Are French Cars Really So Unreliable?
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  1. #1
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    Default Are French Cars Really So Unreliable?

    I've been reading this forum and other things on the internet and there are a lot of compliants about French cars.

    Are they really any worse than other cars for example a Toyota?

    We have a Citroen C5 2.0 litre Petrol and it has 82000km and its running very well and economicaly. There is a problem with the right rear door lock but that's it.

    It ran out of fuel two weeks ago and when the NRMA arrived the patrolman was suprised it was a Citroen. He told my wife these cars are so reliable he's never been called out to one.

    I know people who have owned Audi's and Mercedes of the 2000-2005 vintage and these cars were truely problematic. The Audi's had electrical faults, constant gearbox failures and even engine problems. The Mercedes only had a faulty timing sensor and poor cam cover gaskets. Yet I constantly hear people exhalting German engineering. I know people with BMWs too and they are better but not perfect. I also worked for a German company as an engineer and I learnt that not all German engineers are good.

    Japenese cars are pretty good but not with fault. Our Subaru was a good car but had an appetite for CV joints.

    Australian cars, well from what I've heard they are far from good with poor workmanship and quality control and also component failures.

    So perhaps we need to evaluate our cars differently and see that the grass in the other paddock is not actually greener.

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    Quote Originally Posted by 120L View Post
    I've been reading this forum and other things on the internet and there are a lot of compliants about French cars.

    Are they really any worse than other cars for example a Toyota?

    We have a Citroen C5 2.0 litre Petrol and it has 82000km and its running very well and economicaly. There is a problem with the right rear door lock but that's it.
    Being a French car forum, most of us have French cars, many exclusively so, so our car grumbles have a French flavour. I have hardly ever driven a Toyota even though I like sushi.

    The problem with the right rear door lock is in the genes. It has been inherited from my Xantia (and I expect, other Xantias). Fortunately, of the four doors, it is the least used, front and rear passengers using the opposite side. It is a bit disconcerting at times when I lock the car but that door is still unlocked. However, it makes up for it by being impossible to open from the inside at all other times. One day I might replace it with a Toyota door for a sushi souffle.

    John

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    1000+ Posts dino's Avatar
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    Every manufacturer has had issues with most of their cars...hence why cars "evolve"...Improvements are made...new technologies applied and so forth and so forth...
    There are some excellent examples of high quality cars though...

    Of the top of my head I d place the mercedes w108 as one of the best cars ever screwed together..but this is a car that dates back to when the mentality was different and market expectations were vastly different...Later volvo produced the wonderful but "then" underrated 240 series...so yes...the dashboards cracked in the aussie sun and their fuel pumps didnt last long..there were some transmission issues..but overall the things were bulletproof... These are the landmark cars and this is why they still operate in some countries where climatic extremes "eat" the modern stuff...

    So...peugeot had the 504 and the 505...volvo the 240 range...mercedes...well the seventies and early eighties was all good...but w123 was king...bmw produced "lovely" cars that demonstrated much more finesse than the mercs but this "lightness" was the reason they didnt last...still the early eighties 5 series cars represented the pinnacle of what BMW was all about...6 series was to die for...

    What most people never understood was the difference between a "well" designed car that did all the important things right and one that "looked" like a proper "built" cars...This is why many 50s 60s 70s american junk drove so so badly...yeaaa some of it was absolutely lovely eye candy but cars failed basic criteria...braking, handling,safety etc etc...But that was then..this is now...

    Modern cars are great considering the demands...they ll happily sit at 200kmh all day long...whether it be a camry or an accord...Mostly they are very well put together (the litigious nature of modern society has made sure of this)...and old biases often really dont apply...sure there will still be stuff ups..but thats the nature of design and compromise...

    What we have "lost" along the way is much more important to me... early lexus 400 demonstrated this very well...a sensational car at release and built to extremely high standards of the day.,..but it lacked soul...it did everything right but it had no personality..it was the antithesis of what alfa was of the year...
    Just imagine how "great" alfa would have been if it had been screwed together by lexus...
    Maybe not...you take away the "soul" of the car (all the good and bad bits) and it isnt what one expects anymore....FWIW give me back 70s and 80s lightness any time of the day...modern cars are reliable but soulless and thats why it ll be a long time before we see something as spectacular as the DS, the e type, the 130 coupe or the daytona....




    dino

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    They aren't really unreliable, it's more that mechanics were afraid to work on them so they never got fixed when they did break.

    My 505 isn't unreliable at all, the things that have gone wrong are just general wear, you can't really expect an alternator to last more than 500'000kms can you? It's never left me stranded anyway. The 403 did leave me stranded in a very time consuming and expensive way, hours from home.

    It's funny, my friends take the piss out of it saying it's unreliable and stuff, I'd like to see their cars make it to half a million kms without a major rebuild. My 4WDing friends hold a fair bit of respect for it actually, it can out last a diesel Land Cruiser, I call that reliable.

    Thanks

    Hayden

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    Hayden, wise beyond his years, has hit the nail on the head. This pernicious slander originates from mechanics accustomed to working on more agricultural machinery, and was perpetuated by their dumb-ass bogan customers, persisting to this day. I am talking about a time when Australian (American) automotive technology was typified by pushrod or side-valve engines, and the Europeans were sporting DOHC, or at least SOHC engines. The 404, when new, was the best car money could buy in Australia, so far ahead of the local product that it is even possible the rumour was originated by GMH.

    I have owned the following cars:

    R10
    R16TS (the best car I ever owned)
    404
    504
    205 GTi
    405 Mi16
    306XT
    306 S16
    BX16

    The only one I would rate as at all unreliable was the Citroen, which barked. It suffered from a total lack of maintenance by POs, and had passed the end of its useful life. Hence, it is the only Citroen I will ever own. The rest have shown exemplary reliability, with absolutely no generic, or "French" problems.

    The R16 was mind boggling at the time. At first it seemed strange in the way it did things, but after I had owned it for a few months, the penny dropped, and I said, "why doesn't everybody do it this way?" I am still saying it, but these days, sadly, "everybody" includes PSA.

    I would like all the idiots who spout this myth to have followed Chris Snell's poor lil 205 through the RC2GC rally/trial, and watched it finish. Sensational! All it used was shock absorbers. By rights, it should have been retired and put in a glass case in a museum, but naaaaa, he is still rallying it!

    Tim

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    JBN
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    Not all French cars are unreliable. Not all Citroens are unreliable.

    If you want soul and lightness and reliability and terrific design, go no further than a 2CV. Most people will argue about the terrific design because they confuse looks with function. But a car that underwent 6 years of design modification (in the mind of the designers) between the prototype and production came close to being simply perfect (or at least perfectly simple).

    In over 40 years of production, there was only one minor series of changes to the body (from wrinkly to ugly); the dampers were changed from friction to shock absorbers; the brakes were changed from front drums to front discs and there were a number of engine upgrades in capacity and power, but always the simple aircooled boxer twin. No distributor so less troubles. The had gotten the design remarkably right and there was no need to change it.

    The vast majority of cars are designed within time and cost constraints - built down to a price rather than up to a standard. They all come with a warranty period as not everything will work first up in a complex design. Then, as soon as they have got it right, they change the lot to bring out a new model and the cycle starts again.

    The criteria keeps on changing and the cars with it. Whereas in the 1950's, you could drive around Australia in a Peugeot 203, rarely driving on bitumen, now there are few Peugeots or any other cars that you would want to drive on the few, but vastly better, dirts roads. These days people opt for a 4WD because the suspensions of most modern sedans are better suited to billiard smooth autobahns, giving superb road holding at speeds up to 200kph. The fact that Australia has few high quality expressways protected by a myriad of safety cameras which discourage speeds past the top speed of a 2CV seems to be beside the point.

    Now the computer controls the suspension and overrides the driver to save him from himself. The 2CV didn't need that. Few drivers are comfortable cornering at 30 degrees angle of bank. Since it kept its centre of gravity very low (at door sill level), with a lightweight body and a bit of vinyl masquerading as a roof, it didn't need any anti-roll bars. With high travel, all independant suspension with skinny tyres and lightweight rims, the unsprung weight of the wheels (front brakes are inboard) gave excellent road holding. Any road. Any surface. You didn't need a computer to undertake dynamic changes to the suspension to counteract inflexible suspension design.

    Removing the seats ( a couple of minutes work) gives one comfortable picnic seats. Remove the bootlid (30 secs) gives 2.5m from firewall to rear bumper for, say, 6 X 3m Koppers logs, with only 500mm overhang. Or roll back the roof to the rear window to stand 3 X 2.5m tall palm trees for the trip home from the nursery.

    At 570kg empty it is light. Light enough for 8 men to pick it up and walk away with the whole car. Where it is heavy is in the soul and the fun department. You have to have a sense of humour when everyone is laughing at you. You become a calmer and more courteous driver when you are the bantamweight surrounded by middleweights and heavyweights. You don't give cheek to other road users, even big pedestrians. The soundproofing is so abysmal that you don't even dare to fart in a traffic jam, because they will know that it is you.

    But once you have one, you wonder why all the other designers are beating around the bush, making sure that their car can do a 3 minute lap around Mt Panorama (only on race days as its a 60kph limit otherwise). Making a car that is safe to crash, for those people that that are into those sort of antics.

    But if you do every drive one, then you really have to drive it. Its inherently lazy and would prefer to sunbake in the car park. You must coax it and curse it and belt hell out of it to get any response. When you have finally gotten it upset and angry, DON'T TOUCH THE BRAKES, point and shoot, twiddle the steering wheel, drive diagonally across three lanes of traffic sniffing out the gaps.

    Drive like there is no tomorrow. You never know, one day you might be right.

    John

    There are few cars that one can be passionate about. I've found mine.

  7. #7
    Fellow Frogger! jlmdsims's Avatar
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    Our neighbours had a V6 C5 when they first came out. (I would consider these people to be a fair example of the typical Aussie car buyer.) It seemed like every couple of weeks it was being carried away on the back of a tow truck. In these peoples minds the Frenchy would be an unreliable motor.

    Fast forward a couple of years and I have bought myself a V6 C5. I would consider it very reliable and it has given me very few problems and they have been small ones.

    The BUT in this story is that I have probably had the same problems as my neighbours, which would have led to me calling the towie, except I had access to some knowledge about how these cars work (thanks to the Aussiefrogs community!).

    I suppose what I am saying is that Frenchies are probably about the same as other car brands in terms of reliability but the general knowledge base is much smaller. That means small problems become big issues for 'ignorant' owners. The cars get sent to 'ignorant' mechanics who can't fix them first go. The mechanic bad mouths the car to the owner, the owner tells their freinds etc etc.

    Most unreliable french car I ever had was an R12, but that was because it was stuffed when I got it and I did everything I could to make it worse. Not on purpose, I was just young then.

    Also, from tcusack, above

    "BX16

    The only one I would rate as at all unreliable was the Citroen, which barked. It suffered from a total lack of maintenance by POs, and had passed the end of its useful life. Hence, it is the only Citroen I will ever own. "

    The valver is a great car, but hardly the quintessential Citroen. It is probably 90% Peugeot! The bits that fall off are the Citroen bits, the bits that stop working are the Peugeot bits.
    Last edited by jlmdsims; 16th December 2010 at 09:29 AM. Reason: Added response to tcusack

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    Quote Originally Posted by tcusack View Post
    Hayden, wise beyond his years, has hit the nail on the head. This pernicious slander originates from mechanics accustomed to working on more agricultural machinery, and was perpetuated by their dumb-ass bogan customers, persisting to this day. I am talking about a time when Australian (American) automotive technology was typified by pushrod or side-valve engines, and the Europeans were sporting DOHC, or at least SOHC engines. The 404, when new, was the best car money could buy in Australia, so far ahead of the local product that it is even possible the rumour was originated by GMH.

    Tim
    The wheel has turned full circle in that regard. My mechanic works on just about anything. When my 206 was in for a service there were a couple of Astras, a falcon, a diesel Transit and a mid 60s Thunderbird of all things in there.

    Anyway, he has recently taken on a new apprentice. My Bedford was in for a service. The poor lad. Points? what are they? Tappets? Never heard of them. You have to push the accelerator when you start it. What?

    Tim took the lad out in it for a test drive. He was quite surprised at how smooth the old red motor was, and how well the thing drove for what it is. Goes to show you don't need all the fancy stuff on modern motors for driveability. Economy and antipollution are a different story.

    Also in there was an Audi A3 Diesel which had failed to proceed. Apparently, a solenoid controlling one of the injectors had short circuited, taking out a deal of the wiring and the ECU.

    Like I said to him when I was getting rego on the Pug "A reliable French car? who would have thought!"
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    Quote Originally Posted by cme2c View Post
    Anyway, he has recently taken on a new apprentice. My Bedford was in for a service. The poor lad. Points? what are they? Tappets? Never heard of them. You have to push the accelerator when you start it. What?
    I took a 404 down to local Jax Tyres franchise for an alignment after a front end rebuild. The young chap had never seen, let alone driven or worked on a 404.

    I drove the car onto the aligment ramps and showed him the toe adjustments.

    The franchise owner decided not to charge me - "How can I, you were my mechanics instructor."
    Departed the Aussie Frogs Community 14 September 2018.

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    French cars are reliable if they are looked after. Citroen's are reliable just ask Greg.

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    Quote Originally Posted by danielsydney View Post
    French cars are reliable if they are looked after. Citroen's are reliable just ask Greg.
    I think that should suggest the paradigm needs to be reformulated, then. A reliable car is one you don't need to look after to get a long life of service out of it. I think that's what the public at large wants.

    Having owned mainly french cars (with one exception), I am quite happy to never own anything else. Part availability however is a different story in different parts of the world.

    Back to the original post and my comments above, Toyotas are probably the most reliable worldwide in conditions of absolute lack of care, but this is a statistical statement which may not fit the personal experience of a given subset of customers.

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    I added up the invoices I have had for the 406 since 2006 and came to the conclusion that a coke addiction would be cheaper.

    But, it's like running any other car - Considering the amount of KM i have done in it, and it's general age, i'd say its on par with most other european cars on the market. Not perfect, but far from being a hunk o' junk!
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    I hear that the batch of Toyotas built in the last couple of years are far from as reliable as the old ones upon which they built their reputation. Just go on a Camry forum. People who've had many Camries, and now vow to never buy another Camry again because they're not what they used to be. And at this same time, French cars are becoming more reliable again.

    I choose not to do the additions like STALLED has, because I'd probably feel sick, but I get the impression that the Swedish, British and German cars we've had in our family have consistently cost more over the years than our French cars. Not that this is statistically relevant of course.
    Cheers,
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    Yesterday an alternator failure on a MI16 Pug, today a clutch cable failure on a Pug, arrive home after inspecting clutch Pug and find a meter wide pool of green spreading from under the BX.

    Ah, the reliability of froggies!!!

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    1000+ Posts schlitzaugen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by fento View Post
    Yesterday an alternator failure on a MI16 Pug, today a clutch cable failure on a Pug, arrive home after inspecting clutch Pug and find a meter wide pool of green spreading from under the BX.

    Ah, the reliability of froggies!!!
    Don't you just love it?

    I know that feeling.

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    Quote Originally Posted by PJ810 View Post
    Just go on a Camry forum.
    There's a Camry forum ! Hold me back!
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    Quote Originally Posted by 2353 View Post
    There's a Camry forum ! Hold me back!
    I'll have you know the "which cardigan and slipper combination do you prefer" thread is very lively!

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    White Hybrid Camry sedan with Michael Bolton in the CD player.

    Oh the rebellion against society!

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    Well, time will tell. I will report back in ten years time if Honda build quality and customer service is better than my poor experience of local Citroën service.
    Think Global - Ride on Spheres

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    Quote Originally Posted by 2353 View Post
    There's a Camry forum ! Hold me back!
    I hate to break it to you, but there are more Camry/Toyota forums than you can poke a stick at.
    Cheers,
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    There are so many variables to reliability that it can be a challenging thing to put your finger on just what it is that causes the frustration. More often than not, it is a combination of factors.

    In this day and age there is no excuse for any manufacturer to build an unreliable car. End of story.

    However, more often than not it is the things that continually go wrong that cause us the most annoyance or the sheer ineptitude of a mechanic or dealership to both listen and correct the problems that we may well wonder if we should buy the same brand again.

    Case in point. I had fantastic service from a certain Citroen dealer until I sold the car early 2008. Several colleagues of mine (4 out of the 9 staff I work with had Citroens - 3xc3 and Xantia) also agree that the service then was good....now though, they are not so happy. Seems a change of staff means effectiveness has evaporated....and soured the Citroen relationship for 2 of them - so it isn't isolated either.

    My Renault 12's and 16TS were a some of the most reliable cars I have ever owned. Noting that they were at least 12years old at the time I bought them, my expectations for complete reliablility were not 'new car' high either, but none of them ever let me down - ever. I can't say the same for the Renault 21 I had from 1997 to 2004. It was the single largest piece of shite that ever left a factory....

    My CX2400 cost me a bomb too in the first 12months I owned it and was determined to not go more than 300klm from Canberra without a failure of some sort...

    But the shining light for reliability for me would have to be the 2 Xantia's that I have had. Neither car ever put a foot wrong....ok, I snapped a clutch cable, but I can live with that...If ever a car was 'baby bears porridge', for me, this was it....

    If I could buy a new one here, today, I'd have it without a second thought...
    Last edited by Ronhic; 18th December 2010 at 07:18 PM. Reason: More info

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    Quote Originally Posted by PJ810 View Post
    I hate to break it to you, but there are more Camry/Toyota forums than you can poke a stick at.
    Peetrick - use yours not mine.
    Can't you imagine it exciting stuff, threads like 'White knuckles on the Newell - speeed controller overrun"
    or "Latest RAC- waiting times (insert State)"
    Those people that say I know - generally don't.

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    Quote Originally Posted by PJ810 View Post
    I hear that the batch of Toyotas built in the last couple of years are far from as reliable as the old ones upon which they built their reputation. Just go on a Camry forum. People who've had many Camries, and now vow to never buy another Camry again because they're not what they used to be. And at this same time, French cars are becoming more reliable again.
    .

    patrick, can you give an indication of where you read that sort of thing? i would be interested to have a look myself. i am surprised to learn that toyota builds cars in ´batches´. i would have thought they were using a production line like everyone else.
    Last edited by alexander; 19th December 2010 at 11:58 AM.

  24. #24
    1000+ Posts jo proffi's Avatar
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    Are french cars unreliable??

    I think so.
    The french reputation for using sub standard wiring or plugs is well earned.

    The auto gearbox saga that went on for how many decades is a joke.

    I would never recommend any one I like spend their hard earned money on a new french car unless they liked fixing fidley stuff or having stuff not work all the time.


    My mom had to buy a new car and her last car was a kia rio.

    That was pretty reliable. A shock mount needed replacing, and the timing belt changed when time came.
    Maybe a set of wiper blades, and I think mum washed the seat covers once too

    Like Yeh, I'm going to steer her towards a modern french auto after reading aussiefrogs for the last 8 years.
    I want to keep my inheritance safe so I steered her towards a hyundai i30.
    I bet nothing except wiper blades tyres and timing belt need fixing on that car for the next 100k km.
    And if it does, I'd bet every independant mechanic with a half decent shop would have the software package and prior experience that is so necessary to effect good value repairs these days if they are needed.

    And besides, even if french cars actually are reliable, it suits my needs to keep talking them down so their resale values stay as crap as it is.

    Jo

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    honestly, those fuegos are such crap! if i had one, i would just give it away to the first Good Samaritan who put up his hand to help me out.

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