20th Aug 2018, 14:50

I agree: a long-life body panel does not match with the poor duration of many other components. Probably only in the last few years have car makers learned to balance in a better way all the car's characteristics: I believe that in the past rust was a real problem for the countries where the motorization was largely developed, being most of them in the North America and North Europe. Japanese cars were able to diffuse largely in Europe and USA only when they were able to preserve by rust as an American or European car, not before; at the same time, Italian cars lost a huge amount of their market shares when it arrived too late in the run to protect the body (Italian car makers sold 60-70% of their volumes in Italy, where the weather is quite warm in winter, therefore they gave no importance to this issue).

The reaction was a race to gain the larger and larger body protection warranty: in the late Seventies, some car makers offered 6 years of warranty against rust, then 10 years, then for life. This was attained by high protection surface treatment steels, which today are the most common used; basically their cost increase in comparison to a not protected steel is now negligible.

On the contrary, electronics integration reduced the cost by several times, unfortunately what is going to be largely increased is the experimental cost, necessary to preserve the model from any malfunction due to the interaction of all these added components: just this morning a colleague of mine was claiming for the engine light on in his car during a trip which set the engine to run in a protection program, giving him so poor power that he was obliged to run at 80-90 kph max, reducing to only 40-50 km/h when the motorway lane started to climb, of course a dangerous situation on the motorway. The workshop sentence was easy: the battery was low (even if with no element failed, only a poor voltage). Probably the management program is not so sophisticated to select between root causes (otherwise the correct alert should be - once turn on the engine key - the low battery output), because the main program target was to preserve pollution ... that's really an unbelievable situation, considering that few years after (my colleague's car is 2011) some car makers applied more sophisticated programs to outflank the emissions, generating the well known recalls and billionaire fines to those car makers.