quality and cost of ownership

Roger M. Woodbury rmwoodbury at downeast.net
Sat Sep 1 04:03:03 EDT 2001

I have been reading the comments about "quality" and cost of
operation/ownership recently on this list and on another.  The other one is
devoted to Porsche 928, and the same sorts of issues are being debated
there, that are being debated here.  It also seems that there are a lot of
people who have the idea, one way or another, that an automobile is supposed
to be something that can be treated like a toilet:  flush it once a day, and
it is supposed to operate perfectly for ever with no care or concern.

In point of fact, a typical automobile is composed of thousands of parts
that are subject to enormous stresses over their design life.  In addition,
it is my observation that the less involved with the vehicle a person is,
the more trouble and difficulty that he/she has with the vehicle.  I also do
not think that this thread is at all fair to the specific vehicle being
discussed, as there is no consensus as to what constitutes the concept of
"quality" or ease/economy of ownership.

I think that by most standards, my first Quattro was a nightmare to own.  it
was also an amazingly "high quality" automobile with attention to detail in
design and concept not found in any other car that I had ever owned other
than the Mercedes 190 Turbodiesel that I had had in 1987.

That Audi had had a lot of problems that popped up now and again, all of
which had to be fixed.  It left me stranded once, although I managed to get
it home under its own power by use of some string, abuse of the clutch, and
constantly turning the engine off and on.....the throttle became inoperative
when the cable broke.

Of course that car was an '87 Avant, and I bought it with 121,000 miles on
the odometer.  The first sixty thousand miles were recorded in the owner's
service book, and the car had been serviced precisely at each and every
required service.  I believe that this was a two owner car, and it appears
that the second owner never serviced the car except to change the oil, and I
rather think that was less than required by any reasonable person.

I did  a lot to that car, including a 'bomb', brakes, front struts, some air
conditioning hoses, tires, alternators, batteries, alternators,
alternators....ah, ah, ah....wait a minute:  brakes, struts, alternators,
hoses, even a radiator, and water pump and....but those aren't evidence of
an expensive to maintain car.  The car had over 120,000 miles on it when I
bought it.  And I bought it because the day that I drove it for the first
time, there was four inches of snow on the road, adn Quattro sold me the
car.  In retrospect, I think that the car had been inperfectly maintained by
the second owner, and thus, I got to do all the maintenance items that
needed to be done to a high mileage car that had been only partially cared

At 205,000 or so, it was getting "Tired Engine Syndrome", and hard starting
was the norm, it was gettig harder to keep batteries in the car, and there
was groowing evidence of electrical system problems throughout the car...I
suspect on retro, that the grounds might have been failing through age
alone.  The car was ten years old at the time, and I donated the car to the
transportation museum locally, and took the dealers appraised value as a tax
deduction.  I really wish that I had kept better records for the three years
and seventy thousand or so miles that I put on the car.  The only thing that
I do know precisely, was that the car got better than 21 miles per gallon
ALL the time, and normally the computer showed me a consistent average of
around 23.4.  It used a quart of oil between changes at the end, and I
changed the oil every 5000 miles...because I could remember the interval
without writing it down someplace on a piece of paper that I would probably

My '89 Avant I bought MUCH more carefully.  It cost eleven thousand dollars
in 1997, and had 62,xxx miles on the clock, and EVERY work order ever
written on the car.  I bought it from the dealer that sold it originally,
and had serviced it from day one.  A one owner, non-smoker, anally serviced
and maintained car.  I have just sold the car for $5000, and that only
because it needs a few things that seem to be nonessential to the operation
of the car but should be repaired for it to command top "book" value.

I have kept perfect records of the operation and maintenance of this car.
INCLUDING the complete rebuild of the transmission and replacement of the
clutch, it has cost 8.8 CENTS per mile for maintenance.  I have not
tabulated the cost of ownership, including depreciation, insurance, tires
and fuel because I would have those with any vehicle, and any vehicle isn't
an Audi Quattro.  I have put 98,000 miles or so on the car, and I have every
reason to believe that the gentleman who has bought the car will enjoy it
for at least another 98,000 miles if he cares for it, and services it
properly.  I live in eastern Maine, and the winters are enormously hard on
cars, and the roads are all rural, two lane and rough all year round.  I
believe that the Audi was built for this region, and I believe that this car
was exceptionally inexpensive to own and operate over the time that I have
had it, which is four years.

Would say, a Toyota Camry have been as efficient and inexpensive to operate
over 98,000 miles as my Audi?  or a Honda Accord?

No.  For several reasons, I believe.  One is that neither a Camry nor an
Accord are Audi Quattros, and have the features that the Audi Quattro had in
1989.  Also, it is my observation that most Camry's and Accords with 60,000
miles on them have not received the maintenance that my car had received.
Simply because most people who drive those cars do not perform or have
performed the full maintenance schedules that the previous Audi owner had
performed, and indeed, I don't think (although I am not entirely sure) that
the service schedules from Toyota or Honda are as complete and detailed as
those from Audi.  Having said that, I do believe that an equally well
maintained Camry or Accord will probably prove as dependable as my 89
Quattro was...it just wouldn't be the same thing at all.  Not an Audi

So, I think before the cost of maintenance is complained about, there needs
to be some sort of definition of what this involves.  A car driven
relatively short distances in heavy, stop and go traffic, will cost MUCH
more than one driven longer distances without the traffic concerns.  Also,
time is not nearly as impressive to me as time AND mileage.  Speaking about
the cost of service or maintenance per year isn't nearly as meaningful, I
think, as the number of miles involved and the type of driving.  The comment
from someone about the Mitsubishi 3000GT that had had a lot of
clutches....means nothing:  eating clutches in short order speaks fo abuse,
not use.  It reminds me of the guy on the Porsche 928 list who speaks of
lousy tire wear, while talking about doing burn outs at the traffic lights.

I have an acquaintence who has a '90 200 Quattro.  The car still has less
than 100,000 miles on it, and it is serviced at the local cut rate, "shade
tree" garage.  The guy there means well, but is unschooled and unconcerned
about the niceties of Audis. He is GREAT on Chevrolets, but that's where the
expertise ends.  Anyway, my friend insisted that his wife (now, his
ex-wife), buy a new Audi....I think it was a '94 100CS, but it might have
been an early A6.  They seemed to have had a lot of trouble with the car.
Small wonder, as they never took it to the right place.  My friend complains
about the lights on his 200, and I keep my silence, because althhough I know
that the cure is in European headlights, he would be outraged and go off on
a proper rant about the cost of things, if he thought about putting nearly a
thousand dollars into upgrading his headlights.  And there in lies the
entire story about that couple's experience with Audis in general.
Improper, cheap service done improperly and zero involvement with the car.
Both are professional people and they have the money to do otherwise and the
intelligence to do it all properly.

Now, her Audi is gone, and replaced by a Subaru.  I expect that she will
have that car three years, LOVE it, and trade it for a new one.  The Subaru
Dealer will service the car, which will probably constitute an oil change
and a kiss on the grille emblem.  She will drive it "hard"...that is in
eastern Maine, for twelve thousand miles a year, and it will cost her
nothing.  That will constitue a "good car" for her.  But in terms of overall
costs of ownership, her costs will be excruciating, as the depreciation will
really kick her around, but the cost of service will approach zero.  She
will consider this normal, where spending six hundred bucks for a timing
belt and waterpump at the Audi specialist in Bangor would seem outrageous.

Now in the garage here are three vehicles.  My 3/4 ton GMC truck, which is a
wonderful "TRUCK", although as far as quality of construction or design is
concerned, is is just typically American, and rather slipshod.  Considering
how long the basic truck as been made here, it ought to be better.  I don't
trust the transmission, with it electronic controls, and have an extended
warranty that I purchased (at not insignificant cost) when I bought the
thing.  Don't let the air conditioning and electric windows fool you:  it is
set up for plowing, and I plow with it.  it is set up for towing and I tow
with it.  I haul firewood, granite dust, concrete blocks and railroad
ties....rugged hauler.  454 cu in V8 that gets lonely for gas stations after
around 300 miles, and with a 34 gallon tank.  It isn't exotic, and I don't
trust it in bad weather or in the dark, as the headlights are basically
ineffectural and the thing is misery itself in two wheel drive on slippery
roads, and only marginally manageable except very slowly in four wheel
drive....no, it's OK in four wheel drive on ice and snow...just not really
intended to be driven in four wheel drive on the highway.

My wife's new car is a '94 100 CS Quattro Avant.  I bought this car in
Kansas City from the world's most wonderful BMW dealer (you oughta see this
place:  new facility designed along the lines of the BMW museum in
Munich...huge, and beuatiful.  Nice folks to deal with, too.  Baron BMW.  If
I wanted a BMW, I would go there.).  Anyway, this car was traded in on a
BMW, and is a one owner car with just under 40,000 miles.  (well, just over
forty one thousand now, as I drove it home).  The car was maintained by the
Audi dealer, and it appears it was maintained with cost no object.  It's as
perfect as it can be, and I expect that it will be fine for my wife, and as
a wagon, for what we will use it for.

And my car which is a '93 V8 Quattro.  This car was a two owner car, bought
from a huge Audi dealer outside of Philadelphia.  It seems to have been
serviced carefully all its life.  After getting the car here, I had my
mechanic check the all frightening timing belt (the car had 66,000 miles
when I got it), and found that the belt and water pump were new, and OEM
parts.  That's very reassuring.  Ah, and what a satisfying automobile it is
to drive.  More power than any sane person would ever want, and that is
leaving the transmission selector in "E": mode.  It reminds me so much of my
Porsche 928S4 as to almost make me think that I don't want another one

My wife drives around four and a half miles to work, and there are no
traffic lights.  Most of the time when I drive the V8, I go further than
that before shuttting down.  Both cars seem to be getting between 18 and
twenty miles per gallon.  Neither car needs anything now, although I am
attracted to updating the Bose system in the V8, and getting European
headlights for both cars.  Maybe later. For now, they seem really fine, and
although the Avant is a bit leisurely feeling, it is a wonderful riding a
driving car.  The V8 is VERY muscular and powerful feeling, quite different
from the more refined grace of the Avant.

Will either or both of these "new" Audis prove as ineexpensive to own and
maintain as my '89?  Dunno.  Hope so.  But in the meantime, they are both
Audi Quattros which was the point behind the acquisition,a nd they will get
whatever they need and overall, I'll bet that they will be everything that
they are supposed to be.  Simply better than most anything else that you can
think of.

Now, where was that forecast of snow and cold....?


More information about the quattro mailing list