Are electronics making cars obsolete faster?

If just about any part breaks on your 1971 Volkswagen Beetle, you could probably get a replacement from a hundred different outlets. If the black box goes out on your 1996 Lincoln Mark VIII, your car becomes little more than a giant paperweight. With the profusion of different cars and the electrical components that go in them, automakers would face an inventory nightmare if they tried to stockpile all of the necessary replacement parts. So in order to avoid that scenario, once the warranty runs out, they simply stop making the parts.

Ted Field, Sr. found out the hard way when the black box went out on his Mark VIII. Ford doesn't make the part any more -- and doesn't have to, since the warranty is finished and "the part is obsolete" -- and no aftermarket company has reverse-engineered it. That means that an 11-year-old car with 66,000 miles on it ... is also obsolete. As a customer, Field has no idea how popular -- or not -- the Mark VIII would be, and couldn't have had any idea when he bought the state-of-the-art car that he'd be scrounging for parts just a few years later (relatively speaking). We often consider the price of technology on the front end -- say, how much more will a car equipped with ABS cost? But as cars become more and more computerized, and the obsolescence of computer technology occurs in faster cycles, it will be interesting to see what kind of price we have to pay on the back end as well.

Thanks for the tip, Stedwoo!

[Source: LA Times]

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