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“They don’t make them like they used to!” I’m sure you heard someone say this when talking about cars, or maybe it’s something you think too. But is it really true? Are older cars more reliable, easier to maintain and capable of longer lifespans? Are car manufacturers using planned obsolescence to make sure their cars don’t last much past the warranty period so we’re forced into buying new ones? Today we’re going to answer all of these questions
Let’s start from the basics. What do car manufacturers do? Obviously they make cars. Why do they make cars? So they could sell them for a profit. Car manufacture is a manufacturing business like any other. Making pots and pans, computers, shoes, etc. You manufacture things and sell them for a profit. If there’s no profit you go bankrupt and the company ceases to exist. So profit for car companies is like air for humans, without it we die.
To ensure their cars sell well car manufacturers have to meet the needs and expectations of the consumers and at the same time they also have to abide by various government regulations. Both the expectations of the consumers and the standards of government regulations are constantly on the rise. Consumers want ever better, faster, safer, and more attractive cars while governments want the cars to have ever lower emissions and environmental impact.
Obviously to meet all of these demands car manufacturers must make the cars more complex. The more complex they are the more parts they have, the more parts there are the higher the chances of failure right? On top all of this cars must be competitively priced so car manufacturers must somehow cut costs while at the same time increasing the number of parts. So this explains the plastic thermostat housing? It was made from plastic not because car manufacturers are evil but because they had to cut cost somewhere to keep the car competitively priced while meeting government regulations and consumer expectations. It’s the rapidly changing world that forced them to make plastic thermostat housings as well as plastic valve covers, water pumps, intake manifolds and more.
Well yes, cars have become a lot more complex over the years and as such they obviously require a lot more engineering and more parts and this does to an extent increase the possibility of failure. But there’s also an illusion that many of us have when it comes to the reliability of old cars. Many modern cars can easily do 150.000 miles without any major servicing or overhauls. In fact there’s a number of them that manage to do 500.000 miles and more. Back in the 60s and 70s a car that did more than 100.000 miles was considered “over the hill”, I mean they had 5 digit odometers that would roll over to zero when the car hit 100.000 miles. But by the 80s and throughout the 90s technology and quality control had become so good that factories gave birth to some truly memorable machines that seem to refuse to die. Even today, 30-40 years later there’s a high number of these cars still going strong on the road and racking up miles. But we also mustn’t forget that many of these cars are on the road because they’re exceptionally well taken care of and constantly maintained. Whether it is vehicle value, rarity, emotional attachment or something else, owners are willing to go to great lengths to keep certain old cars alive. For example the amount of money I had to spend to make and keep my 1987 Toyota MR2 roadworthy would be more than unacceptable for a newer car.
But here’s the elephant in the room, the Government regulations that only concern themselves with emissions and safety while the car is on the road. There are absolutely no laws and rules that tell manufacturers how long a car’s lifespan should be or how repairable or easy to maintain a vehicle should be. This means that manufacturers are completely free to make things like alternators and other components that cost a small fortune but aren’t serviceable. Or they can make components that are comprised of multiple parts fused into one. Of course when only a small part fails you have to replace the entire thing. Often the cost of these components can be as high as a third or even half the value of a 5 year old car. Of course all of this can easily be justified because it contributes to a 0.5% reduction in emissions and that’s all government regulations at this point care about.
A special thank you to my patrons:
Peter Della Flora
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#d4a #oldcars #plannedobsolescence