Steve Chapman argues that we've entered a golden age of automobiles, thanks to global competition:
A few decades ago, American automakers were the titans of American industry, bestriding the economy like a colossus. But in recent years, they have been relentlessly out-competed by foreign automakers that have forced them to strive for ever-rising standards. This translates into misery for Detroit, but bliss for consumers.
The latest Initial Quality Survey from J. D. Power and Associates illustrates this unnoticed phenomenon. It says that in the first 90 days of ownership, 2006 model vehicles experienced the fewest problems of any year on record—a 59 percent reduction since 1992.
Consumer Reports, which does more-extensive, long-run surveys, found comparable results. Since 1980, the trouble rate for new cars has been cut by about 80 percent. Just about every automaker has gotten better—to the point that the worst makes are now more reliable than the best ones were back then.
For the full argument, read the whole thing.