Monday, April 19, 2004

New cars are getting too expensive to fix

This article is absolutely fascinating because of all of the facts it contains:For example, the article says that xenon high-intensity-discharge headlights cost $3,000 each, just for the part. If that is true, and if you've recently purchased a higher-end car, it means that $6,000 of a new car's cost is just in the two headlights. That's a bunch of money.

Another interesting fact: It costs $1,000 in labor to install a new airbag. So if you are in a minor accident in a new car and six or eight air bags deploy, it is going to easily cost more than $10,000 in parts and labor to replace the airbags. It is also necessary to replace all of the seat belts because of the pre-tensioners (which can only be used once). If the headlights are damaged, add another $10,000 for parts and labor.

As a result: "Before the advent of air bags, only 8 percent of damaged cars were totaled. Today, the figure is nearly 20 percent and rising."

One solution to this problem is standardization -- the same thing that has made PCs so inexpensive. Simply walk into an Advance Auto Parts store and look at how many oil filters there are. Literally hundreds of them, each a slightly different shape or size. How many do we really need? Two? Three at the most? Small, medium and large could probably cover it. The price of an oil filter would fall to 25 cents.

Imagine if there were just two or three different size airbags. Companies all over the world would compete to make these three sizes as inexpensively as possible, and prices would plummet. A new airbag would cost $14.95, and it would snap into a standard receptacle in 10 seconds. Imagine if Xenon headlights were standardized. Prices would plummet again. The same thing goes for engines, transmissions, brakes, radiators, air conditioners, etc. It would lead to a dramatic reduction in the cost of a new automobile, and repairs would be much simpler as well.

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