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The Age of the Disposable Car Is Here

Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,490
edited March 2014 in BMW
I was reading the technical information on the new BMW 745i. It is a beautiful, awesome, expensive and really, really complex machine.

And I got to thinking........

Who the HELL is going to fix this car when something major happens to it out of warranty, and who is going to pay for it?

Here in California, shop rates are already at $90/hr and heading fast for $100. Can you imagine pulling the V12 engine out of an early 90s BMW 850 coupe and what that would cost? Or even the engine on a 560SL Mercedes, when the car is worth $22K and the engine rebuild alone will cost $15K?

Can you imagine even a electrical harness fire in a '97 Corvette that say wiped out just the wiring, the computers and melted a bit of fiberglass? Or a blown engine on a Chrysler Sebring 5-6 years from now? Worse yet, all these scenarios 10 years from now?

I really think manufacturers are aware of this, and this is why we are getting more and more toward a very precisely built, very low-maintenance "please don't touch it yourself" type of car with extended service intervals, 100K tune ups and 7,500 mile oil changes.

What the automakers are planning for, I think, is the eventuality of building a car designed to go about 150K trouble-free miles, that is then junked at the first major repair, regardless of condition.

Doing major repairs on just about any 2001 car will be prohibitively expensive in 5-6 years. The technology will be obsolete, the labor rates even higher, the complexity staggering, and the talent pool to fix them smaller than even today (how many bright young people you know declare at age 18 that they want to forego college and study to be automotive technicians?)

You are still skeptical? Well, think about how dealers are struggling to fix almost NEW cars? How will they deal with old ones? Who's going to remember all the specs and TBS bulletins and keep all the old scanners, once we've gone on to OBD-V, 48 volt electrics and component multiplexing?


  • alcanalcan Posts: 2,550
    We're already there. Lincoln Town Cars have been multiplexing the processors for a while. Eliminates the cost and weight of 150' of wiring.
  • amoralesamorales Posts: 196
    Growing up in Southern Calironia i have seen it happening already. The affluent will continue to lease vehicles every 3-5 years no matter the cost. The do it yourselfers will continue to fix as best they can their used high end vehicles. Payng 8-15 grand for parts, engines etc. The un-mechanically inclined will be at the mercy of the repair shops, dealers and scam artists and get gouged in a big way. You pay $40,000 to $50,000 at the end of 5-6 years for your SUV, TRUCK, CAR and unless you perform or have someone perfom the highest maintenance possible, you will pay exorbitant prices for replacement of failed components be they simple parts or electronics. You may pay regardless of the extra maintenance.

    It happened to me already with a '91 S10 4X4 TAHOE 4-door 4.3L V6. In 1996 the Vehicle at 79,000 miles had the ABS system self destructed to the tune of $1700 big ones. Iam fairley mechanically inclined, however when i inquired about replacing the burned up ABS housing module, all the parts houses, stores said it was a dealer item. Go see the Dealer. The Dealer was very sympathetic. Of course Consumer's Union had already adivsed to avoid buying these vehicles...

    Regards to all vehicle loving people...
  • alcanalcan Posts: 2,550
    Two points:

    "The un-mechanically inclined will be at the mercy of the repair shops, dealers and scam artists and get gouged in a big way."
    This will happen to some people. Others will have their vehicles serviced/repaired by qualified professional tech's at a price commensurate with the complexity of the repair. Please do not make derogatory blanket statements like that. They offend all honest, competent tech's.

    "In 1996 the Vehicle at 79,000 miles had the ABS system self destructed to the tune of $1700 big ones."
    How many times had the moisture contaminated brake fluid been flushed prior to the failure? My guess would be zero.
  • amoralesamorales Posts: 196
    AL, I did not mean to offend you or any other honest mechanic. Honest mechanics will not be offended because they will continue to get repeat customers. Do not make statements yourself of something you know nothing about. I have indeed flushed the brake system. However if you had researched the vehicle in question you would have found out the factory had a long run of defective components. I grew up repairing and tinkering with vehicles because i enjoyed it tremendously.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,490
    Which is why I'm a maintenance nut and encourage all owners of new-ish cars to spend a little more now or a lot more later.

    Another startling reading: A noted Ferrari expert is advising people that the ten-year old or so, mass-produced Ferraris, (Testarossas) once they hit about 60,000 miles and need a major service, are best thought of as "parts cars" worth maybe $35K for the pieces.

    Some 1994 & 95 cars are already worth less than their engines.
  • swschradswschrad Posts: 2,171
    it seems to me that if you can't keep the module prices down for replacement, you should expect to see your brand die. and rightly so. how in'ell do you get up in the $1700 range to rebuild a 91 tahoe's ABS, anyway? it couldn't have cost GM more than $200 to put on the car. show me one module in which there is any justification for more than $200 retail, just one. I am not talking about opaque epoxy potting to hide the parts, or connectors from Hell that are plated with mithril and delivered by unicorns. the parts list in the ford EEC-IV is about $45 max, and that ought to be buildable on whichever island is above water this month for five bucks more in ten-thousands quantity, which hits the dealer's parts counter at $200 if Ford Parts and the dealer both make 100 percent profit.
  • kinleykinley Posts: 854
    A $10,000 car needing a $1,000 repair is worth it because to replace the car, it will take a lot more than the $1,000 at the time. It gets worse than taking money out of savings or investments to replace when you have to also buy the money to purchase the car. Interest free loans are not available to everyone. Only those with exemplary credit history qualify for the interest free loan.
    When your ride needs a major repair, fix it as it can't be worth much needing the repair when trading it in. After it is repaired following your having traded it in, someone else is driving it so it might as well be you doing the driving.
  • swschradswschrad Posts: 2,171
    I finally got pushed into buying my '00 explorer because at 130,000 I had developed a major oil leak on the rear main seal of my 4-banger '90 ranger. that's an engine that would have needed a rebuild in some finite few thousand miles more, and to pull the mill, swing it around, bang in a seal, and put it back you have spent half the labor and done none of the hard work, and still will be paying more than chump change for the fix.

    the shop can use it as training time for some newbies at wherever the auction house sells the truck to, or somebody could buy it as a mechanics' special and do it for two doctors' visits for stitches and shots and maybe $400 of parts and some machine time at a full-service machine shop, and have a good deal.

    for me, no shop and no second car to get to work in, it made no sense. for Bob Boltworth out there in shop at County Vo-Tech, it's a major find, and he's making out like a bandit on my trade-in. we both win, and I do like my exploder.

    to make the 2002 Belchfire unrepairable in practical terms is a crime that needs to be exposed.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,490
    I think it's the labor costs that are driving this disturbing trend. The replacement ABS unit might be cheap enough, but tearing half the car apart to get it in there is the killer.

    Now I understand the California is not the United States, but someday the rest of the US will catch up to these labor rates (some places are equivalent).

    So do the math.....pulling an engine on a complex modern car, fixing it or getting a rebuilt short block ready for installation and then reinstallation is a LOT of hours, at $90-100 per parts + machine shop work. And remember, once the engine goes in, every little electrical part will work perfectly first time, right? HAH!
  • dhanleydhanley Posts: 1,531
    Remember, electronics has been there for years. It is usually not cost-effective to repair a vcr, microwave, (old)computer, etc.

    There may be some hope if we move to serial hybrid cars because it's possible to design those modularly.

    My last car i treated as a throwaway.. It got to almost 100,000 with no major repairs, but there were a bunch looming, and the car was no longer tight, burned a lot of oil, etc, so i dumped it and moved on.

    Really, if cars could generally reach 150,000 trouble-free and low-cost, i'd think it's fine to chuck it and get a new one.

  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 23,552
    the age of the disposable car arrived with the advent of the 4-speed automatic overdrive transmission in the early 80's. I've had two rebuilt 3-speed automatics in my time, and they were each around $650-700. That's not too hard to swallow, especially since a tranny replacement doesn't come up that often. At least it shouldn't! But suddenly they were up there around $1500, which is a bit tougher to swallow. I've heard that if the tranny on my Intrepid decides to bail, it's about $2500 for a new one! Worst repair bill I've ever heard was something like $3600, for a '97 or so Subaru Legacy Outback.

    The two cars I replaced trannies on were an $800.00 Cutlass Supreme and a $250 Newport. Throwing another $650-700 into them wasn't too big of a risk...if I got two months out of them, I figured I'd roughly break even compared to a typical car payment. But now once I get my Intrepid to the age and point where it's only worth a few hundred $, it's going to be really hard to justify dumping $2500 into it.

    It's not just transmissions that brought us into this age, but they were a big help!
  • I remember reading about the Yugo back in the 1985 before its introduction to the USA. The article termed it the "Disposable Car" because of its cheap price. What Yugo didn't tell you is their cars would wear out quicker than a Bic disposable lighter.

    Had a friend who bought one brand new. Had nothing but trouble with it since the day he drove it off the lot. Repairs he figured cost more than the car and that is when he had it towed away. He had to pay someone $50.00 to tow it away since no junk yard wanted it.
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 23,552
    couldn't you just set it out at the curb with the rest of the trash? That's sad though, when a junkyard won't even take a car off your hands! I had it happen to some friends of mine though, that wanted to dispose of a '76 Hornet wagon. No junkyard around here would even TAKE it! It still ran too, although it leaked oil like the Exxon Valdez. In fact, it made the 90 mile trip to Leon's junkyard down in Culpeper, VA, who has about 150 acres of old cars. They got a whopping $90.00 for it.
  • pjyoungpjyoung Posts: 885
    that the "disposable" car was around in the 70's, only it was called "planned obsolesence".
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 23,552
    ...that cars like the early Ford Falcon and Chevy II/Nova were considered "disposable" cars. They were built cheap and simple, with a minimum of technology or innovation, designed to run their course and, in the end, junked. I think the Chevy II even had single leaf springs in the back for awhile. Very cheap to manufacture, but they'd also snap pretty easily.
  • crosley4crosley4 Posts: 295
    As the early disposable car. Crosley started in 1939.

    They left out front U-joints on the drive shafts to save a few pennies and the drive shaft would shake the engine mounts loose.

    But then it was an air cooled 2 cylinder motor.

    How about mechanical brkes with a "floating band" of friction material between the brake drum and apply shoes?
  • Yeah, I thought the concept is very old.... carmakers back then restyle cars so often in order to tempt the public to buy newer models. Cars back then didn't make to last more than 100k miles so you didn't see odometers that can count pass 100,000 miles. I don't mind buying a new car every few years, but that is an expensive way to travel.
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 23,552
    Oh they could do it back then, given the right conditions. But remember back in the 50's and 60's, a 100,000 mile car probably represented one that was 8-10 years old or more. It was run on leaded gas, which was much rougher on fuel and exhaust systems than unleaded. Engine oil, antifreeze, and other fluids and lubricants weren't as good back then. Same with rubber parts, like hoses, belts, and tires.

    Even the roads these cars had to travel back then were rougher on cars than they are today. Dirt and gravel roads were much more plentiful, and those old hard concrete highways where you'd hear the thump-thump, thump-thump, thump-thump as you passed over all those expansion joints at high speed. Homes with garages were more of a luxury item back then too, so the typical car sat outside all year-round, exposed to the sun's rays, rain, dampness, leaves, etc.

    Also, back then, just because styles and stuff changed so much more quickly, a car that was 8-10 years old actually looked old and outdated. In the late 50's, nobody wanted a car with an inline engine and a split windshield, but then in the mid 60's, nobody wanted a car with tailfins. But today, cars don't change that much stylistically. While a lot of engineering improvements have gone on underneath, for the most part, cars don't look much different than they did 8-10 years ago.
  • dhanleydhanley Posts: 1,531
    That you COULD buy a car that was designed to self-destruct at 10 years 150K miles. At that point, the car is worth $0. It's useless.

    The upside would be that until then it would need very little investment and no repair. Maybe tires and 1 or 2 cheap brake jobs.

    Price is in line with normal modern cars.

    Would you get one?

    Seems like fron a pure financial experiment it makes sense, because many people buy new and sell for less then 1/2 of the new cost at under 75K miles.

  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 23,552
    but then where would I find these 250,000 mile Dart to wring another 80-90000 miles out of? ;-)

    From a financial standpoint, a self-destructing car at 10 years/150000 miles may make sense for a lot of people, but at the rate I drive, my Intrepid would blow up not too long after I make the last payment. I sometimes joke about it doing that, anyway though!
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,490
    I suppose if these cars were highly recyclable, that might work. Of course, it would eliminate the idea of the "classic" or "collectible" car, or at least reduce them to the level of "collectible" TV sets and toasters. I suppose there are such things.
  • It seems to me like it would make a lot more sense to replace a blown Mercedes engine with a decent used one. As for a Corvette with a burnt wiring harness, maybe it could donate some parts to another Corvette guy that gets rear ended or something.

    These newer cars can maybe be kept on the road after major failures at a reasonable cost, but I can't see people taking the time to restore one. Is anyone going to want to painstakingly restore the ABS system of a Mustang Cobra in 20 years even if parts are available? How long would it take to "restore" a car like that, and at what cost?

    As a side note, recently on ebay I saw a 96ish Jaguar with 150K miles on it listed as being "restored" completely. I am sure that they meant that it has new tires, a new alternator, and recovered seats, or something of that nature. It got me to thinking that it would be pretty hard and cost prohibitive to restore a modern car that had been thoroughly used and/or abused.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,490
    To restore a totally, completely trashed modern car to factory-new specs would probably cost $50,000 on up, even if it didn't cost that in the first place. You can't build a car cheaper than a factory making thousands of them at once.
  • spokanespokane Posts: 514
    Today's cars will continue to need their electronic drivetrain management systems as long as they stay in service. However, in time, a costly and/or troublesome SRS Airbag or ABS braking system could junked with no greater safety risk than we faced with cars from the late '80's. Like most people, I dislike the idea of removing a safety system but, is it really so bad to regress to ~1987 safety technology? Many of us accumulated considerable mileage before the advent of seatbelts, collapsible steering columns, and dual-hydraulic brakes.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,490
    We might then have to go back to 1980s death rates, however, which were higher than now, and with fewer miles driven per car. So if all 2001 cars went back to 1985 standards, we miht lose another 5,000-10,000 people a year...double the 9-11 disaster. As for ABS, I don't believe that saves any lives. This has yet to be proven as a safety item that has any great effect on acccidents or injury.
  • just disposable powertrains and other components... as mentioned? Some people do love the way their car looks after a few years with it and they just want to keep it running without worrying about wear and tear.

    I'd love to have a car that you can easily swap out things..... not possible in this day and age though...
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 23,552
    ...depending on the car. Let's suppose you had a 1996 Caprice, and it was getting on in years, giving you electrical fits and so forth, and the tranny was about to let go and the engine was close to throwing a rod.

    Well, you could rip all that stuff out and throw in just about any Chevy smallblock/automatic tranny combo. Heck, replace the tranny at the same time, and your choices are just about limitless. Just about any GM-made V-8 in the last 40 years or so will fit in the engine bay of a B-body. I know for a fact a 454 will, and so will a Cadillac 500.

    As for safety stuff like dual master cylinders and collapsible steering columns, that stuff has been around since 1967 or 1968. I'd guess that the advent of the shoulder belt, padded steering column, and collapsible steering wheel were probably some of the biggest advances in vehicle safety. I think two of the most common causes of death in the old days were being thrown from the vehicle (not wearing your seatbelt) or being impaled by the steering column.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,490
    And being drunk I suspect!
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 23,552
    ...didn't alcohol used to account for something like 50% of all car accidents? On a somewhat related note, I heard on tv that about 70% of all documented rattlesnake bites involve alcohol! I wonder at what age the snakes start drinking? ;-)
  • dhanleydhanley Posts: 1,531
    On potential thing that could make cars more repairable is modularity. Many systems are going to be decoupled and separatelty powered. For example, in the new BMW's the water pump will be electrically powered and computer controlled. If the water pump fails, the computer should be able to tell you "water pump failed, knucklehead" and replacemengt should be a lot easier, even if the part is a lot more expensive ( it will be ).

    But some systems should be engineerable as commodities in the system. For example, the A/C. No reason a car A/C should cost any more than a home A/C if it's modular and you can make a lot of 'em. So maybe $200 for the whole A/C, and maybe $30 for a recharge.

This discussion has been closed.