"It's to prevent theft and transferring a modules/radios from one car to another."
How exactly does that benefit the owner who can't buy a used computer from the salvage yard? The new computer has to come through the dealer and be programmed by them. Unfortunately, whatever nonsense GM dreams up, everyone else copies a few years later. That's why I am not a fan of ANY car company today.
GM allows independent repair shops to program only three of their up to 47 computers over the internet because they have an effect on emissions so the government mandates they be allowed to do that. And they're more than happy to charge for that ability. Why won't they allow anyone other than the dealer to work on the other computers? Because they're greedy and they know they have a captive audience when those high-failure computers cause problems. That way they can charge as much as the market can bear without fear of competition. The problem is too many people are getting burned by these high-cost repairs. Brand loyalty is almost non-existent, and once you're handed two or three $700.00 repair bills, too many people figure out it's time to shop somewhere else. It's no secret GM shot themselves in the foot by squeezing the short-term profits out of their unsuspecting owners at the expense of repeat buyers in the future. Well-managed companies always look to the future. General Motors management looks to "right now". "Cash-for-clunkers" laws, sales, and rebates all get products into the hands of consumers at lower profits right now, and take those potentially future customers out of the market for many years. Sure the factories are busy now, but wait and see what a huge backlog of unsold cars they have two years from now.
Chrysler, (which I USED to love), and Toyota allow any independent repair shop access to their web site for a relatively low annual fee, and any shop can flash any computer except the Security System for 40 bucks. Hyundai allows total access to everything on their web site to anyone, ... For free! Which manufacturer do you think has the customer's best interest in mind?
I'm less impressed with the NEED to reprogram computers. These are Rube Goldberg systems. Remember the board game "Mousetrap"? That was a ridiculously complicated machine built to perform a simple task. My '88 Grand Caravan has power windows, power locks, power mirrors, power seat, delayed wipers front and rear, air conditioning, power steering, automatic transmission, and three-zone interior lights. Not one of those systems needs a computer to do its thing. ALL of those systems are controlled by computers now on newer cars. The only computer in my van is the very reliable and effective Engine Computer. It has never skipped a beat in its 23 year life, but if it ever does cause a problem, I can just pop a very inexpensive used one in and be on my way. Why would the engineers design a computer to do a simple task when a switch would do? Look through these forums and see how many problems are related to these computers. Ford involves two computers in blowing the horn, and the typical repair bill for a dead horn is $800.00. GM builds their Body Computer into the high-failure radio so you can't easily replace it with an aftermarket model. You must get it repaired through their grossly over-priced repair centers. Short-term profits again from a customer who has no choice but to pay through the nose for the repair, (at the dealership), or buy a different car. It's the equivalent of legalized extortion. By designing in these unnecessary computers, then eliminating access to them, the customer IS forced to go back to the dealership. The manufacturers have eliminated competition in the repair end of the business. If the customer buys a car with the knowledge he's going to have big repair bills and be tied to the dealer for as long as he owns it, that's fine, ... As long as he's an informed consumer. Isn't it funny though that the government doesn't fall all over themselves whining about anti-trust law violations when the competition is locked out. Whatever happened to those "right to repair" bills in Congress?
As I told my students, "you're welcome to like any brand of car you want to, just don't tell me your brand is better than my brand unless you can tell me WHY yours is better. Well, I just gave you my short list of why I have nothing but contempt for GM, and my opinion of every other manufacturer isn't much better. In fact, I just spent the last half hour trying to think of something positive to say, and I've concluded I'm going to stick with my old rusty trusty '88 model. NO manufacturer has earned the right to sell me a new car. And no manufacturer is currently building a simple, reliable, easy-to-diagnose and repair car that I'd want to own. If anyone likes all the toys and gimmicks on today's cars that sway peoples' buying decisions, more power to you. The world has presented you with hundreds of choices. But for the many of us who want basic transportation to get the job done so we can get back home, we have no options but to keep the old stuff going.
Now, I'm probably prejudice because I am a mechanic and I'm accustomed to repairing my own cars. I don't want a product I can't repair myself at home. The average car owner has to run to a repair shop for EVERY repair or problem so what difference does it make to them whether it's a defective computer or a corroded wire? If a person can afford a new car, they can probably afford the repairs too. But I deal a lot with young adult students and single parents who are just getting by. They don't drive new cars with warranties. They drive 10 - 15-year-old cars. What will they be driving in a few years? Cars that don't start because of a malfunctioning anti-theft system. Heaters that don't work because of a malfunctioning HVAC Computer. Dead wipers because of a problem with the notoriously problematic Body Computer, (are you listening Chrysler)? Head lights and tail lights that don't work because of a computer malfunction. These aren't toys that can be ignored. These are needed systems that must be repaired. What other expense is going to be skipped so they can have their car repaired? And how do you repair a car when new parts are no longer available? You head to the salvage yards. Oh, wait. If the manufacturers have the computers locked up so at the very least a used one must be programmed by the dealer, are they still going to drag out the dusty equipment and do that at a reasonable cost? They have an interest in selling a different car so of course they're going to charge as much as possible to install that used computer, ... If it can even be done.
How long will the manufacturers support the older cars on their web sites? Ford is well-known to not even be able to supply new parts for three-year-old cars. Meanwhile, I'll still be getting around in comfort in my old van that will never require a trip to the dealer, but apparently other people have the same idea. There are two used car dealers in my area that specialize in older southern cars. They're doing a dandy business in selling late '80s and early '90s cars and trucks. The largest salvage yard in my county has switched from crushing anything over ten years old to a "pick-your-own-parts" yard with many cars and trucks from the '80s on up. I'm also 50 miles from the nation's second largest old car show and swap meet. Every year 99 percent of the people I talk with are frustrated with the new car choices. They have money to spend but nothing they want to spend it on. And the management at the manufacturers can't figure out why they can't sell more cars. They're about as bright as politicians!
Monday, September 5th, 2011 AT 8:17 PM