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April 2014

"If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it…”


What’s up with car manufacturers? Other than their prices – that is… I may be “old school” – some might even venture the word “dinosaur” – but I have some serious issues with the South African car industry. And they, in turn, seem to have no small amount of issues all by themselves – without any help from me. I see the TV ads. for just about every flavour of car under the sun - just like everyone else. It behooves me then to ask… “Is it just me who thinks the prices are bonkers?” Or are there others out there who routinely shake their heads and yell at the TV “You want HOW MUCH for that thing???”


I see ads. for certain “zoom zoom” mobiles proudly rattling on about how I can get a bog-standard, basic 1300 car for “only” R170 grand. Or a bottom-of-the-range “you can have any colour you like, as long as it’s black” 1400 for a snip at R130-odd grand. And these are just entry-level tjorries! It gets worse… A nothing too special, mid range “everything keeps costing more” 1600 Corolla will lighten you pocket to the tune of nearly a cool ¼ million bucks. There are literally hundreds of examples just like these which will all, without fail, have the average motorist groping blindly for a stiff regmaker and swearing faithfully to buy extra bloudraad and duct tape to keep their current old banger going “just a bit longer”.


You ask me, I reckon all this alpha-numeric gobbledy-gook has fried everyone’s brains. I’m not that dof, I do know the basics – A/C, ABS, TDi, DOHC et al. But can someone tell me what the hoo  Blue Sky, ESP, Active Hybrid, Multijet Lounge, DTEC Executive and BlueTec Hybrid Elegance are all about? On second thoughts, I don’t want to know. These guys have simply become too smart for their own good – and (seemingly) if the latest car does not have at least a couple of extra acronyms that are as foreign as Swahili to the average car buyer, then it’s no good, is it? I mean, you can’t justify the outrageous prices if you don’t have a ton of bull***t to baffle buyer’s brains with, eh?


Not too long ago, there were a helluva lot less cars to choose from. And we didn’t die. There was enough choice. There were enough makes and models to ensure that everyone got pretty much what the needed (or wanted). They didn’t cost the earth and everyone knew what they were getting. No problem, right? Then car manufacturers discovered they’d shot themselves in the foot. They’d done their job TOO well. They’d made certain cars TOO good, they lasted TOO long and new car sales nose-dived. Not good. It’s all about profit dontcha know? A couple of classic examples to illustrate my point: (a) The little 1300 Toyota Tazz. The Tazzies were cheap, cheerful and reliable. Ran on the sniff of an oil rag and the average bloke could service it in his driveway on the weekend without having to have a Phd in advanced astrophysics and sell a kidney to pay for the spares. (b) The magic little 1400 Nissan bakkie. A real kannnie-dood that went forever. You could load it ‘til the springs bottomed out and fix it with a couple of spanners and a Phillips screwdriver. Fantastic. Who could ask for more? So what did the car boys do? The killed ‘em. Both of ‘em. Gone. And if you think I’m exaggerating the special place that these and other great little cars held in the hearts of South African motorists, try buying one on the second-hand market these days and see how far you get.


In the name of ever-increasing profits, the clever boys in the car game upped their ante and proceeded to convince millions of gullible motorists that they actually DIDN’T want a cheap car that lasted forever. No (they said) “Step this way and we’ll show you what you REALLY want!” No mention, of course, of the fact that the all-new, all-singing, all-dancing wagons cost ten times as much, only lasted for two years or so but (wow!) they came with (insert gibberish of the week)! And the poor shnooks fought each other to sign up for five years of payments (with blood-curdling interest rates). *sigh* I believe that is what is commonly referred to as “progress”. And, for my money, you can keep it.

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