OT: Talking Cars Tuesday: What's your biggest gripe among new cars?

Submitted by JFW on May 15th, 2018 at 12:05 PM

We live in an automotive platinum age. When I was a kid, 100K was ancient for a car. Now it's a medium sized milestone. You can practically close your eyes and pick from a list of auto manufacturers and come up with something that will be more reliable, powerful, and fuel efficient than something even 10 years ago, and definitely more than something 20 years ago. 

However, not everything is perfect, and, I like to whine. What's your biggest gripe about new cars? 

For me it's the death of simplicity. It really hit me when I drove an old fleet Ford Five Hundred a couple years back on a long trip. This car had acutal keys, an AM/FM/CD radio, manual HVAC controls, and manual lights. 

And I *loved* it. Something about the simplicity spoke to me, and actually made my driving less stressful and busy. It was a great road trip. My Miata is the same way. 

I admit, I may be getting old, and you can all get off my lawn. But still...

My '07 Commander has been acting wierd (trying to waterproof my driveway with oil, for example) and I've been looking online at new/used cars. It's damned hard to find a car that doesn't have automagic everything and a screen the size of a small tablet in the center stack, or $400 easily losable key fobs.

What, if any, are your gripes? 



May 15th, 2018 at 12:09 PM ^

My wife's car wouldn't start one day. Interior lights worked fine, but when turing the key? Nothing. I tried knocking the starter to no avail. We get it towed to the mechanic and it turns out the internal battery on the key had died. Nothing wrong with the car, but the key was $225 to replace. I gave her my spare and walked out down nothing but a couple hours.


May 17th, 2018 at 7:11 AM ^

I’ve had numerous vehicles with electronic fobs and have always been able to put a new battery in them. They die after few years and you pop in a CR2025 or CR2032 and your back in business. Good question to ask when you’re looking at a new ride.


May 15th, 2018 at 12:19 PM ^

This.  The complete abdication of interesting and visually appealing design, outside of exotics and some (but not most) luxery cars.  Every car looks the same, every car is boring and boxy and unexciting. I'm sure it's a cost and ease of manufacturing thing, and to at least some degree an aerodynamics thing, but man there are so few cars on the market that I look at and go "yeah, that's cool, I want to drive that" from a visual standpoint.  We're really in the greatest era for quality of drivability and technology and resources, but (to use a D&D analogy), we sure dumped charisma to get all those other bonuses.  


May 15th, 2018 at 2:22 PM ^

I agree with this as well - one of my biggest gripes about current automobiles is that we've sacrificed looks in favor of their relative indestructability, if you will. I mean, I am not in the auto industry so I cannot answer this question, but is it possible to get both style and a shit ton of supposed lifetime components and still keep things affordable?


May 15th, 2018 at 3:39 PM ^

I'm not sure I buy that.  The exotics and few stylish cars out there comply with those laws still.  My instinct is it's a matter of not wanting to spend the money on R&D and a (very bad at their job) marketing department that looks at sales, says "boxy sedans sell well, keep making them!", and never considers that the only things on the market that are priced for the masses are boxy sedans.  Add in a little bit of general corporate paranoia/risk aversion, with the concern that the current generic sedan look is reliable and acceptable whereas a more unique or risky look will have some takers but also some haters.  Still, considering the near-universality of this complaint, I feel like rolling out a couple cars in the line with some styling and a unique look would be a benefit.  


May 16th, 2018 at 10:26 AM ^

Here's a good article on this from a few years ago:


TL;DR -- Mileage standards and safety regs (there are over 200 that go into building a car) leave very little room for auto designers to create anything visually unique. They're also a big reason why it's damn near impossible now to get a relatively cheap new car. It used to be that buying a used car from a reliable brand was the frugal thing to do. Now, it's a necessity for most people, me included. I don't care how reliable new cars are now, I'm not about to take out 7- or 8-year loan on a depreciating asset (which is what I'd have to do to afford anything new).



Lou MacAdoo

May 15th, 2018 at 10:53 PM ^

I’ve always loved the look of these. I have a mechanic buddy that used to do some street racing and he drives a souped up black one that makes me very jealous. I refuse to ever ride with him though because the last time I got in a car with him he decided to go 125 in a 35 without any notice.


May 15th, 2018 at 12:34 PM ^

Is that they seemingly NEVER change either.  There was a reason to buy a new car in the 50's & 60's - everybody knew it was new cause the styling was different.  Maybe you liked it, maybe you hated it but everybody knew a 1965 GTO looked nothing like a 1966 GTO.   And even though GM kept styling on a two year change cycle (meaning the 67 GTO looked a lot like the 66) engineering changed the power plant in the off years.

Nowdays the only reason to buy a new car is your old one wore out.  Cause the styling will be virtually identical to one made 15 years ago  Here's a 2005 Ford Mustang

Image result for 2005 ford mustang

And here's a 2018 Ford Mustang

Image result for 2018 ford mustang gt

Powderd Toast

May 15th, 2018 at 12:44 PM ^

Those cars are nothing alike. (other than both pictures are renders of non existant cars) I had a 2005 Mustang and now own a 2017 as well as a 1969. From the rigt angle (rear 3/4) you could say the 2017 is just an update of the 69. You have to keep some sort of bloodline to be successful.

Ecky Pting

May 15th, 2018 at 4:27 PM ^

...and here's the 1969 Mustgang Fastback. If too many of the design elements are changed, it doesn't look like a Mustang anymore.

and just for my own personal nostalgia, here's a '64-1/2 Mustang that's identical (color & everything) to the one my father had when I was born, and my older brothers learned to drive in...


May 16th, 2018 at 3:08 AM ^

my take is it's because they're all over-priced, too heavy station wagons. My biggest gripe is that everyone thinks they need an SUV, but really need minivans, so the automakers are selling us what we want. I'm not immune, we have a Traverse. It's less practical than a 90s minivan on the inside, but weighs 1,000 lbs. more, is bigger on the outside, and was relatively expensive. For what these vehicles are, the station wagon makes more sense. For kid hauling and family trips, the minivan does.

Also, free the manuals!


May 15th, 2018 at 11:06 PM ^

i honesty think the bean counters intend this sort of thing to happen

even in the early mid-90s many cars were beaters by 150K miles, and now it's more like 250K, they had to account for the loss in sales 

planned obsolescence is very real, a conspiracy theory in some cases, but has a real economic impact thus has been completely "accounted" for.


May 15th, 2018 at 1:14 PM ^

I made the mistake of letting my GF's friend drive us to the drive-in last summer. She had just got a new RAV4. She wanted to show us the lane correction feature. She then took her hands off the wheel going 45 MPH on winding back roads. 

Im convinced we almost crashed but she said no thats what its supposed to do. I told her if she did that again I was getting out and she could either not speak to my girlfriend again or be the reason we broke up. You could cut the tension/awkwardness with a knife.


May 15th, 2018 at 1:43 PM ^

Scrolled down to find someone mentioning this. 20,000+ Americans will die this year in auto accidents, of which 99.99% are due to driver error, not to mechanical failure or bad engineering.  People, as a whole, are not capable of driving safely.  That point is statistically irrefutable.  Cars need to drive themselves.  I want my car to drive me home from the bar tonight.  New cars should now be capable of doing that.  My gripe is that they still can't.


May 15th, 2018 at 2:17 PM ^

They will eventually be automated. But I peg it at 20 years before it's widespread


There's a lot of legal hurdles in addition to the logistical ones. Plus public acceptance. Just like when elevators became automated and people freaked out.


You can already see it in the media, huge news every time there is a fender bender involving a self driving car, or some jackass in a Tesla ignores the proper procedures and gets in a big wreck using autopilot. Meanwile the 50 other car crashes that day get ignored


Even if the technology aspect gets solved, the legal and acceptance hurdles are a higher bar to clear IMO


May 15th, 2018 at 4:00 PM ^

that has to be thought of and solved, at least in automation models where the vehicles talk amongst themselves. A widespread automotive version of the wannacry virus that locks people out of their cars, or worse, has all cars turn left at 3:00pm on March 8th would be a disaster.