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The quality of North American cars isn’t what I expected. Here’s a europeans perspective on the North American car market.


I moved to Vancouver, Canada on August 1st ‘22 from the United Kingdom. And of course as a car enthusiast, I’m observing the vehicles I haven’t seen before. Primarily models of Ford, Chrysler and General Motors vehicles. So, as I’m already familiar with Tesla and others manufacturers alike, I’m going to focus on these three manufacturers previously mentioned, coincidentally known as The Big Three.


I have made a few observations in the short time I’ve been here: average vehicle size is substantially larger, more higher displacement engines. But strangely the main thing I’ve been paying attention to is the quality of the interiors. Afterall, that’s where we as owners spend the most time and is arguably harder for manufacturers to perfect. Some are functional but a little behind of where I believe they should be, others are ahead. The technology available for the price point of some vehicles is surprising; features like Cadillac “Super Cruise™” or Jeep interiors utilizing Amazon Fire TV.

Even in just the last few years, comparing General Motors vehicles from 2020 to 2022, the interior design and technology included as standard is very good and very surprising. We Europeans previously used the cheap price tag as justification for the poor interior quality. Now, not so much. The interiors of some of the cars and trucks I’ve driven are pretty good. The seats are comfy, use half-decent leather or leatherette. The dashboard aesthetics aren’t offensive, ergonomically, they work for me. Not over complicated, everything is where you’d expect it to be.


However, there is a but. I don’t think the refinement or fit and finish compares to the German equivalents from Audi, BMW or Mercedes.

© Cadillac

I recently drove a Cadillac CT4 and I liked it, but the steering wheel padding was lacking and the plastic trims made it feel cheap. Worst of all, the leather on the upright section of the seat was baggy. Not something you should see on a new “luxury” vehicle.

Aside from the baggy leather, some of these things are small issues. I do have an underlying issue. My problem is it feels like they’ve used the same parts on the Cadillac as the Vauxhalls/Opels in Europe. Which I understand, it makes sense from a production standpoint, but things like the lights and wiper stalks just feel too cheap for the car it is trying to be. This mismatch of parts really complicates my feelings about the interior. Some of it’s nice, some of it’s nasty.

© Cadillac

Not that the interior in a BMW 3 Series is perfect, I’m yet to experience the dual screens on the road (pictured below). But, my initial thought is that I miss the cockpit feel dials and the dashboard ergonomics offer with conventional layout.


Opinions aside for a moment. Let me give you two specifications, both from the manufacturers’ websites and we’ll compare.

Vehicle Cadillac CT4 🇺🇸 BMW 3 Series 🇩🇪
Trim Luxury Base
Engine 2.0L 4-Cylinder Turbo 2.0L 4-Cylinder Turbo
Power (bhp) 237 255
Torque (lb-ft) 258 295
Transmission Automatic Automatic
Driven Wheels All Wheel Drive All Wheel Drive
MSRP ($CAD) $44,897 $58,949.30

Source: Cadillac CA | BMW CA | 2023-01-12

The BMW has the power advantage, a difference of 18 bhp and 37 lb-ft. Not a significant amount, especially after you compare the price. A $14,000 difference. For what?!

Quality, refinement, the name, because they can charge the price of a Chevrolet Spark on top of the Cadillac. It’s a BMW. The difference is all of the components and materials are much higher quality, the interfaces look great and upholstery doesn’t look like a mole has been burrowing its way through the seat.

BMW 3 Series

But again, let’s not ignore that price gap. It is a substantial amount of coin. In reality, what you get for your money with the CT4 over the 3 Series makes a significant difference to which you might buy. It really could swing it for you.

If you were looking to buy a Cadillac CT4 or a BMW 3 Series, would you pay the premium for the BMW? I’ll share my thoughts: It’s partly dependent on your budget and whether you actually care about the details because if we’re being real, the CT4 does nine-tenths of what a 3 Series does for around three-quarters of the price.

It could just be down to the finances for you. In the modern world we live in, it’s all about the monthly payments, so you might look at the cost differently, or by term length. For me, I’d pay the extra for the BMW. I could absolutely live with the Cadillac interior, it is still good. But being the type of person I am along with my love for cars, I want the better or most special car; I’ll take the BMW.

The Big Three may be starting to close the gap on the Germans; improving the quality, without drastically increasing in price. However, I’d begin to conclude by reminding ourselves that their main competitors aren’t the Germans. It’s each other here in North America: Ford vs. Chrysler vs. General Motors. Their customers like bang for buck, and I believe in most cases, they get exactly that.

It will be interesting to see how things develop over the next few years. Will the gap close on the European manufacturers, or will the US manufacturers “stay in their own lane”?

What would you spend your own money on?

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