What is it about German cars that compels many of us to lust after Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Porsche models? Fortune asked that question and came up with 10 well-thought reasons:

1. First and foremost, the Germans have been practicing this automotive thing a bit longer than most countries. After all, it was Karl Benz who, in 1879, first patented the internal combustion engine and then in 1886 received a patent for his first automobile.

2. Fortune argues, the Germans have a storied racing history where their machines were pushed to their limits and reputations were forged. And then there's the infamous Green Hell – The Nürburgring – where legends are made.

3. Fortune' third reason is related to the second. Any country with 8,000 miles of public roads that allow almost unlimited speed is destined to turn out cars capable of thriving in that environment. The German Autobahn is as uniquely German as the cars the country produces.

Find the other seven factors that Fortune says make German cars great by scrolling below, then let us know if you have any other suggestions or want to lodge any disagreements by sounding off in Comments.

4. Fortune cites the German automakers' brand strength, specifically their "clarity, commitment, authenticity and relevance." Think about BMW's target goal of building every vehicle with a 50-50 weight distribution.

5. Technology. Fortune notes that "Engineers occupy a high pedestal in a country that prizes technology and craftsmanship." When engineers are given permission to do their thing, they can produce some seriously impressive machinery.

6. Fortune sums it up from The Economist: "It's quite simple, really – Germany makes things which people in countries with growing economies want to buy."

7. Arrogance with a purpose – Mercedes' ads claim "The Best Or Nothing." BMW says they build the "Ultimate Driving Machine."

8. Price is very nearly the object – Closely related to No. 7, Fortune says "Sometimes, how much you pay for something – as opposed to its function – is the point of the exercise." An extra $330 charge for a Porsche logo on the center console lid of a 911, for example.

9. Exclusive and super-exclusive – Anyone upper class with $50k can buy a 5 Series, but it takes an even larger bank account to afford an M5.

10. Everybody else is in second place – The tenth reason given for German car dominance arguably only repeats No. 7: Fortune says Audi, BMW, Mercedes and Porsche are generally thought of as top marques because, well, they say they are. And, despite great efforts by brands like Cadillac and Lexus, they remain on top of the heap.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 309 Comments
      Eta Carinae
      • 2 Years Ago
      People claim audi as top of the heep with BMW and Mercedes, but they just recently became known for building good cars.....the looked like $hit in the 90's and only started to progress mid 2000.....so as far as that goes
        axiomatik
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Eta Carinae
        Indeed. Back in the 90's Audi was closer to Saab or Volvo in general perception. How quickly people forget.
      Alex Ellsworth
      • 2 Years Ago
      Germany and Japan both have societal preferences for order, diligence, and perfectionism. However, the philosophy is a little bit different: Japanese companies believe serving and satisfying their customers will make them the best, while the German attitude is more like, "We will build what we believe to be the very best car. Hence, customers will want to buy it."
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Alex Ellsworth
        [blocked]
      Alex Ellsworth
      • 2 Years Ago
      Don't knock German cars till you've tried them - I think there is actually some substance behind the hype. I was never a huge German car fan until owning one, but my '97 BMW just amazes me every day with how solidly it's built and how well it drives. I freely acknowledge that Japanese cars may be more reliable, but they certainly don't feel this well-constructed at 15 years old. Everyone who rides with me asks, "Wait, how old did you say this was again?" My only doubt is that I wonder if German cars are losing their endearing "overengineered" quality as they engage in cutthroat competition to remain profitable in the global marketplace.
      jason32379
      • 2 Years Ago
      School's out for summer, I can tell based on some of the ignorant comments I see here. A car is what you make of it. I've driven all kinds of American, European and Japanese cars in numerous countries. The end-result is that you buy what you like. I'm not buying something based on the image that some people buy in to and others so desperately try to project or want to belong to. How is this any different than any other commodity item that anyone buys? I'll keep buying BMW's until I don't like them anymore. A friend of mine is looking at a BMW now because he tried Audi, Infiniti, Lexus (more as a joke) and Cadillac. He said it just feels right to him. Sure it's not GT550 fast or it doesn't get 40 MPG like a Prius should be getting.... But that's not really the point. He's going to buy what he wants to buy. To me, a BMW is a well-balanced vehicle that is better engineered than most. Does this mean that it's the most reliable? No. So long as I have a warranty, then why should I be concerned about something that breaks? 2011 335d and it's running just great. If I keep it long enough, and the warranty runs out, I expect something to happen that'll cost money. I once had an Acura that was a complete POS and, among other things, the dealer could not find an oil leak until I told them where it was coming from. Did they fix it? Nope. "Oh a little oil leak is fine for Honda engines." And this car only had 30k miles on it and under factor warranty. I've had five BMW's since that Acura and one I bought used was fun to drive but had electrical problems. Thankfully the warranty saved my butt. Every other BMW I've had has been reliable and a pleasure to drive.
      Justin Campanale
      • 2 Years Ago
      I have driven mostly Gemran cars and their bad rep is acquired solely by the fact that most Americans don't know how to maintain a car. If you don't maintain a car well, you will have a higher chance of something breaking.German cars, for whatever reason, are more strict about this kind of thing. If you maintain your car well, your experience will be absolutely trouble free.
        jason32379
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Justin Campanale
        Justin is partially correct. You can pretty much tell when a car hasn't been maintained properly. A buddy of mine blew up his Honda Accord motor when it ran out of oil. OMG how did that happen? Honda's aren't supposed to do that?! The point that Justin is trying to make is that any car, regardless of brand, will break without proper maintenance or plenty of ignorance (or both). BMW's in particular have had somewhat costly and complicated maintenance procedures, in the past, which pretty much led to the Break My Wallet moniker. BMW, and I know MB has as well, simplified their maintenance quite a bit to go more mass-market.
        Spellchecker
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Justin Campanale
        Exactly. German cars and certain exotics are so-called "high maintenance" cars. High maintenance doesn't equate to unreliable. It simply means that the car needs more care to run flawlessly. To many people cheap out on basic maintenance or go to independent mechanic shops that are not familiar with working on such cars. And here in Europe we have yearly inspections which are mandated by law. In Germany this is the TÜV (mine is due next week) so there is an INCENTIVE for people here to take better care of their cars and maintain them. The US does not have this I believe (or they're not as strict). If you don't maintain your car, don't be surprised if something goes wrong. To many average Americans it seems cheap out on basic maintenance. Some cars can take the neglect, some can't. The average Accord and Camry is a very basic and simple car. It might be able to take such neglect. A complex European luxury car on the other hand needs strict scheduled maintenance. Ignore this and don't be surprised if stuff starts failing.
          Spellchecker
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Spellchecker
          Let's face it - most people buying these cars are NOT enthusiasts so they're not going to maintain (or are incapable or properly maintaining) their cars to the standards demanded by the manufacturer. And due to their unwillingness to properly maintain their rides, things can go wrong. So all I am saying is that here in Europe we have strict inspections which are mandated by law. People here maintain their cars as a result of this better than other people in other nations. If your car fails an inspection here the part that caused the car to fail has to be replaced in order to get the car certified again and you're going to be fined (depending on how crucial the part is to the car). For example, someone who is driving around with a rusty car can expect to pay heavy fines, since this is considered a safety hazard on the road. Now, does America have such inspections? I don't believe so. There is no incentive for people to really take care of their cars because of this. Some cars require more care than others and if it's not given to them they will fail their owners eventually.
        A P
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Justin Campanale
        Please provide links to back up your BS statement.
          J
          • 2 Years Ago
          @A P
          What's the matter, A P? Hit a nerve???
      Hazdaz
      • 2 Years Ago
      While I am not a huge fan of German cars myself, I have respect for the German system, and I think the absolute biggest reason why German cars tend to be held in such high regard is #5. Unlike America where we are fine with having a sh!t educational system and we're OK with out-sourcing everything, the Germans are extremely proud, smart people that aren't willing to accept mediocrity. While Detroit built sh!tboxes for some 2 decades - and somehow still found buyers in the US - the Germans wouldn't put up with that kind of crap. They see it as national pride that they build the best cars in the world both from a worker's perspective, but also on a corporate level. Instead of letting the beancounters tell them this part costs 5-cents too much, they rather use the better part even if that means their prices aren't the lowest. I greatly respect a company that can compete on things OTHER than price. If you are always looking at the bottom line, and nothing but the bottom line, then you are doomed for a race to the bottom where thin profit margins and sh!tty customers will be your "reward".
        jz78817
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Hazdaz
        "While Detroit built sh!tboxes for some 2 decades - and somehow still found buyers in the US - the Germans wouldn't put up with that kind of crap. They see it as national pride that they build the best cars in the world both from a worker's perspective, but also on a corporate level. " explain VW, then.
          Hazdaz
          • 2 Years Ago
          @jz78817
          In Germany, VWs are considered extremely well built cars. Same with Audis. Yes, I am SHOCKED as well. But that's coming right from the source - I was there not that long ago. I would bad-mouth Audi's quality even as we'd ride by the huge Audi factory all the time and yet there Audis were known to be very well made. I really think this whole de-contenting of cars that VW has been doing with their North American cars has hugely effected the quality of the ones here. Bean-counters unfortunately are considered much more important here in the US than there, apparently. I know I wouldn't buy one here. But the German ones? Well, the ones there, I'd probably consider.
          A P
          • 2 Years Ago
          @jz78817
          How horrible it must be for you to have to live in the #1 economy in the world, with all of our freedoms. I guess you think is is cool that Germans cant be trusted with freedom of speech and expression? Yep because their gov is so scared of Nazis coming back that it is not legal to display swastikas or even SAY certain things or read things about them. Yep people that fine just dont grow on trees do they? Dont sit on your fat ass and bitch about how wonderful they are and how terrible WE are while enjoying all of the things America offers while not living there. What a creep.
          Justin Campanale
          • 2 Years Ago
          @jz78817
          Shtu up, A P.
        th0mb0ne
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Hazdaz
        This seems like a great argument.....for german cars in the 80s. It's been a slow descent into the pit of general mediocrity since then. Have you been inside of a VW or BMW lately? Does that plastic evoke pride to you?
          Hazdaz
          • 2 Years Ago
          @th0mb0ne
          I think you missed the part where I said that I personally am not a huge fan of their cars. The reality is that though, that they still sell exceedingly well. So well in fact that 50% of all Mercedes build in Germany are exported to other countries. Think about that... imagine if we here in the US exported HALF of all the cars we built (while still filling our own domestic demand of course). Imagine what that would do to our trade deficit and the amount of money leaving the US. Again, I am not going to defend individual German cars (some are MUCH better than others), but their system allows them to produce some of the most coveted cars out there, and I will definitely defend that.
          A P
          • 2 Years Ago
          @th0mb0ne
          Hazdaz, you cant be that stupid.....it has to be an act. Using the % of something exported as an argument? LOLOLOLO
        Felspawn
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Hazdaz
        Well said +1
      superchan7
      • 2 Years Ago
      Most of these reasons sound too obviously contrived. The only truly relevant point is the history of technological development (#1 and maybe #2, somewhat). The Autobahn (#3) is only relevant to performance tuning, which is just ONE ASPECT of how good a car is. It does not promote reliability and longevity, which the Japanese have mastered. Everything else is just "They are the best because they're expensive, and.....anyway, they are the best." Marketing fluff. Before the era of cost-cutting, infotainment and power-electronic-everything, German cars were built to last. It looks like only the Japanese have been able to maintain long-term reliability in their cars even with all of the new tech and cost competition. And in the US where the market is big and the miles are many, reliability is what sells Camrys and Accords. I am claiming non-bias, because I deeply respect the German culture of craftsmanship and Germany's quasi-socialist economic structure...actually, valid reasons for the alleged quality of German cars! Also, my daily driver and only car is a mid-engined German sports car. I love it (irrational), but that doesn't mean that German origin equals superiority (rational).
      ksrcm
      • 2 Years Ago
      German cars are wasted in U.S. It's as simple as that. It all depends where you drive any given car. I own E92 N55 with more than 30,000 miles on it, not a single problem with it. However, the miles I fondly remember in that car were those less than 2,000 that I drove in Europe before shipping the car here. The remaining 30,000 miles driven in U.S. were hardly anything to write home about or rave about with exception made for three track events. There's just a different car culture here in U.S. and different tastes/priorities. Driving my E92 on OEM rubber was a pain until I switched to non-runflat tires. Our roads are more appropriate for 3rd world country than the 1st world country. Most drivers here have no clue what driving means - they are just steering the vehicle while desperately trying not to hit anything/anyone. There's no forward thinking or forward looking, making plans and following the traffic flow in a way that makes sure the traffic will, in effect, flow. I believe that the most suited vehicle to drive in US is a pickup truck - you can even run over a ladder somebody "lost" from their truck bed without any significant consequence and if you get hit by any of the millions of distracted "drivers" you'll probably be just fine. The most suited vehicle to drive in most of the Germany (if you can afford taxes, insurance and gas bills) is something electronically limited to 155 mph, low to the ground running on low profile rubber and 100 octane gas in which you get about 100 mph average speed when traveling from city A to city B if there's no traffic jams. Two environments are just galaxy apart and judging which one is better is totally personal depending on personal tastes/priorities. I would prefer German system for so many reasons, but I believe large majority of US population are just fine with what we have now.
        mr.vw
        • 2 Years Ago
        @ksrcm
        You Nailed it! I agree with driving an elevated vehicle like a truck or SUV here in north america. Our roads are shite and In North america have no idea how to drive compared to the folks on the Autobahn.
      Dasteknoviking
      • 2 Years Ago
      I got 438k miles on my 96 Passat TDi- original engine and transmission with never been opened engine aside for oil pan gasket, valve cover gasket and timing belts every 60k.... it still gets 45-52MPG, A/C will freeze you and everything works- even the sunroof. Owned many Jap cars- I work @ a Acura dealership as a tech, and nothing comes close to a diesel German car. I find it funny when people say they got high miles and all they just hit 100K miles. Maintenance is key to cars life, your typical Jap car owner thinks oil changes are all the car needs to last for ever like their mom and dads 80s Honda//Yota. Unfortunately after all these years Honda still can't figure out how to build an automatic transmission to save their lives.
      Jonathan Arena
      • 2 Years Ago
      To me, the Germans have a sense of pride that is built into their product. Do you think Toyota gives a flying F that thier cars are boring and exclusively driven by people who don't like to drive? No because they are profitable and that is the only goal of that corperation: to generate profit. Now Porsche, on the other hand, has a family tame on it's hood- one that is still involved in the company. If someone who mattered were to say "that porsche is boring", they would be deeply offended, and I feel that pushes them to build a better more interesting product.
        Snark
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Jonathan Arena
        Way to compare apples to llamas. A boutique manufacturer of status-symbol performance cars can afford to be meticulous and painstaking in building their low-volume The valid comparison would be with Opel or Volkswagen, which, aside from the more expensive end of their European-market product line, produces vehicles that are no less boring and plebian than your average Toyota.
        Quentin
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Jonathan Arena
        Akio Toyoda is the head of Toyota. His name being so close to the company name is purely coincidence. It isn't like his great grandfather, grandfather, and father played huge roles in the company. He also hates cars so much that he hasn't raced the 24 hrs of the ring several times.
        A P
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Jonathan Arena
        Are you really that stupid or are you 13? Japanese dont have pride in their product? Typical AutoBlog lemming.
          Justin Campanale
          • 2 Years Ago
          @A P
          He didn't say Japanese, he said Toyota. With the exception of the BR-Z and LF-A, I agree.
        Snark
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Jonathan Arena
        Way to compare apples to llamas. A boutique manufacturer of status-symbol performance cars can afford to be meticulous and painstaking in building their low-volume, enthusiast sports cars. The valid comparison would be with Opel or Volkswagen, which, aside from the more expensive end of their European-market product line, produces vehicles that are no less boring and plebian than your average Toyota.
          Justin Campanale
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Snark
          Have you ever driven a VW recentl? Get into a GTI or R32. ******* blasts to drive.
      StephenT
      • 2 Years Ago
      Next month I'm renting a Mercedes for a 1000 mile vacation trip and this will be my first ever experience with a German car other than around a parking lot and such. I'm looking forward to finding out if they are all they are made out to be.
      • 2 Years Ago
      [blocked]
        mr.vw
        • 2 Years Ago
        I think this guy nail it! There's definitely 2 different spectrums of cars. The germans have a history of pushing the envelope in engineering for decades. For example arctic testing, the germans consistently test up in the actual arctic circle. I can hardly find any Asia car testing in the arctic, I can find is the Toyota Hilux on top gear - what a tough truck!!. However, google & youtube "honda or toyota "arctic testing and there's little asian car content in harsher conditions and there's evidence like the Dakar. On flip side the german edge is innovation and not reliability. That's why the new jetta/passat are the bastard children of the flock. No innovation, cheap price perfect for the north american consumer or VAG is hoping to convince you it's german.
          Andrew B
          • 2 Years Ago
          @mr.vw
          That's the problem with the Jetta/Passat of this current generation. They've cheapened the interiors, offer some horrible engines (2.5L i5 comes to mind) and are aiming for the mass market with cheaper prices. So you get a cheapened car, cheapened interior, and still subpar reliability. What gain comes from purchasing a new one except for badge snobbery?
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