By on August 6, 2012
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The average Toyota Camry likely sells for somewhere in the neighborhood of $25,000.

What if you could buy a more durable version of that Camry for, say, $33k….  and get a bumper to bumper lifetime guarantee?

Sounds crazy doesn’t it? After all, precious few of us would ever want to have a 25+ year old daily driver given all of the advances that have come since the days of Roger Smith and Lee Iacocca.

But what about the non-enthusiast?

Those wise souls who spend their lives in the pursuit of other interests. To most of them, a car is little more than a modern day Lay-Z-Boy and errand runner on wheels. Reliability is king. Convenience is queen. As for sport, it rarely amounts to jack in the real world of low speed limits and forever boring commutes.

A lot of folks are looking for that long-term security these days. To own a house forever. Keep a car forever. Many of our neighbors with automotive apathy desire little more than safe, solid, reliable transportation. With perhaps the option of a factory upgrade or two somewhere down the line.

It may be that a premium car with a premium guarantee would be the perfect fit for their needs.

For most manufacturers, it’s also never been easier to build a car that can endure for the long run. Even the lower rung of automakers have the technology and means to make reliability a given. Give or take a few recalls here and there.

As for profit, feel free to tell me. Who is more capable of gathering the long-term returns? A manufacturer who plans for the demise of a machine somewhere between years 12 and 15? Or one that can make that year 12 car drive like it is nearly brand new, and gets that customer back in the door for regular maintenance with spouse, children and friends in tow.

That extra profit up front and long-term commitment can make all the difference. A $7000 net profit push in North America can be immediately invested in the products for the emerging markets of the here and now. The manufacturer eliminates competition for that customer as well, receives a far higher profit than before, and the apathetic owner gets to solve another financial uncertainty.

I’m not too sure if a Suzuki or a Land Rover could make this work. But how about a successful manufacturer? Could, let’s say, a Toyota get ahead in the long run if they got an extra $10,000 worth of profit up front and spent only $3000 or so extra on parts and service?

This is a question for the ages that likely traces all the way back to the first marketers of tractors way back in the 1910′s. The mule of the time versus the eternal machine of tomorrow. How do you get these folks to invest in a high cost product for the long haul, and keep them?

A century later, this idea of permanence may resonate with a larger segment of the buying public than we realize. So,  should certain manufacturers develop cars that are engineered and guaranteed for those seeking that long-term guarantee? If so, what price premium do you think those non-enthusiasts would be willing to pay for such a bedrock of automotive freedom?

 

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121 Comments on “Question Of The Day: Should Automobiles Be Marketed… For A Lifetime?...”


  • avatar
    potatobreath

    Would fuel economy take an impact from more rugged components? Would people be okay with that?

  • avatar
    stuntmonkey

    I can picture the scowl on my old boss’s face if I were ever to suggest this… it doesn’t fit into the ‘wisdom’ of the modern sales cycle.

    Also, you don’t have to market something as a ‘perma-car’… those of us who do drive older cars would at least like to know that we could slip into something new if we wanted to. What’s more important is that you have a fighting chance of driving a car for a long period of time, more so than the car being deliberately engineered that way.

  • avatar
    jhefner

    “If so, what price premium do you think those non-enthusiasts would be willing to pay for such a bedrock of automotive freedom?”

    None. By it’s very nature, that “bedrock” should be just that — a basic down-to-earth vehicle that sacrifices features for durability. A 21st century equivalent of a Model T, a John Deer tractor, a Citroen 2CV or a Volkswagon Bug.

    Because it is just a appliance to them, they will buying on pricing as well as durability. I don’t think even the promise of lifetime durability will sway them to pay more.

    And while the dealer will benefit in the long run; how will it help the factory? I could see short term sales increases, followed by a slump afterwards.

    • 0 avatar
      icemilkcoffee

      Agreed. A modern car has way too many components to break. To insre a modern car for a lifetime would cost way more than $10,000. Also- tehre is the other problem of having to stock replacement parts for a 30 year old Toyota. It’s pretty much impossible.

      That’s why the only cars which could have done this are the dead simple cars like the Beetle or the 2CV. These are very, very simple cars which were produced with only evolutionary improvements, and more importantly- the ongoing improvements are generally retrofitaable to the earlier cars. This is a design philosophy which has sadly died out.

      • 0 avatar
        jhefner

        Agreed; and all four I mentioned — a Model T, a John Deer tractor, a Citroen 2CV and a Volkswagon Bug — were produced over decades, like you said with only evolutionary improvement which in most cases could be retrofitted to the earlier models.

        Remember the old VW Beetle ad that showed the Beetle from year to year; proving there were few if any changes from year to year; it was actually a selling point.

        It only makes sense; actual appliances are the same way, they usually only feature evolutionary changes from year to year, and most parts are interchangable.

  • avatar
    A Caving Ape

    Baruth posted a lengthy exploration of this subject on this very website!

    http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/02/avoidable-contact-who-wants-to-last-forever/

  • avatar
    jmo

    After a five year break I’m back at the airport rental car counter every week and I have been stunned at how much cars have improved in the past 5 years. Focus, Cruze, Optima, Sonata, etc. are just dramatically better than they were five years ago. Seeing that kind of advance I just can’t see anyone wanting to drive what in 25 year will be in comparison to the latest and greatest a gas guzzling, horrible unsafe, dangerously slow, POS that won’t even be able to drive you to work while you nap, like everyone else’s cars can.

    • 0 avatar
      Mark_Miata

      I agree completely. Even inexpensive cars these days have amenities standard that used to be expensive options on luxury cars. The most notable of these is safety equipment – it was not that long ago that things like side airbags were options that you had to pay a lot more for since they only came on the top option package.

      • 0 avatar

        I recently rented a Chrysler 200. It had a screen in the dash, just like my 2003 BMW. Of course, there wasn’t a satnav behind it, just a poor radio. Screens are now cheap, unlike 2003 where that was leading edge high zoot and satnav was sci-fi.

        I had self leveling xenons and full gps back in 2003. OK, the OE GPS in the car is now spanked by a $200 nav at the local big box store. Still, xenons have trickled down to “middle class” cars, usually in an option package, and even cheap cars have electronics packs.

        Long term, though, has more to do with the overall construction quality, not options. Before the BMW I had a Mercury Mystique, which was an optioned out Contour. I drove it 30k per year, and in four years had one worn out car. Overall build quality wasn’t there and when I fixed things, it was clear the whole car was built to be assembled in a factory…not fixed afterwards. My indie mechanic still curses thinking about changing the front struts.

        Compare this to the e46. It was clearly built with the idea that during its life, things would be fixed. In almost ten years of living in the northeast, the bolts and brackets under the car are in way better shape than those on my five year old Acura. The BMW was designed for a longer service life…period. Screws, not one use clips, hold things down. Other than some sacrificial banana clips in the door, there aren’t any one use parts.

        I’ve replaced pumps and alternators….as parts wear, usually after at least 150k, new ones are installed, but the overall quality of the car is still high. You don’t ever think that you are throwing good money after bad… A salesman at one of my local dealers told me he was told by a BMW engineer that the service life is 300k or 24 years. While I have no way to verify that other than my 280k version in my driveway, there are clearly “design life” decisions that are NOT shared with us. I was once told at the Detroit auto show, by a big 3 engineer, that my observation that pickups lasted longer was correct….he said that the design life for a pickup was 120k, where for a car it is 80k….and that these numbers had been recently extended !! (it was 2002, IIRC)

        Most cars aren’t this well built. I’m not saying perfect…just quality fasteners and the designers designed it to be fixed….which any mechanic, from credentialed tech to shade tree, will tell you isn’t always the case. Most cars are built to be assembled in a factory, and no one cares about later repairs. Stories of spark plugs you can’t get to are the most egregious, but there are lots of examples of “what were they thinking” and the answer is “it will get out of warranty”. My saab 9-3 didn’t have a fuel pump door-GM saved $2, and a fuel pump replacement, foreseeable at 100-150k, becomes a “drop the tank” cluster***k. There are lots of these examples.

        We have other examples…early Honda and Toyota products, Volvo 240 series cars-it is not rocket science. They know EXACTLY how long the car they design will last.

    • 0 avatar
      Dan

      That’s not cars improving. It’s rental cars improving. Cobalts and Optimas were already bottom feeding crap in 2007. They would have been bottom feeding crap in 1997.

      Look at the good cars. There isn’t a small car today with anything but a USB port on a 90s Accord. Any of the 90s Accords. Another 15 years of fatter, number and harder to see out of isn’t going to make up that gap.

      • 0 avatar
        jmo

        When was the last time your drove an Optima?

        For you to make the statements you’ve made seems to me like a pretty clear indication that you’re not at all familiar with what’s available on the new car market.

      • 0 avatar
        onyxtape

        It’s true that Optimas and other Korean cars have made quantum leaps in perceivable quality in just the last 3-4 years – with quality which seemingly (at least to the touch) easily exceeds that of any car in their price range. Although I still reserve judgment until I see them with 320,000 miles delivering pizza for pimply-faced teenagers like I do mid-80s Accords. Or as taxi cabs in NYC like I do with the Prii with 450,000 miles. We should know for sure in another 10-15 years or so.

  • avatar
    azmtbkr81

    This could work, in fact I think this is already done to an extent with domestic full-sized trucks. It seems that many go through at least a few transmission and engine overhauls before finally being junked. I think that this is part of the reason buyers are willing to pay big bucks for these vehicles – they know a 20 year or longer service life isn’t out of the question.

    • 0 avatar
      Les

      I wonder, could this be the Real reason behind the creation and promotion of the ‘Crossover’ segment? To get the perception of truck-like ruggedness and durability to sucker customers in and buy cars on stilts built to car-like rather than truck-like standards?

  • avatar
    unartisticinc

    Imagine the “unfunded liabilities” 20 or 30 years from now. On the other hand, longer expected ownership could make cars more affordable as the loans go as long as mortgages. Except, that is, until owners’ adjustable rate auto loans reset and the cars are repossessed. The resulting crash in auto prices resulting from the glut of repossessed used vehicles would necessitate quite the bailout!

  • avatar
    twotone

    To me, a warranty is just a pre-paid service contract. Would I pay an extra $8k today to fix something that may or may not break years down the road? No, I prefer to keep my money in my bank.

    Most people do not keep their cars long enough for “lifetime” warranties to pay off, especially on Toyotas. What would be covered “bumper-to-bumper?” Things that break or wear components too (scheduled maintenance, brakes, clutches, shocks, etc.)?

    If it was a Jaguar, that’s another story. The lifetime warranty on a Jag would double the cost of the car.

  • avatar
    raded

    I don’t know about driving a 2012 car 20 years from now, but I’d be terrified driving a cheap car from 20 years ago. I see 1992ish Civics, Metros, and Swifts on the road all the time. I’m sure they get adequate gas mileage and work as an A to B, but would you really want your loved ones in a car like that when it gets t-boned by a drunk driver in a F-150? Even some cars from 10 years ago would be horribly unsafe by today’s standards.

    Engineering a car for a lifetime would be dependent on the owner maintaining it correctly for a lifetime as well. The type of person described in the article isn’t likely to be the type of person that takes care of their car, especially if they shelled out extra money for the uber-rugged Camry.

    • 0 avatar
      ihatetrees

      >>… I’d be terrified driving a cheap car from 20 years ago.<
      Terrified? Maybe as a daily driver on the DC beltway I’d be concerned, but as an urban scooter, there’s nothing wrong with a ’95 civic.

      >Even some cars from 10 years ago would be horribly unsafe by today’s standards.<<

      Wow. I must have a completely different definition of "horribly". The extra visibility, lightness, and slightness of a 12 year old Accord or Altima make them MORE safe, in certain ways.

      Yes, today's dozens of airbags, stability control, and elephant thigh a-pillars save many idiots and members of the roll-over demographic from Darwin awards. But not everyone thinks that's progress.

  • avatar
    Nostrathomas

    It’s called a late 80′s Porsche 911!

    • 0 avatar
      milkplus

      I was going to say Morgan. To be fair though, when you start with something worth keeping forever, you’re probably more likely to take care of it. Like a Seiko vs a Rolex.

  • avatar
    golden2husky

    The reality is that for those in non-rust belt states, a modern car can last close enough to forever, at least in human life terms, certainly if it is garaged. If you analyzed the typical failure points on cars you could spend more on the design and construction of those parts. Certainly automatic transmissions could be upgraded, as could alternators, etc. Interior trim and seats could be made to last longer. The truth is that when a typical car ends up in the boneyard, the vast majority of it is still serviceable; depreciation is what makes one decide on junking that 150K Taurus because it is not worth the cost of a trans rebuild. Bolstering those parts would add years of life, but would somebody want to drive the same car for 35 years? Not likely. However, I have to say there is something inherently cool about driving an old car that is immaculate. People comment on my mint 1995 car all the time. Of course I don’t drive it on a daily basis either…

    • 0 avatar
      icemilkcoffee

      “a modern car can last close enough to forever, at least in human life terms”

      How do you figure that? In general cars don’t die because of one traumatic, expensive failure. Cars are abandoned because of an accumulation of small issues. Modern cars are certainly not immune to this.

      • 0 avatar
        golden2husky

        ………In general cars don’t die because of one traumatic, expensive failure………..

        I disagree with that statement. As cars get well past their prime I don’t doubt that for those third and forth owners there is a laundry list of minor items that are broken or need attention. However, as long as the car runs and can pass whatever inspection that may be required, those folks that can’t afford a better car will drive them until a major repair sidelines it. Things like a transmission, major oil leaks, or a head gasket will send the old bomb to the yard because the owner can’t afford to fix it. Just look at so many of the Junkyard Finds here on TTAC. Many of the old cars are pretty much intact, ruling out a collision as a reason for being junked.

  • avatar
    Ron B.

    my daily driver is a 1985 mercedes 300D ,retro fitted with a STT turbo. In todays choked traffic it has more than enough power to overtake practially everything. It cost me $1500 ,it’s rust free, has only 109,000 miles from new and does 7-9 L/100kilometers. And it’s manual trans is easier and simpler to maintain than the troublesome mercedes automatics and their vaccum control. My other daily is a 1980 380SE with japan version hicomp engine. Great for longer drives and cheap on fuel doing 10L /100ks.
    my toy car at present is a 1969 300SEL 6.3 .. why do I want a 2012 Mercedees? well actually I dont. Mercedes Lost the plot when they sidled up against the worn out old battler that was Chrysler.
    Mercedes Built cars prior to the debacle that will last beyond the next 1/2 century and still supply parts for cars they built 70 years ago. So, it has been done.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      “…my toy car at present is a 1969 300SEL 6.3 .. why do I want a 2012 Mercedees?”

      Heck, why do you want any car ever again? You already own the grandest machine of all time.

    • 0 avatar
      el scotto

      Ron, I’m with you that the OLD Mercedes were made to last forever. However, quest for market share has tarnished MB reputation. I think the C Class killed them in the US. A couple of grand down and 400-500 bucks a month to lease one. I used to see dozens of them parked near Metro stations in DC. Do S’ and SLs still have that hand built quality?

      • 0 avatar
        iantm

        Sadly, the only automakers right now who are in the business of providing support for the long haul are Mercedes and BMW. Need a part for a 30+ year old Mercedes or BMW that was a dealer only item – no problem. The Japanese on the other hand… are not in it for the long haul. Best of luck getting dealer specific parts for an early 90′s Honda, Acura, or Toyota. Given the 15-20 year parts supply from the Japanese – I see the current generation of Camrys, Accords, Corollas, and Civics being extremely lucky to make it past 20 years of age given the increased number of dealer only parts, complexity, and general sense of being disposable that they carry.

        While Mercedes and BMW’s build quality isn’t as good as it was – the steel that they are using appears to be of a higher quality than what they were using. I recall it being fairly common in the 90′s for W123 Mercedes Benzes to still run great but have the body of the car completely rot out. The big thing I’ve seen with the European cars vs. the Asian and domestics is a Nature vs. Nurture debate. Because the European car costs a hell of a lot more in the first place, the owners tend to be more inclined to take care of it… until the car reaches it’s third or fourth owner, by which point it is viewed as cheap and disposable because it’s a sub $10k car purchase. The Asian and Domestics, due to lower initial costs are generally seen as disposable from day one (with some obvious exceptions) and don’t see the same level of care by the first or second owners that your typical european car would. Because of their reputation as being finicky, the average european car is treated with greater care. Again, this is until the third or fourth owner comes into the picture by which case the car is more than 8 years old.

        When I was younger and worked at an Apple service center, we’d see far fewer accidental drop damage cases with the more expensive aluminum and titanium PowerBook G4′s than we would with the polycarbonite iBooks. The PowerBooks were more expensive, but they also had a level of perceived fragility that led to them being treated with greater care than the seemingly indestructible iBooks. The metal PowerBooks showed dings, dents, and damage far more easily than the iBooks did – which led to them being treated with greater care. Like the Aluminum and Titanium PowerBook G4′s of the early 2000′s, european cars are seen as premium, wonderful, and incredibly fragile. As such, they are generally treated better.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    I don’t know if it’s possible for a car as a daily driver to last, say 20 years without the elements taking their toll. What about butt-sprung, worn-out upholstery? Would that be covered? Rust? Oxidized paint? Electronics? Drivetrain?

    I, for one, planned on keeping my 2004 Impala for a minimum of 10 years, but having my commute stretch to 100 miles a day last August changed my mind in a hurry. I’m sure that car would’ve lasted me another couple-three years, at least, but our local Chevy dealer made me an offer I couldn’t refuse, and I can’t say I’m disappointed thus far…

    Our 2002 CR-V? Wifey only goes 9 miles a day plus sparing my car in using it to run around on weekends, so relatively lighter duty. We’ll keep it, as it is the family truckster and comes in very handy.

    All in all, I get tired of a vehicle after so long, too, so I’d want a change. Certainly not everyone feels that way, in other words, whatever floats your boat.

    If paying more upfront for a markedly better Impala or Camty or Fusion or Altima or (insert favorite car here), and gives you the peace of mind you crave, go for it!

    • 0 avatar
      Felix Hoenikker

      Zackman,
      I commute between 50 and 150 miles per day depending on who is driving the final leg of the car pool that day. My wife drives four miles each way. According to a friend with vast knowledge about wear and tear on engines, the difference is almost irrelevant. It’s all about thermal cycling. In his view, which correlates with the condition of my commuting car, all of the significant wear on the drive train takes place during warm up. I have just [assed tje 200K mile mark, and the engine still functions like new with respect to oil consumption and mpg. I would like to buy a new car for a change of scenery, but am not sufficiently motivated to visit the local dealers just yet and deal with the “what can I do to get you to buy this car today” crap. Maybe in four more years.

      • 0 avatar
        Zackman

        @Felix:

        I agree with you, as these 2000-present Impalas can rack up impressive miles, as do most other cars nowadays.

        However, I’m 61 years old and I may not be able to afford a new car in a couple of years and don’t want a used one if I can help it – that’s just me. We figured as long as we can do it, we decided to. After all, we sold our 2007 MX5 and our 2004 Impala, so we made a very hefty down payment and the loan is quite reasonable.

        Admittedly, it’s a toss-up as far as our decision went: keep the 2004, save money for a new car and rack up the miles, or get what I can sell them for now – which were very good prices – and run out the warranty rather quickly on a new car.

        I’m a minority on here in that I love the W-bodies – I can see very well out of them, and I always wanted the current style since 2005!

        Emotion wins, I suppose.

      • 0 avatar
        golden2husky

        Felix, your friend is pretty much correct. Cold startup is the point where the most wear takes place. Cycles are probably a more important factor that mileage. During your carpool you turn the ignition twice a day and use the starter twice, etc for anywhere from 50 to 150 miles. Contrast that to a car that is driven 8 miles a day which will put far more wear on all the moving parts for equal mileage.

    • 0 avatar
      BigOldChryslers

      > I don’t know if it’s possible for a car as a daily driver to last, say 20 years without the elements taking their toll.

      My daily driver is an 18 year old Dodge pickup. I use it to commute to work 5 days a week. It lives outside, not in a garage. I live in the rust belt. I regularly get comments from other p/u truck owners about what great condition the body is in.

      How do I keep it that way? I installed mud flaps to reduce stone chips. I spend a spend one weekend every summer or fall touching-up stone chips. I had it repainted once at about 10 years old to cover-up the accumulated stone chips before rust started. I get it oil sprayed in late fall just before the snow comes (which also protects the frame, fuel lines, brake lines, etc. from rusting). I take it to the coin-op car wash about every 2 weeks.

      I feel that any vehicle could look presentable for at least 15 years with adequate preventative maintenance, even in the rust belt. Most people repair mechanical problems but ignore the bodywork until damage is already done, which is a big mistake. Mechanical parts can be replaced and function as new. Once rust starts on the body however, repairs are expensive and generally only temporary.

  • avatar
    Toucan

    Does anyone have a chart of per capita or per family spending ON CARS ALONE in the last years/decades?

    The more good stuff you throw away the more profit the manufacturer makes. So they would like us to think about cars as of trousers: a fashion items you have many copies of and you replace them frequently. But how dis this concept really pay off?

  • avatar
    mpresley

    I really like my Euro Passat, and would keep it a lifetime. On the other hand, who wants to be stuck with a Camry for life? After all, when it comes to Toyota, sometimes it’s a good thing your toaster stops making toast, if for no other reason than you can get a newer one that does bagels, too.

  • avatar
    PaulVincent

    We’ve got the 25+ year old Lay-Z-Boy, and there is no way that I would want to have its 25 year old automotive equal.

  • avatar
    levi

    Everybody so inclined would then drive the equivalent of a Volvo 240?

    Niche market only. Not gonna happen.

    Sorry to say, American manufacturers, along with any others in stormy fiscal waters, would fritter away the profits immediately, negating any positive effects on the bottom line.

  • avatar
    Acd

    This sounds like torture. Hell no.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    Sticking with a car for decades requires a discipline I am not sure the avg human, let alone the avg American, has. 10 years is a stretch. Back when a car was an expensive luxury, people stuck with cars because they had no choice.

    A funny thing happened though. Cars became a commodity shortly before the Japanese introduced us to reliability. Cheap reliability, at that. You couple that with the credit boom that enabled folks to change cars frequently (and thus guarantee more volume for manufacturers)- the death of durability only made sense.

    Me personally I am OK with changing cars maybe every 5 years. I like to tinker so that is about enough time to build a car up and get bored with it. And these days there is so much out there still ticking after 10, 15, even 20 years, and these new cars were made with even better manufacturing techniques.

    Long story short I think it’s unnecessary. You could spend the same $$$ over 20 years and have like 4-5 different cars

  • avatar
    geozinger

    These cars already exist. Ask anyone who has a Rolls, or Bentley or any other kind of ultra-premium car. They’re built to last, indefinitely.

    As someone whose daily driver is a 17 year old Pontiac, I’m familiar with what living an older car is like. Granted, I didn’t get the car new, but I have kept others for 11 years from new. It’s kind of scary (thrilling? boring?) to think about possibly keeping one car for a large percentage of your lifetime.

    Obviously the Roller is a bad example, because the premise was popularly priced cars. Again, they exist, namely BOF pickup trucks and SUVs. If they don’t rust away and are maintained, it’s not unusual to see working pickup trucks in their mid-teens, even in this part of the Rustbelt. Do a search for 1997 full size pickup trucks in ZIP code 49503. You’ll find lots of them.

    Like others, the only way I could even remotely buy into this idea is if there was a comprehensive maintenance schedule (that couldn’t be gamed by the dealer) built into the ownership experience. Additionally, there would have to be concierge-type treatment at the dealership when issues did arise. You just paid ~20% more for a tankified Malibu, I’d expect priority treatment…

    OTOH, maybe we could get the family who owned Checker Motors to fire up the assembly line again. I’d love to buy a 21st Century edition Marathon, with a choice of an Atlas OHC straight six or a LSx V8. I’d opt for the wagon body, as I seem to end up carrying a lot of stuff around with me.

    Besides, those things seemed to run forever…

    • 0 avatar
      Zackman

      @Geo:

      Personally, I’d almost die for a RR Drop-Head coupe like the one we saw in Beverly Hills a few years ago!

    • 0 avatar
      Les

      “OTOH, maybe we could get the family who owned Checker Motors to fire up the assembly line again. I’d love to buy a 21st Century edition Marathon, with a choice of an Atlas OHC straight six or a LSx V8.”

      This, so much awesome in this!

    • 0 avatar
      mcarr

      Yeah, I’ve said this before, but if today I had to buy an existing vehicle that had to last me 20+ years, it would be a BOF pickup. Besides having more durable component than the cars from the same manufacturers, they seems to be screwed together better. My theory is that historically, there has been so much $$$ in truck sales, they put more R&D and quality control into the full sized truck line versus their car lines.

      And like you pointed out, the proof is in the number 20+ year old trucks still on the road versus cars from the same vintage.

      • 0 avatar
        Les

        Is it really historical that Trucks have been the big-money bread-and-butter? I think that’s a relatively new thing, on the other hand trucks are designed to be flogged in hard working conditions on ‘roads’ that are roads in name only hauling heavy loads… they typical car gets driven gently over asphalt carrying bread, eggs, and milk.

        That’s yet another reason to hate Crossovers. Sure you say, “You don’t NEED the over-built nature of a Truck-style SUV..” Until you notice your car-style CUV falling apart in half the lifespan of a ‘proper’ SUV.

  • avatar
    el scotto

    I think of it as “patina” on old trucks.

  • avatar
    jmo

    I’d be willing to bet that to offer a lifetime(+30 years) warranty the car would be the equivalent of a Yaris and cost north of $75k. You’d have to start using parts similar in quality to those you’d find on a commercial aircraft – with prices to match.

  • avatar
    Gannet

    It’s not widely known, but Chrysler offers something rather like that. This is an extended warranty offered by Chrysler, not an aftermarket company.

    If you are the original owner and the car is less than 48 months/48,000 miles old, you can buy a lifetime, unlimited mile warranty. The basic package is a powertrain warranty, but it can be upgraded in two steps to bumper-to-bumper mechanical. I was quoted $2500 for the BtoB on a loaded 2012 300.

    For the bumper to bumper, everything mechanical/electrical is covered except:

    Maintenance services and items used in such services
    Glass, plastic lenses
    Body and paint items, including soft trim
    Wear items such as manual clutch assembly, brake pads, shoes, rotors, drums and belts

    It also includes towing allowance of $100 and first-day rental of $35 for the first 7 years/100k miles.

    So. The $2500 delta on a $35-50k car is well within Steve’s question. Any takers here?

    I know I am *seriously* tempted.

    For those who want more info, just Bingle “chrysler lifetime warranty”. On Chrysler’s website, search for “service contract”.

    • 0 avatar
      jpolicke

      Wife’s Jeep does 8000 miles a year and was bought while Jeep had lifetime powertrain warranty, so for that vehicle I wouldn’t be interested. But the availability of such coverage from Chrysler is worth considering for my next vehicle, which will be sooner than I had originally planned. Having just replaced the turbo on my ’09 Jetta TDI I’m reconsidering the plan to make the car a long term keeper. I think I hear a money pit being dug.

      How about a compromise plan, something like 10-years, unlimited mileage, b-to-b?

    • 0 avatar
      Crosley

      That’s an attractive price for the warranty, especially if you really put a lot of miles on your car.

      My fear would be the devil that’s in the details. Are you having to go to the dealership and buy every ridiculous “wallet flush” service they offer to make them honor the warranty? If you just let a service writer have its way with 60k, 90k mile recommended “services”, you’ve already blown through the same amount of money it would likely cost to actually make real repairs.

      The other factor is, I could see Chrysler and GM being like airlines that perpetually declare bankruptcy and ask for a bailout as just a normal part of doing business. Chrysler has already done it twice. The extended warranties would probably be one of the first things that were tore up.

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        Well, my friend just had the free 5-year anniversary powertrain inspection done on his Grand Cherokee as required by the Lifetime Powertrain Warranty program. The vehicle is stock except for a trailer brake controller and was purchased before the bailout.

        I’ve done all the maintenance work on it so it has never seen the inside of a dealer service department. I did use Mopar parts where applicable and had my friend save all the reciepts.

        I was expecting a hassle, but the vehicle passed just fine and the dealer never asked my friend for any proof of maintenance completed. He’s planning to keep the Jeep for between 10-15 years in total, so we’ll have to see how the next inspection goes and how his treatment will be if he has to make a claim (75k, about 10k of those towing, and no problems so far).

    • 0 avatar
      Robstar

      This “lifetime” warranty is only good until Chrysler (2) is “bankrupt”, releasing all their liabilities, including your warranty.

      No thanks.

    • 0 avatar
      kkt

      For my lifetime, or Chrysler’s? Next time they go bankrupt, I figure the warranty would be toast.

  • avatar
    Hogun

    This could work out well if you started out with something dirt simple, reliable, and cheap – like a Lada Niva.

    “It’s had the engine replaced 4 times, all the body panels are different colors, and the interior has been ‘refreshed’ 3 times, but it’s still Great-Grandpa’s Lada!”

  • avatar
    JREwing

    For the customers who would buy one of these, the concern would be less about whether the components would hold up, but on whether the company in question would be around long enough to live up to the lifetime warranty. Would you trust a “lifetime” warranty from any of the Detroit manufacturers to stick around for a lifetime?

    Build a bunch of cars that don’t break (or have a lifetime pass to the mechanic to keep them fixed), and you suddenly have a lot fewer customers who want the newest and flashiest to pay the bills for the ones who aren’t tired of their car.

    • 0 avatar
      modelt1918

      This is a great point JR! What about the car you buy and suddenly it is owned by Ford and than Tata Motors? Would the new company accept the original agreement? I think not…..

  • avatar
    CelticPete

    Too much Clarkson and not enough reality in this premise. People don’t want to keep their car for a lifetime. Buying new cars – sure its expensive but its FUN and its COOL.

    Plenty of people want a cool car even if its less reliable. How do you think Chrysler or Audi sell anything? There isn’t a person alive who thinks an Audi or Jeep is reliable as a Toyota.

  • avatar
    Kendahl

    We lean in this direction already, but our time frame is 15 to 25 years rather than a lifetime. (Otherwise, I would still be driving a 1962 VW beetle.) If properly maintained, most modern cars are good for at least 200k miles and 300k isn’t an unreasonable goal. Although maintenance costs increase with age, repairs have to get very expensive to cost more than car loan payments.

    One consequence of keeping a car for a long time is that you need to do your research before buying. You don’t want to be stuck with a POS you hate. Short of driving yourself into bankruptcy, it can make sense to buy the car you really want, even if it is fairly expensive, and count on averaging the extra cost over many years.

    • 0 avatar

      Which is exactly how I justified a 40k BMW over a 16k Mystique. It was a good decision, as I have three times the mileage of the Mystique, and the BMW will be a hand me down to my almost driving teens….if I can ever find that sport package CPO 335d I want to replace it.

      This used to be the Mercedes paradigm. The car was painfully expensive, but over the fifteen year to twenty year lifespan, the depreciation on the three “big 3″ cars you’d otherwise have processed and spit out would exceed the cost of the big Merc….not to mention the intangibles of status and “bank vault”.

  • avatar
    slow kills

    Speaking as an enthusiast, I’d be happy to pay mid $30K for a good basic car that would last at least a quarter century. It would have to be a manual transmission, and preferably something akin to a 1980′s BMW or the aforementioned RWD Volvos. Losing the gimmick technology is just icing on the cake. Car payments are horrible and knowing that they be done for decades would be great piece of mind.

    Of course as an enthusiast, this would mainly be a hedge against cars continuing to deviate away from what I want them to be.

    • 0 avatar
      jmo

      I’d be happy to pay mid $30K for a good basic car

      Would you pay 40k or 50k?

      • 0 avatar
        slow kills

        The $40k one would have to be very impressive and, well no to $50k.

        Although there is still the very real possibility that car prices will continue rising to the point where this would have been a wise move.

      • 0 avatar
        Zackman

        An enthusiast wants to keep a car for 25 years? A daily driver?

        I’d have to consider you an “enthusiast”-ic long-sufferer!

      • 0 avatar
        jmo

        “The $40k one would have to be very impressive”

        But it would by definition not be impressive in terms of everyday usability as all engineering and design decisions would have to be driven by durability concerns: ride, handling, drive-ability, NVH, comfort, acceleration, etc. would all have take a back seat.

        I’ve heard that one of the many reasons that tractor trailer engines and large marine diesels last so long is they operate at very low RPM. Just as a thought experiment, to guarantee a mean time between failure of 500k miles in a typical consumer duty cycle* maybe it requires a 2.0L inline 6 with 60bhp and 240 ft/lb of torque an 800 rpm idle and a 1900 rpm redline necessitating a 12 speed manual.

        * Or whatever the number would be such that the incidence of engine failure would be the same over a consumers lifetime as is typically encountered by a new car buyer over the current median warranty period.

      • 0 avatar
        DC Bruce

        @jmo. You have a good point. The air cooled VW 1500 engine didn’t really rev past 4,000 rpm and was most comfortable operating in the 2-3K rpm range. Top gear was rated so that the car would never rev the engine particularly high. Even small marine diesels of the size that serve as auxiliary engines in sailboats — usually from 3 to 6 cylinders and rated between 20 and 100 hp develop maximum power at less than 3,000 rpm. Of course, unlike car engines, these engines operate at constant loads. The typical well-maintained marine diesel (clean fuel; regular oil changes) should operate 4000 hours or more before an overhaul. However, for a lot of these engines, saving weight is not particularly a consideration, The engine is usually placed below the waterline and serves as part of the fixed ballast. A 50-ft. sailboat may have a 110 hp 6-cylinder diesel engine . . . which displaces 360 cu. in and develops maximum horsepower at 2500 rpms.

  • avatar
    tmkreutzer

    I remember seeing an article when I was in high school, back in the 1980s that predicted in the future we would take the exact opposite tack – the disposable car.

    As I recall, the premise was that the car would be built to last 100,000 miles and incorporate such money saving devices as brake discs mounted directly on the wheels. The engines and drive train would be sealed and they would use a lifetime oil – doing away with service calls too.

    The article also predicted this car would also simplify (i.e. KILL) the used car market. You would simply look at the mileage and determine the price by how much was left before your car hit that magic number. A car with 75K miles would be worth 25% of it’s purchase price, 50K would be 50% and so on.

    The whole things seems silly and wasteful but even so, doesn’t the disposable car make more sense that the lifetime car? Who among us wants to be anchored to that car we bought twenty years ago? Yes I still pine for my 1988 K car variant Dodge Shadow, but even if it lived up to all the nostalgia I feel when I remember all the good times I had in it, it just isn’t going to work with my wife and three kids. Things change and my needs with them.

    I think most of America is going to feel the same way.

    • 0 avatar
      jmo

      “The whole things seems silly and wasteful”

      How do you figure? It takes 377kwh of electricity to melt one ton of steel and a gallon of gas contains 36.7 kwH of electricity*. So, to melt down a typical car would take 20 gallons of gas. A new car wouldn’t have to be all that much more efficient for it make sense to melt it down and rebuild it using the latest technology.

      * While those are ideal numbers, modern recycling and manufacturing technologies are remarkably efficient.

  • avatar
    Crosley

    It’s an interesting concept and could easily be done, the car makers probably wouldn’t even have to make that many changes. The key would be the amount of premium the manufacturers charged for the lifetime warranty. I could also see it being a big money maker because you could require the consumer to go to the dealership and pay out of pocket for maintenance (like oil change, tires, alignment, other wallet flush services, etc) if you wanted the lifetime warranty to be honored.

    Think about it, if you bought a brand new car of a reliable make and set aside $10k, followed EVERYTHING in the owners manual to the T regarding maintenance (that wouldn’t be taken out of the repair fund), I could easily see that “fund” never being completely depleted, but it would probably have to be for the original owner only. If someone kept the car for 30 years straight, the automaker would lose money, but I’m guessing the overwhelming majority would move on after 10-15 years.

    I doubt I’ve spent $10k in actual “repairs” in nearly two decades, and I’ve owned some real lemons.

  • avatar
    Joe K

    They already exist, and are called Subaru.

    • 0 avatar
      Eyeflyistheeye

      Tell that to people who had engine failures with the 2.5 DOHC headgasket problem or the 5MT grenading in the WRX. I’m also having a lovely time with a peeling dash and interior flaking galore on my Legacy GT.

      • 0 avatar
        infinitime

        Yes, and add to that the peeling clear-coat, the frequency of dashboard bulb burnouts, and yes, the all too-common head gasket failure on the 2.5L….

        I think something similar to the original Beetle in concept, but updated with Japanese electronics, is the way to go. My vote would be for a fourth generation Tercel (1990 – 1994), simple enough for any DIY mechanic, and designed well enough to be durable but cheap.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    Certainly a lifetime bumper-to-bumper warranty would be attractive but I would never keep a car for a lifetime. Even if I loved/adored the car and it was perfect in every way.

    Safety, performance and infotainment technology just keeps marching along. You can’t add airbags to an ’86 Corolla no matter how much love is in your heart. You won’t add a touch screen, climate control, or the improvements of fuel injection, computer controls, etc. etc. etc.

    A 64-1/2 Mustang may be freakin’ sweet – but it is still based on 1960′s technology – no warranty can deal with eventual obsolescence, except planned obsolesce.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    “Should Automobiles Be Marketed… For A Lifetime?”

    The short answer is no.

    The longer answer is that cars are machinery, and machinery becomes obsolete and outdated. A 40 year old car may have its charms, but it will generally be inferior to a modern car in every way. In particular, all of those nifty gadgets that seem so modern today will end up having the desirability of a Pong unit.

    Forty years from now, today’s car may or may not hold their charms, but whatever they are, they’ll be just as out of date to 2052′s drivers as a 1972 car does now. I probably won’t want one, and chances are good that you won’t want one, either.

  • avatar
    Dan Akerson's Last Remaining Brain Cell

    As others have said, even if the product was guaranteed for a “lifetime,” hardly anyone will keep their car long enough to recognize the benefit.

    I also imagine the “lifetime” version of a vehicle parked on a Used Car lot somewhere… next to the (now perceived as) “cheap and inferior” version of essentially the exact same vehicle. From a marketing perspective, it’d be like trying to sell a Chinese knock-off of a Camry parked next to the genuine article.

  • avatar
    clocker

    Were something like this to be implemented, the biggest change would have to be in the electrical system.
    Modern electrical systems are so complex and pervasive that any failure is an almost certain death knell for the car, regardless of mechanical condition.
    Also, airbags would have to be rethought.
    Currently, deployed bags will almost certainly doom a car because they’re so damn expensive to replace.

  • avatar
    Eyeflyistheeye

    The closest thing to a lifetime car was the old Checker Marathon.

    Simple, rugged construction with fuel economy that would make an Expedition driver gloat and styling that could have been penned by the Politburo.

  • avatar
    Trend-Shifter

    Another way to make this happen is to make the car more modular.
    It would need to be designed for easy replacement, not what they have today.
    Then regularly replace each complete modular component at scheduled intervals.
    Each major module should not take more than an hour to change.

    It would require a rust resistant body and frame to accomplish this.
    Use the skateboard frame idea with many different bodies.
    Here are a few examples of the modules:
    * A complete front suspension module with axle bearings that just bolt on.
    * A complete engine module with everything required. Cooling system and all. 8 bolts. Just plug in the electric power and fuel line and you are ready to go.
    * Transmission and drive shaft module.
    * etc…

    Think like HP printers, they make money on the ink, not the printers. So the car companies could make money on the modules, not the cars.

    • 0 avatar
      noreaster

      This. I really don’t understand why this isn’t the approach now. As for the desirability of a lifetime car, apparently I’m in the minority here, but I would love one as long as it could be upgraded.

    • 0 avatar
      Les

      Another thing that would be required, the end of assembly-line manufacturing.

      Assembly-lines make conventional mass-production more affordable by spreading the labor out and maximizing the utility of low/semi-skilled labor, but computers and robots are obsolescing much low/semi-skilled labor in manufacturing but the high overhead costs involved in maintaining assembly-lines and the large-floorplan factories they require mean an OEM has to constantly shift new product to maintain profitability.

      New advances in 3-D printing and other rapid-prototyping technologies could change things though.

  • avatar
    Joss

    25 year ownership? Reads like Lada/Moskovitch ownership in the Soviet Union. Tricky to get enhanced pollution & safety equipment faster into more vehicles.

    Reliability: my boorish 2 year old Sentra much more reliable then my 2 year old bicycle with flat tries & broken spokes & meshed cables in a tenth the distance.

  • avatar
    Dimwit

    It wouldn’t be a Camry. It would have to be a special model/brand. Lexus? That I could see. And the appeal is very small demographic. Can’t see this as being a success.

  • avatar

    Maybe Mr Steven Lang, you should come to the continent that Rust forgot i.e. Australia.

    I drive a 20 year old, Suzuki Cappuccino, no rust, original engine, shocks. Done around 100k miles (160k km) and is all fine. My housemate/friend has an 18 year old MX-5, no rust, rebuilt motor, and a 18 year old Mitsu Lancer again no rust. My old apartment I shared a garage with an 89-93 Cressida owned by some old Music teacher. And none of this is uncommon. Many Australians own their cars until they are actually worn out, after a long and arduous 20 or so years, especially old people who have lost the passage of time and are still driving their Kingwood around. Cars here really do last forever. We can happily keep any car going indefinitely, it even seems that old Jaguar Mark II’s are now getting imported back from Australia to the UK, as ours are basically rust free.

    • 0 avatar
      Steven Lang

      Sounds like paradise! Buy me a ticket and I’m all there!

    • 0 avatar
      jmo

      But, as an auto executive you’d need to deal with the adverse selection problem. The folks most interested in a car with a lifetime warranty aren’t going to be folks in Australia who drive 5k miles a year. They buyer is far more likely to be a salesmen in Calgary who drives 25k miles a year.

  • avatar
    ppxhbqt

    From what we saw during Cash for Clunkers, most of these people just buy a used car anyway and then use the money saved on maintenance to extend the car’s life. The prestige of a new car is also nothing to them and don’t see how this could be transferable. So can’t see how much traction any maker could gain with it.

  • avatar
    Garak

    I’d rather have a reasonable lease contract than a premium guarantee. Drive for three years, dump the car, and get a new one. Actually owning the car wouldn’t be important to me.

    On the other hand, my sewing machine is 78 years old, and still works like new. I’d rather pay premium for high-quality appliances than forever-lasting cars.

  • avatar
    NulloModo

    I know that I wouldn’t want to keep the same car for that long. A midsize sedan from even ten years ago won’t have the power, the fuel efficiency, or the electronic options that a new one will have. Interiors wear harder than mechanical bits in a lot of cars, and most buyers aren’t willing to have their car detailed every few months or to spend a lot of time rubbing conditioner into the leather. Maintenance also gets more expensive the longer you own a vehicle. Most owners are fine doing oil changes, and maybe even replacing timing belts and spark plugs, but when it comes to replacing the suspension, head gaskets, engine seals, transmissions, etc, a lot of people would rather just let it go and move onto something new.

    Why would I want to drive a car with sealed beam headlights, three knob AC, 150hp, and an AM/FM-tape-deck combo when I could buy a new car with HID lights, touch screen and voice command, 300hp, HD and Sirius Radio, Bluetooth, integrated navigation, cooled seats, blind spot monitoring, and automatic everything? Sure, there are some purists who love simple, basic automobiles, but I’m not one of them, and there are plenty of others who would rather buy cars more often and get constant upgrades with new features than perhaps save some money by spending a little bit more one time on one car to last decades.

    • 0 avatar
      Mark_Miata

      I just finished driving 2,200 miles over five days in a basic car (2000 Miata) like you describe. Well, not the sealed beam headlights, but still pretty basic by modern standards. But as you point out, I’m an enthusiast, so I’ll put up with that sort of thing. Heck, I’ve got a friend who makes regular 1,000 mile trips with his wife in his 1952 MG TD, but I consider him borderline insane.

      While I like my Miata, I’m sure I’ll be upgrading in a few years to a more modern one to get those conveniences you describe. For example, no side airbags or not having a way to connect my MP3 player are things that were not an issue in the year 2000, but are in the year 2012.

  • avatar
    wstarvingteacher

    I have a 22 y/o truck, a plaything from 1957, and a DD from 2011. The 2011 Nissan is one I expect to get over 200k miles from. Unless they replaced a whole slew of things as a preventive measure, I think it would spend a lot of time in the shop when it hits over 200kmiles. That’s what others have done when they are about to wear out. I’m not sure what will happen but the DD really gets driven every chance I get because of the rotten mileage of the older ones.

    The technology change between 1957 and 1991 were impressive enough. The further technology between 1991 and 2011 were even more impressive. Playthings or low mileage trucks are one thing but I think the DD’s need to be fairly current for dependability. I just turned 69 years old and am not nearly as handy with repairs and sure don’t want my wife to be stranded.

    I don’t think I would be in the market for this but it sounds good on the face of things.

  • avatar
    MrWhopee

    A new, or at least a different (used) car is one of the hallmark of one’s life. Why on earth would I want to be stuck with one car for the rest of my life? Especially one as exciting and memorable as a Camry. That would be my idea of a hellish existence. I probably would kill myself long before the ultra-durable Camry expired. I don’t think the public wants that either, otherwise Checker would still be around. As I understand it, even in its heyday, the civilian Checkers never sold well, proving that you’re in the minority, Mr. Lang.

    BTW, Mercedes-Benz were once this kind of car you desire. Engineered like no other car in the world! Just look at a W123 or W126 Mercedes, especially with a diesel engine. Sadly, they found out they’ll sell more car and possibly for more profit engineering it just like any other luxury car in the world, and sell it for less of a premium.

  • avatar
    TonyJZX

    peoples’ expectations change

    today we want ncap5 euro5 30mpg and all the interior mod cons

    will we want better in 10yrs time? what about 25yrs time?

    will gasoline be $10 a gallon?

    so why engineer a car for 25yrs when our expectations are unknown in the future

  • avatar
    Scoutdude

    I know a few people who are still daily driving their Scouts 30-40 years after they bought them new. Some of them have 300-400K on them and have many of their original components including engines that have only had gaskets and external parts changed. So it was possible.

    For those that keep saying why would you want to drive an old car with lower power we are in the new golden age and in a few years people will be saying remember when cars had lots of HP. Sure technology will continue to make things better but just like in the 70′s gov’t regulations will make things worse in the coming years. Emission control standards are increasing and they are slowly but surely eliminating the conditions that are exempt, like the fact that full throttle emissions are currently largely un-regulated. Throw in the fact that CAFE is ever increasing and the car of the future will be less desirable in a number of ways though I expect the safety aspects to get better and better going forward.

    • 0 avatar
      jmo

      Or, as is far more likely, improved materials and manufacturing technology will result in aluminum and carbon fiber hybrids that are vastly superior in every way to the cars of today.

      • 0 avatar
        Garak

        Extremely safe aluminum and carbon fibre hybrids with very little power and semi-automatic navigation. I’ll be surprised if cars are faster in the future, but on the other hand, with self-driving vehicles and intelligent traffic systems, rapid acceleration is not really needed anymore.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        Except when it comes to fun, like many here want from their cars. The writing is on the wall and unfortunately that writing is from the gov’t.

  • avatar
    highdesertcat

    I would be happy if any new car I bought today would be trouble free for 5 years AND 100,000 miles. That’s only 20K/yr on average.

    So far, I have gotten 85K+ trouble-free miles out of our 2008 Japan-built Highlander. So we’re off to a good start there.

    But with barely 20K trouble-free miles on my 2011 Tundra, it may still be too early to tell yet.

    And with only 8600 miles on our 2012 Grand Cherokee, we haven’t even left home plate yet. Who knows what awaits us, and if the past is any guide, we’ll be trading it before the warranty expires.

  • avatar
    Conslaw

    The USPS LLV, Long Life Vehicles, were the embodiment of this concept. (All of this is from Wikipedia) The Grumman LLV was built for a 20 year service life, but that was extended to a 30 year life in 2009. Grumman made the rust-free aluminum body, but the underlying chassis is GM – a modified version of the S-10 pick-up, including an Iron-Duke 4-cylinder engine and a 3-speed automatic transmission. The MPG is 16 city, 17 highway. According to http://www.postalmuseum.si.edu, the original 1986 price for an LLV was $11,651.

  • avatar
    Beerboy12

    Depends on what you want the car for. Fleet car owners like taxi’s and rental car companies would be all over a lifetime Camry.
    For the general buyer… There are definitely people out there who would buy into that but I think it’s a leap of faith. Say someone does invent that super battery that finally blows the gasoline engine into retirement or comes up with a fantastic new recyclable plastic that is lighter and stronger than mettle and that can allow you to buy a new car every few months.

  • avatar
    oldyak

    I always wondered if you bought a Rolls Royce if you could keep it alive for a lifetime since so many people had..

  • avatar
    oldyak

    I always wondered if you bought a Rolls Royce could keep it alive for a lifetime since so many people have..

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      You can keep anything running if you replace the worn or broken parts in it.

      That used to be my philosophy – run’m ’til the wheels fell off. Trouble I found was that the wheels fell off too soon on the domestics. Now I’m no longer keen on wrenching and tooling on them myself.

      But I know one attorney who still drives a ’58 Chevy as a daily driver, and an insurance agent who uses his ’57 T-bird as a daily driver.

      That doesn’t mean they don’t have brand new vehicles for their wives and new pickup trucks for themselves. It just means that they still use their old faves as daily drivers.

    • 0 avatar
      jmo

      Sure you could. Did you ever see James May and Jeremy Clarkson compare maintenance bills on Jeremy’s Mercedes 600 and James’s Rolls – IIRC its most recent servicing ran 18k GBP or $28,000.

  • avatar
    dartman

    …How about…re-manufacturing? I have two cars in my driveway, a 1991 300ZX Twin Turbo,(my Sons) and a 1997 318ti M-Sport (My Daughters) that I would pay dearly to have the manufacturer bring back to original spec or better. Didn’t BMW offer this at one time? Doesn’t Rolex offer this service on their watches?

    • 0 avatar
      mkirk

      I seem to remember Nissan doing this with the old school 260/280Zs in the 90′s after they killed off the 300z. There was a beautiful yellow 280Z in the showroom that had been sent to the factory and restored at my local dealer.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        Yup there were some factory authorized refurbished Zs while there wasn’t a current Z available.

        A local police agency disgusted with the few Chargers they had tried and the fact that they missed the order window to get more Crown Vics decided to reman their existing cars in house instead. They went for a thorough approach, reman engine, trans and rear axle, all new suspension components, new seats and a fresh paint job. I don’t remember their exact stated savings but it was a few grand less than a new car. In addition they did a few “upgrades” like aftermarket sway bars, “cold air” intake, performance mufflers, a reflash of the PCM, and a Recarro while they were at it.

  • avatar
    NMGOM

    ANS: No.

    Why?

    1) Human boredom with the “same old thing”. Why does a woman go out to buy a new dress when her closet is already full of them? Why does a man absolutely need that new fishing pole or another rifle when he’s got 7 of them? Each person is simply tired of what they’ve got, and want a change.

    2) Parts decay. I had a 1974 22-year old Dodge Pickup. Loved it, even when new technology passed it by. The problem was major components (like the frame) were rusting irreparably; wires were shorting out; dashboard controls were no longer working; steering was getting enormously sloppy, etc

    3) New technology causing a paradigm shift. Some very new things can make 25-year old things obsolete, literally. For example, what would happen if the USA decides to use all petroleum to make polymers, and fuel all cars with liquid hydrogen? What happens if gasoline is just no longer available?

    SOLUTION: It could be that everyone leasing a car for 5 years, and turning it in to get completely recycled, and then leasing another at the same cost + inflation, may be the way to go. In Germany, BMW is experimenting with “terminal” cars: those that are intentionally made to need no attention for xx years; and then are competed harvested and their materials used to produce another. This may not be emotionally satisfying for those of us who get attached to our favorite cars, but it may be the “wave” of the future. That way, a constant lease payment becomes built into your life, like a utilities bill or health insurance premium; and all three issues above are taken care of.

    ————

  • avatar
    mkirk

    I see some potential drawbacks here. I drive an 80 series Land Cruiser, a vehicle that is by all accounts designed to last indefinitely.

    There are tradeoffs. First off, yes, it is heavy but it is a BOF SUV so I’ll assume similar build tactics could be applied to a lighter vehicle without the incredibly poor MPG. So I’ll call that a wash.

    Next, the maintainance. A Camry is an appliance and I do not think the owners of such vehicles would go for the Land Cruisers maintainence schedule. There are no “lube for life” parts on the truck. You get under it with a grease gun every oil change. Then there is the front end. You rebuild the Birfield Joints and replace the axle seals every 60k miles. You monitor the condition of the trans fluid. If I remember there is a spec calling for the cylinders to be honed every 400k Kilometers or something. I don’t see the typical Camry owner responding well to that maintainence schedule.

    And that is the thing. A good car (take an early 90′s Camry) is still not a lifetime vehicle (Old School 911s, Land Cruisers up to 97, Postal LLVs). Lifetime vehicles require a good bit more intervention from there owners (or fleet managers) than the typical mainsrtream sedan owner is willing to give.

    The only benefit for the manufacturers I can see is that a chunk of people will buy the “lifetime version” and then still unload it in a few years. Like the guy who gets the all you can eat buffet and makes 1 trip.

  • avatar
    Andy D

    Here I go again. To a motley bunch of enthusiasts, the BMW E 28 is that car. Sold ’82 – 88, it is considered slow by modern standards. But the cars are simple enough to be maintained by a DIY-er. I know of a 535i with over 500k miles on it being DD’ed 120 miles a day. I ran my first 528e for 12 yrs with near perfect reliability. It may not have run perfectly, but it ran well enough not to require a tow or ” professional” help. I know of another 1 owner 83 528e in daily use. It has been maintained and upgraded on the way. My current stable is 2 ’88 528es. Mechanically, they are fine. But rust is a concern here in MA. I am not hearing good reports about the reliability of later model BMWs. Too much plastic used in the cooling system.

  • avatar
    OldWingGuy

    As many have pointed out, lasting forever is not too realistic, if only for the technology improvments (remote car starters, air bags, etc).
    However, I do believe that cars could be made to last longer with a few, relatively low cost improvements. For instance:
    - bypass engine oil filters (to sub-10 micron) and thermostatically controlled engine oil cooler
    - engine and xmission oil level indication (’cause many are too lazy to check oil)
    - some filtration of coolant system
    - improved electrical connectors (I bet that new Curiosity Mars probe has some pretty reliable connectors. Thats a long service call.)
    - and damn it, make routine mtce reasonable. Tried to access the battery in a late model vehicle ? Good grief !

    A 20 year lifespan should be reasonable (my ’93 Camry, 220k miles) still has life in it).

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      Ford did engine oil level indicators as far back as the 80′s. Accessibility varies between brands and models greatly, none of my modern cars have batteries that are harder to access than on my oldest vehicles, but then again I don’t own Chryslers, modern GMs or BMWs. Batteries though are less of a concern to me than things like oil filters and drain plugs, since typically you need to change the oil more frequently than a battery.

  • avatar
    probert

    Modern cars are incredibly durable relative to cars from a couple of decades ago. The advances in manufacturing and materials is simply remarkable.

    TO those soldiering on in old Mercedes diesels _ I salute you but I wouldn’t want to be you.

    To those maundering about “hand made quality” I’m sorry – it’s an oxymoron. Unless a handstitched dashboard somehow makes a car run longer.

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    Toyotas and Hondas from the mid 90′s would fill the bill if they came with heavy duty components like the Panther police cars had, suspension, tranny, cooling system, extra durable interior materials.

  • avatar
    FJ60LandCruiser

    You can make a car last forever. Over-engineer the hell out of the drivetrain and cut down the electronic and moving parts.

    This was the winning formula for Land Cruisers for over 40 years, and still is with the 70 series in Australia.

    Fuel economy suffers, and people will want creature comforts like LCD panels, pushbutton starters, and other garbage.

  • avatar
    kvndoom

    I’d just be happy with 5/100 bumper to bumper on all new cars. At least have the dang thing covered until it’s paid off. 36,000 miles B2B is a joke.

  • avatar
    Lightspeed

    Toyota already did, it’s called the LS400.

  • avatar
    iainthornton

    This relies on a 20 year old wanting to keep his car until he shuffles off the mortal coil at 80+ years old. It seems to be a narrow market.

    Either way, GM offer a lifetime (albeit 100,000 mile cap) on Vauxhall. I think they did on Opel but discontinued the offer quickly. I can only assume it’s because they particularly value the UK market out of all EU markets, which would make sense as they’re biggest here.

  • avatar
    Hank

    I have several people I know in mind that would jump at the idea, all Camry/Civic owners. But overall, I think it would be like the Volt or the Leaf, in that there are plenty of non-enthusiasts who would love the idea, but he initial cost (and probably a healthy dose of skepticism) would have those “likely buyers” vanish with the morning dew.

    The other problem, I don’t see people who toss perfectly functional iPhones, laptops, and tvs aside every time the latest iOS or Android Ding-Dong comes out are going to be self-controlled or patient enough to hold on that long.

    But what do I know? My dependable daily driver is a 24 year old “Imported from Detroit” V8.


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