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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883


Autos steadily improving

I have an opinion of today’s new automobiles:  It’s hard to buy a bad one.  Healthy competition, modern engineering and high manufacturing standards have influenced current car and truck offerings in a good way. 

Automobile manufacturers have now been working to improve their offerings for over 100 years.  Except for some lowlights by domestic automakers in the ‘70s and ‘80s, there has been a steady upswing in automobile quality, with a positive effect on performance, convenience and longevity.

American carmakers struggled with the sudden safety and emissions mandates of the mid-1970s.  The engines were big, but were power-deficient due to reduced compression ratios and an over-abundance of new-fangled emissions devices.

It took another decade to begin adopting fuel injection over carburetion, which greatly improved fuel management.  Some of the foreign makes were fairly efficient already in the ‘70s, and correspondingly adapted more easily to emission regulations.  They did not, however, adapt to the “5 mph bumper” requirement (meaning a vehicle can have a 5 mile-per-hour crash without damage) gracefully, causing some awkward styling cues for both foreign and domestic autos at that time.

Eventually, the “big bumpers” became artfully incorporated into vehicle styling, just as efficiency and long life became “engineered in” rather than “added on” to powerplants and other mechanical systems used in making cars and trucks.

Now, with computer-aided engineering, precision machining and advanced assembly procedures, the mechanical components of our new cars and trucks are amazing marvels of technology.

Part of the improvement is due to efforts of the original equipment suppliers to the auto manufacturers.  There are literally hundreds of these companies supplying the various parts needed to build any new vehicle offered for sale to the public. 

Automakers engineer and assemble their vehicles, but lighting, internal engine parts, transmissions, fuel delivery components, and just about everything else comes from companies focusing on a certain specialty.

These suppliers are also in competition, so to position themselves above others, they are constantly innovating to improve their products in an attempt gain the favor of automakers.  As a result, virtually every separate component keeps getting better.  Each vehicle is a sum of its parts, and since the parts are ever-improving, so are the vehicles.

For example, improved materials used in engine bearings lead to more power, longer life and better fuel mileage.  Automatic transmissions, built by “outside” suppliers, have gone from two-speeds to six, eight and even ten over the last few decades to greatly improve the drivability and efficiency of current model offerings.

This level of quality is backed with excellent manufacturer warranties too, averaging 3 years/36,000 miles bumper-to-bumper coverage with drive train and electronic backup lasting 5 years and 60,000 miles.

Some people have pointed to factory recalls as a sign of quality problems, but I believe that unprecedented scrutiny from agencies such as the National Highway Transportation Safety Association has been responsible for upping recall campaigns.  This actually benefits consumers, as automakers fear the NHTSA and strive to avoid costly (in dollars and image) recalls through improved product engineering.

So when someone asks me which car or truck I would recommend for purchase, I say, “Anything that you like.”  Whether it’s foreign or domestic, product quality is at an all-time high, so I believe you can buy any new vehicle that meets your personal tastes and needs with full confidence.

Readers may contact Bill Love via email at