Take on ‘Planned Obsolescence’
the auto industry in general were accused some 40 years ago
of perpetrating planned obsolescence that is,
deliberately redesigning cars each year, usually in trivial, cosmetic
ways, in order to make last years cars seem old
and thus encourage the purchase of the new and latest
Maybe so. In
fact, probably so. But it was a psychological or marketing
effort and not coercive. In a way, it was all rather
innocent. No one forced you to buy a new car or get
rid of your old one. If your older car still ran well and looked
good (to you) then you could drive it for as long as you liked.
And because the cars of that era were much simpler and largely
free of government-mandated elaborate (and expensive) equipment
it was possible for a person with some basic mechanical skills
and the interest necessary to keep an older car going almost indefinitely.
have no idea that modern cars are increasingly designed not merely
to be less-than-stylish after a year or two but to be throw-aways
after about 8-10 years or so. This is the point at which the average
cars retail value falls below $10,000 when the cost
to repair/replace certain components becomes prohibitive relative
to the value of the car itself.
And the best
(well, worst) part is the government will force you to throw
the car away.
Tens of thousands
of otherwise perfectly sound older vehicles, often with many years
of useful service life left in them, are junked every year solely
because the cost to replace a deployed air bag (or bags) is too
high relative to the value of the car itself. A 2002 Toyota Camry,
for example, has an average retail value of around $7,000 right
now. If the owner of such a car is involved in an accident
not catastrophic, but sufficient to cause both the driver and passenger
side air bags to deploy the car will invariably be thrown
away. Even if the car only has 70,000 miles on the clock and still
runs great and could be driven for another ten years or more.
the physical damage to the cars bodywork might be light
and fixable for a reasonable sum the costs associated with
replacing the airbags will not be reasonable, relative to the value
of the car. Often, air bag replacement costs will push the total
repair bill to 40 percent or more of the vehicles pre-accident
This is the
point at which most insurance companies will total
that is, throw away a vehicle. And its a threshold
thats alarmingly easy to reach even if most people
are unaware of it.
In the Camry
example, replacing the driver and passenger side air bags
which also means replacing the entire steering wheel and (usually)
the dashboard will cost in the neighborhood of $2,500. By
itself before even factoring in the cost of repairing
body damage replacing the air bags and associated components
has pushed the repair estimate to the 40 percent threshold. Add
$2,000 for bodywork which these days is a small sum
and youre at 60 percent. And the cars toast.
its toaster fodder.
Think of the
probably millions of cars out there with book values
of $10,000 or less. Each one is in peril every day
of being junked as a result of modern planned obsolescence.
If your car is worth less than $5,000 its not just in peril
of being junked.
It is guaranteed
to be junked if its ever involved in an accident that results
in an air bag deployment.
the rest of the article
[send him mail] is an automotive
columnist and author of Automotive
Atrocities and Road Hogs (2011). Visit his
© 2012 Eric Peters
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