From the German perspective a product should never break down. Not only the German engineer thinks this, but also the German consumer, customer, and business partner.
Germans are perfectionists. A reliable product, like a reliable person, delivers on its promise. It anticipates the worst-case scenario.
For Americans, a reliable product functions well under adverse conditions. If it has problems, the supplier reacts promptly (service), at minimum additional cost (warranty) and at minimum inconvenience (substitute product).
Germans pride themselves on technical prowess. An unreliable product of their own making is a reason for embarrassment. An unreliable product of another‘s making is unacceptable. Germans find American products to be less reliable.
Americans tolerate less reliability as long as it is made up for in service response time. In fact, a technically more reliable product can be more problematic if its service contract and its service provider are unresponsive and/or expensive.
Because, let's face it, even the best products have problems from time to time. Reliability is just one product characteristic.
Advice to Germans
Enter into and remain in dialogue with your American colleagues about how you define reliability, what are the market demands, where is your competition, how you can meet, possibly surpass the market and the competition.
Advice to Americans
Enter into and remain in dialogue with your German colleagues about how you define reliability, what are the market demands, where is your competition, how you can meet, possibly surpass the market and the competition.