I think the most reliable vehicle I've ever owned is my 98 2.5L Wrangler.
Bought it with 145K, now has 195K and all I've had to replace is the battery.
Always starts and hums along like a Swiss watch. Well, like a noisy Swiss watch
My wife's Mazda Tribute on the other hand blew the engine last weekend. Less than 100K on the clock and always well maintained. Talk about a major POS!!
I had a 1998 escort zx2, hit 107k and all hell broke loose in the engine. up until then, perfect no problems. I have a 99 Jeep Wrangler, with 105k now only has a leak in the transmission, even after being run 100mph+ across the Mojave desert, and trails in the Appalachians. Still runs good. I also have an 04 4Runner Sport with 103k, and it is perfect still.
I agree that Honda has a good reputation for lasting. And Toyota's high resale value is due to the fact that they last so long also. I agree that their are exceptions in all cases.
Some american made vehicles may last a very long time. I am however, convinced that the Japanese Honda and Toyota generally last much longer. You mention the Escort with 146,000 miles. That's great...for a Ford Escort. A Toyota with 146,000 miles on the other hand... Who cares? That's nothing for a Toyota (or Honda).
Don't get me wrong here, I have loved the American cars I have had over the years. I used to be so apprehensive to purchase a vehicle with over 100000miles on it. Not any more. If it is a Toyota, I only get concerned if it is over about 225,000 miles (assuming everything has checked out okay). Even if it's over 225,000 miles it's not a deal breaker.
I don't think I would want an american vehicle (big 3) with over 200,000 miles on it.
It doesn't surprise me that the big rigs last a long time (high miles). I don't know anything about them but it seems that all products that are more of an "industrial" nature and less consumer type stuff seem to be made to last sooo much longer. (usually more expensive also). I wonder if the maintenance is more thorough? Maybe some of you folks could chime in.