Vehicle life expectancy - who's the clever one?

Torbay Weekly

In the 1970s, most cars had at best a life expectancy of ten years.

What typically drove these cars to the scrapyard was rust and MOT failure.

The European motor industry is now the envy of the world and leads the way in automotive advancement, so we are to believe.

Manufacturers have upped their game in terms of rust proofing and the use of modern composites.

Furthermore, the efficiency of the modern car is improved. A 1960s VW Beetle scarcely did better than 26mpg and the Austin 1100 just 35mpg. Modern diesel cars routinely exceed 70mpg on a run.

Cars that are coming to the end of their life now are around 16 years old. The life expectancy, therefore, has increased by some 50 per cent.

Will this continue? It is not in the industry’s interest to make cars last forever!

Increasingly, it is not corrosion that causes the demise of cars but the failure to pass the annual emissions test.

The complexity of the ECU (electronic control unit) means that there is very little the servicing dealer can do but change expensive engine management systems.

This, of course, renders the older car unviable to repair.

It does not end there.

No longer does an experienced engineer work out what is wrong using common sense but now the car is plugged into the computer which produces fault codes.

Often it is the sensor that has failed and not the component it monitors.

If the starter motor or alternator failed in the past, the mechanics would remove it, dismantle it, fix it and pop it back in.

Nowadays, that is unheard of. It is impossible to even get into the component.

The unit is simply replaced at a cost of hundreds of pounds.

This wastage of material borders on the obscene. Who do you think pays for this?

Are we actually so smart after all?

Why are the taxis in Morocco and other North African countries all 40-year-old Mercedes and how come West Africa relies on the Peugeot 404 and 504 from the 1960s?

Because anyone can fix them.

European vehicle life expectancy is unlikely to exceed 20 years whereas in developing countries, it is double that already.

Who’s the clever one then?