The phenomenon of auto repair price-gouging has a fascinating history these past few decades. In the 1970’s most service customers had at least a rudimentary understanding of car repairs, and thus there wasn’t as much for a service center to hide behind. In the 80’s, with the increase of advanced emission controls and enhanced electronics, confusion set in.
The rapid pace of technology kept everyone—technicians and customers alike, bewildered and guessing. As the 90’s came to a close, cars were full-blown computers on wheels.
In addition to complex mechanics and electronics, the industry now encompassed advanced computer technology. Suddenly, sophisticated technical information and a solid understanding of the interactive theory between mechanics, electronics, and computers was critical to fixing cars.
The industry was not ready for this. It’s still struggling.
With all the technical confusion from the 80’s and 90’s, price-gouging took a firm hold. Mechanics could easily hide behind complex terminology, and wax nostalgic with the client: “They just don’t make em’ like they used to.”
Suddenly your car needed $300, $400, $1400 computer sensors and gadgets.
What was really happening in many cases was that your mechanic was learning—he was practicing on your car. Costly computer devices were often replaced unnecessarily due to misdiagnoses. Or, they were damaged by improper diagnostic techniques and obsolete testing equipment.
Even though you didn’t need parts when you dropped your vehicle off, you did by the time you left, and you paid for them.
With the Y2K scare of 2000, the reliance on computer technology was clear. Cars were no exception. Automobiles were no longer computers on wheels; they were now a “network of computers” on wheels.
Today’s cars can think and adapt to the environment. Highly advanced fiber optic and infra-red technology is commonly used. Ultra low emissions and flexible fuel systems are increasing faster than gas prices. Hybrids are common.
It is in this advanced environment of integrated computer technology that we will be ripped-off today.
It will leave you asking: “Y $2000 K?”