PH Blog: is Shed motoring doomed?


Yes, this blog contains a picture of my Mazda. Yes, it will contain a degree of 'answer to everything' propaganda, though not exclusively MX-5 related. Disclaimer out of the way, let me begin.

Even a bust horn required professional help
Even a bust horn required professional help
Our journey starts with the press release for the new E-Class I was going through in preparation for a news story last week. And though it's perhaps unfair to single out Mercedes for this - they're all at it - that ridiculous line about some sort of 3D stereoscopic camera using complex algorithms to evaluate road signs, traffic, pedestrians and all the other stuff you might expect the driver to be looking out for made me think this tech-fest thing has finally jumped the shark. Another premium maker I was seeing recently was talking about forthcoming next-gen headlights that seek out and identify wildlife in the undergrowth. I kid you not.

Mocking this, of course, dooms me to an unpleasant vehicle/unseen livestock interface in the near future but these are the kind of sacrifices we have to make.

Anyway, I was pondering this as I tried, and failed, to fix the horn on the Mazda ahead of its MoT. Now, I'm no god with a spanner. But I'd have hoped being able to fix such a simple electronic component was within even my meagre mechanical repertoire. Nope.

This, with some Renaultsport cast-offs?
This, with some Renaultsport cast-offs?
What hope the Shedman 10 or 20 years hence, then, trying to bodge his stereoscopic pedestrian detection system to scrape his E-Class bargain barge through some heightened MoT test? Will such a thing as Sheds still exist or will or will junkyards fill with mechanically sound cars knobbled by some failed relay or sensor? The Mazda has taught me a few basic spannering lessons over the years and it's felt suitably empowering. That an electric component as simple as a horn meant taking it to a man doesn't bode well for aging tech-laden cars.

Unless it's a Dacia of course. Chris's drive in the Duster and the perhaps unexpected PH enthusiasm for the Ronseal approach to motoring of this and its Sandero brother offer a glimmer of hope. We need to convince Dacia to make a hot hatch. A very Dacia type of hot hatch. Having successfully reinvented the basic French cars of parent Renault's past there could be something in this.

Now if Dacia could do something like this...
Now if Dacia could do something like this...
So let the high tech new Renaultsport Clio play the mainstream and let's have a three-door Sandero, or something like it that brings Dacia back-to-basics affordability to the hot hatch genre. Dig out some old Renaultsport chassis bits from the 172/182. Pare it back like my old 172 Cup, whose lack of weight and general gubbins meant it'd do 40mpg on a cruise and scare the living bejeezus out of you were you to lift-off mid bend. Keep it so simple future generations of cash-strapped PHers can run it with little more than a socket set, have-a-go enthusiasm and skinned knuckles. Hell, even go for the steel wheels and grey plastic bumpers schtick of the tuner-ready GT86 they sell in Japan.

As luck would have it I'm attending an industry dinner later. At my table some top brass from Dacia. Wish me luck...

Dan

 

 

Comments (107) Join the discussion on the forum

  • rogerhudson 27 Feb 2013

    Crafty_ said:
    Quite, and all they do is price out the little guy.
    I assume the car didn't have a starting handle (a what?).
    My classic rangie had a duff starter motor so I cranked it for 4 months (V8 has a knack to turning it over). I also wound it backwards in reverse once (like in the old war film).
    My 'looks like new' mk1 discovery (1998) has only one problem, it has a little box called he body computer that controls flashers, windows and door locks which goes crazy when damp, had to encase it in bathroom silicone.
    How reliable is a fifteen year old airbag?

  • rogerhudson 27 Feb 2013

    xRIEx said:
    Is that the case any more though? There are hundreds of posts on here about how John and Jane Non-Petrolhead think a car dies at 100K miles. Consumer electronics has an expected lifespan of 3 years, whether it's a TV, digital camera or a PC. Nowadays the vast majority of the market expect to have to replace their car (and various other products) on a regular basis.

    I'm not saying manufacturers build in obsolescence (I'm not a conspiracy theorist, just a cynic) but it sure does them a lot of favours.

  • jeremy996 14 Jan 2013

    havoc said:
    Ozzie Osmond said:
    havoc said:
    manufacturers appear to be maximising this by engineering components to last the warranty period
    Yet another of the PH myths.
    Not strictly.

    How do I know this - because I work for a Tier-1 and this is part of my job!
    As a non-motor trade worker, (I am an IFA, although I used to be financial controller of a extended motor warranty company), I don't have specifics but I have seen a trend for vehicles to be more reliable during the warranty period, (often 3+ years) and more of a pain shortly outside of it.

    When Ford took over Land Rover there was a step change in warranty claims, (from appalling to lousy), but they did change the spec of starter motors and alternators to ones that seem to fail between the 4 and 6 year point. Now the original owner would not be too fussed as a lot of vehicles would have been px'ed by then, but the second, third and fourth owners are bothered by weaker ancillaries.

    I want manufacturers to build a potentially immortal vehicle, but economically this would probably be commercial suicide. Selling people the same thing more than once is a easy way to a fortune, just ask Gillette. My rebuilt 110 with its galvanised chassis, dissimilar metals managed and bits sourced from the best of the aftermarket is my attempt to build a very long lasting vehicle.

  • havoc 14 Jan 2013

    Ozzie Osmond said:
    havoc said:
    manufacturers appear to be maximising this by engineering components to last the warranty period
    Yet another of the PH myths.
    Not strictly.

    Think about the supply chain - suppliers are targeted each year to reduce the cost of their components. Some ways are easy and don't hurt the consumer - slack in the system, more elegant engineering soluitions etc. But some ways DO - substitution of materials for cheaper alternatives, reduction of weight/specifications closer to required tolerances, removal of duplicate/excess fasteners, replacement of metal with plastic, etc.

    And this second category WILL lead to the MTBF (mean time between failures) to fall. The trick for everyone is making sure it doesn't happen in the period the part is warrantied for...after that no-one cares, and in fact the supply chain stand to MAKE money out of it as service parts are costed notably higher than series production parts.

    How do I know this - because I work for a Tier-1 and this is part of my job!

  • Ozzie Osmond 14 Jan 2013

    GBB said:
    The trick, as alluded to earlier is to buy something old enough that the main issues are known and fixes relatively well known/available.
    Yes, and it's important to get something which "sold well" in the new market which gives confidence of a continuing supply of parts at sensible prices, either new or from the scrapyard.

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