Today has been busy. I was driving through town and the car, a Renault Safrane, started to shimmy violently at any speed over 25mph. At first I thought that a wheel had come loose – since I had had a tyre replaced recently…
I got out (in the busiest part of town naturally) and all wheels were present and correct and not leaning at a silly angle. Started to move off again gently – and lo and behold – at any speed over 25mph the Safrane thought she was starring in a Megane Advert…
Having gently limped to the nearest garage, East Hill Garage, I had a good look at the underside of the car. The problem was fairly easy to spot. It was the bit where the drivers side rear track rod had snapped and was connected to precisely nothing. Needless to say this is somewhat of a problem. Its only lucky that it didn’t break on me at high speed.
After an extended attempt to look for the track rod end that had snapped we had no joy. After about half an hour of looking on the various spares systems and checking round suppliers, we had even less. Finally we accepted the possibility known and feared by all Renault owners. All together now… “it’s a Renault only part”.
When you hear that dreaded phrase it translates to “think of a price that you would just about be willing to pay, add £100 and then add VAT on top, with some sprinkles for taste”…
But strangely – even the Renault Main Dealer couldn’t find any information about it.
A few minutes later the Dealer called back to tell us that the part I need (a large, 2ft long, metal pole with bolt fittings at each end) was a “retired part”. It means that not only are Renault not making them any more – they’ve entirely run out of stock – for a part that is about 30% by mass of the rear suspension system.
On a car thats 15 years old this part is entirely unavailable bar the odd person who might have them and sell them on eBay.
How many cars like the Rover 75 and others of a similar age, that would have made wonderful classics are going to die before their time? How many people who have cared for and looked after their cars are going to have to junk them if they are unlucky and happen to need a part thats been ‘retired’ and is now Unobtainium.
We are driving straight into a world where cars are like mobile phones. We will be forced to buy a new car or replace with a newer one, just because of the manufacturers greed.
Many people will say thats not a problem, we can get the part re-manufactured. For the moment we can, but I know from experience that the small engineering shops are falling like dominos because they are unable to get the business. By the time we need them (for cars like the Safrane, 75 and the like…) they’ll have disappeared.
I’m writing this because I know a lot of the people who read ARO are, sooner or later, going to be in a similar position to me.
Its ironic that in a time we are discussing the merits of hybrids and fuel cell cars, we are wasting energy hand over fist because of corporate greed and customer inactivity. For too long we have accepted engineered failure. Every vehicle, of any type, taken off the road, means more energy wasted to make another.
Are we going to accept this to a point where our cars will last three years and then disintegrate?
Are we happy to allow companies to “retire” essential parts to force cars off the road, even when they are perfectly fit for use?
I’m not, and may I suggest that we do something about it!
It would be a poor lookout for the posterity of the worldwide car industry if there isnt a single example of any car built after 1990. It would be a worse lookout for the planet; since every part “retired” means a whole remaining production of a given car off the road and more energy & resources wasted building an needless replacement.