Hi Dooley1. Welcome to the forum. If you look back at least 20 years ago, one of the characteristics manufacturers were noted for was ease of serviceability. Chrysler products in particular were designed with an eye toward future repairs, and parts interchanged between many different models. The exact opposite was true for GM cars. Nothing interchanged and service was often expected to involve major unit replacement rather than repair. Ford was somewhere in between.
The advantage to GM's planning is they made a lot of money on replacement parts after the cars were out of warranty. Today, when their cars are only a few years old, owners are still tied to the dealership and repairs are still very expensive. Given enough time, smart people in the aftermarket world came up with solutions to these expensive repairs, otherwise, who would continue to pay $800.00 repair bills every six months on a ten-year-old car? Sealed distributors, sealed generators, (with an extremely high failure rate), computers that have to periodically have software reloaded, radios that can't be replaced because they have the Body Computer built in, are all tricks used to separate owners from their money after the initial sale. These are all things pioneered mostly by GM, but whatever they do, other manufacturers copy a few years later.
Since the late 1980s the focus has been on how fast the cars can move down the assembly line. The manufacture of large assemblies such as the heater box is often performed by suppliers that contract with the car companies to provide the part at a specific price. If you look in the Auto News, a newspaper for anyone involved in the auto industry, there will be at least one article per month about a manufacturer squeezing a supplier to cut costs. Saving a nickel on a 20 dollar signal switch is a huge deal by the time they buy a million switches. All the manufacturer cares about is the part fits and works. Little thought is given to getting to it in the future.
Examples include front bumper covers, radiator, air conditioning condenser, and head lights that arrive on a railroad car as an assembly. Someone with a forklift drags it in just as the car is coming down the assembly line. Someone forgot to mention that headlight bulbs burn out and have to be replaced. As a result, it takes two people 1.2 hours to remove the bumper to get to the headlight housings to replace the bulbs.
Instead of using simple, reliable cables and levers to operate the heater controls, we now have computers and motorized actuators because people buy one car over another based on she can be two degrees warmer on that side the he is on this side. That's terribly important in a machine designed to move people from one point to another, but to achieve that requires adding a lot of complicated controls and actuators. In many cases, that requires discharging the air conditioning system, removing the steering column, and removing the dash assembly to remove the heater box to get to the high-failure rate actuator. That heater box could have been redesigned for easier service but it likely would have cost more to produce.
People have learned to accept these high cost repair bills as normal, and the systems are so unnecessarily complicated, most people can't perform their own repairs. Even changing oil requires special training. Some engines will not start if the wrong oil is used.
So, sorry to sound so negative, but many of us have watched the industry turn against the people they market their products to. It's why I still drive a 1988 model and have no desire to own anything newer. Most people don't have the luxury of repairing their own cars with used parts or the facilities and time to do so. We understand that. It's why they must buy newer cars and pay other people to repair them. What really "frosts our onions" is when we hear stories such as yours when it comes to repairs. I would stop short of saying the manufacturer doesn't care. After all, part of their sales is built on reputation. It's just frustrating to hear things like replacing a simple sensor will require disassembling half of the car to get to it.
Tuesday, April 27th, 2010 AT 12:55 PM