It's sad that a lot of Americans nowadays take no pride in the past, when times were so much better. Cars today aren't built to last; it's just not profitable that way. Cars from the 1970s are still around today; a testament to their superior engineering and simplistic, yet ingenious designs. This is the problem with the 21st Century, and is the sole reason why it sucks: greed. Corporations today only think in terms of profit and "progress", and have more power than in any previous time in history. Excessive commercialization of everything by corporations will render just about anything into a bland, soulless heap of junk.
The auto industry of today only thinks about increased profits and nothing else. They're not out to make good cars anymore, they only want more money. All the cars today look the same because it's easier and cheaper to make them like that. It doesn't matter if the car maker is foreign or domestic; money is king for all of them. They spend billions every year to spread good words about their new cars being top dog. That's where all this "newer is better" crap is coming from everybody nowadays.
The auto industry of today will do anything to increase sales of their "cars". You saw that with the stupid "Cash for Clunkers" program initiated by the Federal Government and initially thought up by automotive industry lobbyists. With every new generation of a model, the cars get cheaper and blander. The bottom line: cars today are made solely for profit, nothing else. Cars back then were largely made for the same purpose (it is a business after all), but it was more competitive. Today, I suspect all of the auto makers are buddy-buddy behind closed doors, like most big corporations today.
First of all, were things really "better" in the past? That's a highly subjective question, because not everyone would agree.
Secondly, the assumption that modern cars are more or less disposable, isn't based in reality. There are so many easy to identify advantages today's cars have over cars made 40 years ago, that it's not even funny. For starters, if you lived in one of the snow belt states, you'd be very lucky if your car didn't start showing rust coming through the fender wells within 5-6 years. Corrosion was a major issue, because back then there were less rust-preventive components on those cars. For example, today's cars have a protective plastic shell within the wheel wells that prevents rocks and debris from damaging the underside, and hence inviting rust to take hold.
Also - perhaps those generically claiming those old cars were better, might be surprised to know that if you compare a medium sized family sedan from the 70's to a modern car, that the modern car would easily outweigh the older car. Why? Because the modern car has more frame and structural reinforcement, and other forms of safety. The fact of the matter is that a modern car's frame is going to be more rigid and better able to withstand not only everyday driving, but accidents as well. My '55 Merc basically has a general ladder frame with the body bolted on in pieces. If I were to get in a wreck (I drive this thing SLOWLY due to this) chances are the body would simply disintegrate on impact. There's NO inner safety cage period. It is - like most cars of that era - a steel box on wheels.
And again - I see PLENTY of 80's and early 90's cars being driven on the road as everyday drivers. Modern cars will last every bit as long and longer.
Anyway, not sure why this is even a debate. The facts are so easily clear here.
Yes, to compare cars to the evolution of computers is invalid and a completely bad comparison, as the automobile hasn't changed all that much in the last 100 years, vs computers which have, greatly.
The car still uses a combustible engine. The only main thing that has changed, is that engineers from all these auto makers found ways to increase power output and make them run cleaner and more efficient than ever before. Very small 4 cylinder engines, have benefited from this mainly by using better turbo chargers (which have been around since the 40's BTW), direct injection, and better computer processors that allow the engine to not only perform at a high level, but also achieve better fuel economy compared to older engines.
50-60 years ago, before the government got involved in the automotive industry, we saw the biggest, boldest, heaviest cars ever to be mass produced in this country, using thick heavy duty steel. Gas was cheap, so engines were huge and put out loads of power. All that mass was used to protect the occupants for safety reasons. Well as time went on, and gas prices rose, people wanted smaller, more fuel efficient cars. The government mandating strict safety requirements, which frankly destroyed the big 3 for a very long time, since they failed to adapt to the new laws and regulations.
Flash forward today, and what we have are lighter, more fuel efficient, crash absorbing cars. But does that make them necessarily better than cars from the 50's-70's? No it does not in my mind. Since we no longer buy a true full size 6 passenger V8 powered car, a car that is soft riding, and very comfortable like the old boats of the past, a car with real styling that stood out and made people stop and stare while driving. This doesn't happen anymore, nor do we have soft riding cars that are as comfortable as the Cadillac's and Lincolns from back in days.
Maybe we wouldn't be having this discussion if only Cadillac and Lincoln still produced a car in their lineups that was truly as good as what they used to build. But they don't, and this is why we criticize them both for that exact reason. It's fine to make a sporty coupe or sedan, but there's consumers out there that still want that big brash, in yo face, land yacht that impresses others, and make them want to own what you are driving, regardless of how bad the car does on gas. The Chrysler 300 is a perfect example of this, and although it's nowhere as big as the older 70's 'Lacs and Linc's, it has bold styling, and its very muscled build and stance looks great, which makes up for its lack of length.
I hear from people, especially older ones that have owned numerous of cars from the past, and a majority of them would have a favorite they still miss to this day. A few older neighbors of mine would say that the older cars had so much more character and style to them, compared to the new stuff. I spoke to older man in his 70's that bought a 1960 T-Bird that he loved to death; he said that was his favorite car of all time, and he wished he had never sold it. But he now drives a 2005 Camry for economical reasons and tells me "Sure it's boring as all hell, but it gets the job done and it has modern equipment that keeps me happy". He admitted that he would have kept his T-bird if gas was still $1.00 a gallon, since it sucked down gas like a drunk person downing a 12 pack of beer.
We buy new things for various reasons, but the main reason why is because when everything else is improving around us, we feel like we have to own the latest and greatest thing to become current in society to make us happy. Some of it also great marketing by auto makers that know how to make that sales pitch to consumers, really thinking that that 5 year old car is outdated and no good anymore. Added features is another reason, but no matter how much added crap auto manufacturers try to stuff in their cars, it doesn't mean it's a better riding, driving, quality car.
Usually what has happened throughout history is an auto maker will build 3 or 4 years of a certain model that is well constructed, long lasting car function wise, and is basically a "great" "perfect" car in a sense by many people. Then suddenly what happens?? Well the following year, the auto maker decides to drastically change the old model that made it great and was well received by the public. Cost cutting goes into effect, the company redesigns it, styling is different, the interior is all new and "supposedly improved", which is false by the noticeable cheaper feeling interior materials, a downsized engine is introduced, making less power, everything just feels different about the car. The new model is released, and is not well liked by consumers, but the car is pushed heavily through the marketing department, trying to force people to mentally accept the car for what it is, and that the new model is truly "better" than the old one.
This goes on all around us. I am not saying every new product we buy is worse than the old one, since cars apply a little differently than say a washer machine, or certain appliances.
Some of the older stereo audio receivers from the 70's for instance, used much more powerful amps, and sound a whole better than many new A/V receivers on the market today.
But would I buy a 30 year old TV? Heck no, so this is why cars are an exception since the "old is better" mentality isn't necessarily true of all things. Some things do apply to this, 50's-60's refrigerators, old 60's-70's blenders lasted a long long time, old 70's-80's microwaves were big and strong, and seem to run forever.
The point is, not one new everyday driven modern car on the road today truly impresses, and really makes you stop what you're doing and say "wow, now that is a beautiful amazing looking ride". They are all just "Nice" enough where it gets the job done and nothing more.. I will say that the new Challenger, and obviously the 300 are the only 2 cars that I see that are really an eye catcher. But that's it... from the hundreds of new vehicles made each and every year, it's very sad to say the least. The classics are far more impressive to look at, and I am sure a majority of people would agree.