If you’re buying your first car today, you can feel pretty secure knowing that there are very few, if any, “lemons” on the market.

The lemon has achieved almost archetypal status in modern society, representing the belief that there are occasional cases where product defects in design or manufacturing coalesce into a prefect storm to produce a product of very low quality and poor reliability.

Lemons were once a very common experience among car buyers. I myself have owned several…but not in the last 20 years. Since the late ’70’s I’ve always had a new company vehicle every 3-4 years, in addition to many “hobby” cars. Over that 35 year time span, I’ve probably owned about 20 cars, with perhaps four genuine lemons. But, as I say, not in the last 20 years. I think that with the development of Computer Assisted Design (CAD) and manufacturing (CAM), quality initiatives such as Six Sigma and Total Quality Management (TQM), the use of test tracks, accelerated “torture” testing, etc., the likelihood of lemons has been vastly diminished. Oh, you may well get a car you don’t like from a comfort or performance perspective (I hated my 2008 Subaru Impreza), but in general cars today are pretty good from a reliability perspective.

The above of course assumes vehicles of a provenance that recognizes North American climatic realities and buyer values. I’m not sure that a Russian or Indian car would meet current consumer expectations, and frankly, if you buy anything British, you’re just asking for trouble, IMHO. Italian cars? Not sure. We’ll have to see how Fiat does here in the coming years, but memories of its acronym, “Fix It Again Tony”, still reverberate loudly. But overall, this is a pretty good time to be a car buyer.