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In Pictures: 10 Smart Cars To Buy Now. Buick... In Pictures: 10 Smart Cars To Buy Now. Buick

Remember when automakers offered customers all kinds of incentives to flip their cars and trucks every three years? Cheap lease deals and seven year loans were catnip to many a driver who wanted to be seen in fresh wheels. So pervasive was incessant car flipping that many car owners became “upside down” on their car loans as unscrupulous dealers and ignorant buyers allowed customers whose trade-ins were worth less than what was owed to roll forward the shortfall into a new loan on a new car. Thus, consumers were financing 120% and more of a new car’s value at closing.

Not any more. Reckless financing deals took down Mitsubishi in the U.S., and ultimately contributed to the falls of GM and Chrysler. The companies have closed and consolidated so many factories that they aren’t over-producing cars and trucks like they used to.

Consumer research and trend analysts are telling carmakers to get ready for slow growth from this year’s projected 11.5 to 12 million new vehicle sales because the hammering of home values and 401k accounts is going to keep people in their vehicles for a good seven or eight years and maybe more.

The good news, even for people who aren’t wild about the prospect of holding on to the same wheels for a decade, is that automakers are making longer term ownership more possible through better engineering and overall quality. J.D. Power’s Vehicle Dependability Study (VDS), which ranks cars based on surveying car owners about three years of ownership, showed this year that Detroit automakers continue to narrow the long term quality gap between them and the leading Asian makes. Twenty-five of 36 vehicle brands have improved in long-term dependability in 2010, compared with their performance in 2009. And for the first time in the history of the study, a Detroit model, the 2006 Buick LaCrosse, had the lowest incidence of problems. Seven of the top ten models in this year’s ranking were from General Motors and Ford.

To come up with this list, we looked at three years of J.D. Power’s VDS Studies to see which vehicles showed up in the top three positions in their segments over 2008, 2009 and 2010, which would reflect vehicles sold in 2005, 2006 and 2007. Those were the LaCrosse, Toyota Prius, Honda Ridgeline and CR-V and BMW Z4. But we don’t want to be chained to Power’s rankings. We also added to our list--for reasons of our own scrutiny of the products, their history and various rankings -- the Volkswagen Jetta TDI, Hyundai Elantra Touring and BMW 3 Series.

There are other vehicles that could have been added to the list if we expanded it. The Lexus ES350 sedan, Subaru Outback and Toyota Corolla each have reputations and data to make them good choices for a decade, as well. But to keep the list to ten models, we were a bit ruthless, and wanted to add some models like the Jetta TDI and Hyundai, which we feel are good bets with some added benefit of being fun to drive and not such obvious choices.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 1 Month Ago
      buy American cars Period. What really frost my butt are the teachers and educators that belong to a union and will suport the unions endorsed politicians albeit the likes of OBAMA and his predesessors. My point is!!!!!!!!!!!!! there are an awlful lot of foreign made cars in the school parking lots. Under the ************* America is facing(due to OBAMA) these folks are all pin heads and anti America for not supporting the big three. P S dont give me this **** about these imports being made in America, the profits still go off shore.
      • 1 Month Ago
      I own a 2006 Buick Lucerne with 96500 miles and I'm finally getting ready to put the first set of new tires and brakes on it. No issues or maintenance problems.
      • 1 Month Ago
      I have had an Aurora by Oldsmobile for fourteen years and counting. It is the best car I have ever had, even over European models!
      • 1 Month Ago
      Any modern sedan should last between 8 and ten years if taken care of. Our domestics get better by the month and more of them will appear on our roads as America wakes up to the fact that the foreign myth is just that.
      • 1 Month Ago
      Sure, I helped GM out, and bought the 2009 Pontiac G8. Great car, but it is made in Australia. Maybe better that way. No issues with it the first year, it is a big car, with usable space, sporty with some real guts. Plan on keeping this one a while, especially since Pontiac is no more... GM finally got one right and then cut the line. Another reason they went bankrupt.
      • 1 Month Ago
      Americans are patriots, and prefer to buy American; no doubt at all about that. But most Americans will not long and knowingly subsidize incompetence and sloppily-made products, no matter who makes them and how well they are advertised. Foreign car makers got the upper hand in the auto industry for one real and obvious reason. They concentrated on quality product first, profits second, and did not rely totally on slick and sexy advertising to cover their bad tracks. Same lessons go for virtually all manufacturing and service industries, regardless where it all takes place.
      • 1 Month Ago
      American cars built today are not like their embarrassing predecessors of the late 70's and 80's. Their build quality has greatly improved in the last decade, I'm not saying every single model but, the majority have improved. Before you buy your next foreign car and give your hard earned American dollars to a foreign country go drive an American car or two and see for yourself.
      • 1 Month Ago
      allenstringer, you are a idiot!
      • 1 Month Ago
      • 1 Month Ago
      i have a 94 ranger 3.0 5 sp. 177000 & still runs like new $24 mpg. GO FORD,now have a focus SES 36 mpg without trying in city & a/c on 'blast'
      • 1 Month Ago
      Getting rid of my 2008 LaCrosse. It's been in for service 5 times for a transmission problem and still runs like crap...clunking and catching all the time. Each time I pick it up, they say they "fixed" the problem. Have come to the conclusion that I don't have the time or ability to *************** every two months for the same issue. No more GM for me.
      • 1 Month Ago
      2001 Ford Crown Victoria LX Performance Package, fast, powerful ,reliable as heck!!! Only recurring troble is front suspension, ball joints, tie rods go too fast
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