Techno-Economic Leveling

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Cars, it’s rightly said, are becoming like cell phones – but in a way that’s different than the purely techno-gadget way most people mean when they say this.

A techno-economic leveling is under way, the same as has happened with our phones. 

The $60 smartphone you can pick up at Walmart may not have quite as much memory or as high-res a camera as a top-of-the-line iPhone, but it still has one helluva camera and does pretty much everything the $600 iPhone does. It certainly makes a phone call just as quickly. Texts just as competently. You can download and use the same apps as the $600 smartphone. Check email. Watch videos.

The screen/interface looks and works pretty much the same – $60 or $600. The meaningful differences are functionally few.

And so it is becoming – has become – with cars.

Mercedes just previewed its forthcoming (2019)  A Class – which is its entry-level class. But – other than it being smaller – and having a smaller price tag – it has nearly everything that comes in Mercedes’ top-of-the-line S-Class, which is a six figure car.

To start.

But the A-Class, which costs a third that – will debut 2001: A Space Odyssey technologies such as  the Mercedes-Benz User Experience (MBUX), an AI system with predictive learning abilities. It will effectively read your thoughts, come to know your habits – make suggestions about such things as where to eat and whether you ought t hit the gym today (because it’s Wednesday and the car knows you usually work out on Wednesdays). 

This, in Benz’s entry level model.

The A will also come with the same (or very similar) configurable flat screen array – a pair of 10.25 inch screens that sweep across the entire dashpad. This kind of thing used to be only available in the S Class and wasn’t even conceivable in that car – which is an exotic-level car – as recently as about five years ago. It has already filtered down to the mid-priced E-Class and – next year – will be standard in the most modestly priced Mercedes.

Also, driver-selectable ambient mood lighting – in 64 colors. A dual-clutch automated manual transmission. More things which used to be unique to the Big Fish. 

It goes without saying the A will also have power pretty much everything. 

As is the case with pretty much all cars now – including cars that cost a third of the A’s base price. This includes things like ambient mood lighting and automated manual transmissions. They are no longer wowsa-dazzle ’em features. They are ho-hum features, no longer anything particularly impressive – in terms of their being exclusive. 

And here we come to the apotheosis of the techno-economic leveling. So-called “entry level” cars do not exist anymore. Not if words have meaning; not if “entry level” is a synonym – as it was once – for spartan, minimally equipped, basic. 

Cheap – and not in terms of price.

Cheap – as in shoddy. Poorly put together. A piece of crap. These don’t exist – not new.

Consider the Toyota Corolla I reviewed recently (here). This is an $18k car and it comes standard with a touchscreen, too. Not quite as large – or as fancy – as the one in the A or the S Class, to be sure. But a touchscreen, nonetheless.

Also, adaptive cruise control. Voice recognition. Automated emergency braking. A great stereo – HD with with Bluetooth. You can order heated seats – and a larger touchscreen. 

The Mercedes has that oversized three-pointed star, yes. But what else does it have? 

The gap narrows. The meaningful differences are less and less with each new model year.

To appreciate how dramatically things have changed – how the lower end (so to speak) has caught up with the higher end – all one need do is reflect how wide the gap once was and not so long ago.

Lower-end cars  didn’t used to come with stereos. A radio might have been offered. With one or two speakers – of very poor quality – vs. the current six of very good quality. Air conditioning was the big ticket item – the feature which, more than any other amenity, separated the “luxury” cars (or at least, the “nice” cars) from the shitboxes – as the late and very great Brock Yates described them.

And shitty, they were.

A touchscreen? You were damned fortunate if you got gauges – as opposed to a few idiot lights that came on after it was too late to prevent catastrophic damage.

All new cars – no matter their price – come with a full array of gauges.

They are triple insulated and quieter inside than the Rolls-Royces of the past. No joke. The  2018 Corolla has acoustically laminated glass.

We keep hearing about automated cars. Which – if they do replace autonomous cars – would at a stroke render irrelevant performance brands such as Porsche – and the manufacture of performance cars such as Corvettes and Mustangs pointless, since all automated cars would proceed at the same pace, their movement controlled by the Hive Mind. 

Hopefully – for that and other reasons – automated cars will never replace autonomous cars; i.e., cars we’re free to drive faster (or slower) as we like.

But the techno-economic leveling which has made spending big bucks for a “high end” car no longer necessary because most of the functional amenities that were formerly exclusive to the high-end stuff are standard in the “entry level” stuff is a happy development, indeed.

. .  .

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105 COMMENTS

  1. When will those “car designers” stick with dreaming up the features that I actually NEED? And stop with those? Instead of gauges that actually work (and make sense), they will force me to have a car with max-o-size Distract-a-Screen that I don’t want or need, and can’t take the time to try to figure it out. All I want to do is drive to the grocery store, and they will soon force me to have to program my destination into their computer before the computer will let me start the car!

    A few generations ago, President EIsenhower had the brilliant idea to build this wonderful network of roads to allow us to get where we wanted and to do so more quickly than the older two-lane roads that used to be the network connecting the nation’s cities. Now, the new age of designers want to make things so horrible whenever they see us enjoying them. When they see too many of us enjoying our cars, they gravitate that way, only to infect all our vehicles with their squeamish ideas of what they think we want, and make everything horrible for those of us that don’t like conformity. A pox on them all!

  2. Never mind. It looks like it is hardware and software. It looks a little thin on detail, but it may save older cars from the junkyard.

  3. entry-level
    adjective
    1. of, relating to, or filling a low-level job in which an employee may gain experience or skills:
    This year’s college graduates have a limited choice of entry-level jobs.
    2. suitable for or affordable by people buying or entering the market for the first time:
    These less expensive entry-level homes sell quite well.
    3. relatively simple in design, limited in capability, and low in cost:
    entry-level home computers and word processors.
    Dictionary.com Unabridged
    Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.

    In other words, yes, these are true entry-level cars by today’s definition. To some degree, these things need to be judged by their contemporaries. While it is true that new entry-level cars have many features as standard that were not even available on cars even 20 years ago, this is merely a reflection of the progress of the marketplace, even a less than free one like our own. What is amazing is that government regulation hasn’t completely stopped all progress. As one commenter said, it is hard to imagine what the market would be producing now if government would get out of the way.

    However, I am also fully aware and can appreciate the naysayers in the comments who complain about overly complex systems, difficult to impossible repairs on certain electronic systems, and other such downsides to modern equipment. Yet I think that anger is somewhat misplaced.

    In an unfettered free market, it would be possible for manufacturers to offer, at a profit, simple and reliable vehicles. Some would be capable of 100+ mpg. Some would be able to drive through a brick wall with little or no damage. Some would cost under $2,000 and get 4-5 people from Point A to Point B safely, if not necessarily swiftly or luxuriously. By the same token, we would have far more high-end options with unimaginable luxuries and comforts. In short, we’d have far more options.

    Yet as government adds mandates, the options and choices shrink. First, it is prohibitively expensive to enter the market as a new manufacturer. In days of yore, 100 years ago, car companies were literally started up in people’s backyards, or barns, or houses. The best ideas and products with the best service and features that consumers wanted won out, and the others faded away. Today you have to be able to invest hundreds of millions of dollars up front before your first car can be produced, much less sold.

    Second, mandates for safety and performance restrict what designs and ideas can be tried. This further narrows the range of available options from the get go. Most UTVs (4-wheeled all-terrain vehicles often seen on farms and in hunting fields or used for recreational off-roading) are fully capable of functioning on-road as daily transportation, but because they don’t meet certain arbitrary mandates, they are not street legal.

    Third, mandated equipment and features add cost and remove design flexibility. This makes more marginal business cases, such as simple, lightweight, inexpensive, and easy to repair designs unprofitable to actually design and produce. In turn, such companies have to design for much broader audiences to have a hope of selling sufficient numbers to recoup the investment. Thus the lowest common denominator continues to rise. It may not be that all people seeking an entry-level car expect air conditioning, but in today’s world at least 95% of them do, and if it’s not offered on a particular model, they will not buy that model. Maybe only 50% expect a touch screen. But maybe 95% of them would be happy to buy a model with only 2 airbags instead of 8, but that’s no longer an option, and all the cost involved in the extra 6 airbags raises the cost of the model itself by, say, $1,200. Mandated, but not market-driven, costs artificially raise prices and limit options since the customer doesn’t magically have an extra $1,200 to spend on a new car when Uncle Sam mandates $1,200 of new equipment be installed on all models.

    On the other hand, though, consider how amazing the market truly is. An average new car in 2018 is far nicer than the inflation-adjusted new car of the same price from 20 years ago. Nearly all new cars can easily go 100k miles with little more than regular basic maintenance, and most will go well past 200k. That didn’t happen with cars from 20-30 or more years ago nearly as often. Eventually, if given time, the market finds ways to bring down the price of gadgets consumers demand (touch screens) or even government mandates (air bags, seat belts).

    Yet mandates merely cause the premature delivery of technology to the marketplace before it’s fully mature or truly valued by customers as much as they cost to manufacture and install. I’ve wondered how much of the Takata airbag debacle can be laid at the feet of government regulations. These things are mandated by the government, not demanded by the consumer. Therefore manufacturers are incentivised to manufacture them as cheaply as possible to meet the letter of the regulations only. Corners will be cut everywhere a bureaucrat forgot to regulate, and when the device fails, the call is for more government regulation, NOT for more responsiveness to consumers. The answer, it seems, is always more regulation, not more freedom.

    So the leveling of technology in vehicles is both emblematic of the good a market can produce as well as an indictment of the damage done by artificial limitations in the form of government regulations. If anyone has any doubts, look at the Russian Lada and the total lack of progress most of their models saw under such heavy government control for decades. A 1970s econobox from the US would have been a luxury limo compared to the latest Lada.

  4. I like the heated seats and backup camera in my wife’s ’13 GMC Terrain but we both like driving my ’04 Honda Element. The other Eric (the car guy) has the same one and a you tube site with all his repairs and maintenance so I just go there if I want to see how he did things. I hope to keep it until it is 20 years old. My backup camera integrates with my Garmin.

      • I used to drive a 79 fairmont when I worked for a government agency. It was a true shitbox, in keeping in line with ford products, where ever they are sold.

          • Morning, Nunz!

            The Fairmont – IIRC – was one of the iterations of Ford’s “Fox” platform and not unsound per se. It was – like almost all the cars of its time – embarrassingly under-engined and dipped in the cheapest plastic Ford could find!

            • eric, before your time Ford did a lot of things poorly. Their glass had huge distortions on the windshields so looking out the edge gave you that carnival-ride feeling and it had NO tint….at a time when the cheapest thing GM produced had tinted glass and no distortion. Then there was the smell of the inside that simply made a lot of people sit down, smell it a while and rule it out.

              It appeared at one time Ford would continue to make hydraulic lifters that would only last a year or so before devolving to the clack clack mode…..forever. You could tell the brand of car being started by the lifter clack….which always turned into a burned valve…or several.

              For whatever reason, back in the 60’s nobody ever serviced automatic transmissions which was probably why the infamous “Slushomatic” took a dump time and time again. Ford fairly put AAMCO on the map. I always maintained Ford owned it. Once, while taking a friend for his umpteenth transmission…on their guarantee, I noticed all the transmissions were bright aluminum, clean so to speak, but then noticed they had just been dipped in aluminum paint….over all the crud that had accumulated on the just taken from junkyard cars. You look at the pan and notice it had never been removed. Buy a 100 of these at one time for $10 each and that guarantee would last till the customer simply got sick of going there. What a business model ha ha.

              • Sadly 8, a LOT of tranny shops operated under that model. Only AAMCO charged more. Most of the independent shops which did bidness that way, used to offer “rebuilt” trannies for like $350. AAMCO would charge over $2K.

                Back in the mid 80’s I met the guy who founded AAMCO…only it was at the HQ of his other bidness…MAACO (The Dago seems to like those letters!)- IIRC, his name was Martino. Didn’t care for him. (Didn’t know at the time how unscrupulous his business practices were, either).

              • I know you love to bash Ford 8, but one would think with my experience with Fords from the day I was born that I might have run into these problems and I simply haven’t. And that spans two fairmonts, two mavericks, and four Mustangs. Hell even throw in the 1970s pickup I had to use for a summer job. It’s only fault was rust. If I add the beater mustangs the neighbor had that I played with on occasion that’s three more. Oh and I forgot my grandfather’s last car a Taurus, and my grandmother’s on the other side of the family, a tempo and a focus. But none had anything like your stories 8.

                The tempo couldn’t get out of it’s own way but never really had any problems until it was quite old and those were simple ones one would expect from a short tripped car over a decade old.

                Anyway, on Fairmonts, with what is on the market today and parts from late SN95 Mustangs one could build quite a car out of a fairmont. Wouldn’t be an economically sane thing but it would be quite the sleeper.

                • Brent, that’s exactly what Youstuber “Eric The Car Guy” did with a 79 Fairmont- made it into a sleeper- and ended up going WAY overboard. Ended up having somewhere close to $40K into it :o!!!!

                  Makes me question his sanity……

                • MY problem with Ford stems mainly from the problems I listed and mostly what I detest about Ford is their pickups.

                  To this very day they ride like a wagon simply because it’s a cheap way to make springs. Never blew up a Posi-trac on a work truck but Fords would began to chatter on corners and next thing you know it’s dead in the water.

                  The company has two pickups, a Ford F 250 crewcab 4WD(V 10….yeow, eats gas like it is pulling the refinery)and a Duramax one ton 4WD crewcab. The Chevy is smooth and quiet and the Ford is up on it’s tippy toes abusing hell out of you.

                  Mind you, I crawl out of a big construction truck and you’d think that would be the worst I’d endure in a day but not so if I have to use that Ford pickup.

                  Back when a F pickup had twin I beams there was no way to get the front end to wear tires evenly except at about 50K it would likely be close to flat having started life on the outside edges of the tires and by 100K be using up the inside edges.

                  Even Ford ventilation sucked. A nice day and windows up you got 10 degree hotter air than outside temp. A GM had that same outside temp air to circulate, one hell of a difference.

                  A GM just handles whee out of Ford and likewise ride quality plus the engines have been known by monikers over the years as “the forever engine” for 454’s whereas Ford’s 460 was not nearly as powerful and the main bearings gave up early….not to mention hydraulic lifters. Same went for TH transmissions. Ford also used a rear end for many years with one side offset to the low side of the road and narrower than a GM to carry the same weight. They always looked like they were tracking sideways from behind.

                  Naw, I started out using Ford and Chevy pickups and when I began to have to work on them Ford wasn’t in the running, esp. with the price of parts, something you have to deal with on any work truck….and I don’t consider a pickup that you can’t work a viable thing, just something with a bed so you can say you have a “truck”.

                  Go get new springs made for your Ford. It’s just a piece of spring steel you get bent however much you want. They don’t make springs for GM’s because they’re not the same thickness or width for the entire leaf. I’ve had people say “Well, you can just look at my Ford and see how much more weight it will carry than the Chevy”. Oh yeah, it’s ass sticks up in the air further, a sure sign of weight carrying ability…..NOT. GM springs are made to use the heavier part as it’s loaded so you have a much better riding and handling light truck and just as much or more weight carrying ability.

                  Then there was always the cooling system that wasn’t up to snuff. I suppose that’s been worked out by now but it hadn’t been in the mid 80’s and they’d overheat in a heartbeat. I’ve even had a 350 overheat sitting in one spot and the only load was from the alternator running an Auto-Crane…now that sucks. Why’d it take you so long to change those sheaves? The damned truck kept over heating and we’d have to stop until it cooled down.

                  Then there was the a/c compressors that were not up to snuff and sucked up lots of power….along with that overheating cooling system.

                  Oh, and don’t let me forget the power steering units, moaners from early to when they had to be replaced.

                  And the front differential that was a live axle forever on Ford’s sucked the big one as a 4 WD truck. You could nearly turn it around in an acre and it would eat up a the ground doing so since it’s camber was agly and it would eat you up over rough ground the GM just sorta floated over and got better traction doing so.

                  But no matter what part you had to replace, just lube up and bend over when it came to replacing it on a Ford…..and hope the replacement part worked since I’ve seen a plethora of the same replacement part not work and had the Ford mechanical rep say “Just keep putting on that same number you started with till one works”. Oh yeah, that’s so much fun when it’s a slave cylinder on a Powerstroke 4WD and you get to pull the transmission and transfer case to change it whereas the GM simply had two bolts that could be changed so quickly it didn’t even hurt your feelings too much and rarely did they need to be changed.

                  And don’t get me started on transfer cases, a BW unit on Ford with a pickup tube inside for the built-in pump that had to work to keep the case alive and had to be timed.

                  I spent many years working on Ford and GM pickups….and in the last several years, Dodge’s(god save me from those electronic bugaboos). I came to my views over a long period of time.

                  Oh, and let’s not forget those Holley carbs on Fords back in the 80’s and 90’s that even the Ford rep said “Replace it, don’t try to overhaul it” and eventually that’s what everyone at a private shop would tell you. I saw more than a few changed over to a 4 barrel intake and a Holley gas guzzler just cause it worked. And when you had a carb problem on a GM you just jerked it off, kitted it and went on. Ford people didn’t work on theirs. Ah, and let’s not forget the water pump that required nearly an engine rebuild to replace and would sometimes dump coolant in the crankcase.

                  There is one thing I like on a Ford, the external solenoid.

                    • Bill, it depends on what I do with one. There are obvious(to an experienced trucker)advantages to a long, low tractor like a 379/389 Peterbilt or a 900 W L KW for hauling equipment. They both are available with a low-ride suspension which helps with equipment trailers and both have room all the way around the engine to service it and easy to reach drivelines from the back of the engine on.

                      Looks wise I prefer the Peterbilt but both are good trucks. I also like the way you sit back in a Pete of that style and with darkly tinted windows it’s nearly impossible for DOT types to see the driver so a damned seat belt is not a necessity to avoid being hassled.

                      Also the ride is superior on this type of tractor since the driver is well behind the front axle and well in front of the rear and the cabs don’t set up high lending itself to swaying back and forth, a situation I hate and those trucks that do that such as the two story jobs that catch way too much wind.

                      Volvo’s are good trucks but not for construction work and have problems like too thick mirrors that block a lot of vision when you’re trying to pull onto a road from the side. I don’t even know of a Volvo these days that have mirror mounts for large spot mirrors and that’s a minus for anything over-width. Volvo’s are also a nightmare to work on and have European style engines now days although they haven’t always.

                      Volvo owns Mack now but Macks got much better for many years after they were simply oversprung and abusive.

                      But for most purposes, I like the long wheelbase tractors powered by Detroit’s or Cummins since Cat engines are often finicky and expensive to service and fix.

                      I don’t care for any tractor with a car gauge type display since they are hard to see and individual gauges are placed much better and can be seen better.

                      The cheaper brands are not as nice to a driver in many ways with seats designed by the companies and not by a 3rd party, almost all of which beat hell out of the seats in Eagles which end up flopping side to side and Freightliner seats which aren’t made for big people.

                      A Mack I drive occasionally doesn’t have a bar brake for the trailer and that’s fine most of the time but that bar brake is there for emergencies(in my view)like when you have a jackknife situation at speed. That bar has saved my ass about 3 times in my life, probably the only times I ever used it.

                      I haven’t operated a Western Star of any sort but looking in their interior I see some things I don’t particularly care for.

                      Back in the day, GMC made a pretty good truck for various reasons I won’t get into.

                      I don’t like Sterlings for a myriad of reasons just like IHC trucks although Pro Stars were once pretty decent trucks and had a class leading seat, the Chugger Snubber. What happened to their seats since is a crime.

                      The only baby 8 I’ve had experience with was a Volvo with a Cummins ISX engine and a Super Ten. I don’t care for a Super Ten but the rest of the truck was fine although another driver pulled the front end cover off over where there should be a bumper one day backing over a tumble weed. Oh, he saw the tumbleweed but never considered it to be a threat to a big rig.

                      I used to drive a decent Volvo with a different sort of Cummins and it kept a driver happy with it’s a/c/heater, ventilation but sucked for gauges, just like every Volvo I’ve driven. Volvo’s tend to have good seats too, a big thumbs up. That particular Volvo had a run in with the Northern Pacific due to not having brakes at a blind crossing. I was running as hard as I could go and maybe 10 feet behind the trailer when the NP got there. I was lucky, luckier than a guy two weeks earlier at the same spot they pulled out from underneath his rig.

                      Back in the day when COE’s were replete I liked Freightliners, Pete’s and KW’s. GMC’s sucked which was strange since their conventionals were good trucks. I wouldn’t drive a Mack COE or any Mack with a 3X3 and Mack engine. I always detested Maxidyne’s for everything that they were.

                      I recently saw a 54 Mack SL at a carwash and got some pics and vids of it. It was a show truck the guy about my age was proud of it since it was really a bit before his time. It’s easy to see what style Peterbilt first emulated looking at that Mack. Of course trucks back then didn’t have flip up hoods and had hoods with sides that folded up leaving a narrow top over the engine.

                      Bill, I’ll surprise you here with the first truck I started with, a COE Ford with a 342 gas engine and a 5 speed 2 speed axle. The GMC 9500 was more than a step up from the Ford but the Ford and the GMC rode well and each had their distinctive traits. GMC had a screw type brake setup that was self-adjusting and far ahead of other truck brakes at the time in my opinion.

                      Well, I could talk all day long about trucks of the past with one of my favs being a Diamond Reo. I had dreams about that old Mack long nose with an oilfield front end and a step deck trailer hauling oil well casing since I was 8 or 9 years old. It must have influenced me to a great degree.

                      One parting shot at those bean counters that buy trucks and know nothing about them. A good operator knows what is what and what works and how it works. If I have a fuel pressure gauge, a pyrometer and a boost gauge I won’t ever have a surprise when it comes to knowing what’s going on with an engine.

                      Of course I will ask a typical driver these days what sort of drive train his truck has and he’ll/she’ll just shrug shoulders. That’s a driver, not an operator. You won’t see these people with a winch over a rolling tailboard sucking up a big tank or trailer on a tractor.

                  • I think that the 99 and newer Fords ride amazingly comfy for trucks. Chevy’s always had plusher rides….because they are built more like cars. Ya rarely see a Chevy being used for hot-shot work…it’s almost all Ford and Dodge.

                    Newer stuff- last ten years or so, the ride and towing capacities are about the only differences. They’re all nightmares to repair; have Rube Goldberg fuel and electrical systems; are ridiculously over-priced, and seem to be built more for sissies seeking luxury, rather than for any sort of real work.

                    They all suck now- Fords with the aluminum bodies; Chevy’s with the flimsier waxed (not E-coated!) frames…..Dodges…well, I don’t even keep with Dodges, but when HAVEN’T they had endless problems?

                    • FWIW, I have lived in three Ford vans: a 1974 Club Wagon, and 1980 and 2003 1/2 ton cargo. Each of the newer ones have been better than the previous. The current one (2003) has better everything than the other two combined. I have had people who were running with me express surprise when they learned that it had a V6 because it has the get up and go of a small to medium V8.
                      Before I am accused of being a Ford apologist, I did not buy any of the three because of their brand. It was a totality of the situations. Based on my experiences, I wouldn’t buy another brand unless it was at a much better price.

                    • Oh, when it comes to vans, fuhgettaboutit! There has been no choice since the mid 70’s- Ford was the ONLY one!

                      My 98 E150 had 300K on it, and still ran like a clock. Never needed anything but basic maintenance and a fuel pump and a heater core. I’m sorry that I sold it.

                      I’ll never buy another Chevy just because “It’s a good deal”. I had bought a ’91 1-ton Chevy car carrier back when I was in the bidness- nice truck- 454SS, cowl hood…looked slick, and rode like a car….but what a POS! It was a sled on rainy days; had the only manual tranny I ever had a problem with; always something breaking; rear wheels fell off a couple of times…

                      Got rid of the “good deal” in short order, and picked up an ’86 F350 with the 6.9 diesel- Now THAT was a real truck! Never a problem; robust; could do twice the work; didn’t feel like it was going to break every time I used it…. could carry a full size van on the bed, and one on the bang bar- something I’d NEVER do with the Chebby… and the F350 was HALF the price of the Chebby!

                      I’ve never owned another Chevy since…never will- I don’t care how good of a bargain it may be.

                    • Well 8, I’m not too familiar with the newer ones of either manufucturer 🙂 but for instance: Chebby had switched to ball-joints long ago, while Ford was still using king-pins (Sadly, Ford now uses ball joints too- hence the nicer ride than old Fords).

                      I know it was still true even pretty recently, that Ford was still using beefier steering/front suspension components.

                      I believe even on current ones, Ford frames are thicker, and they don’t have huge holes through them in places; plus they’re E-coated instead of waxed (Not sure if Chebby finally made the switch in ’18 or not).

                      Even the little things… Door hingges on Chevy’s in the 90’s and 00’s were pretty wimpy- their doors always sagged much after 100K miles…whereas I’ve never had a Ford sag on me.

                      Again, I don’t have experience with current Chevy’s- but 90’s and 00’s the interiors tended to fall apart- not like Dodges…but they didn’t hold up like the Fords do.

                      Looks like Chevy may have started addressing some weaknesses (SOME) lately…but they’re awfully slow about doing so. And considering that it’s the 15 year-old and older vehicles that interest me…well…I wouldn’t touch anything Chevy made newer than the 80’s (Now THEY were good trucks- if only they came in extra-cab…or were more commonly available in crew…)

                      67-c.87, I had no problem with Chevy P/Us…they were some good trucks- albeit a little rough as far as handling…but so were Fords of that vintage- if not more so.

                  • I get that you hate fords but come on the stuff you come up with… One would think that I would have run into these problems you keep moaning about for no particular reason.

                    The beat to shit roughly 20 year old Ford pick up at that summer job I had in the early 90s was the truck to grab out of the fleet of beaters. It’s only issue was floor pan rust after about two decades of abuse and no maintenance.

            • Eric, IIRC, the Fagmount was designed by Fox…but was not *the* Fox platform (But since some shared concepts were used, I think ya could bolt-on Mustang A-arms and a few other things- like Eric The Car Guy did).

              But MAN! Those Fairmonts were SO cheesy! They just felt so cheap and old…even when they were new! Very crude.

              I never thought Ford would recover from the crap they made in the late 70’s/early to mid 80’s!

  5. Bought a new car last year. Power windows, power locks, power trunk, CD player, decent quality AM/FM stereo, factory A/C, six airbags, cell-phone interface, automatic light shutoff so the battery doesn’t die, tilt wheel, power brakes, power steering, fuel injection, digital dash, trip meter, fuel mileage calculator.

    In 1990 you’d have to buy a Lincoln or a Cadillac to get most of that stuff… and some of it, like the cell phone interface, wasn’t available at any price.

    What is it? An el strippo, base-model Ford Focus S — without one single “option.” Less than $13k after all the rebates.

    Best part is that it has an honest-to-God manual transmission… the new pickup trucks, for instance, aren’t even available with a manual.

    • Hi X,

      Yup!

      I’ve been test-driving/reviewing new cars since the ’90s and the changes I’ve seen are – to use the over-used word – epic.

      I can still remember getting into a brand-new ’93 Cavalier and taking stock of the mound of shit it was. There are numerous critiques one can hurl at new cars, but the level of equipment, power/performance and overall “put-togetherness” of even the least expensive current-year car is as impressive as Arnold was in his Mr. Universe prime.

      • It’s not only automobile technology that’s advanced….lubricant improvements and tire technology have also made a huge difference, though tires have gotten pretty pricy. Still, all that said, I would still like to get ahold of a cherry 1967 VW beetle…..easy to work on and easy to modify…..

      • The Elco was blocked in at my MIL’s once so I took the SIL’s Cavalier, against my wishes. I was taken aback that it would fall all over itself trying to do 40 on a city street. Needless to say I only went as far as I had to go.

        I got back and mentioned it had a minimal amount of power and was concerned the transmission or engine would quit. My SIL laughed at me as if I were a fool and said it got to 55 on the highway just fine. She didn’t say if it would get to 56 though. What a shitbox, no other word for it, just a shitbox. A Vega seemed like a Ferrari in comparison.

    • I’ve never seen a Focus S. I figured it was a stripped-down corporate fleet car with manual windows and locks. My 2014 SE has nothing on it, yet it’s like a loaded car used to be. Since it has a manual transmission (which works better than the buggy automatic one), it had to be “located” on another lot. $15k after the rebates.

      • Main difference between the S and the SE is that the SE has aluminum alloy wheels instead of steel, and painted mirrors instead of black plastic. Aside from that, I think that the “standard equipment” is essentially the same.

  6. Is there no market for a mid-2000’s level car these days? I don’t get it. I have zero experience in the auto-industry, but I’d say there are more than a few people that would buy a car similar to a 2000 Honda Civic. Add to the fact that 20 years of technology would make the car cheaper, lighter and more efficient…all for less money, perhaps 1/2 as much. What gives?

    • Besides government FATWAs, automakers conspire against their customer base by making their cars functionally “obsolete” every few years. Because of the government FATWAs, it is virtually impossible for new manufacturers to crop up. Since the 1950s, consolidation has been the name of the game. If you removed government and were able to get rid of quantity based pricing systems, smaller manufacturers could make a go of it. I believe that if some of the smaller manufacturers that remained would market things properly, there would be a market for a simple car. I believe that you could do well selling and marketing cars to real men. Those of us who are not enamored with keyless entry fobs, touchscreen everything and saaaaaaaaafety. Market it with Bud Lindemann style road test clips, and you got something.

  7. I bought my 2010 Kia Forte in part because it has manual windows. I’ve had a lot of bad experiences as the result of power window failures over the years and this was a major selling point. I do like the stereo CD player. Lots of features on this car that I never use and wouldn’t know how. I want to know how all this stuff is going to work ten years from now when it’s ten below zero. I’m no tech but I can remember putting sparkplugs in my 1967 Rambler. I can’t even see where the sparkplugs are in the Kia.

  8. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: They will take my ’09 Nissan 370Z (6 cal, 350hp, 6-spd manual, Boze stereo) when they pry it from my cold, dead hands.

  9. We have a 93 Corolla, 225K miles and an 01 Corolla, 192K miles.
    They do require a bit of maintenance at this point.
    I’d think about buying/leasing a new/used one but the constant recalls turn me off.
    They still run good and I’m in zero need of most of the new tech.
    Any thoughts on the never-ending recalls?

  10. Hmph… just last week I spend a couple of hard days working over a friend’s old Mercedes Benz… a 1984 300 D. The car has about 300K on the clock, and as far as he knows its never been touched. Was hard starting, ran rough, smoked like a Brninkman meat smoker…. and gutless. Knowing these cars as I do, I knew what to go after… valve adjust (two were too tigjht, likely the hunt at lower RPM) possibly fouled injectors (ruled out with a spray pattern and pop pressure test), and pump timing somewhere off in the weeds. In fact it was so far off I had to dismount the pump itself and clock it round a couple notches to get it in range to set accurately. All that done, bled out the fuel system, primed the lube oil system, and it lit right off…. and ran, still stone cold and a touch of air in the high pressure lines, better than it has in the 8 years he’d owned it. Once warmed up and some carbon knocked loose, it now starts on the first glow cycle and maybe third turn over, runs smooth stone cold on the tickover, has loads of power, and not a trace of smoke. He owes me well under a grand for my work, he’s only got maybe that much more in the car….. clean, nice, everything works, a delight to drive (I did set the clearance on the steering drop arm sector gear, taking out the play in the wheel). Before, his Wife hated riding in the balky stinky thing. now she WANTS to drive it herself.

    WHY can’t the comanies produce cars like that anymore? OK, I understand… SAAAAAAAAAaaaaaaafffeeety (not an airbag in the thing, but those cars have some of the most solid crash survival records of anything ever), and it likely burns just a bit dirtier than the DEF guzzling modren diesel powered cars…. the few that are left remaining in production. These cars haev quite the following, and for good reason. He’s got another, same year, but the S series 300D with the sleek stylish coachwork. We’re working on setting that right next…..

    • DAAAAAYUM those 5 cyl. diesel Benzes were some of the finest cars ever made!

      Uncle could sure take a lesson from them! THAT was economy and safety! Now we can’t have ’em.

      My friend used to have an early 80’s 300D. He used that thing as a tow truck and just about everything else. In the late 90’s when he got rid of it, it had dents on every panel…but still ran like a champ with 100’s of thousands of miles on it.

      Ya can’t even find ’em used anymore. People don’t get rid of ’em unless they’re basket cases…or if they’re halfway decent, they want the Moon for ’em.

  11. Not a happy development, unless one has to have all the gizmos and gadgets. I’d like to have the choice of buying a stripper car that is bereft of all that 1984 incomprehensible garbage.

    • My 18 year-old Excursion just had one thing that would beep (before I disabled it)- a seatbelt reminder- and that used to drive me nuts to the point where I wanted to drive off of a cliff. I can’t even comprehend how anyone could drive one of these late-model POS’s with 18,000 different beeps and chimes and voice prompts! They may as well just have a retractable reamer that comes up out of the driver’s seat, ’cause these stupid cars essentially do to you what a proctologist does.

      When there are so many warning chimes and beeps, does one even pay attention to them anymore? Can they even keep track of what they are for? Aren’t such things more of a distraction? Everything’s “automatic” now, but because of all this crap, I’m sure these cars are a lot harder to actually DRIVE than any old cars from the past.

      • I usually like to tool around in my 89 Corolla, but recently caved to being a passenger to a friend who was all excited about her brand new Honda. As we were driving around, there was this continual “ding-ding-ding,” annoying the heck out of me. When I asked what that damn thing was, she said, “Oh, that means I’m not driving between the lines.” Which, in PA, I rarely do because there are so many deer around here, I feel like my chances are better if I take the middle. There is no way I’d be happy in noisemobile like that. I like my peace and quiet. (Except, of course, if a good Doobie Brothers song comes on the radio.)

          • Very funny! I suppose it’s a legitimate question to ask these days, but no. I don’t know how it happened, but its been who I am ever since I was a kid. I especially am thankful for this site and forum. To be pelted with so much clear thinking is great refreshment.

          • One of my best friends when I was a practicing Libertarian was a woman named Victoria Mason. Being a descendant of George Mason, she understood the libertarian ethic better from the classic liberal perspective better than most of her contemporaries. Sadly, her paralegal expertise took her to the belly of the political beast in the late 80’s.

        • Doubie Bros. I dig it. Coming in tonight I heard some good stuff. Hello, hello my friend, I’d love to be here when I can. Can’t help it, I’m an old 60’s rebel.

      • On the old F250’s with the seat belt reminder you had to only push the seat belt clip release button and it would stop for a while. In the newer trucks that trick doesnt work anymore. In FACT, the middle seat in bench seating has an intentionally different clip male end that wont fit in the driver or passenger female end.

        • Yeah, that’s it, Braz. On my Exc. ya just hold down the release button for 3 seconds after you start ‘er up, and she’s good. Until I found that out though, it was driving me CRAZY! -Even just driving down my 600’ driveway…DING!DING!DING!DING!DING!DING!DING!DING!!!! It was spoiling my whole enjoyment of the truck. Thankfully, my F250 either doesn’t have the reminder…or someone permanently disabled it before I got it.

  12. The faster what we get for our labor becomes obsolete, the faster we ourselves become obsolete.
    If we can’t repair it ourselves, we are obsolete.
    Too many wires. An unfixable tangle. Iced tea on the infotainment. Jigsaw the dashboard.
    We will delete everything that we deem unnecessary.
    Millennials will sell us the new tech. It will plug in where the old tech went.

  13. This is like every time you read or watch some review of some million-dollar hyper-exotic, and they always say the same thing.

    The car’s a bargain for how much performance you get.

    Right.

    Just once, I’d like to see a review of the latest carbon-fiber unicorn where the autojourno runs it for five laps, pulls up next to the factory rep, gets out, wearily looks the guy in the eye sideways and goes, “A million bucks? Really?”

  14. I can not believe that EVERYONE is willing to put up with these invasive cars!

    I want a vehicle which I can just get in and DRIVE- without the car [and presumably others, through a wifi connection] knowing and keeping track of where I go!

    Our only remaining hope in this life, is in the third world, because it would appear that all first-worlders (and most second-worlders) have ceded all of their autonomy, privacy, etc. over to gizmos, corporations and politicians.

    There’s no going back. I used to think that long before it would get to this point, a lot of people would wake up and say “Enough! This is crazy.”- but no- they’re addicted to gizmology from the womb now. You see 7 year-olds with smartphones permanently attached- or so it seems.

    Disgusting.

    I’ve got to get away from this. These people around me don’t appear to be of the same species. They’ve become like human robots.

    • Nunzio, your comment about people becoming like human robots brought to mind a new technology (nano, to be specific) in make-up, (here’s the “girl” part!) that is the “latest.” Apparently, one sprays this stuff on one’s face after applying their regular make-up, and it gives a porcelain-like affect. A flawless look. So… on one hand we’ve got these robots that are looking more and more human, and on the other, we have humans actually CHOOSING to look more and more like robots. HOW WEIRD IS THAT?

  15. You’re absolutely right, Eric. Cars are getting much better. My first car was a 1979 Toyota Corolla – it had no radio, manual windows, no A/C, all it had was three pedals, a steering wheel, and a shifter. Today, I drive a Ford Focus RS, it’s the priciest version of an economy car, but the non-RS variants have identical equipment – I have power everything, steerable headlights, fancy stereo with phone interface, heated seats, fancy AWD system, it’s amazing. It’s much nicer than my last BMW.

    I wonder what’s going to happen to the luxury car brands. I imagine that the high-end status cars will do fine, just like Prada and Gucci sell status, not utility, but not quite sure whether their low end offerings have a place anymore.

    • And ten years from now, when all that techno-crap begins to malfunction and is fixable (if the parts are even available) only at an exorbitant price? See also how dependent new cars are on prima donna-ish treatment. If my old Dodge sat in a flood, for example, all I’d have to do is change the fluids, dry out the ignition, and drive. A newer car would be scrapped as too costly to fix.

      Heated seats, my ass.

      • It’s hilarious. You see people who live in a trailer (Hey wait! I live in a trailer!) and who shop at the dollar store (I don’t do that!) get into a car with heated seats; an 8-speaker stereo with subwoofer; remote-control mirrors; a back-up camera….

        Why is it that machines which are used to transport the average person, must now be the pinnacle of opulence in their lives?

        And then they have a car whose motor might run for 300K miles, but all the peripherals will break and be so expensive to fix that the owner will be financing a new luxury-mobile, and rolling what is still owed on the old one into the new loan!

        This world has become so crazy, I just don’t see how it can go on much longer. All of these things have consequences. We live in a time of delayed consequences…but when those consequences come….BOOM!

        • Ha! Even my ’00 Excursion. Whoever bought it when it was new, paid a lot of money for all the goodies. I don’t even know if the heated seats work; I’ve never tried them. I wear a coat in the winter.

          I’d like the Excursion just as well if it had plain vinyl seats and rubber floor covering…. In fact, I’d like it better!

        • Some of us who have lived in a van since the mid 1980’s don’t need a heated seat because if one was needed, it would be an indicator that we stayed too far north for too long.
          Just yesterday, I broke a sweat sitting in the drivers seat with the hatch cover off and the drivers window fully open. This is an indication that it is about time to go north again. Unfortunately, NOAA hasn’t gotten the word, yet.

      • If the heated seat breaks, no big deal, I can live without. This car still has refined old-school tech. The only thing I can’t really fix myself is its trick rear differential. Cars these days are serviceable, just your toolkit is different. I happen to be both a car geek and a computer geek, so I know how to build stuff to snoop on the car’s CAN bus and decode all the data, help diagnose issues going wrong, or even to mod it. Give it a little bit of time, and the weekend mechanic hobbyists will come up with tools to deal with fancy car computers. If you search around on forums, most cars, especially those with an enthusiast following, have been thoroughly reverse engineered.

        • It’s great that you know how to deal with new cars’ technology, and I’m not being sarcastic. I’m glad somebody does. However, for people like me who were born too early to get in on the silicon boom but too late to get through life without being immersed in computers, new cars are a mess. I’m the world’s worst handyman, but even I could get a $5 ignition kit (points, condenser, rotor, distributor cap) and tune a car with my timing light and dwell meter. The material investment in tools and parts was nominal, as was the knowledge to deal with problems compared to modern cars. Codes? Body control modules? I can’t drive into an auto repair shop these days with my Subaru without kissing $500 goodbye every time.

          Indulge an old man for a moment. My v-8 Rambler with electric overdrive got about the same highway mileage as the Subaru and had twice the power. It was reliable and did everything I asked of a car, even though I flogged it mercilessly as moron teenagers tended to back then. I could actually do something electrically stupid with those old cars and not fry $3000 worth of computers. Other than emission control, I have no use whatever for all the rest of the digital dreck that’s on newer cars.

        • Hi OP,

          It’s becoming hard for professional mechanics to service new cars on account of the cost of the diagnostic equipment (often vehicle specific) necessary to do so. A good friend of mine owns a repair shop; he has had to give up working on certain makes because he can’t justify the investment in equipment he’d have to make in order to do so. For the average DIY home mechanic, it is inconceivable to spend thousands on diagnostic equipment and specialized tools.

          This plus the inherently greater complexity of modern drivetrains is what’s turned kids off to wrenching. Yes, there are a few who still do. But they are just that. A few. Most don’t even make an attempt. They “game” instead.

          This is furthering the Elio-ization of society. Turning people into largely helpless meatsacks dependent on “experts” to deal with pretty much everything, from fixing their car to being told what to do.

          • Just try doing something simple, like bleeding the brakes, on most modern vehicles…. You may end up with usable brakes, but they’ll never be “quite right”, and the dash light will stay on (A deal-breaker if you live in an inspection state) unless you take it to the dealer….who is the only one who has the proper equipment to reset the brake’s computer while bleeding them.

            Even an independent shop will send you to the dealer for that reset after break work. No way around it.

            And that’s just ONE very simple basic repair procedure!

            Change the turbo or pretty much have to change or do any work to a major engine component on any Powerstroke made within the last 10 years? The CAB has to come off!

            As far as the diagnostics: More and more, you see even the dealership shops, with all of their fancy and expensive brand-specific equipment, just guessing and swapping-out parts- often doing thousands of dollars worth of work to fix one problem; and sometimes it is never fixed.

            These modern vehicles are not made to be repaired. They’re made to be serviceable for as long as the warranty lasts. Anything beyond that is just luck…and when it finally does break, throw it away, ’cause it’ll be too expensive to repair.

            I can’t tell yous how many people I’ve been seeing lately who don’t believe me about these modern vehicles. They go out, against my warnings, and finance a newer used car. Inevitably within a year or so, a problem or several develops, and they find out that it is going to cost THOUSANDS of dollars to fix. Invariably, they end up letting the car get repoed, and end up driving some $1500 hooptie from the 90’s- and losing many thousands of dollars in downpayment and monthly payments they made on the late-model POS.

            People have to learn the hard way. One of my neighbors got a c. <10 year-old Crapillac a while back. Since owning it, he now sees what's coming and has been trying to sell it for the last year or so…no takers. If it breaks before he sells it…he's gonna be SOL.

          • Oh, I agree, the manufacturers are making it way too damn hard to service lots of things. It’s one thing when they do it to save costs; for example, highly integrated stereos / media devices where things like climate control are on the same circuit boards as things like CD players, which fail a lot, so you have to replace the whole damn thing if it breaks. It’s a whole other, evil, thing when they lock the car down with DRM which makes it cryptographically impossible to change some stuff – like reset an airbag light after you have to disconnect it to get to some annoying component.

            I grew up under full communism – we had next to nothing, so we did everything we could to make things last and to fix them. Fixing stuff is in my psyche, but the car manufacturers are taking the disposeable cell phone model to mind, which is wasteful and expensive.

            • Hi OP,

              I have the same attitude in re fixing things; it’s in my nature to despise waste. My newest vehicle is an ’02 Nissan pick-up, as you and many others here know. I will never own anything newer due to the over-the-top complexity/cost. And even the ’02 Nissan has things I do not want, such as air bags. But at least no traction control, no seat belt nanny and the drivetrain is generally fixable by me. That said, my next vehicle will be pre-computer, assuming they are not outlawed.

              I have always loved El Caminos; they appeal to the hillbilly in me. I’d get one right now, except for the fact that the divorce has laid me out financially and – for now – keeping my head above water (and the cats fed) is the prime directive!

            • The USA operates primarily on a company town collectivist scheme. The idea politically is to bring people into a hand-to-mouth condition of dependency.

              The combining and lack of serviceability outside of regulatory burden is driven by cost and the market. It is what wins the most customers. Low price or serviceability. Some products the market requires both, others only one. Cars today people don’t want to service and want them cheap. So we get cars that last long enough if they aren’t serviced. They don’t so much care about you or me who in year 15 of ownership will need to replace something. The customers that drive the product bought another one years prior.

              • Trouble is, Brent, it’s happening a LOT sooner than 15 years; and except for the bottom-of-the-barrel econo-eggs, they ain’t cheap either.

                People buying a $30-$40K car or $50-$70K truck, and it’s got major problems just after the warranty’s expired but long before it’s even paid off (Which is accounting for more and more repo’s, rather than inability to afford) or vehicles which are still under warranty, but which are spending so much time in the shop that it’s just too much of a hassle for the owner and/or they rightly see such as a portent of what is to come when the warranty is over…

                I see it more as a way of guaranteeing that there will be few to no viable used cars around before long- so people will be forced to go with electrics or the cars with invasive technologies, or just plain-out knocked out of the personal private car-ownership market, without the pols having to resort to revealing their true colors by overtly ot-lawing old cars, because there will be so few viable ones left in a few years that it won’t even be an issue.

                And the average consumer is just too clueless about the workings of cars to realize what is going on- so they think that if they just get “newer and better, with fancier technology” all will be well. Although it does seem that lately, the number of people who are starting to realize that these newer vehicles are not desirable, and who are opting for older stuff, does seem to be increasing. Witness many near 20 year-old pick-ups selling for more than ones of similar capacity which are less than half their age.

                From what I understand, the few independent truckers who are left, are also buying up ancient equipment, and paying a premium for it.

                Not to even mention that the roads are getting more dangerous, as more of these newer cars are in circulation, which have touch screens and blinds spots galore/bad visibility, and a million distractions- beeps and buzzers and prods; and “info-tainment systems” etc. so that everyone is now so distracted that driving is pretty low on the list of things that they actually do when in their car.

              • The last 3 decades of my life has been dedicated, unintentionally, to finding ways to enhance the hand-to-mouth dependency to the level of a very enjoyable life style that can be maintained on less than the federal poverty level. Most Americans seem to be devoted to the opposite, increasing their dependency on their ever-increasing debt level with blissful ignorance of what will, inevitably, happen to them when they reach the end of their credit limit.
                I’m looking forward to buying all of the things that I never really needed that my desire for which can be fulfilled for pennies on the original dollar in whatever they will accept in payment, be it FRNs, post-1965 coins, junk or bullion silver, or gold. That and ten years worth of hoarded necessities should fill the bill.

        • There can be mistakes in the reverse engineering process, especially considering the factory won’t support said endeavor. For example, one platform I have worked with had incorrectly interpreted a portion of the data as transmission line pressure. Turned out it was actually epc duty solenoid cycles. People were raising the max line pressure constant thinking they were increasing line pressure across the board but it was actually having the opposite effect.
          caveat emptor

  16. Since the beginning mass produced automobiles have been about raising the standard of living for the lower classes, not the elites. Oh sure, Karl Benz built rich men’s toys, but they were considered a menace until Ford got the price down to where everyone could own one. Before that only the rich or businesses could afford to keep horses. The rest of us walked or maybe took a streetcar.

    It only makes sense that the newest stuff is routine in 5 years, especially when it comes to electronics. I just wish these car companies would open up their systems a crack (or standardize the systems, but that’s just crazy talk), so that we don’t have to deal with the insane monthly fees, buggy software and data recording.

  17. Imagine what the auto industry could come up with, if it was allowed to operate completely in the free market. They do manage to do some pretty good stuff even with the regulations.

    • Hi Rich,

      I think about that often. I have no doubt that – as a for-instance – the mythical “100 MPG car” could be fact were it not for the saaaaaaafety fatwas. It was possible – using 1930s technology – to build a 1,600 pound Beetle. Today, using alloys and composites, it ought to be possible to build a 1,200 car of similar size. With aero tweaks and a 1 liter diesel, 100 MPG should be easy.

      And I am certain such a car could be built and sold at a good profit for about $12,000 as well.

    • With regard to gadgets, I can pick up an Intel Atom powered Windows 10 tablet for under $200 if I shop around. Basically the same hardware that goes into these touchscreen infotainment systems. But because they are installed in an automobile they seem to be able to get away with charging hundreds of dollars more. Then they lock them down, charge ongoing monthly fees and lock up the cellular radios to only use their choice of provider. And they all do it. No modern manufacturer would ever consider using a DIN slot radio anymore. Not when there’s recurring revenue to be had!

      I know that it is an unpopular concept around here, but I have a feeling that if manufacturers were left to their own devices there would be no aftermarket anything, and you could only get an oil change from the factory service center. Every manufacturer would “invent” their own hardware sizes, threads, and even battery voltages.

      The only reason the computer industry looks like it does today was due to a mistake (from IBM’s prospective) in a contract between Microsoft and IBM. Otherwise it would look very much like what I described. Before Compaq reverse engineered the IBM PC bios every model was unique and completely incompatible with everything else.

      • Open source software is becoming quite prominent. I haven’t paid for software in a long time. I may never again, because there is always a free, open-source alternative that can do 99% of what the paid product can. This is going to save people money but also destroy jobs.

        I imagine an open source OS for the car infotainment systems is in the works. For when the automaker stops supporting it, or gives the system an “update” that makes the system useless. Of course, using this open source software will void all warrantys, and as you know, they’ll try to make this illegal. They want everything proprietary, so you can buy a new one every 4-7 years. Just like the smartphones.

        • OSS has its roots in another mistake, made by AT&T, when they started licensing Unix to universities. AT&T charged a hefty fee to any businesses that wanted to use it, but didn’t charge anything to universities. They also gave the source code to the universities for teaching purposes. When clever students started to improve the source T attempted to take back control but by that time they had also incorporated a lot of the code back into their product so the copyright became a little bit grey. And because AT&T was always in trouble with Uncle they had to play nice with the colleges. By the time Stallman published the GNU license most of the Unix code base was so well known (and forked) it was a pretty easy leap to 100% open source.

          • It’s always amazed me that something so good could emanate from the likes of hippy-dippy Richard Stallman!

            (I’m starting to sound like Bill!)

                  • Stallman is definitely brilliant when it comes to computers, and I am indebted to him because his work has benefited me greatly personally, as a Linux-only computer user….

                    But still…he’s a filthy hippie!

                    I’m glad this subject came up though, as it’;s been a few years since I’ve listened to any of Stallman’s lectures on Youtube. Gotta check tonight and see if there are any newer ones.

                    The great thing about his lectures/interviews: If you get bored with the subject, you can always make fun of him! 😉

            • The stuff on the newer cars is highly proprietary. FOSS would never be able to figure out the Al-Gore-Rhythms for some of the pulses buried deep within, which are defacto security codes. (Maybe they could…but it wouldn’t be practical. Ya’d have to have a development team dedicated to every make and model and year and nuance of vehicle to figure it all out, and it just wouldn’t be practical).

              Even if only 2% of the code were proprietary and they could figure out the other 98%, that would still leave you with a brick as opposed to a car.

              Best thing to do is just drive old vehicles which don’t need all of the computerized crapola- or, in non-inspection states, swap in simple all-mechanical drivetrains.

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