Blame it on the Chips?

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Used cars are supposed to go down in value. Last month, their value increased by more than 10 percent – something that has never happened before.

Supposedly because there is a shortage of new cars – because there is a shortage of semiconductor “chips,” the linchpin of all the electronics in new cars.

But what if it isn’t the “chips” but the electronics  that are causing people to shy away from new cars in favor of less electronic used ones?

They have electronics too, of course – assuming they’re newer than the late 1970s, when cars began to transition from being mechanical things with the only electronic thing (other than the radio and lights, etc.) being the ignition system.

But not as much.

They beep and flash and generally pester less. Their engines stay on at red lights – and only shut off when you turn the key to off. Which you can get replaced at a hardware store for $5 rather than $150, at the dealer.

The farther back you go, the less likely the car is to have “advanced” driver “assistance” electronics, such as Lane Keep Assist and Automated Emergency Braking. While the car press gives the impression everyone just craves such “assistance,” I – a member of the car press – have never in my entire career had so many people tell me they loathe being parented by their cars.

And the only way to avoid that is to avoid new cars.

It is possible many are doing so for just that reason, and irrespective of any chip shortages. This could be the real reason for the surge in value of used cars – of which there is a finite supply.

There is more to this story, too – as regards the chips and the electronics they govern.

Particularly as regards cell phone-emulating all-digital gauge clusters and “infotainment” screens, which are becoming almost as common in new cars as air conditioning and power windows are in used cars. A lot of people don’t want to drive a cell phone, in part because they know that a $30,000 cell phone is just as disposable as their $35 Wal-Mart cell phone.

They are cluing in to the not-publicized-much fact that when one of these flat-screen gauge cluster/tablet-emulating LCD touchscreens goes dark, the owner’s wallet goes empty.

Depending on the make/model, a replacement gauge cluster/LCD touchscreen can cost as much as it used to cost to replace a transmission – and the cost to replace a new car’s transmission can cost as much as used car, itself.

A modern automatic transmission – which is the type of transmission almost all new cars come with exclusively – is also electronic. And so, disposable. You don’t fix a cell phone. Or a modern electronic automatic. You toss it.

Such tossing will become more common as cars become even more electronic, with even more chips embedded within every nook and cranny – which is already the case. The cost of it all to buy being a driving factor but another being the cost and difficulty of replacing it all, when that becomes necessary.

Many of these electronic bits and pieces are specific to that particular make/model/year vehicle.

One size flatscreen does not fit all.

New cars are hyper-specialized cars, despite their look-alike cosmetics. Each one a specific individual, in terms of its electronics. These electronics  having been specifically made for that specific example, often not interchangeable with the physically similar or even appearing-to-be-the-same components from other cars of the same general type.

In the past, cars were more universal.

The mechanical parts that fit a given make/model/year vehicle would almost always fit another car of the same make/model/year.

Not only that, they would often fit other years – and even other models – because given makes of cars shared parts among different models.

Often, over a period of many years.

If you had a ’78 Chevy Camaro, almost every major functional part from any 1970-1981 Camaro would work. Many parts from Novas, Malibus – and even Corvettes – made during around the same era were also the same or close enough to be compatible. If you could bolt them on, they usually would work. There was no issue with chip compatibility; no having to program or “key” the new part to the car – as is very common with new cars.

Because those cars had no chips.

Another, related problem afflicting new cars is the shorter production life of almost all new cars. This is not the same as their service life – how long a given car will probably run before it begins to fall apart, as we do after a certain age (no matter how hard we work to stave off the inevitable).

It was once usual for a new car – one just brought to market as a new model – to remain largely the same model, in production, for at least five or six and sometimes as long as ten years before it was redesigned and became a different model.

It is now usual for a new car to become a very different car within three or four years – and sometimes, sooner. There are also updates within that shortened production life – once again, just like a cell phone. These updates are often specific to that particular model, which means when a new chip or the electronic part it’s married to needs to be replaced, you need that very specific chip/part, as no other will work.

Because of these abbreviated production runs, the car companies also make fewer service replacement parts for their cars. Mechanical and cosmetic as well as electronic.

Enough to deal with warranty-related problems but after that, the bins begin to empty and because these parts are often proprietary as well as highly make/model/year-specific, it’s both legally difficult as well as not very profitable for aftermarket companies to step in and make replacements.

Which is why it is getting difficult to keep the new car going when the chips are down, so to speak.

Which may explain why people are snapping up the used ones.

While the supply lasts.

.  .  .

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  1. Disposable Transmissions and cars.
    AND what’s the so called “carbon footprint” of having to dispose of all this tech and replace it ??
    10,000 times what it was with the older cars that ran a half century ago.

    • Hi Freeman,

      Yup. Pre-chipped cars like my Orange Pumpkin – ’76 Trans-Am – may have been prone to rust and their engines didn’t stay tight for 150,000 miles… but rust is relatively easy to fix unless it gets too far gone and I can rebuild the TA’s 455 to good-as-new for about $2,000 in parts and machine work. That’s why cars like it can be kept in service by average people for decades while new cars are disposable after about a decade.

  2. Totally on target article. I have close friends at Dodge. The dealers have unqualified staff and the new cars are so complex there are only a handful of techs that can fix them. Dealers wind up shuttling their work to other dealers who have a competent tech. No way I would own any car made after 2015 without being under warranty. 6, 8, 9 speed transmissions. Why? SE Florida with salt spray is hard on bodies. I will keep the bondo handy and keep the beaters running. The new Challengers look nice but way too costly and complex.
    The issue I have is finding a machine shop that can line bore and grind a crank. All the men are retiring and the current crop don’t want to do the dirty jobs.

    • Hi Charger John,

      Yup. I love the looks of the current Charger/Challenger/TRX – and the Wrangler 392 I just spent a week in. But would I want to own any new vehicle after the warranty expires? It’s a daunting prospect given the daunting complexity and cost of repairing – of replacing – components when they fail.

      It’s all very sad because today’s cars could be simpler – and even more durable – than the cars of the past.

  3. Your theory as to why used car prices are rising sharply makes more sense than anything coming from liberal-land. Maybe in 5 years, my basically plain 2017 model with be worth more than Bitcoin. I thoroughly dislike all the electronics and chips. Look at remote controls for a smart TV…some with 50 buttons and then some with only a few. I remember having a TV with no remote. Since I am not into watching TV much anymore, just give me on-off, channel selector and a mute button. Same with a car…a mute button for all the electronics I don’t want.

    • Thanks, Tom!

      I think so, too. I mean, there was – probably still is – a year’s worth of backed up inventory sitting at dealerships. I don’t believe there was a sudden mad rush to buy new cars over the past 4-5 months that left dealerships without new stock. I expect to see gluts of inventory, moving forward – as inflation kicks up and the effects of Coronamonomania are fully felt.

  4. Hi Eric:

    Would you happen to know what battery would be compatible with a 1995 Toyota SUV 4Runner, auto, 6 cylinder? Toyota is having a hard time acquiring the original Truestart battery for this vehicle and I was just wondering what your thoughts might be as a second option. Thank you! Lyn

  5. The counter-argument is sitting in my driveway. 2011 F-150XLT. Throttle body fuel injection, electronic ignition, fly-by-wire accelerator. “Analog” gages are just servos connected to a computer port, so might as well be a glass cockpit. No touchscreen though. Just turned over 374,000 miles last week. Only mechanical failure was the water pump shaft bearing burned up, but it happened on a cold day so I made it to the mechanic without cooking anything. The HVAC fan motor bearings must be going bad too, because occasionally I get a squeak and the smell of a hot winding.

    Only thing I’ve had to do is maintain fluid maintenance schedule. When the topic of the milage comes up my joke is “…and it still has the original windshield wipers!” I’m pretty certain the tappets and lifters are wearing down, and eventually the bottom of the cylinders will wallow out enough to let the pistons wobble (both common to this engine), but for now it’s just going. Sure, it’s almost all highway miles, so the engine spends most of it’s life just above idle, but it also makes occasional trips over Vail Pass and has had to carry some significant weight from time to time.

      • Yeah, Ford switched to multi-port injection on just about all of their vehicles by the late 80’s! RK’s must be a custom homebrew job.

      • I was gonna say….is he really putting 37K miles per year on that rig? 18.5K in twenty….that I can see. Hey’ if the engine throws A rod tomorrow, he’s still gotten one helluva deal!

    • Hi, Peter you spend only 150 -$ for a replacement key ,at a dealership ? Please let me know where that dealership is located ,because I spend 350- $ for a a V.W. dealership in Vancouver Canada .My car is a 2014 V.W. Diesel Jetta , that IS ”old” ,but has enough buttons ,to qualify me to be an astronaut if I ever learn what they all mean .

      • Hi Lone,

        The cost – of a new key fob – depends on the vehicle, but you’re right. Some cost a lot more than $150. By the way… it’s “Eric.” My last name is Peter(s)!

  6. There are generic OBDII controllers out there. It would be interesting to see just one automaker go “open source” and use a generic controller, just like Linux.
    There could be a “silver lining” in the chip shortage…

  7. One of the principal motivations for mass production is evaporating. To make products with interchangeable parts.
    I rarely turn on my radio while driving, because its a distraction. I certainly don’t need a movie screen on the dash. Given the evident lack of driving skill, no one else does either. Dependence on these “safety” and “convenience” features reduces ability, caution, skill, and restraint. Encouraging inattentiveness.
    It’s just a matter of time before we have a solar event that turns all these modern cars into two ton paperweights.

    • **&”It’s just a matter of time before we have a solar event that turns all these modern cars into two ton paperweights.”**

      Or more likely, a matter of time until a government event renders those cars useless. I seem to recall the country becoming flush with ubiquitous towers which emit RF/EMF radiation…..

  8. Eric,
    My 1978 Camaro Z28 had a “chip” (module) in the distributor. Failed so often I kept a spare in the glove compartment. An inauspicious beginning for electronics.

    The 1981 Camaro was the beginning of computer controlled engines – terribly designed. My ’80 Z28 was
    electronically the same as the ’78 – only a module.

    • Hi Liberty,

      Curiously enough, I also owned a ’78 and an ’80! I never had issues with factory HEI. I have an MSD in my TA… and it’s been no trouble, ever.

      • eric, must have been a partial short somewhere in Libertx ignition system. I drove a lot of Chevy pickups till the wheels fell off and only one had to have a replacement coil in the distributor. I took one off a 78 Firebird I had that was wrecked and used it to keep driving till I got to a parts house and spent the $3 or so for another.

        I’ve swapped all sorts of parts from cars to trucks and vice versa back in the good ol days. Back then, even the heater/a/c fan would fit from one model to another.

        When I was in high school my parents were out of town one week-end and I couldn’t find the keys to their car so I took the key out of my 55 Chevy pickup and used it on a 64 Bel Air.

        Things have changed a lot since then….NOT. I pulled into Pinkie’s, a liquor store before coming home and the first thing I saw was half a dozen guys standing around a pickup identical to mine except it was a long bed.

        One guy had a set of slim jims and he was mightily working to get the driver’s door unlocked. I walked up behind the bunch and no one even knew I was there. When the owner moved over a little I stuck my door key into the lock and unlocked it and walked away. The whole bunch just stood there trying to figure out what was going on. They looked like a bunch of deer in the headlights. I might have been messing up a call to a body shop or dealer. Nobody said a word to me although the owner reached over and pulled up on the door handle and the door opened. I have to wonder if the codes for cars these days are so few they can use the fob from another.

  9. In my field, touch screens get replaced daily. I bought my used truck specifically without a touchscreen. And I laugh at the Tesla owners when their 4 year old throws something from the backseat during a tantrum and takes out their display.

    I also laugh at James May pointing out the problem he recently had with his Tesla and the fact that charging the big battery doesn’t keep the one standard car battery that operates things like the memory for the computer, door locks, hood latches, etc. charged. It took an hour to disassemble the car to access the lone 12v battery.

    Last time I had a new vehicle, it was a rental. Had all the fancy stuff like “piss you off at the first traffic signal” because you have to remember every morning to turn off the automatic-engine-shutoff manually. And it also had that hard “slam on the brakes when it sees a tree branch” while backing up feature too. Every once in a while, the touch screen would not start correctly and I had to “reboot” the vehicle to get it to work again. And my favorite was the “I know you stepped on the accelerator with a moderate pressure, but I think you meant to go real slow through this intersection” nanny. That feature was really fun.

    • Hi J,

      I’m expecting Advance Diaper Assist to be the next thing… it scan your face and – if Undiapered – thoughtfully reminds you to put on “your” Face Diaper.

        • Hi Ladybug,

          I actually posted a picture of a car with a Face Diaper! It’s here somewhere. Also, it’s Eric… my last name is Peter(s). People transpose this all the time. I have no idea why!

    • Probably only a matter of time. And the car won’t start unless the face rag is on and or you’ve uploaded your vaccine record into the borg. Really though I love older cars I can’t imagine why I would want car problems and computer problems in the same system. Plus the new ones can be turned of remotely rendering them useless paperweights in a wide variety of scenarios. My mom still drives my 2001 Nissan Sentra in Las Vegas here in Thailand we have a 1995 Honda Accord and a 2013 (only vehicle I have ever bought new) Honda Click motorbike. After my first husband came to America we took several road trips through the US and Mexico in a 1995 Suburban. It guzzled gas but I loved the thing with the back row of seats out I could lay down in the back with the girls. We turned it over 300000 miles with minimal maintenance done by hubby and sold it for almost the same as we paid. It’s probably worth more now!

      • Hi Amy,

        I love my ’02 Nissan Frontier for the same reasons;it has a computer but no nanny. Just two air bags (and one of those I can turn off). A five speed manual transmission. Costs rock bottom to insure and taxes on it are light. Even if I could afford a new vehicle, I would not buy one. They’re too rich for my blood, as well as too intrusive.

    • I intentionally bought a base 2014 Ford Focus with a manual transmission to avoid all the nanny state crap. Even then, it had one glitch. If I leave the key in the accessory position, the screen will say “battery low” after 90 seconds and shut off the radio. (The fan and lights stay on, so what’s the purpose?)

      After I got one free battery under warranty from the dealer, they refused to fix the problem, saying the battery really IS low. Errr, no. Two batteries with the same problem?

      Funny that a friend has the exact model and it does the same thing. So I’m driving it and ignoring the problem.

      Still this is better than the 2019 Fusion I rented. ASS system, lane assist, auto braking, attention monitor, you name it. You start to wonder who’s driving.

    • There 19 gallons of gasoline in a 42 gallon barrel of refined crude oil.

      7×19=133 dollars for 19 gallons of gas.

      Same person, nothing new with a capital D.

      • I do not at all agree with this concept of “price gouging”. What it actually is, is the free market determining the price based on supply and demand.

        If I own something and want to to sell it, as far as I am concerned I have I have a right to set the price and you have a right to either buy it or not buy it. Whether you have a specific need for the product in question to be sold at a particular price point is irrelevant. Need is not a claim.

        Who is this group of armed gangsters that call themselves “government” to dictate to me, or to anyone else, the price that something that WE OWN can be sold for? Just whose property is it?

        • Right on, Jason!
          And if they didn’t raise the price, the commodity would just sell-out faster, and then there’d be none for anyone- so why not let the market set the price by the seller offering the product for whatever he can get for it, so at least those who are willing and able to pay more can at least still get some?And it has the added benefit of encouraging conservation.
          I remember hearing that during “Superstorm Sandy’ in NY where the gas stations couldn’t raise the prices on the limited supply they would have/occasionally, hoodrats were going and filling jugs with gas and then turning around and selling it on the street for $12/gal. -So Uncle prevented the actual people who have overhead and who have to pay taxes from engaging in free-trade….but meanwhile people who had no stake in the matter could make a profit for doing nothing…because Uncle decreed it.

        • Instant free gas for some. A free market does include gas theft, a black market.

          They’ll do it everytime.

          Midnight Auto, Our Deals are Steals.

  10. Ironic that this subject would come up today, considering that I had taken my Excursion to a Ford stealership yesterday for an electronic problem that I nor anyone else could figure out (Turned out to be a little wire with a bad spot). While I was waiting, I got into a conversation with one of the salesmen, and surprise, surprise, we ended up talking about cars! Long story short, I was bemoaning all of the electronics on modern cars, and the salesman was telling me what I pretty much knew to be true- that people actually want all of the high-tech stuff- from dual turbochargers to touchscreens to “infotainment systems to electronic convenience and ‘safety’ features.
    Like everything else [my sentiments here] they want what the TV and Uncle tell them is desirable, and they just want things that make life easy, and that integrate with their smartphones and offer a [now]familiar ‘device-like’ interface. They don’t give a thought to what happens after the warranty expires…as long as it works NOW. It breaks…they trade it in and continue with the eternal payments.
    The average person- including most men these days, know nothing about cars….so instead of expensive complicated non-durable high-tech features warning them away from new vehicles, they actually think that this crap is wonderful, and distinguishes them from cavemen with Flintstone-mobiles. Perish the thought they should have to use a gauge to check tire pressure, or gosh-forbid, turn their head to check the blind spot. They’d probably rather die than to have to pull a knob on the dash to activate a choke!

    • That’s about it. We are a dying breed. There’s some youth, rare, that need to learn about mechanics to fix their dirtbikes, which are still fairly low tech with one ‘computer ignition box’. Some 2 strokes are now coming injected and have a little more tech. But notice I said ‘need’, they do not necessarily want to learn, they sorta have to.

  11. Talking about shortages – Is it only me – or has anyone else noticed a spike in rental car rates?

    Looking for a possible 2 week rental from somewhere in PA to California in August, would like a 7 seat SUV. Not getting quotes for less than 3K USD !?! WTF ? Last time I rented for 2 weeks (SF to LA in Aug/sept 2016) I paid around USD 1,000 for a very well kitted out Yukon XL (had the back seat screens and all that). That grade car is now around 5k for the 2 weeks.

    Any tips / ideas?

    • Hi Nasir,

      It is funny that you mention that. I was trying to rent a Suburban to go to Florida instead of taking my smaller SUV. In January when I originally got the quote it was $840 (the stupidity was my own because I didn’t book it then). All of a sudden it jumped up to $1100 in March. At that point I contacted them and they had nothing available for our dates. We ended up in my smaller SUV.

      Today, I had a Enterprise rental van pull into my business. My thought was “Who the heck is that?” It was FedEx. I asked the driver “Did FedEx run out of trucks?” His reply to me was yes, they (FedEx) have hired so many drivers they don’t have enough supply (trucks) to go around.

      The computer chip shortage is serious. It is basically stalling the service industry add the gas shortage and in about 4-6 weeks we are going to feel it. I don’t see the used car market (or the rental car market) coming down anytime soon. Honestly, Enterprise, Avis, Budget, and such may actually be selling their used vehicles to these corporations and the supply is even more limited which causes the cost to go up – supply vs demand.

      How much longer can this go on though? Wages aren’t increasing, but fuel, food, and life’s everyday essentials have increased 40-300%. It is ridiculous.

      • The third-world is upon us, RG! (Why not? Half of it’s people are now here as well….).

        My UPS guy showed up in an old Econoline van a while back! I’d never in my entire life seen a UPS driver delivering UPS packages in anything except an official brown (well..they actually call it ‘green’) UPS Package Car (truck)!

        On the positive side…I hear that those new Explorers all the pigs are driving are falling apart as they go down the road…….so at least there’s some good news.

        • Nunzio and RG,

          I worked for Fed Ex from 1995-99 and every Christmas season they would add seasonal help. At our NE Mpls Fed Ex station we had least a dozen Econonline vans to help with added drivers and crush of packages/boxes. So this isn’t anything new. Have a good day!

        • RG / Nunzio, it is a bit strange – and how quick things have changed. I just remember a couple quarters ago how the car rental cars didnt know what to do with their fleets as nobody was traveling and they were parked. This was after from what I understand a couple years before car companies were “channel stuffing” the rental fleets with cars they couldn’t sell….

          Now suddenly theres a shortage of cars at rental companies ? How !? And it seems they are charging about 900 dollars for a one way charge from PA to SF – why ? ive already rented one way and never got a charge (though granted it wasn’t coast to coast sort of one way)….

          • Ni Nasir,

            It is odd; local rentals in my area used to be around $20 per day. It has to be inflation. I’m not buying “car shortage.” Their fleets were largely unused for most of last year, so it’s not a case of them having to replace a tired fleet with a new fleet and new vehicles are scarce because “chips” are. I think it is because money is worth less.

            • I think the factor that may be adding to the rental car prices is people like us who aren’t about to play sickness kabuki with the airlines so instead are driving everywhere. Or people who beleive in sickness kabuki, have to travel, but don’t want to go near an airplane even with their saftey diaper on thier face. I’m guessing a large number are not wanting to drive their own cars if the trip is long so they are renting instead.

              • Hi Ant,

                I think thats an interesting point being overlooked. You’re right that wherever you are on this thing it potentially benefits the car rental companies!

                This is my personal situation – I’m planning a trip to the US (provided my Dear Leaders let me out, and your Dear Leaders let me in) over the summer. As the brother in PA had a baby, must go there, and the brother in SF got a new place, he really wants me to come down. In more sane times id jump on a plane, but I take no joy in the Kabuki (fine I do it, half assed as possible when I must) but now couldn’t be bothered to do it an extra time…..

  12. Low electronics… This is exactly why I’m still keeping my 2002 Toyota Yaris Verso!

    Well I’m keeping it until the scoundrels in office and in corporations don’t order copigs to steal it because “We’re in a “Climate Emergency” and gas cars are forbidden“!

  13. A bit off topic, but I thought I’d share.

    I had to get out and pick up the kids from school due to their normal ride being unavailable. Got the old Charger (1971) out to go get them. My daughter is a freshman in high school which shares a building with all of the other high school grades.

    Rolling (rumbling) into the parking lot of the high school just as all of the kids were being let out, all of the guys were giving the thumbs up and yelling “nice car!”. Some even coming up and asking about the car. My daughter hops in, big smile on her face. She said she felt like a rock star.

    I half expected the kids to be oblivious or indifferent to an old car rolling through.

    • IMO, the large majority of millennials missed the boat, but the current teen to young 20 somethings are interested.

  14. Off topic, but good news!

    My coworkers are becoming suspicious of the Holy Jab, and many are resisting, independent of what I’ve told them. The Powers That Be are pushing this with unnerving force, and there is nothing that provokes feeling of uneasiness and distrust like being sold too hard on something.

    One coworker describes going to the doctor for an unrelated issue, and that doctor repeatedly asking if she wanted the jab, and why not, when she refused. Why, why, why? Not particularly smooth, doc.

    • That gets me the most, I think. Doctors (and lawyers) who of all professions, should be standing up against all of the unscientific and unlawful practices. I called a couple of docs yesterday and asked if a mask was required or if I could opt out. Of course, I was told it was required. There is no medical basis for this. Ridiculous!

      • Hi Anon,

        One of the reasons I like my new dentist is that he does not even ask about Diapers; you walk in, business as old normal. However, he is an anomaly. My old dentist banished me for failing to play Kabuki – while playing it to the hilt, himself (not just a Diaper but also a shield and heavy gloves).

        As with everything else these days, the sane must shop around.

        • Yes, after over a year I still don’t have a dr. Maybe that’s why I haven’t been sick :).

          Dentist (small local practice) was willing to accommodate me so I brought my kids along (who had been in a pediatric practice that does the kabuki).

      • Yep, Anon and Eric. I haven’t seen a “real” doctor for years. I hear they’re backed up for months, and then you have to find someone who doesn’t subscribe to the Kabuki madness, and who doesn’t try to slip you the jab when you’re not looking.

        Today, I have some kind of shoulder injury of unknown origin. Quite painful, but I’m not even trying to find a doctor. Probably easier to synthesize some good painkillers and operate on it myself with an Xacto-knife or something.

        • Hi BaDnOn,

          I’m grappling with a shoulder issue, too. I’ve been taking Turmeric – it has anti-inflammatory properties – with good results. Might give it a try!

          • Eric,

            Did the same thing with the turmeric and my shoulder. Worked for a while but when i couldn’t lift the coffee pot and rotate it to pour the water into the coffee maker without exteme pain i knew i had to bite the bullet and get it checked out. The damage in my shoulder was extensive and included my bicep tendons.

          • Damn. I have an appointment to see the surgeon today who pieced my shoulder together a couple decades ago. The pain and weakness are annoying, and so is trying to sleep on a recliner now (as I did after that surgery long ago).

            Folks, shoulder surgery is the very last thing you should do unless the option is disability. Try everything else first.

            • Amen, Ross! I have a friend…helluva tough guy- survived being shot by a hit-man, and a while back went shopping at Sam’s Club on his way from the hospi’l after having knee replacement surgery, and went back to work the next day- scrapping semi trailers. He had shoulder surgery a few years ago, and it has been the single most painful and problematic thing he has ever experienced- and this from a guy who never complains.
              If there’s one thing I’ve observed over the years among people I’ve known, it’s: Avoid shoulder and back surgery like the plague! Other than one neighbor who actually had a good experience with back surgery, virtually everyone else I’ve ever encountered who had back or shoulder surgery either had no benefit, or was made worse by the surgery. -Typical of modern medicine.

    • Great news, BaDnOn! If the vaccine was so wonderful people would willingly take it. When one has to incentivize, coerce, and threaten something is amiss. I can glad that people are starting to remove the rose colored glasses.

      • Hey RG,

        And yes, even those who would be prone to taking it prone are seeing something disturbing in the sheer magnitude of persuasion and coercion taking place.

  15. All this E-stuff is called proprietary, to me. Modules, plc’s, touch screens are all bought from someone, however, in I’m guessing 100% of the car manuf. cases, they sign licensing agreements that said flat screen manuf. can never sell it themselves, only through the car manuf.
    I’ve made a living out of educating/selling my clients on non-proprietary equipment. And those who get it, save their consumers boat-loads of time and money.
    I wonder, if said car gets 10yrs old, if the aftermarket will respond to give the consumer an option. Time will tell.
    Either way, I think we are approaching a time, soon, that the consumer will have to decide on replacing a touch screen for say $3000, or take a huge hit selling/trading it with it broken. It may be happening already.
    Hopefully, these potential breakdowns will at least allow the car to run?
    With that said, modern electronics (that I am familiar with in the commercial sector) are very robust (higher tier stuff), and for example, if I sold a 500 PLC’s over 20 years, I’ve only experienced 3-5 failures all due to outside forces like water or lightning. They can get replaced in my non-proprietary world for about $1000. Not bad considering the original equipment cost say $20K for the whole system.

    • Aftermarket seems to take over if the car has a large enough following or enough were sold. Jeep is a good example of large followings, and you can find lots of Toyota workarounds, and older Ford pickups have lots of support. OTOH, smaller run vehicles (e.g. a Land Rover LR4) are usually stuck with factory parts. Niche cars are often cool but finding parts in their old age can often be a challenge, although Lotus seems to be an exception to this – lots of aftermarket support for a relative small customer base. Perhaps that’s due to the relatively low supercar price.

      • And this is one of the reasons i ended up with a Tacoma. After markets for Tacoma’s of all ages seems robust. Even the touch screens in the new ones seem to have after markets available.

        • Yeah, I was thinking Tacoma as well, as I was in a 10-15? year old one and it was pretty much identical to a new one I was in recently. Good for Toyota.
          And I looked up new Tacoma prices, not too bad.

          • Yep. Toyota still operates by the old rules somewhat. The tundra is in 14 years of the exact same drive train. They refreshed after 7 years and the redesigned model will be 2022.

            Downside is that the new model will have more tech.

            I have a 2016 Tundra and a 99 Tacoma. The only tech that my Tundra has over the Taco is a touch screen.

  16. ‘While the supply lasts.’ — EP

    Last April, when the pandemic badly spooked Big Gov, gov’t transfer payments spiked from a stable 17% of all income to over 30%. Now, in the brief bloom of Biden Camelot, more than a third of all personal income comes straight outta Leviathan. Chart:

    Vehicles, a fortiori, are a discretionary purchase. People buy new, or low-mileage used, when they feel flush. Otherwise they keep the old beater. These days, many formerly hand-to-mouth households feel uncommonly rich. ‘Take my money — PLEASE!’

    One way or another, this dream don’t last. Already, unbelievably, some states are refusing covid jobless benefits, as governors hear from businesses that workers on unemployment can’t be lured back.

    For Big Auto, right here, right now, is as good as it gets. They may think we’ve launched a Roaring Twenties boom. But yank the spewing fire hose of janky keystroke kurrency ramping the auto market, and all that’s left is a shabby Potemkin village with demand saturated, and hostile regulators trying to shove obdurate plebes into green-utopian EVs.

    We’ve all got wheels
    To take ourselves away
    We’ve got the telephones
    To say what we can’t say
    We’ve all gone higher
    And higher every day
    Come on wheels
    Take this boy away

    — Flying Burrito Brothers, Wheels

    And they ask why I take dope … 🙂

  17. Okay, a bit off topic – doesn’t have anything to do with the chip shortage, but it does have to do with cars.

    I just received a horrible advertisement from my insurance company asking me if I wanted to earn rewards for driving. I actually don’t – I just want to drive.

    I am attaching the link that pretty much summarized the email that I received. They are very eager because I received another email right afterwards for the same promotion.

    Basically, the gist is for you to download an app to your phone and they will track your driving (and obviously everything else that you do). For this wealth of information they will send you $10 every two weeks.

    I guess there is something to be said on what these businesses (and the government are doing). They are incentivizing – do this and get a free donut, beer, a chance at $1 million dollars, a gift card, a savings bond, etc. Of course, I shudder on how many fools will sign up for their $10 biweekly gift card, but at least at this time, it is still optionable.

    • Hey Raider Girl,

      Same thing with the jab. They’re pushing it so hard, people everywhere are becoming suspicious and resisting.

    • haha, if I did an app like that or the plug in type from an insurance co., my insurance would go through the roof in about a week………….
      have radar, do drive fun/fast. Got hit with an instant-on in the middle of no-where, population 5 place this past week. I couldn’t believe the local fuzz had instant-on where I was, and I was going way way over, he must have been sleeping, or my white contractor looking truck got me a pass? no wait, he couldn’t have been sleeping if he pressed the button to paint me.

  18. I’m really glad that I’ve kept my project car. I have an old 2002 Audi A6 Avant. Pretty rare bird these days. It has a naturally aspirated 3.0L V6 but it eats oil like crazy… like it needs serious engine work. But I figure that’s at least possible to do. Even/especially in a “Mad Max” situation… just find the parts and have the mechanical skills. It doesn’t even have an MMI, no built-in GPS or “call home” capability. I get that it is not the ideal “Zombie Apocalypse” car but it’s the best bet I’ve got if/when the SHTF. Wish I could get the engine rebuilt sooner than later but that doesn’t come cheap!

  19. I was looking to get back into riding a motorcycle and the new ones are the same way with electronics. In the old days we could always limp home with some jury rigging. Now when the electronics take a crap your screwed. I’m now looking for something made in the 70″s.

  20. Even if it doesn’t fit perfectly, sometimes a metal part can be cut/ground/polished/tailored so it will do the job. Depending on the fabricator’s skill level, it could be just as good as new, if not better.

    If you get the wrong chip, you can forget about it.

  21. ‘New cars are hyper-specialized cars … each one a specific individual, in terms of its electronics. In the past, cars were more universal.’ — EP

    And therein lies a growing problem. Chips themselves have benefitted from Moore’s Law, packing more transistors into the same footprint.

    But despite increasing electronic content (over 40%, by one estimate), cars remain physical entities built of clunky old steel, aluminum, copper, glass, plastic and rubber. There, a different law applies:

    ‘While studying production costs during the 1920s, Theodore Wright determined that for every cumulative doubling in the number of airplanes produced, manufacturers realized a consistent cost decline. The cost to produce the 2,000th plane was 15% less than that to produce the 1,000th plane, and the cost to produce the 4,000th plane, 15% less than that to produce the 2,000th.

    Having determined the “learning rate” at which costs will fall with every cumulative doubling of production, an analyst then has to determine the rate at which production will double cumulatively.

    Technologies that do not cross critical thresholds and do not unlock new markets stagnate, losing the cost curve declines that spur more innovation, and disappointing expectations.’

    Highly specialized chips in short production runs do not benefit from Wright’s Law. Nor do the shorter production lives of vehicle models mentioned by Eric.

    Playing high-tech heroes, the automotive industry is sabotaging itself. Wish ol’ John Z DeLorean were still around to rip GM again, as he did so magnificently in 1979 with On a Clear Day You Can See General Motors.

    Let them eat chips …

    • The irony of it is that there’s no overriding technical reason to have so much proprietary firmware. I’ve reached the conclusion that the automakers (I was about to write, “Detroit”, but ‘foreign’ automakers, who collectively, or should that be, “Collectivist”, produce as much if not more vehicles in the USA than the traditional “Big Three”), are doing it as well…) are engineering the modern car and light truck as if it were a disposal appliance. Which has simply gone the way of household appliances, i.e, in the days of youre, a typical household fan, or toaster, or vacuum cleaner, was built out of “iron”, and when it quit, you took it to a “fix it” shop, and a few bucks later, your appliance was ready for years of further service. Likewise, the corner “service” station (which is an anachronism I won’t get into as it just raises my blood pressure) could handle routine maintenance like oil changes, lube jobs, and simple tune-ups, and for more complicated work, there were a number of garages that did work at competitive prices. And cars did need more frequent service, but it wasn’t usually a terrific financial gut punch. So, with the newer cars, yes, the maintenance is far less, but at some point, it’ll be out of warranty, and you’re one “brain-dead” situation away from having an instant junker, no matter how well you’ve maintained the vehicle, b/c the part is “unobtanium” or no one knows how to repair it. More or less, like the way it’s been for household appliances, the car makers are content to produce a vehicle that, with proper maintenance, should deliver seven to ten years of service, but after that…you’re on your own! The trouble is, with often it taking five or six or even MORE years just to pay them off, you’ve got maybe a few years of keeping that paid-off ride going, all the while crossing your fingers that it doesn’t die and can’t be resurrected.

      Hence, I agree, find something like an old VW Beettle, or Dodge Dart with a Slant Six, while the parts can still be had, CHEAP, and stock up on consumable parts (filters, plugs, starter, alternator, ignition switch, fuel pump, re-ring kit, brake linings/pads/drums and wheel and master cylinder) , and LEARN how to tune that vintage beast. That’s actually the EASY part…the more troublesome one is dealing with the DMV which may arbitrarily declare your ride “obsolete” and ban it from the public highways. That’s the one thing that vexes these control freaks running California and similar states…someone who won’t be reined in by these corrupt politicians and petty bureaucrats.

  22. Not only was there longevity of models, but there was tremendous longevity of components. Transmissions spanned 20- plus years, third members and front suspensions changed little for 30 year periods, and engines like the generation 1 small block Chevy, Ford, And Dodge spanned about 60.

    It was understood that you engineered a really good part, improved it as user feedback showed the need, and actually made a profit on years of low cost mass production.

    I was at a school 20 years ago where they were pushing the buzzword/catchphrase “mass customization”. Completely stupid and entirely missing the point- and they tried to implement it and screwed everything up.

  23. Ah yes. My 1990s-era trucks appear to be INCREASING in value, as both their form and ease of repair are difficult to impossible to find in today’s vehicles. My 1990 Chevy C1500 receives unsolicited buy offers nearly every month.

  24. I picked up a ’96 F250 Powerstroke, in part one of a possible “van down by the river” – pulling a camper with a 5th wheel seems to be a good compromise between bumper pull and an actual RV. Seems to be a lot of support for the old Powerstrokes, and I was impressed with how well the interior of those 90s Fords held up. It has a quarter million miles, but that seems typical for that age. It’s been neglected for a few years, but nothing some elbow grease and a bit of maintenance won’t cure.
    I could’ve picked up a new one, but that would’ve brought anger issues – I don’t like it when a machine makes decisions for me. Or having to add urine. Or the flakiness of even new electronics. I’d rather put up with the occasional failure due to age.

    • Michael,

      I had to compute “add urine” for a few seconds. DEF! Yes, what a lovely new addition to the fluid requirements.

      • The last thing I recall of urine as applied to an automobile was in the original “Red Dawn”, when Jed Eckert (the late Patrick Swayze) fixes a leak that resulted from his truck, carrying his brother and several of his schoolmates and a considerable amount of provisions “liberated” from one of the boys’ father’s service station/convenience store, and they realize they don’t have any water (never mind they had several cases of Coke in the bed), so Matt, Jed’s younger brother, suggesting “pissing in it”, and Jed realizes that’s a terrific idea. So he motions to one of the younger boys, Danny (Brad Savage), to get up there and urinate into the radiator.

        • Haha, Doug, yep!

          “Piss in the radiator? Why?”

          “Well, one of these days, you’ll understand these things…”

        • Oh, also Coke is quite acidic and sticky, which might cause issues with the water pump, I’d imagine. But it might work in a pinch while fleeing from commies. 😉

          • That’d be an interesting test of the supposed corrosive properties of Coca-cola…fill up a engine with the sweet, syrupy stuff, and see how long it takes before it leaks.


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