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Explaining complicated subject matter simply since 1986

It’s impossible to say, as they’re always wearing hats. And what’s the point, anyway? None are tall in the absolute sense, so who cares which is the “tallest” of a bunch by a millimeter? Any apparent differences in height among the seven is so minuscule as to be meaningless. None of them are tall in any absolute sense, so comparing short people to see who is “tallest” is as useful a task picking the mosquito dung out of the pepper mill or asking which subzero temperature is “warmer.” I was unable to find any data online to answer my question, but I did come across Dreshare.com, who says Snow White was only 5 feet, 4 inches tall. Her companions appear to be half her height and there is no easily discernible difference between these little guys who appear to be less than 3 feet tall. Tallest, indeed.

So what does this have to do with the latest Consumer Reports Automotive Reliability Ratings?

Pointless comparisons are a staple of advertising and promotion. Ford’s reaction to the report was to announce they were pleased to rank high among domestic brands. What Ford didn’t bother to mention was this: Ford’s reliability ranked 23rd of the 28 brands measured.

When did “We’re not last!” become something to be proud of?

Unable to claim reliability in any absolute sense didn’t stop the Blue Oval flacks from beating their drums. Ford chose the comparative route by relating themselves to the brands that dominated the bottom half of the rankings. This is the marketing department’s way of avoiding the real issue, which is Ford’s reliability, according to these data, stinks. The honest story is that Ford is only microscopically not as bad as Dodge. But public relations people and publicists never cite real data unless it suits them.

How could Toyota be 22 spots above Mercedes-Benz?

Expectations account for a lot of this apparent cognitive dissonance. Toyota sells a lot of low-priced entry-level cars to youngpeople buying their first new car. They’re gaga about the sound system and the new car smell. Mercedes-Benz buyers are typically older, wealthier and have bought other cars before. They have very high expectations and are put off by the slightest thing, much like the princess and the pea.

What else did U.S. carmakers say?

GM said it will use the magazine’s survey data to “better understand our performance and where we can improve.” Ford said they will review the ratings as they work to improve quality.

What, they don’t have their own research? 

What kinds of research are GM and Ford paying their suppliers for if they don’t know about these problems until an independent organization publishes them? The most common kind sold today – the kind that makes them happy because it tells them what they want to hear rather than what they need to know.

USSR Finishes in Second Place in Track Meet; USA Finishes One Spot Out of Last Place

This was a headline from TASS, the Russian news service from many years ago. Was the headline technically accurate? Yes. Was it deliberately misleading? You bet. Nowhere was it mentioned the USSR and the USA were the only two participants. It’s called propaganda when Russia does it. When companies do it, it’s called marketing and advertising.

Bonus

This sort of focus on the teeny tiny is very important in things that require great precision. When it comes to statistics, you can find these micro-differences but in the world of decision-making, it’s time wasted trying to make something out of nothing.

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