I can remember a time when cars either worked or they didn’t. A time when a rough sounding engine could be cured with a screwdriver and a squirt of Redex. Not so long back the joy of owning a car was a physical and emotional experience both in front of the wheel and underneath the bonnet. Sadly though, this last great bastion of bravado has gradually been eroded away from even the most hardcore of petrol-head. Our modern day cars are an impure combination of technological marvel and black box wonderment. Offering us all the things we have ever needed in a car – comfort, relaxation, performance, economy and safety. Regrettably it would seem, such leaps of progress are not without compromise – quality.
Let’s not be fooled about this though we do have a much higher quality in today’s cars – however, the need to cut costs and increase production inevitably leads to product recalls and poor assembly. Not so long ago, when things went wrong, it was sorted out by a roll of insulation tape and some WD40. Nowadays we have much more in the way of electronics, computers and electrical wizardry under the bonnet – no more carburettors or exposed engine blocks. Today we have moulded plastic engine covers and wiring harnesses that would stretch to the moon and back. It’s little wonder that Mechanics are now called Technicians, receptionists are called Customer Service Representatives and Salespeople are called Client Liaison Advisors. You don’t get called ‘mate’ anymore, you don’t get a mug of tea with an oil stain on it and you don’t get the opportunity to do ‘deals’ if you get your friends’ car in at the same time. The sterility of modern life is suffocating.
Reasons for my reminiscent look back at how it used to be? I have a loud clicking noise coming from the drivers’ side of my car which is painfully irritating. Soon it will have been in for the third time with the main dealer to sort the problem out. It’s a humble Honda Civic for goodness sake too – I mean, Honda – renowned for their build quality…They have read their bulletins, been through their databases and consulted with senior technicians but still have no idea what is going on. I had suggested that maybe they remove the door panel as I reckon it’s coming from inside that area but alas I am not a ‘technician’ so I have no idea what I am talking about, despite driving the damn thing every day.
If they all stopped for a moment and actually did what a mechanic would do I think we would sort the problem out. Listen to the customer people, we are right. We don’t need you to consult your iPad, we don’t need you to search your Knowledge Base for an answer, we need you to be hands on, take things apart and put things back together again like how it used to be. I suspect my problem is caused by something with a loose fixing – a problem I doubt will ever be resolved by relying on technology. Sometimes we forget what made us human, what makes us better than a machine and what allows us to offer solutions and think outside the box. I fear for our future in an environment of rules and control. I miss the times I could fix my own car without invalidating my warranty. Maybe that’s why us petrol-heads tinker with things we can fix instead of those we can’t?
In the meantime I shall book my car in again for the same fault, let the ‘technicians’ look through their databases for a solution and in the meantime I will be seriously considering buying my next car from a classic car auction because then at least I will be able to fix it when it goes wrong instead of going through the inconvenience and frustration of going backwards and forwards to a main dealer who doesn’t have a clue what to do about it anyway.