No More Sex Appeal and Horsepower

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Recently by Eric Peters: Cypher's Choice

Big Business has discovered that it can do business with Big Government – and vice versa – the two spooning together like lovesick newlyweds. Of course, it’s us – the Mundanes – who end up getting screwed.

Here’s another example: Back-up cameras for cars.

It’s not even necessary to actually mandate such things anymore. The government was threatening to do that – but retreated from actually issuing the fatwa – which had been scheduled to go into effect beginning with the 2014 model year. (A final “ruling” is slated to be issued by NHTSA by December 31.)

Perhaps because the car companies are de facto mandating the things already.

Of the past half dozen or so new vehicles I’ve been issued to test drive and review, every single one had a back-up camera – even though the proposed mandate (de jure) would not actually go into effect until 2014. In many cases, the back-up camera is packaged with GPS, or even with the audio system – which in many new cars includes an LCD display – the major cost-adding component of the back-up camera system (the cameras themselves being pretty inexpensive). So, if you want GPS – or the upgrade audio system – you have to buy the back-up camera, too.

As a practical matter, any new car that’s not a really basic, bare-bones economy car already has the LCD display – so adding the cameras is an easy thing to do. So, it is done. Why not? It means more money for all (except the buyer, of course) and the car companies can bray about their “commitment to safety” – which these days is what horsepower and sex appeal were to another generation, long gone. Plus, by being ahead of the curve – that is, ahead of the de jure mandate – which will surely come – they will save themselves some hassle.

But what about saving us – their customers – some hassle?

And money, too?

There was a time – hard to believe, I realize – when businesses actively worked to please customers – as opposed to the government. Or at least, felt they had to try to please the customer – and saw the government as an impediment.

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Eric Peters [send him mail] is an automotive columnist and author of Automotive Atrocities and Road Hogs (2011). Visit his website.

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