Why Can’t We Build Heirloom Cars Again?

I’ve been thinking about this for a while.

Why can’t we have heirloom quality cars?

Cars with the same qualities as a Ghurka bag or Le Creuset cookware–things that are invested in specifically because they will last you a lifetime?

I know the reasons already. Cars are built much like motorcycle helmets are–all that engineering and technology is built into an advanced safety “egg” that’s a one-and-done proposition. Humpty Dumpty is usually totaled if your airbags go off now. I┬ácan’t find the link at the moment, but somewhere I read just how much more cars are declared a total loss now than they were even 10 or 20 years ago (a technological epoch in the automotive world).

If classic cars had airbags, sure they would have been safer. We also would probably have far fewer pre 70s era cars in existence as well.

I value human life more than a car (that’s not superfluous. That makes me different from other car people). It is amazing how much more safe, efficient, and powerfully cars have simultaneously become.

That has also made them more complicated. And more expensive to work on. Meaning–it’s less likely that we will be able to keep cars as long as we used to. If your electronics go out in a 10 year old car with adaptive cruise, adjustable suspension, and park assist–well, it will probably cost more to fix than it is worth.

The only cars that will survive this critical service point will be those with emotional or sentimental value. Most likely, they will be sports cars of some kind.

Yet, there are influences at work which seem to me to be exploiting this natural progression, to shoehorn people into buying more cars more often.

Statistics show now that people would prefer to keep their cars as long as they keep their phones–about two years, tops. And much of this is fueled from fear of outliving the warranty.

I cannot believe that selling over 89,000,000 cars globally each year is sustainable. And working in the auto industry, it’s hard for me to feel good about how I play into these big sales targets.

There is always a learning curve anytime values or expectations change. Every “gas crisis” has taught us that. I happen to believe it is for the best, to value the environment and human life to the immediate detriment of an enthusiast’s car. We will build new and better things, in new and better ways.

But added to this, there must be a recognition of the rising cost being shouldered by the sub 1%. Those who need a car, and who are must vulnerable to being exploited by others who hold the power to get them to work (or keep them from it) by how much they charge for a new car, or to fix a used car.

One solution to this perhaps points to the inevitability of the disappearance of the car itself in favor of public transit systems like trains and buses.

In lieu of this, though, could we not find ways to add other value systems into the way our cars are built?

Like, make a car more easily recoverable environmentally. Build it to where it is easier to fix, to replace parts, or to recycle those systems when the car has reached the end of its lifecycle.

This could also let people afford to maintain their cars longer, and so demand fewer cars in the first place. A good thing for our natural resources. It also becomes less of a barrier to financial stability to the working (soon to be sub) middle class.

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