You Don't Need a New Car!

About a week ago, I read something really interesting. It was about Bentley and their upcoming SUV, which to my understanding could enter production with the end of Crewe’s (their factory) summer shutdown. But that’s not the interesting part. According to some company official or another, Bentley buyers change their cars every 12 to 18 months.
So this got me thinking: why are people treating their cars like they have an expiration date on them. Obviously, luxury vehicles are built to last a lifetime, so why is there a need to switch rides every year! The automotive industry definitely doesn’t work like the PC world. We don’t get double the specific output or twice the speed every two years. Automobiles should not become fast-selling consumer goods like mobile phones and laptops.

But clever marketing means we are indoctrinated into thinking we just can’t live without the latest and the greatest, be that a Lamborghini or an iPhone sixteen-thousand with plasma guns and internet thrusters.

Of course, talking about Ferraris and Lamborghinis is all fine and dandy, but I think there’s a point to be made about the other 99.9% of car buyers. And that is: you don’t need a new car!

Think about your average family car, be it a sedan or hatchback. For all their billions in development, all automakers have to show are strange technologies that are supposed to save fuel. Are we really supposed to drive with two cylinders not working, and should we pay more for that?

But above all, an engine with cylinder deactivation doesn’t make a whole car! Think about all the previous generation C-segment European market cars you can: Has a huge leap ever been made? No. And in fact cars like the ‘old’ Ford Fucus (MkII) and the ‘old’ Opel Astra (Classic) are still in production around the world.

The weight savings they achieve these days are either somewhere in the region of 20-40 kilos or nothing at all. For a one ton+ car, that’s next to nothing. It’s like getting rid of the bottle of washer fluid or the other junk you keep in the trunk.

And what about the engines! With the way fuel economy works, the only large capacity engines you can have these days are diesels. Just look at the new Honda Civic for the European market. Virtually everybody who’s tested it has said the only engine you can have is the diesel.

That’s because people just aren’t convinced that you can get the claimed figures from those tiny 1.0-liter to 1.6-liter petrol. Underpowered units are the kill-joys of the auto world, and a trip in an entry-level Renault Symbol or Chevrolet Aveo sedan will prove this as you are being driven crazy.

You know what I’ve always found strange? When looking at engine ranges for family hatchbacks of two generations ago, you find 1.8-liter and 2.0-liter units. But now, it’s all 1.2s to 1.4s, and they’re not even turbos. It almost seems like a lie that they are replacing bigger engines with smaller ones that are more efficient and just as powerful.

Ford launched their two 1.0-liter EcoBoost units to replace existing 1.4 an 1.6-liter units. But from what I understand, the new turbos will coexist with the old engines in the model range, only offering their economy to those buyers that want to spend a little extra.

And I just can’t fathom how we used to get bugger engines in lighter cars for a lot less money a decade ago. What happened? Why is everything at a premium? That’s it, the engines and the safety, that’s about the only thing that’s changed, but we’re sometimes paying double the price of what a car with the same badge used to cost in say 2000. Inflation? Greed?

The stuff we were promised, all the technology from motor racing never came. Or have I missed the new Fiesta or Clio built with aluminum and carbon fiber? Instead, all we get are little screens half the size of a notebook and the promise of soft-touch materials that never come.

I guess what I’m trying to say is I see little change in the past few years, and so there’s no real need to buy the lest generation vehicle unless you plan on posing your LEDs on the Champs-Elysees.

I’ll let you in on a little secret: Ford probably tested the engines it put in the MkII Focus so they would last about 100,000 miles (160,000 km). They used the harshest cobbled test tracks to hone the suspension so that it would cope with everything you could throw at it. A good one of those will last your family just as long as a brand new car, yet it was engineered in 2004.

Some manufacturers, like Honda for instance, have had the oddity of making their cars worse. The Civic, for instance, has gained weight and lost its independent rear suspension, which was a true shame.

So, the chassis are basically the same. The engines have become underpowered. The interiors are only slightly better. We’re offered stupid color combinations for the seats. Really, given the choice between a brand new 2005 Opel Astra with zero km on the clock, and a brand new 2012 model for more money, could you make a clear decision?
If you liked the article, please follow us:  Google News icon Google News Youtube Instagram Twitter
About the author: Mihnea Radu
Mihnea Radu profile photo

Mihnea's favorite cars have already been built, the so-called modern classics from the '80s and '90s. He also loves local car culture from all over the world, so don't be surprised to see him getting excited about weird Japanese imports, low-rider VWs out of Germany, replicas from Russia or LS swaps down in Florida.
Full profile


Would you like AUTOEVOLUTION to send you notifications?

You will only receive our top stories