie.

Long may continue to thrive!

PS: Perhaps this thread ought to find its way to DC headquarters. (But would they care?)
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Some housekeeping items:
BAR, I just wanted to make sure you knew I was joshing you about the 'Spock' thing.  Sometimes I forget that there are people out there who are embarrassed to be confronted over their inner Vulcan.  Not me!
On the more serious side, I wanted to make sure you understood the forest of the intent of my post rather than being distracted by the odd tree.  Judging by your follow-up post, you clearly did.  In any event, one of the things I most like about is that it doesn't consist of people sniping at each other.  Please forgive me if I rubbed you the wrong way in anything I wrote.

Denis, I am so glad that I only 'almost embarrassed' you; I would have been ost mdevastated to find that I had left you completely embarrassed.  Another crisis narrowly averted!  To clarify my earlier gushing, I appreciate your posts because you bring such a deep knowledge of Mercedes-Benz history and lore, as well as an underlying familiarity with the Europe that birthed these automobiles.  You are a veritable professor of Benz-ology!

Ozbenzhead, Thank you for adding one of my paragraphs to the 'Greatest Hits' collection!  You know, if anyone ever sets up a soap box and asks me to wax eloquent about the horrors of the postmodern world, I shall always be only too happy to oblige…

Now, on to my actual post!  Denis' recent offering about the quality of leather (or lack thereof) in modern Mercedes cars got me thinking about why it is that car makers offer the features they do.  You'll have to bear with me as I cite my own preferences as an example.  I myself do not actually care for leather upholstery; in my perception, leather is not as comfortable as cloth (or even vinyl), and it is not as long-lasting.  In particular, I believe leather is much more sensitive to sunlight than fabrics and therefore dries out faster.

(Now, maybe you don't agree with my statements about leather upholstery at all; but for now just accept what I said about leather for the sake of argument, as I am using it for an illustration).  I understand that many (even most) Euro-market Mercedes have cloth or vinyl upholstery; but nearly all US-market Mercedes have leather.  Why is this?  Maybe some of you know better than I; I can only offer an opinion: I think that this is so because North American market Benzes have been positioned as luxury vehicles far more than their Euro counterparts, and Americans associate leather with luxury.

Now, me, I'd rather have cloth seats (again, because I find them more comfortable and more durable).  But then again, I am not now, nor have I ever been, inclined to plop down the equivalent of $100,000 to purchase a new Mercedes.  If new Mercedes buyers desire leather, then by all means, Mercedes should install leather, and long-term comfort and durability be damned!

Now, I'm willing to be corrected about my impression of leather.  But if I'm right, and leather is less comfortable and less durable, than we have a situation in which the buying market (at least in the US) is demanding a material that won't last as long.  And this state of affairs has been going on for years and years.

This takes me to my point: it seems that today's new Mercedes buyers are demanding all kinds of options that will similarly prove far less durable than could otherwise have been the case.  I believe Denis is right in mentioning MTBF and planned obsolescence, but there's another element going on here as well.  It seems that new Mercedes buyers, more than ever before, are willing to trade long-term durability, reliability, quality for short term comfort and performance.  Now, this is a trade-off that I would not be prepared to make (and frankly can't stand); but then again, I'm not the guy Mercedes is building new cars for, am I?

Now, I may be wrong about leather v. fabric, but I don't think I'm wrong about this overall trade-off in immediate comfort and performance for the sake of long-term durability.  If you don't like my picking on leather, another example I can cite as a support for this trade-off 'conspiracy' is our wonderful Automatic Climate Control system with its lovely heater servo units.  My question is, what do you think about such a trade-off?  Are you part of the crowd that appreciates having the leather seats, the ACC system, the electric antenna, the power doors and windows…  or do you favor the no-frills car whose quality is in its durable drive train and build quality?

The more amenities you install, the more you complicate a car; the more you complicate a car, the more is likely to go wrong with it; the more that goes wrong with a car, the more expensive it is going to be to maintain over time; the more expensive a car is to maintain over time, the shorter its useful life.

Discussion question: if Spock didn't have Enterprise, would he drive a w116? 

John Hubertz

No, But McCoy would drive a 116....  Dr Grumpy and his Car.
John Hubertz
"When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro."
(Hunter S. Thompson) 

1977 450SEL (Max Headroom)
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Please, oh pleeeeeaaaaaaassseee, don't tell me that w116s are .... illogical. ???

I think the only thing that could be worse than that would be if I found out that w116s aren't as cool as Spock's "babe-magnet" sunglasses.

I think that would be more than I could take. :'(


Michaeld generally does not like to respond to a last post from Michaeld, but here I shall make an exception.

No, I'm not writing this post to tell you all where you can get your own set of "Spock sunglasses."

Somewhere on this thread I posted an article from Consumer Reports on the new "bottom-feeder" status of the European cars versus the Japanese.  I thought I'd balance that by giving another perspective.

Edmunds reviewed the new BMW against the new Lexus.  Good news, European car enthusiast: the BMW won.  Here is the link:*  And here is the text:

Road Test: Comparison Test
2006 BMW 330i vs. 2006 Lexus IS 350 Comparison Test

By Editors
Date posted: 01-23-2006

Like Don King with his hair afire promoting an upcoming title bout (then again, his hair's always afire…), our chief editor could barely contain his excitement. "We need to get the new Lexus IS 350 and put it up against the BMW 330i!"

Fresh from its defense as sport sedan champion against the Audi A4, the 2006 BMW 330i now finds itself in the ring against the 2006 Lexus IS 350. A formidable athlete, the Lexus came in rippling with muscle and packing 306 horsepower. The Lexus has also been crowing that it's "the fastest vehicle in its class." Pretty brazen, considering the Muhammad Ali of sport sedans, the BMW 330i is the perennial holder of the belt in this class.

Sizing up the fighters
To keep the fight fair, the 330i in this test was an automatic, as the IS 350 isn't available with a manual gearbox. Looking at the window stickers of these compact luxury sport sedans had a few staffers needing smelling salts. Basing in the mid-$30Ks, both cars were fitted with around $10 grand in options, bringing the bottom lines to $45,508 for the Lexus and $47,390 for the Bimmer.

A few folks commented on how that's midsize sport/luxury sedan money. Yes, you can get a base Lexus GS 300 or BMW 525i for that kind of dough, but remember that our testers had just about everything you could get â€" navigation systems, "premium" packages with their fancier interior trim and even things like active steering (BMW) and a backup camera (Lexus).

In this corner…
…wearing Matador Red and weighing in at 3,527 pounds, the challenger, the Lexus IS 350. And in the opposite corner, in Titanium Silver and weighing 3,450, the defending compact sport sedan, the BMW 330i.

Instead of a boxing ring, these rear-wheel-drive pugilists slugged it out on the mean streets of Southern California. They tackled everything including bobbing and weaving with crazy L.A. drivers, transporting clothes to Goodwill, taking the kiddies to school and embarking on day trips up the coast. They also strutted their stuff at the test track and through the winding canyon roads in Malibu.

The judges' "score cards" took into account everything from raw performance to seat comfort to how easy (or tough) it was to work the climate controls. Other factors came into play as well, such as how the car responded and felt when driven the way a sport sedan was meant to be driven.

A 15-rounder
When the final bell rang, it was a tough one for the judges. The power, luxury and better value proposition put the Lexus ahead at times, while the 330i had a couple of "daily driver" advantages, such as more rear-seat legroom and greater cargo capacity by virtue of its split-folding rear seat.

It was close, but the 3 Series always managed to sway decisions back into its favor whenever a wavering "judge" got behind the wheel. And when we reminded ourselves that the true mission of a sport sedan is to provide enjoyment derived from driving, not quoting performance numbers to your buddies or convincing whomever which is the better deal, it always came back to the BMW.