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Technology Makes New Cars Too Expensive to Fix

Hemos posted about 10 years ago | from the the-car-of-the-future dept.

The Almighty Buck 1246

securitas writes "The CSM's Eric Evarts reports on how technology makes new cars too expensive to repair, which may lead to disposable cars. The increased use of expensive electronics, air bags and advanced, lightweight body materials are causing costs to rise. Add to it the cost of specialized training and equipment (for an aluminum-body repair shop: $200,000) or even the cost of new parts alone (xenon high-intensity-discharge headlights: $3,000 each), not to mention the knowledge base required (over 1 million pages, available only electronically vs. 100 pages 20 years ago) and a labor shortage. From the article: 'Specialist technicians need advanced reading, problem-solving, and basic electronics skills.... The best people to find are those who have worked in the IT [information technology] industry.'"

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1246 comments

Yay! Disposable cars! (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8905096)

We've got plenty of resources and landfills with tons of space. These are perfect. I hope they also get less than 1 mile to the gallon, because efficiency sucks! Yeah!

Whoever moderated this troll (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8905127)

Apparently supports the idea of disposeable cars. That's a great message.

Re:Whoever moderated this troll (0)

RobertB-DC (622190) | about 10 years ago | (#8905233)

No, they just support the idea of couching your disgust in more creative terms. "Gee, that stupid idea is great" is lame. "Gee, now I can get a free car with my lighter" makes you think a bit before you get it.

"Troll" can sometimes be defined as an attempt at +1 Funny that shoots... and misses.

Re:Whoever moderated this troll (0, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8905257)

No, it can't. I think the rating you're looking for is "Overrated."

Trolls make Slashdot Too hard to Fix (-1, Troll)

(TK)Dessimat0r (668222) | about 10 years ago | (#8905102)

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Like a pack of wolves, you surround the carcass
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it in a desperate attempt to appetise your
swollen parasite infested stomachs. You make me sick...

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my 84 vw rabbit... (4, Funny)

hyperstation (185147) | about 10 years ago | (#8905106)

goes faster than your new car, handles better, has a real transmission, and is easy and cheap to work on...

power steering is for pussies.

Re:my 84 vw rabbit... (4, Funny)

Xzzy (111297) | about 10 years ago | (#8905297)

my '66 vw bug

goes slower than your 84 rabbit, handles worse, has a real transmission, and is even easier and cheaper to work on.

It's also exempt from emissions checks.

Take these two posts, and I think the moral here is that the best option is to own the oldest car you can get your hands on.

I need those headlights (-1, Offtopic)

idiat (12297) | about 10 years ago | (#8905108)


I have no idea why they are good but my next car is going to have those headlights :)

Re:I need those headlights (0, Redundant)

donnyspi (701349) | about 10 years ago | (#8905198)

Those headlights are annoying. It looks like you have your highbeams on all the time with those new type of headlights.

Don't change jobs yet......... (4, Funny)

MrIrwin (761231) | about 10 years ago | (#8905118)

Before long people will be sending thier cars to India to get them fixed ;-)

I'm no mechanic, but... (5, Insightful)

r_glen (679664) | about 10 years ago | (#8905125)

I'd rather have an older, less advanced car that I actually have a chance of fixing. Who needs all this new car technology anyways?

me neither, but... (3, Interesting)

ed.han (444783) | about 10 years ago | (#8905191)

it's sorta like buying a new PC if you're a typical (windows) user: you get all manner of doodads you don't really need, b/c that's all anybody is making anymore.

ed

Re:I'm no mechanic, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8905204)

If you're no mechanic, you have no chance of fixing your older car if something seriously goes wrong with it.

Sounds like you are using contempt to mask your envy.

Re:I'm no mechanic, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8905234)

Who needs all this new car technology anyways? Let me guess, you're a cobol programmer, right?

Re:I'm no mechanic, but... (4, Insightful)

Otter (3800) | about 10 years ago | (#8905275)

It depends if you're talking about headlights or crash protection. If I were on his jury, I'd acquit anyone arrested for stealing those goddamn headlights (what kind of safety feature is it to blind oncoming traffic?).

But a lot of the issues raised in the article are for what are at least supposed to make you safer. If the teenager in the first paragraph had to throw away a new BMW but got to keep his legs, how expensive was that car, really? Even just in dollars and cents, a new pair of legs isn't cheap, nor is learning to use them.

Its Too Easy To Fry! (5, Informative)

nevek (196925) | about 10 years ago | (#8905126)

I work as a car stereo installer, we installed a high end stereo into a new lexus, the stereo was defective and ended out shorting a circuit, for some reason the computer that was tied in with the stereo (for door chimes I think) got fried aswell., Ended up costing the shop 700$ for a replacement part.

As these cars get more and more advanced its getting harder for doityourselfers to even attempt to modify or maintian them.

Re:Its Too Easy To Fry! (5, Funny)

Deraj DeZine (726641) | about 10 years ago | (#8905214)

As these cars get more and more advanced its getting harder for doityourselfers to even attempt to modify or maintian them.

Someone please tell my dad this. He's always trying to fix cars that are a little too complicated for anyone to figure out in a weekend. The cars slowly start to have problems more frequently until, at long last, the car stops running on the highway and I'm 20 miles from claiming my lottery ticket on my way to marrying Britney Spears. You could say I'm bitter.

I thought disposable cars were already out there.. (5, Funny)

castleguardian (711240) | about 10 years ago | (#8905129)

...Pintos, for example. Problem with them was that they disposed of the owners too...

Re:I thought disposable cars were already out ther (1, Funny)

Tablizer (95088) | about 10 years ago | (#8905267)

...Pintos, for example. Problem with them was that they disposed of the owners too...

Don't tell me, they were popular in Soviet Russia

Uh oh (-1, Redundant)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | about 10 years ago | (#8905130)

The best people to find are those who have worked in the IT [information technology] industry.

Could it be that we're all going to ship our cars to India for maintenance and repair soon?

IT grease monkies (-1, Redundant)

Spatula Sam (770957) | about 10 years ago | (#8905132)

>The best people to find are those who have worked in the IT [information technology] industry This could end up being the one IT job that can't be outsourced to India...

Sign me up (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8905134)

Does this mean they are hiring? Yay me!

Oxymoron? (0, Informative)

dr_dank (472072) | about 10 years ago | (#8905138)

For example, the world's bestselling vehicle, Ford's F150 pickup, uses a magnesium radiator mount - which gets crunched every time an F150 runs into anything. Magnesium is strong and light, but brittle.

If the radiator mount is strong, how can it be brittle at the same time?

Re:Oxymoron? (4, Funny)

TykeClone (668449) | about 10 years ago | (#8905186)

The other thing about that mount is that if the truck catches fire and it is hot enough to ignite the magnesium - ouch!

Re:Oxymoron? (1)

Abalamahalamatandra (639919) | about 10 years ago | (#8905320)

Anybody know anything about mid-to-early-80s Volkswagen vans and magnesium? I remember when I was a kid and one caught fire down the street, and something on it (underneath in the middle, as I recall) burned so damned white-hot I couldn't even look at it.

The firefighters who responded sat there dousing it with water for like an hour. It was wild.

I don't think magnesium in vehicles is such a hot idea. Or maybe it is!

Re:Oxymoron? (3, Insightful)

Ruprecht the Monkeyb (680597) | about 10 years ago | (#8905211)

Strong means it requires a lot of force to affect a change in its shape. Brittle means that instead of bending or subtly deforming when enough force is applied, it will shear or shatter instead. You might be able to un-bend a deformed mount. A shattered mount has to be replaced.

Re:Oxymoron? (1)

3.5 stripes (578410) | about 10 years ago | (#8905216)

Well, because strength can mean it can withstand a lot of weight, but not sharp shocks. Especially if you consider the shock is many times more than the material is built to support..

Re:Oxymoron? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8905270)

I think you mean mass not weight. Or a mass with 9.8m/s^2 normally and can't stand greater accelerations. F=MA

Re:Oxymoron? (1)

lawpoop (604919) | about 10 years ago | (#8905222)

Aluminum. Not very strong, but how often do you see it shatter? It just bends.

Re:Oxymoron? (2, Insightful)

Oliver Wendell Jones (158103) | about 10 years ago | (#8905266)

Aluminum. Not very strong, but how often do you see it shatter? It just bends

But if it doesn't shatter, then how can you expect to make a fortune selling replacement parts?

Re:Oxymoron? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8905228)

like a rock is strong and brittle. the alloy can shatter like a crystal.

Re:Oxymoron? (4, Informative)

bitmason (191759) | about 10 years ago | (#8905232)

Materials can be strong (which I take to mean high yield strength in this context) and brittle (low deformation before fracture). In other words, it can take a fair bit of force to cause any damage at all, but when you pass a certain point, it just breaks rather than deforming plastically.

Of course, "strong" isn't a very precise term when talking about materials and different types of strength are better suited for different tasks.

Re:Oxymoron? (4, Informative)

Fulcrum of Evil (560260) | about 10 years ago | (#8905235)

If the radiator mount is strong, how can it be brittle at the same time?

High tensile strength, low ductile strength.

Strong but brittle (1)

phorm (591458) | about 10 years ago | (#8905238)

Perhaps strong against a sustained force, but brittle against a sharp impact (or vise-versa)? If you think titanic-like the hull was actually very strong, but under cold/ocean conditions the metal became more fragile allowing it to be punctured.

Re:Oxymoron? (4, Informative)

RollingThunder (88952) | about 10 years ago | (#8905240)

It takes a stronger force than other metals to begin to deform, but once it does, it shatters or cracks rather than bending.

Re:Oxymoron? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8905244)

Definition:

Brittle:
"Having little elasticity; hence easily cracked or fractured or snapped"

aka - when it's hit, it snaps easy. Sort of like bones, which are also brittle.

In this instance, what they are saying is "It takes a thinner piece of Magnesium to hold the radiator up than a comparable amount of Steel (example), but that it snaps like a twig when in a wreck.

Re:Oxymoron? (1)

djward (251728) | about 10 years ago | (#8905250)

Same way Peanut Brittle is just that - strong but brittle. Try applying slow pressure to it; it's hard to break, even if you apply a lot of force. But hit it suddenly with a mallet and it shatters.

Magnesium metal is the same way. Under road stresses, it holds the radiator in place securely. Run the truck into a tree, however, and the mount falls apart.

Re:Oxymoron? (1)

Antos700 (581386) | about 10 years ago | (#8905254)

If the radiator mount is strong, how can it be brittle at the same time? It means that as long as the weight is applied how it is meant to be (staight down for example) it is strong, but it can't take stress from other angles, hence is considered to also be brittle (easy to break).

Re:Oxymoron? (2, Informative)

Monsieur Canard (766354) | about 10 years ago | (#8905264)

Basic solid mechanics.

Strength is related to how much force a material can take before it yields (bends plastically).

Brittleness is a function of toughness (ductility), or how much impact a material can take before it breaks.

For most materials, strength and ductility are inversely proportional. It takes some fancy alloying and creative manufacturing to create a material that has both.

For instance, a lot of titanium alloys are very strong, but also very brittle.

Re:Oxymoron? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8905277)

There is a process called "strengh-hardening," used to make materials harder and stronger. Cold-working is one way of doing this. One side effect of this is being brittle, as opposed hot-working, where the crystal structures tend to rearrange close to their original state. Being brittle means more chance for dislocation and fracture. Example, try taking a cheap cafeteria spoon and bending at the part where the spoon part meets the handle. After many repetitions the section that was bent will become harder and harder to bend. It is getting stronger. After serveral more repetitions fratuce occurs. That is cold-working. Just FYI.

Re:Oxymoron? (3, Informative)

Moofie (22272) | about 10 years ago | (#8905278)

Strength can mean many different things. A rope is strong in tension, but weak in compression. A glass pillar can be pretty strong in compression, but it's brittle. Aluminum is strong and light, but can be susceptible to fatigue under cyclical loading conditions. Magnesium is similar to titanium and aluminum, but more brittle. (and flammable.)

A brittle part will crack and break shortly after exceeding its yield strength. A tough part will stretch and deform after reaching its yield strength, finally breaking at a much higher stress level. However, it is possible for a given brittle part to have a much higher yield strength than a given tough (or ductile) part. The material used, and the production method, and the heat treating process all affect the material's final strength.

In other words, it's kinda complicated. : )

Re:Oxymoron? (1)

tdemark (512406) | about 10 years ago | (#8905282)

Assume you have a rod of magnesium and a rod of some material with the same strength, but less brittle.

Both rods are specified to withstand X pounds of force.

At X + 50 lb of force:

The non-magnesium bar deflects some amount under the strain, but doesn't break. The magnesium bar snaps apart.

There's your difference.

- Tony

Disposable cars? (2, Insightful)

cubicledrone (681598) | about 10 years ago | (#8905141)

No. Not as long as the average television-advertised car costs about $35,000 (Five years of $400 payments, and you STILL don't own it)

Perhaps they could make the cars simpler by removing the DVD players? Are people so bored that they must be watching movies/television constantly? How about READING a BOOK?

Re:Disposable cars? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8905201)

I'd rather not have people watching DVDs or reading books while driving.

Re:Disposable cars? (2, Insightful)

mopslik (688435) | about 10 years ago | (#8905217)

Are people so bored that they must be watching movies/television constantly? How about READING a BOOK?

I'd rather they WATCHED the ROAD.

Re:Disposable cars? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8905221)

Have YOU ever tried reading in a car? Or worse, your full-of-happy-meal kids?

Re:Disposable cars? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8905226)

Reading a book while driving? Less dangerous than talking on a cell phone, perhaps, but do we really want that?

Re:Disposable cars? (2, Insightful)

cubicledrone (681598) | about 10 years ago | (#8905239)

Yes. Are the people RIDING in the car so bored, NOT the people DRIVING, but the people RIDING in the car.

Thank you.

Re:Disposable cars? (-1, Redundant)

Indras (515472) | about 10 years ago | (#8905288)

How about READING a BOOK?

Crap, you had to go say that out loud, didn't you? Who wants to bet the next car line will have an e-book and/or audio book reader built into the dashboard?

Re:Disposable cars? (5, Funny)

Ruprecht the Monkeyb (680597) | about 10 years ago | (#8905311)

Hmmm.
DVD -- one hand to hold my coffee, one hand to gratify self while watching DVD porn, one hand to hold cell phone, one hand to gesture rudely at other drivers. Hands free to steer: -2

Book -- one hand to hold my coffee, one hand to hold the book, one hand to turn the page, one hand to hold cell phone, one hand to gesture rudely at other drivers. Hands free to steer: -3

Clearly, car DVDs are safer than books.

Support your classic car restorer (5, Interesting)

confused one (671304) | about 10 years ago | (#8905151)

This seems like a good solution. For the cost of a new car, you can have a custom done, including a modern fuel injected drivetrain.

Another bonus: a back-yard mechanic can work on it...

From sys admin... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8905152)

...to grease monkey?!

No thanks! :p

Re:From sys admin... (1)

AndroidCat (229562) | about 10 years ago | (#8905253)

Probably at quite a raise in pay too.

I've got my socket set (metric and Imperial) and my torque wrench, I am so ready!

When did this start? (2, Funny)

teamhasnoi (554944) | about 10 years ago | (#8905153)

According to my wife, every car I've had is too expensive to fix.

Thank you! Thank you! That would be post 2000! w00t!

Problem solved (2)

spellraiser (764337) | about 10 years ago | (#8905154)

The best people to find are those who have worked in the IT [information technology] industry.

Woohoo - IT can people can finally have jobs again!

Independence Day... (2, Funny)

MosesJones (55544) | about 10 years ago | (#8905156)


Ahhhh so THAT is why the spaceship had an RS232 port.... everything had to be accessible via a Mac to enable proper support.

And I thought it was rubbish....

Keep it in the family (5, Insightful)

darth_MALL (657218) | about 10 years ago | (#8905165)

I'm sure a portion of this trend is a ploy to keep the repairs of auto's in-house. A Ford dealership, for example, makes a LOT of money doing repairs. If they can force a clentele, its gravy money, of which a chunk goes back to the Ford headquarters. Seems like a sane progression, now that manufacture costs for these specialty components are probably WAY down for the manufacturers.

Recycling (5, Interesting)

Deraj DeZine (726641) | about 10 years ago | (#8905167)

Nothing to do with bikes, but are companies investigating the ability to recycle cars in a fairly efficient fashion? Is it even possible to do so? It seems that this would prevent the Grand Canyon in the US from filling up with old H2s and whatnot but still not cost a ton like repairing complex cars.

Anyone heard anything about this?

Re:Recycling (3, Informative)

AlecC (512609) | about 10 years ago | (#8905224)

Yes. VW at least are investigating recycling fairly intensively: they are under strong pressure to be non-polluting in their home market. I think many of the others are doing the same. But don't expect much scrap value from your totalled car - this is more about saving you a disposal charge rather than getting any residual value from the wreck.

Re:Recycling (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8905259)

I wasn't looking for money, just for some way to reuse the materials so we don't have to start strip-mining Yosemite.

How will this affect MTV's Pimp My Ride? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8905170)

Will there be less ride pimping the future? This concerns me, because I think all cars need shoe racks, waterfalls, and Playstation's (Whatever the current version) in the back. You also can't have enough DVD players or speakers in a car.

So, what they are saying is (5, Insightful)

RCO (597148) | about 10 years ago | (#8905172)

I could have just taken that job as a mechanic straight out of High School and built my skills up to the point that I could be making good money in the automotive industry rather than spent all those years and all that money in college to get to the same point? I'm feeling a little depressed.

Re:So, what they are saying is (1)

millahtime (710421) | about 10 years ago | (#8905273)

"I could have just taken that job as a mechanic straight out of High School and built my skills up to the point that I could be making good money in the automotive industry rather than spent all those years and all that money in college to get to the same point? I'm feeling a little depressed."

DOn't feel so bad. Hopefully you got to party with all the good lookin ladies in college. Plus, a desk job is so much easier on your body than being a mechanic.

and you're just realizing this now? (5, Interesting)

drizst 'n drat (725458) | about 10 years ago | (#8905175)

I remember a time when it was easy to get under the hood of your car, do tune-ups, and perform other ordinarily easy maintenance functions ... without having to take the car to a maintenance shop or forbid, a dealer! I've seen these changes occur slowly to the point where it requires special tools (and skills) just to do simple things. I don't even try anymore ... I've seen it in our shop where the technicians are sometimes baffled by problems because they can't get specs from the manufacturer. I've actually had to wait months to get replacement parts for a Ford Explorer because the car is considered too new for generic parts! Go figure. So is this any surprise?

Innovation or not? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8905178)

Would you prefer vehicles that didn't have those messy inconvenient airbags, that never quite get repaired anyway?

3k for an HID light?? (1)

Kanabiis Atiiva (525166) | about 10 years ago | (#8905180)

Where are you shipping that Mars??

Seriously, an HID conversion kit will run you 700 bucks a pair, if your replacing your high and low beam 1400 bucks... to replace an HID light costs just a little over twice what a traditional halogen bulb will cost.

Anyone that pays 3k for an HID bulb got taken to the cleaners and doesnt even know how to do a simple froogle search.

Hey I don't need technology for that! (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8905181)

Whenever my wife drives my car there's a 10% chance she breaks something. Mirrors are ductaped on, car has long scratches in the bodywork on both sides, bumpers are cracked. Cost of repair is already more than resale cost of car.

guess what (5, Insightful)

mrsev (664367) | about 10 years ago | (#8905182)

rant

They want your money.
They do not want you to fix it yourself.
They want to sell you a whole new part every time!
They do not want you to buy a part from someone else.
They want you to get then to fix it in one of their repairshops. /rant

Re:guess what (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8905308)

Kind of getting to sound like MS's business model huh?

mecanics loosing business? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8905188)

Do you guys think that the further we go, introducing high-end technology cars, the more the mecanics are loosing customers?

We are going from mecanics to electronics and that's not a really good thing for the current mecanics.

my .02

this is caca de toro... (3, Interesting)

dummkopf (538393) | about 10 years ago | (#8905194)

a) If the car repair industry requires IT gues, well heck, better for us hacker and hobbyists out there!

b) While the cars become more complex, the tools to fix them become better. Nowadays a mechanic plugs a laptop into your car and the car tells him/her "the fuel pump is 10% off, should I readjust?". 15 years ago mechanics would do something closely resembling forensics to figure out which wire was fried. This is done today in seconds.

Clearly some complex parts are hard to repair, but instead of dumping them, export them to third world countries where they will be miracolously repaired....

The problem is... (5, Insightful)

AcquaCow (56720) | about 10 years ago | (#8905195)

Newer cars are being treated like appliances rather than machines. Machines you have to maintain, appliances you replace.

The problem with this is that cars _are_ indeed machines. People are just lazy.

People no longer care if "that thing's got a hemi" They just want 50mpg and oil that never has to be replaced.

It's sad.

/me hugs (4, Interesting)

acceleriter (231439) | about 10 years ago | (#8905203)

the 1990 Volvo 240 wagon, and sleeps better at night knowing that my insurance company and the police can't download my driving history from a black box, either.

Re:/me hugs (1)

AcquaCow (56720) | about 10 years ago | (#8905314)

our 240 wagon is currently at 240kmi...we were hoping to drive it into the ground, so we stopped changing the oil about 50kmi ago...it's still running! In the last 10k the car picked up an oil leak...I don't even think there's been oil in it for about 5kmi.

This just in... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8905206)

Car parts are too expensive to begin with.

A $3000 lightbulb? why.. it's a piece of glass and a filiment.. maybe the ballast.. wait.. that's just a bunch of wire.. and a few capacitors..

body shop tools.. like those to work aluminum.. when was the last time you saw an aluminum bodied car.. maybe only on exotics.. you get what you pay for.. wreck your exotic.. be prepared to pay the $ to fix it.. most car bodys are steel.. and you don't fix the panel anymore.. you just weld in a new one.. even saturns.. which have plastic panels.. grab the plastic welder and go to town on it..

supply / demand / stupid people who will pay

This all started when we stopped building them... (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8905208)

...out of wood. And replaced horses with engines. Can't grow one anymore. Gotta buy a whole new one.

$3000 headlights? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8905218)

Who the hell is paying 3 grand for a headlight? You're telling me one headlight is going to account for 5% of the cost of a luxury car?

This is too true (5, Insightful)

bigjnsa500 (575392) | about 10 years ago | (#8905223)

Just pop the hood of any new car nowadays. Almost everything is *enclosed* in plastic. It's getting to the point where dealers will have a monopoly on car repair.

How can you fix this problem? Stop buying new cars when you car is perfectly good. Plus it will save you a few bills each month.

Bic Cars (5, Insightful)

thales (32660) | about 10 years ago | (#8905242)

I Have bought cars like a Bic Lighter for years. Get a Cheap one in the 500 to 1000 dollar price range, drive it till it breaks down and go get another one.

With New Car payments in the 400 dollar plus range if an 800 dollar car lasts over two months (most do) you are ahead of the people driving new cars. The Champ junker I bought was a 200 dollar 1977 Caprice that lasted 3 years and still fetched 75 bucks from the scrap yard!

Re:Bic Cars (1)

MrEnigma (194020) | about 10 years ago | (#8905317)

The only problem being...if you have insurance quotes for a year...plus the registration and what not for each car...

Most people want to have a semi-reliable car they can take for decent trips without having the hassle of it breaking down.

But if you can do it...and don't care...it's cheaper..

Ok... this one has got issues (4, Interesting)

Craptastic Weasel (770572) | about 10 years ago | (#8905243)

"We're moving closer and closer to the disposable car," says Dan Bailey, an executive vice president at Carstar, the largest auto-body repair franchise in the United States.

Um...Am I the only one who thinks there are probably numerous reasons why this is a bad idea/statement? Disposable Car? People in other countires must love our frame of mind. If a brand new BMW (as in story) costs more to replace the air bags than the car, than somebody please, sell me a BMW sans airbags. I'll throw in a five point harness, reinforce the subframe, and sign a waiver. I think I have a rain check for a mid-life crisis around here somewhere....

No... really... disposable car = huh? Recycled car / rethink industry as a whole = hah!
besides, does anyone here in the IT industry really want to figure out why the 2010 Ford Festiva is having a hard time finding drivers (pun?) for it's various parts?...

The parts industry (3, Interesting)

heyitsme (472683) | about 10 years ago | (#8905248)

It is ironic hearing this news from the auto industry. Replacement parts for cars have been notoriously marked up. I went in to purchase a knob for my car's A/C (a plain old molded plastic knob about the size of a golf ball) and they wanted to charge me $12 for it. After a bit of cajoling on my behalf, I was able to get it for cost: $0.79.

I doubt that the parts themselves are too expensive to replace that makes some repairs seem unfeasible (after all, the automakers get parts so cheap in bulk), but rather it has been realized that they cannot add that extra 1000% markup on a per part basis, so why not make the consumer buy a whole new car? (where the markup is still 200-500% from cost)

Expensive Electronics? (4, Insightful)

CatGrep (707480) | about 10 years ago | (#8905251)

increased use of expensive electronics

The use of electronics in cars was supposed to make them cheaper not more expensive. The problem isn't generally the 'expensive electronics' the problem usually is that there aren't enough trained technicians to fix electronic problems. Most mechanics are trained in, well mechanics, not electronics.

xenon high-intensity-discharge headlights: $3,000 each

I'm thinking this isn't a general problem. How many people are buying cars that have $6000 worth
of headlights alone? Damn, those must be some mighty fine headlights, why not just equip the car with nightvision goggles, it would be cheaper.

Specialist technicians need advanced reading, problem-solving, and basic electronics skills.... The best people to find are those who have worked in the IT [information technology] industry.

I've actually been thinking that automotive electronics diagnostics & repair could be a good field to get into - it can't be outsourced and the demand is there.

After-market services (4, Informative)

lukewarmfusion (726141) | about 10 years ago | (#8905272)

My father works for a company that produces aftermarket automotive wiring. He's noticing a lot of products that are designed to supplant this kind of individual part - by combining multiple parts, they prevent people from replacing just the part in question.

So instead of replacing your spark plugs (~$15), you have to replace the plugs, the wiring, etc. The total cost? More than $100 for some. It's intentional - it's like soldering your CPU to your motherboard so you have to replace the whole board in order to upgrade/replace your CPU. I believe Packard Bell used to do this, and look where they are now.

It's not just electronics (2, Informative)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | about 10 years ago | (#8905276)

Cars have been very hard to maintain for years, well before the avent of EFI, computers and all.

Engine bays are so small these days (either because the car is a compact or because the emphasis is put on the roomiest interior possible) that one often has to drop the entire engine to change things like a timing chain or an alternator.

I have an econobox here that I brought to a small garage because I have a sump gasket leak, and the guy said that he'd take so much time just getting the engine out and back in that it's just not worth fixing. (On a side note, modern cars are supposed to be environmentally friendly, but cars that are left leaking oil or plain junked because they're not economically worth fixing don't seem very green to me).

Anyway, the short is, on my old '69 Charger, I can pass full size regular tool around the engine and still have spare room to work, while I'd need very expensive, specialized tools, and very flexible cervicals to work on an econobox. And that's not counting the electronics at all...

I completely disagree (3, Interesting)

erroneus (253617) | about 10 years ago | (#8905280)

If working, playing or otherwise surviving in the PC world has taught the Slashdot community any lessons at all, it is that the matured concept of standardized modules combined with competition can lower costs incredibly.

Auto manufacturers can go a LONG way to lower the cost of cars and car repair by creating a variety of standardized systems. While it's true that to some extent that style and creativity would be hampered by the inclusion of modular standards for automobiles, the cost issue can be quickly and effectively addressed.

Consider the various levels of standardization that we already enjoy. There are standardized tool sizes. There are standardized bays for electronics in the dash such as radios, CD and even DVD players. The incredibly thin margins on the still surviving PC components market proves out that making automobile components even more standard and modularized could easily address the concern over the rising cost of automotive repair.

In many ways, if the concept were more widely addressed, a great number of matters could be addressed such as handling recalls of various components and even upgrades.

This could open the door to smaller manufacturers to get into the third party parts business... which is exactly why the idea will probably never be realized.

part of the problem.. (4, Interesting)

Pfhreakaz0id (82141) | about 10 years ago | (#8905281)

I guess there must be consumer demand... Last year my wife and I were all set to purchase our first new car (we're 35 and consider cars a horrid waste of money), but we simply could not find a "base" model. Everything has power windows, locks, CD player (actually wanted that).

God forbid you want a car that doesn't have all the crap or *GASP* not an automatic transmission (I'll take the lower gas milage and increased service problems for $800 alex!").

Anway, when we could only find ONE manual, base moodel subaru Forester in the entire STATE and we didn't like that color, we bought a used one at an auction threw a friend for $7k less, 2 years old 28K miles (this is why I don't buy new!).

I agree (1)

MikeHunt69 (695265) | about 10 years ago | (#8905283)

My motorbike, although relatively new (2001), still has carbs. It's hella easy to work on and Im confident to do any/all work myself, including bottom end work when it finally gives way in a few years.

My car, (1992 bmw), Im scared of doing anything more than relatively basic maintainence. (coil packs, oil chage, etc.). You need a handheld device to just get the error codes out of the computer.

IT by day, backyard mechanic at night (2, Insightful)

Jim_Maryland (718224) | about 10 years ago | (#8905287)

Looks like I'll continue repairing my own vehicle along with the family/friend vehicles.

Really though, many of the repair manuals (I often use the Haynes manuals myself) available for vehicles contain fairly detailed information for troubleshooting and repairing vehicles. I do find that the tools that I have to purchase are becoming more expensive, but it still beats going to the mechanic in most cases. Of course I always look for an excuse to buy new tools.

I find that most people are afraid to attempt even simple repairs so the high tech problems won't change the consumer behavior of running to the shop for any problem. The trend will lead to higher tech mechanics though (higher salary, higher repair bill).

Now the one thing I would appreciate from the auto manufacturer is simplifying the onboard diagnostics. I'll even settle for the blinking LEDs sequences I've seen in some of my older cars.

Profit Margins (2, Insightful)

Effugas (2378) | about 10 years ago | (#8905291)

It's worth pointing out that profit margins for new vehicles are quite large -- I think the last figure I heard, on a variable cost basis, was $3,000 for a $20,000 car. Fixed costs are, of course, enormous -- R&D, testing, compliance, advertising, sunk costs in the factory, etc -- but whipping up one more Corolla is pretty cheap.

In other words, relief to the insurance industry will probably come via mandated replacements by the manufacturer, at cost (or maybe cost+10%). This could get worked into warranty programs, first as a perk, then as something greater.

Keep in mind, if your car is totalled, who's to say you'll buy the same brand next time around? Properly managed (i.e. worked into the cost of each car sold), this isn't a bad strategy for keeping customers loyal to your brand.

Manufacturer replacement is thus almost guaranteed to occur.

--Dan

A $3K headlight? (2, Insightful)

Tony Hammitt (73675) | about 10 years ago | (#8905298)

Why would anyone want a $3K headlight, or a car that required them? Isn't there a limit to the candlepower a headlight can legally have when driving in a city? Wouldn't any old headlight be good enough for most purposes?

Cars with "features" like that are just conspicuously wasteful. Target market: Paris Hilton, etc. As if paying more for something makes it better.

I'm getting to the point of being shocked speechless by all the willfull stupidity in the world. I paid less than $3000 for a car that I drove over 150K miles (Oldsmobile, still running, I got a car with 4 doors instead when I had kids) now that's what they want for a headlight????? This wastefulness makes me sick.

Reliability versus feature creep (2, Interesting)

beacher (82033) | about 10 years ago | (#8905301)

As an owner of a VW Beetle (wife's), I thought I'd be happy to own something that should have been as easy (and cheap) to fix as my 1983 Rabbit. Recently, it ran rough, hard to keep idle, stalled under load. After an oxygen sensor ($180), a mass air flow sensor ($60), a new set of spark plug wies ($120), she was running as good as it gets. These are just *part* prices - No labor. It's insane. This is a damn 4 cylinder, most of em should pass emissions pretty easily. Squeezing the last drop of horsepower out of an engine had made it nothing but costly and unreliable when something breaks. I used to pull and rebore/rebuild engines back in the day, got a BsCsci, and even I'm hesitant/reluctant/afraid to touch anything on the emissions/electrical/ecm system. WTF?

What really gets me going is that I took it to VW to get the ECm re-flashed because emissions is coming up for me. Told em to do warranty repair/recall work only. They did it, but they "checked the car" because it's been a while since it's been to the VW dealerships. They found that the coolant and brake line fluid's PH balance was off (I can't even make this up!) They were more than happy to perform the fluid flush ($220).

HEY! While you're at it check my headlight fluid and don't skimp on the halogen fluid!

Goddamn I hate these new cars.
-B

I own two of these types of cars (0)

Pao|o (92817) | about 10 years ago | (#8905307)

I own the current Mercedes-Benz C-class. When it came time to have it serviced I could only go to an authorized Mercedes-Benz dealer to have it serviced because they're the only one with the equipment to diagnose my car. When things broke down I had to bring it to an authorized Mercedes-Benz dealer because they're the only one with the equipment to diagnose my car. The fees are astronomical to boot. I thought that when I bought an expensive car it would break down less often. Which brings me to this question. How come by Honda Civic that costs a fraction of C-class breaks down less and hasnt been in need of repair unless I bump into something? It may not be as luxurious or prestigious but the damn thing's reliable.

Now I fear that if and when my Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution VIII gets into an accident it'll cost me an arm, leg and a foot because it uses carbon fiber and aluminum.

Just wish the manufacturers make more reliable cars instead of putting more unreliable electronics.
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