Correct. And this is precisely why Toyota and Honda have succeeded, while FIAT has failed in North America. Even if you think that Toyotas are bland, boring and not for you, whenever your neighbor, your aunt or your boss asks for a recommendation, the last thing you want is to be blamed for telling them to buy a POS. So you take the safe route and tell them to go buy a Toyota or a Honda...and leave you alone. After all, if they are disengaged enough to have to ask someone else, chances are they won't be able to tell how good or bad a Toyota drives either.
On the other end the same thing happens: you own a FIAT 500 Abarth; you just love to drive that thing, how it sounds, looks, etc. But it is rough around the edges, and you've had some quality issues. But because you love it so much, you are willing to put up with them. When the same neighbor, aunt or boss comes asking for a recommendation, you are not going to tell them to buy one because you already know its shortcomings and won't hear the end of it. So you tell them to go buy a Toyota or Honda...and leave you alone.
Recommendation ranks among the top three sources of information when buying an automobile, and not having it is a huge handicap, especially for a brand trying to get a foothold in the market.
Product Quality is this overarching characteristic everyone wants: enthusiasts, non-enthusiasts, males, females, married, single, rich, poor, young, old, gay, straight, Christian or Muslim. That's not the case with performance, styling, or even fuel economy. Some buyers don't care about performance, others don't care how a vehicle looks, and as weird as it sounds, some don't even care about fuel economy. But who wants a shitty car...?
This is why a strong quality reputation drives sales volume: it appeals to everyone and promotes recommendation, further multiplying its effect.
As much "sense" as this makes... And to the extent that I agree,... it is all "speculation/conjecture/anecdotal," and based on perception without hard/tangible evidence... ie. The "assumption that Honda's/Toyota's" have less problems per vehicle versus an FCA vehicle based on a self-report survey.
The surveys, graphs, charts and other metrics that have been provided thus far, are all of "perceived quality". Is it important to attempt to address them?? Absolutely.
However, it is my opinion, that the real issue behind the difference in "perceived reliability/dependability" lands squarely on the shoulder of how the Customer is treated when they DO have a problem.
What is needed, are detailed listings/reports of what problem brought the customer in for service... aka
2016 Honda Accord - 425 complaints regarding Drivetrain
2016 Toyota Camry - 875 complaints regarding Engine
2016 Chrysler 200 - 540 complaints regarding Transmission
These types of reports would be more helpful, but still very much influenced by how the customer feels they and their problem was handled.
ie... I bring in my 2016 200 because the transmission is a little grabby. Instead of the service advisor/manager having a conversation with me and telling me that "these new technologically advanced 9-speeds may take a little while to get used to my driving habits at first, but rest-assured the transmission checked out fine, and shouldn't have any problems with it's reliability." They tell me "they didn't find any faults, and it's running normal." So now I feel dismissed, and keep coming back because I don't feel settled with the response, and I keep getting the same answer. So I trade in my 200 (which really was fine), for a Camry which transmission actually failed but replaced, but because they treated me with respect, I'm a happy camper. At the end of the year, when I get my annual JDP, KBB or CR Survey, I report that the Chrysler was at the dealer 3 times for the same issue, but am completely happy with my Camry.
In summary, you and I agree on a lot. Alfa needs to have a quality product -agree. And I'm not disagreeing that a strong quality reputation isn't important or a consideration for driving sales, because it is.
I think that where we disagree is the causality of the perception... Poor customer service/experience (my opinion) vs. vehicles that are actually less reliable/dependable than their competitors (your opinion).
P.s. BTW, I am enjoying and appreciate our ongoing, yet gentlemanly debate. lol