Analogue Kid wrote >>
I think as far as Toyota is concerned, the marketplace is finally pricing them correctly. In the past 3-4 years, their quality (regardless of any recalls) has been slipping (and American companies dramatically improving) to the point where a Camry is no better than a Chevy Malibu and definitely eclipsed by a Ford Fusion. Prior to the media firestorm, you would pay much more for a similar condition/mileage an 08 Camry than a 08 Malibu. The same may not be true now; at least it shouldn't be.
The fact is a majority of people buy a car based on the reputation, not actual recent hard data. Many shoppers still consider GM a poor choice because of the crap they put out from about 1972-1995. I encourage anybody in the market for a vehicle to visit the library and read Consumer Reports to get a current look at vehicle quality. For example, if you think Ford and Hyundai are poor choices, you have some catching up to do.
I did a whole lot of travel through to mid-2008, and so spent a lot of time behind the wheel of rental cars. While I agree that the Ford products have a pretty good build (they seemed solid enough) and ride quality, they didn't quite match the Toyotas and Nissans that I rented.
As far as the Malibu, it was an OK car, and I flogged the hell out of more than a few of them, but it wouldn't be first (or fifth) on my list of cars to own ever. The ride wasn't that great, and most GM builds consistently feel cheap/chintzy to me. Pretty inferior to the Fords and way worse than the Japanese cars.
The few Hyundais that I got were ugly and drove like total pigs. They were memorably horrible driving cars. Build quality was merely OK.. better than the GMs IIRC, but not as good as the Fords. I'd never own one based on the few I rented. They felt unsafe to drive.
Even so, this is only a small part of the story. The real question is how these cars hold up. US cars have a history of being shoddy, while Japanese cars such as Honda and Toyota have a history of holding up well.
This has been mostly true in my experience. The Hondas that I've owned have been very reliable. I could easily see owning another. My brother's Toyotas have held up just as well.
On the other hand I owned two Ford rangers back in the 80s and 90s, and I'd probably gladly own another. They weren't perfect, but they were easy enough to work on, cheap to maintain and all around fun trucks. As for GM products? I'd be hard pressed to buy another thanks to an Olds that I owned back in the late 90s. Shudder.