The Origins of Planned Obsolescence
Automakers have been building obsolescence into their vehicles since the Dark Ages to compel consumers to upgrade to the latest models. General Motors (GM) initiated the marketing strategy of aesthetic obsolescence in 1924 to overtake Ford’s edge as the top auto producer. The new generation Volkswagen Jetta is the perfect example of planned aesthetic obsolescence. You can now easily distinguish this seventh generation model from the former by simply looking for the stunning sculptured body lines running along the side windows. Adding any sort of special features to make a new model line stand out will typically create an inferiority complex for owners of the aging models.
Ironically, Volkswagen had originally mocked the idea of planned obsolescence by explicitly mocking the term in marketing materials. The Doyle Dane Bernbach marketing campaign alleged that Volkswagen does not believe in planned obsolescence and that there was no purpose in publishing a picture of the new 1962 Volkswagen because it remained the same. This was almost satirical, considering the fact that Volkswagen appears to implement this more than most other manufacturers today.
The Perfect Modern Example of Planned Obsolescence
Volkswagen had specifically engaged in contrived durability problems with its infamous 1.8T engine that burned out turbos and engines with its problematically small oil sump. This engine was also engineered with an ultra-fine mesh pickup screen that was all but certain to clog and destroy the coked up engines. On top of this, it appears many dealers were instructing the customers to run the engines on conventional oil. Other car manufacturers had employed similar techniques. The class action lawsuit on this problem appears to have been settled only long after many owners had forfeited their claims by trading in, selling, or junking the vehicles.
The concept is simple. You tweak the parts in an auto to require such an exceptional level of maintenance that they will fail unless serviced by a guru. This frees up the service bays at the dealerships for the routine maintenance of new vehicles that the poorly paid technicians are able to earn sufficient hours on. Volkswagen’s require a special tool for just about everything and are starting to build engines that cannot be rebuilt. Many Volkswagen repairs require expensive factory only parts that can run into the hundreds of dollars for a small piece of plastic.
Auto body Collision Repairs Being Phased Out
The elimination of bumpers from vehicles has made it more cost-effective to simply replace many luxury vehicles when they get into a small fender-bender accident. The front fascias and subframes are designed to self-destruct with such slight impacts in the name of enhancing safety. On top of this, the types of exotic steels being used in many European autos make them impossible to weld. More and more automakers are turning to aluminum to lighten the frames for higher fuel efficiency. Volkswagen was infamous for cheating fuel efficiency by creating a program that would trick the EPA computers as another form of juicing every dime out of a sale.
Putting it All Together
Perhaps this is why Volkswagen is the world’s largest auto manufacturer. They have pulled out every trick in the book to trick consumers and governments into giving them the profit-margins they desire. The additional infotainment technology being integrated into late-model vehicles has created another dimension of forced purchases. Instead of totally revamping an auto to expensively produce a new generation, the car manufacturers can simply outmode the internal technology and make it difficult for SmartPhone users to integrate their latest apps.
Electric vehicles are the next generation of obsolescence. Owners will be shocked when they find out that they have to replace their battery every eight years at a price tag near $15,000. These prices can fluctuate wildly as manufacturers blame contrived shortages in certain materials like Boron. This is what recently happened in a shortage that was contrived by the government regulations to make it harder for Tesla to acquire batteries from Panasonic. The reality is that electricity is still being produced for the most part by virtually unregulated toxic coal plants that make the green energy concept behind them stained and ugly. Therefore, the next time you think about buying a new car, consider the bigger picture and what models you can bank on for easy long-term upkeep and maintenance from an independent garage.