If you listen to radio shows that help people with car problems, you often hear folks talk about cars with well over 100,000 miles or even 150,000 miles.
Today's cars and trucks don't wear out. Engines are put together with such precision that they run forever with proper maintenance, which usually means only oil and filter changes.
Even car bodies, once the embarrassment of Detroit, now last for decades without corrosion, more often victims of bangs and bruises than rust.
Tires and brakes seem to go on forever, although folks still replace them every 50,000 miles or so.
Today, the problems facing automobile manufacturers and dealers are overwhelmingly electrical. Don't look for any change in the near future. It's going to get worse as more electronic technology is integrated into automobiles.
It's as though the service department has gone from being a mechanical shop to being Circuit City.
Note that the high-end German carmakers, Mercedes-Benz and BMW, have decided that they don't need a 42-volt system for their automobiles.
The tripling of electrical power from today's standard would just add another level of complexity to already highly complicated vehicles. Mercedes eliminated hundreds of functions from its cars because
customers didn't know or care about them. But those functions increased the problems with the cars as they interacted with other functions.
Mercedes lost its reputation for perfection because of an onslaught of electrical gremlins. It is fixing the problems, but electronics has become the biggest problem for the entire industry, not just Mercedes-Benz.
Consumers want some functions, and vehicles often require increasingly complex systems. The more that happens, the more often the car shows up in the service department with an uncorrectable or even unidentifiable electrical malfunction.
The challenge is to do adequate testing while simplifying the vehicle in a world that wants more and more electronic technology.
As seductive technology becomes available to product planners, they are going to have to resist the temptation to put every electronic function in automobiles.
Giving up on 42-volt systems is a good beginning. But it's going to take real effort to prevent tomorrow's cars from becoming a nightmare for dealers.