Wednesday, December 10, 2008

What if Steve Jobs ran Chrysler?

This question misses the point.

Cars are not computers.

People select computers based on almost purely functional parameters.

Most Americans buy vehicles to get laid.

Just look at any car ad.

Cars and trucks are sold to Americans based on sex, prestige, lack of sex, lack of prestige, power, lack of power and sheer boredom.

Cars and trucks are sold to Americans based on Americans' neuroses over what other people think their car or truck says about them.

Cars and trucks are sold and marketed as personal status symbols first, with function a distant second.

Detroit has spent the last 25 years trying to convince Americans that buying a small car means they hate their children (who will surely die) and that the only safe and sane vehicle is a Sherman Tank.

I think the buy-it-new and trade-it-in every four years mentality has crippled innovation by American car makers. The Big 3 market their cars as ephemeral things. They assume customers will trade them in their new cars after 3-4 years. Detroit's entire business model is based on this assumption. New Car Smell is not a good engineering recipe.

Under this model, it is actually counterproductive to invest resources in making a car that reliably lasts 10-15 years or more. It is much more productive to roll out new models every year with little cosmetic bells and whistles that have no bearing on performance, longevity or economy. Product features like massive horsepower and acceleration (0-60 mph in 7 seconds) are meaningless.

Nobody needs to go from 0-60 mph in 7 seconds unless they are in a James Dean movie or a Jan and Dean song. Despite all the computer crap in cars today, they do not run better than a 1973 Chevy Nova, have little improvement in gas mileage, and are exponentially more expensive to fix.

I look at cars over the last two decades and see engineering and design resources going into the most superficial and meaningless areas and diverted away from deserving areas.

The Big 3 had to be forced to install air bags and had to be exposed by NBC News for knowingly selling a car (the Pinto) that turned into a firebomb when hit from behind.

And they have the nerve to tell us that we should pay $50,000 for a 6 ton SUV or we don't care about our kids.


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