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Auto industry caught in the electronics trap

Smart scores poorly in German survey

Gelsenkirchen, Germany. Electronics problems are the main reason cars break down, according to a survey by ADAC, Germany's largest automobile club.

More than 243,000 cars between three and five years old broke down due to technical problems in Germany last year. More than half of these breakdowns - 57 percent - were due to faults within the cars' electronics.

The failure rate was generally lower with one- to two-year-old cars, but the share of electronics problems was still the same.

The analysis of the breakdown statistics was done by the Center of Automotive Research (CAR) at the University of Applied Sciences Gelsenkirchen.

According to the survey, more than 70 percent of the breakdowns of Smart models up to 5 years old were due to defects within the electronic systems.

Even Japanese manufacturers such as Toyota and Mazda, which are usually highly reliable, proved to have a number of problems with electronics, the survey show.

Only in Volvo cars was the number of electrical and mechanical faults more or less equal.

CAR Director Ferdinand Dudenhoeffer blames the electronics problems on the increasing complexity of systems used in cars and the growing number of systems in the car that consumed power.

In 1990 the average automobile consumed approximately 1,200 watts. This amount has more than doubled. Many vehicles are nearing the limit that their electronic systems can handle.

Dudenhoeffer does not expect automakers to have the electronic problems under control before 2008. He says breakdown figures will continue to rise and forecasts that this year an average of 60 percent of all breakdowns will be due to faults within cars' electronics systems.

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