. . . or Merely Convenient?
Many new cars
are optimized for ethanol flex-fuel compatible
is how its usually described. The problem, of course, is that
a majority of cars in service are not optimized for ethanol; many
are not even compatible with it.
intended or not of the ever-increasing concentration
of ethanol in gas is to accelerate the retirement
of older cars. This can be considered from a number of points of
view. First, theres the economic interests of the car companies;
they need to sell new cars at a certain rate in order to remain
profitable. The problem (for them) is that for more than
20 years now, the useful life of a new car has been increasing to
the point that its common to find cars more than 10 or 12
years old in service as daily-drivers. In fact, the average car
on the road is now more than eight years old. Rather than buy a
new car every six years or so which was typical in the 70s
people now routinely hang onto their cars for twice as long.
That means if you factor it out over a lifetime that
the average person buys just two or three new cars vs. four or five.
from the standpoint of the car companies is that a
large and growing number of people arent buying new cars at
all. Because lightly used late-model cars with three or four years
(and 30,000 or 40,000 miles) on them still typically have more useful
life left in them than a brand-new car had back in the 1970s. By
purchasing a used car, one saves a tremendous amount in up
front costs and suffers very little in the way of down-the-road
costs. Or at least, not enough to obviate the huge up-front savings.
This has become fairly common knowledge. As a result , new car buying
has become less common and less frequent. From a purely business
point-of-view, this is not good news for the car industry, especially
in a saturated/mature market without the potential for exponential
growth that existed forty or fifty years ago.ethanol 2
it conspiracy theorizing if you like. The fact remains that ethanol
is helpful to the car industry because it helps get rid of
older cars, thereby creating demand for new ones. This may be a
merely coincidental confluence of economic interests and political
interference in the economy (i.e., the governments pushing
of ethanol). But the fact remains that the dosing of gas
with ethanol in ever-increasing amounts does serve
the economic interests of the automakers.
That sort of
thing what was called derisively planned obsolescence
back in the 60s has probably always been at least a
background consideration for large-scale consumer goods producers
such as car companies. There is no question, for example, that the
automakers perform durability studies to determine exactly how long
a given component can be expected to work before it fails or requires
repair if only purposes of warranty coverage.
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