Thursday, February 4, 2010

I Hate to Say I Told You So...

I write a lot, but only open my mouth to change feet. When a former (not by their choice) customer of mine said that Toyota was a great manufacturer, I blurted out that they were headed for a fall, and that they're in the same position GM was in the 1970's. In other words, they built marginal cars, but public opinion hadn't caught on yet. The bias against domestic automakers was too strong, even though their quality had improved steadily over the past 20 years (Except Chrysler).

Well, today my little prediction was right. Part of it was that they abandoned quality control in favor of high volume. Honda too, has also suffered from some major quality problems too, including, but not limited to, the transmissions in their Accords (early 2000's). Since they had this great reputation of reliability, quality and high resale value, customers bought and leased (fleeced) these little Camrys and Accords in droves. Another aspect of this perception made reality was that a ten year old Camry could demand more than a five year old Malibu. (I've been scoping out cars for a couple months).

The problem with perception driven reality is that eventually, real reality will eventually catch up. It could catch up to the point that I could trade my disabled Intrepid for a running Accord, even up. My wife's friend, who just leased a Camry is now scared to death to drive it because of the possibility of a stuck accelerator. In the olden days, this was nothing a little WD-40 couldn't fix. Now every problem requires a re engineering of the part or parts involved because failure tolerances are so close. Parts used to be under engineered and overbuilt. You didn't even need a torque wrench to do minor engine repair 30 or 40 years ago; now they are mandatory because cars and the materials they are made out of are so fragile. This is due to the higher cost of materials and labor, and a push to save money somehow.

Another problem is the increased dependance of computers and electronic controls on automobiles in general. in 1986, our family bought a 1979 Fiat Strada for $750 dollars. As unreliable as this car was, it had its virtues. My stepfather had to fix the heater, speedometer and window regulator on this car soon after we got it. The parts weren't too much and the effort to fix it wasn't horrible either. All one needed was a wrench and screwdriver. Now all cars have their windows, speedometer and heaters controlled with a computer. Instead of cranks and cables costing a few dollars, it can now be hundreds to fix the same things on a modern automobile, otherwise do a redneck repair (I did a lot on the Fiat when parts were unavailable).

I'm looking forward to a time when things will be simple and easy and it won't take a rocket scientist to fix something as mundane as an automobile. Mabye get to the point where we won't need them. I apologize for the ranting by the way. Maranatha!

No comments: