Roger Penske’s organization is bringing a new way to sell cars, according to USA Today. Everybody is excited about it. Except me, of course.
GM will probably insist that they use their chassis a certain number of years then Mr. Penske can shop around the world for his car. Penske (in this case is not a manufacturer, he is a retailer.) can contract with anybody for anything that rolls and put a Saturn badge on it. And there is nothing to say that this car will even remotely resemble (except for looks) the car that came before it. It could be a Chinese made car one year, and an Indian car the next.
We (at Saab) have been suffering for years with rebadged cars. We have Subarus and GM SUV’s that have Saab badges on them. There is no continuity between the systems in these cars and the Swedish Saabs. Absolutely none, but the grille’s all look alike. The same thing will happen to Saturn. When you open the hood any world engine at all could be in there.
Some people buy cars for a philosophy, or a feeling that they can buy into, like Saab. They were known as quirky cars, and have evolved to an upscale performance car, safe, and good on gas. The new Saturn, which in the beginning tried something new, a cult almost, will now evolve into the Walmart solution, the cheapest outsouced product available.
I wish Roger Penske luck. Our car industry is in big trouble, and obviously new solutions will need to be found. I just hope that our cars will be more than a can of beans at the local supermart.
For some time now, all sorts of manufacturers have been conducting a secret dirty war against repairing anything. This is also aided by a jaded public who seems to be averse to even reading owners manuals, let alone try to fix something.
I just took apart our ailing Staples paper shredder. To it’s credit, this thing was built tough. No plastic parts in there. Also, no parts you can afford either. The rollers and plates and bearings that failed add up to more than the cost of a new one, so off to the landfill with the rest of it. It’s a shame too, as there is a certain joy or satisfaction gained from repairing something. Personally (much to the chagrin of my wife) I don’t let anything go till it’s reached it’s absolute bitter end. (She absolutely refused to drive that escort any longer, a shame really, it was a pretty good little car!)
The same thing is happening to cars too. Sure you can replace brake parts, rebuild engines and such, but after a car gets to be 10 years old, the manufacturers want to drop it like a hot rock. They also piddle around making parts available for them so that you are forced to look elsewhere it you want to keep it going. And where you really get into trouble is the cost of the failed subassemblies. Take your air conditioner in your car for example. The big failure rate includes compressors and evaporator assemblies. These things can be hugely expensive, and in the case of evaporators, aren’t built very well to start with. (You won’t get the manufacturers to admit it though.) Also, try and even buy a part for your home HVAC system, you won’t get many places to even sell you the parts.
But maybe this refrigerator mentality isn’t so bad. After all, it is spawning a huge recycling industry. On the other hand, the landfills around here are starting to look like little mountains. On a positive note, I fixed my toilet the other day, the handle wore out, and a replacement was actually available. Of course, the replacement was made out of plastic, and won’t last as long as the brass one I took out, but you take your victory’s when you can.
We live in an ownership society, and as such, we take care of things. Renters don’t take care of things… but owners do. If you lease a car, any maintenance it needs is just a pain in the ass. And it is also an expense you can do without… mainly because it’s not yours. It’s somebody else’s problem. Usually if you skip on maintenance, nothing will really happen to it while your driving it but the next guy is the guy that pays up.
Manufacturers are also guilty here. In order to make their cars look good in comparison to other cars they have lengthened the maintenance intervals. It’s like their cars don’t really need to have the oil changed much. However, yes they do. One reason is the EPA. In order to meet emission standards, car makers have had to go to great lengths to make a car run clean. They have emission controls that do this pretty good, but the EPA also wants a car to run clean while it’s warming up, something that emission controls can’t really do. So car makers try hard to get their cars warmed up quickly, one of the ways is to stuff the catalytic converter up against the engine. These things can run 1600 degrees at times, and warms the oil up quick. But it is always there. Your oil is getting baked every day in the interest in tailpipe emissions, coupled with lengthened oil change intervals and bingo. Now you got a crankcase full of sludge and hard things that plug up the oil pickup. Now you need an engine…
The best thing you can do for a car is change the oil… 3500 miles for regular oil, 5000 miles for semi-synthetic oil, and 10000 miles for synthetic. (somehow, even with synthetic, I still can’t let it go that long…) Your car will be grateful….