Corporate conscience - car companies commercial hoax

Hoax

Planned obsolescence. What an abhorrent concept. If you're unfamiliar with this, it’s the way that (in laypersons terms) something stops working, or is unfashionable, before it should. I'm not referring to product failure, but rather how some key part of your tool, toilet or truck breaks and needs replacing, well before you realistically think it should. It’s annoying at best and infuriating at worst.

Well I've got a theory about a doozie example of this and what it’s going to mean for us poor old consumers - on a huge scale - and what you can do about it.

First some background.

I'm a huge car fan. As a teenager, they provided me with freedom. To go places, see friends and have experiences. I’ve always loved their shapes (many have compared the curves of a beautiful car with that of a woman), performance and sounds and what they stand for. Certainly my 1986 Mazda Familia didn't have these qualities, but the Jaguar d-type and Ferrari 250GT posters on my wall did. I could tell a car by their exhaust notes and I went to every automotive event available.

That said, I've never had the patience to sit through motorsports, I'd much rather be on the track myself. As I have aged I've been able to participate in driver training, dirt racing, banger racing, rallying and I've even driven a targa. I buy all the magazines, watch the shows and have spent more money on cars than my wife thinks is reasonable. But hey, she's got her shoes...

New technology in cars fascinates me.

The advances in safety, driving aids (corner turning lights, traction control, and radar following etc) is just astounding. But there's one advance I'm incredibly dubious about - "Start-stop technology"(when the car comes to a halt the engine switches off). I think it’s a huge commercial hoax and one not designed to protect the environment, but rather, line the car companies pockets.

Why?

For years we've been told that the most wear to an engine happens on start-up. This makes sense - a cold machine has no lubricant, is very stiff and just like a human body, needs to warm up to perform. I recall one particular advertisement that put it as high as 90% of the wear and tear occurring upon start-up. I'd be floored to learn that the advances in polymers, metals or fairy dust had drastically reduced this.

Onto the second part of my theorem.

Car companies make most of their money from parts. The competition at sale and the need for others in the value chain (i.e. dealers) to make their margin means that they really rely upon spare parts to make their money. Don't believe me? Go and price replacement parts for your ten-year-old Japanese car: just to fix say the differential and 2-3 small engine bits will cost you more than the whole car is worth!

What about their ever increasing warranties?

Surely that means that the car companies care about us and are standing by their products on an ongoing basis? Nope. The major wear and tear caused by this excessive starting isn't going to kick in until years 6-10. By this time the car will be on its 3rd or 4th owner, it’ll be out of warranty and they'll be lumped with a huge bill.

What about the greater good?

What about their corporate conscience? Phhht. In this instance, no such thing. Like all large businesses, they are driven by the need for ever increasing profits – never mind their corporate conscience. Now you know I'm not going to say that’s a bad thing in and of itself, how they go about achieving the result may be however. Remember the Ford Pinto? The prone-to-explode-when-rear-ended PR disaster saw Ford determine it would be cheaper to pay out lawsuits from dead relatives rather than recall and fix all the cars. Case rested your honour.

So whilst it’s clear I have a huge passion for the automobile, I have a suspicion of the industry. The fact that this technology improvement will only serve to increase their profits, makes me dubious of the motives.