A familiar story.

Sitting in the front passenger seat of my 2003 Mini Cooper was an engineer from one of the domestic automakers. As we drove down the road—a typically bumpy southeastern Michigan thoroughfare—he commented about the squeaks and rattles he could hear. I am fully, maddeningly, aware of those noises. It’s hard not to be when you have a short wheelbase car with performance run-flat tires that is built in England for a German company. What part of that description does not suggest there is an audible quality gaffe or three to be found?

As we drove on, said engineer remarked that he’d heard a radio report about the Mini’s many quality complaints. In fact, the car didn’t rank near the top in any of the quality rankings, but nevertheless had amazing customer loyalty. Of this, too, I am aware. It’s hard not to be when the car you sometimes dislike seduces you with its looks, charm, and personality to the point you’re often willing to forgive its transgressions. However, this confused the engineer. Isn’t, he asked, quality the ultimate measure of desirability?

If that were the case, most ’02 and ’03 owners would have traded in their MINIs for Corollas. Of course quality, or lack thereof, is an issue but as the article goes onto say:

Mistakenly following the quantifiable path not only gives you white bread products, it can give you iDrive when what you really want is an iPod. Or to put it another way: Would you want to drive a perfectly reliable—but boring—transportation appliance, or a “scratch me behind the ears/c’mon let’s play” kind of car? The choice, I think, is obvious.

[Work or Play?] Automotive Design & Production