The following is a summary listing of only a few vehicles rated by the Lemon-Aid 2002 new and used car guides. The list has been compiled after reviewing owner complaints, secret warranty programs, automaker internal service bulletins and memos, government complaint data, court judgments, and out-of-court settlements.

Ratings may contradict Consumer Reports or auto club ratings due to the weight given owner complaints and internal service bulletins.

Why the Ford downgrade? Simple. Abysmally poor quality and Scrooke-like warranty assistance.

Focus, Taurus, Sable and Windstar owners may be angry that their vehicles have been downgraded to Not Recommended in this year’s guides, while some of Chrysler’s models, faced with similar on-going failures, are given an Average or better rating.

The ratings are different because Chrysler has been more generous than Ford in giving owners after-warranty assistance and the company has extended its powertrain warranty to seven years.

Ford’s customer assistance centre (CAC) is more tight-fisted and is presently in a state of flux. Staff morale has hit rock bottom due to maladministration, poor dealer relations, and angry customers stuck with engine intake manifold and headgasket failures in addition to chronic automatic transmission breakdowns. Owners report their claims are routinely dismissed through the recitation of a prepared script blaming them for using an independent garage or having abused their vehicle. Yet, Ford’s engine and transmission deficiencies are broad-based and have existed for over a decade.

I have tried to resolve these factory-related problems with Ford after meeting with four of its presidents over the past decade.

I failed.

Former Ford USA president Jac Nasser deep-sixed the seven-year warranty extension for the complete powertrain up to the 2001 models that I requested in February 2002.

I am still hopeful the above problems will be addressed and resolved, permitting me to once again, recommend the company for both its products and its warranty performance.

I’ll keep my fingers crossed.

BAD BUYS

Cadillac: Allante, Catera, Cimarron, and all other front-drives (show-off cars for the nouveau riche and nouveau dumb)

Chrysler: Horizon, minivans (up to 1997), Neon, Omni (engine, brake, and automatic transmission failures; paint delamination)

Chrysler: Cirrus and Stratus (engine, automatic transmission, and AC failures)

Chrysler: Concorde, Intrepid, LHS, New Yorker, Vision (automatic transmission, brakes and AC failures; body leaks)

Daewoo: all models and years (coming out of bankruptcy; newly acquired by GM)

Ford: Focus, Taurus, Tempo, Topaz, Sable, Windstar (electrical glitches, engine, transmission, and brake failures)

GM Saturn: all models and years (engine failures, electrical glitches, and poor body fit and finish)

Hyundai: Excel, Pony, early Sonatas, Stellar (biodegradable bodies, serious engine, transmission, electrical, brake and fuel system failures)

Jaguar: all models and years (lots of cash for pseudo-cachet from Ford; mediocre quality and problematic servicing)

Kia: Sportage (a poorly performing sport-utility with an uncertain future)

Lincoln: Continental front-drive (engine, transmission, AC and brake failures)

Mazda: MPV (pre-2002 model was a gutless runt)

Saab: (electrical failures, problematic servicing, and quirky).

VW: Rabbit and EuroVan (mediocre quality control an Problems getting parts and service; Camper is ideal for waiting for a tow from Hans or Helmut)

GOOD BUYS

Audi: A4 and A6 (no more sudden acceleration unless you’re talking about sales)

Chrysler: Colt, Summit, Stealth (three of the best cars Chrysler never built)

Ford: Escort, Mustang, Crown Victoria, Grand Marquis (a Mazda spinoff and rear drive reliability)

GM: Caprice, Camaro, Cavalier, Firebird, Roadmaster, Sunbird, Sunfire (dependable rear drives and well-equipped, inexpensive front-drive small cars)

Honda: Accord, Civic, Odyssey after ’98 (reliable and slow to depreciate)

Hyundai: Elantra, Tiburon (fairly reliable and inexpensive)

Infiniti: all models and years, except for the G20 (a better-performing Maxima)

Lexus: all models and years (your father’s Oldsmobile, if he were Japanese)

Lincoln: Rear-drive Continental and Town Car (best American luxury cars)

Mazda: 626, 929, Miata, Protege (reasonably-priced and almost as reliable as the Honda, Toyota competition)

Mercedes: 300 series (expensive, but you get your money back at trade-in time)

Nissan: Axxess, Maxima, Sentra (reliable and reasonably priced)

Subaru: Legacy and Forester (4X4 is what makes them special; reliability is in the Mazda, Nissan, class, almost as good as Toyota and Honda)

Toyota: Avalon, Camry, Solara, Sienna (Camry redux)

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