Leave Well Enough Alone

Our new car celebrated its first birthday last week and, aside from one problem with a cam solenoid, we have thoroughly enjoyed it. I have always wanted an Escape and was happy to get one, but this model looks different than the model I first wanted. I actually like the cosmetic differences, which I guess they made to make the vehicle look more rugged since Ford terminated the Explorer Sport line. Car manufacturers make changes to every model of car every year, and sometimes the changes are much needed and add functionality, update the technology or make the car more aesthetically pleasing. But sometimes they do absolutely nothing. I was passed today by a 2010 Ford Mustang and I noticed they changed the look of the tail lights again, which confused and concerned me. The new lights do not look better than the old model lights—which were designed to pay homage to the old ’67 Mustang. Why change them? They were not broken. They worked fine. The new lights do not illuminate any better. The car makers need to learn an old axiom: leave well enough alone. Or how about: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Car makers spend millions of dollars in design and development for these new models. They promote the modifications with all of the pomp and circumstance of a grand reveal on extreme home makeover. They announce the new line and try to make the prospective buyer get excited enough about it to buy it. It doesn’t always work, however. While car shopping last year, my wife and I seriously thought about the Honda Pilot, but the model we liked was the 2008 model. The ’09, on the other hand, did not impress us. Honda made a small but noticeable change to the rear side windows, which made the whole car less attractive. If others share our opinion, it follows that Honda may not have made their sales projections on the 2009 Pilot. Perhaps they might have done better leaving the ’08 model alone for ’09.

The reason they make these changes could be many, but it all boils down to the issue of growing sales. Revenue. Money. Car makers want to sell cars, and once they roll out one year model, some people buy it and others do not. So next year, they make changes and hope those who did not buy it last year will like this new version enough to buy it. Perhaps the prospective car buyer who bought last year’s model will like the new version enough to trade up for it. It makes sense on the surface, and I guess it works well enough for the average car. Some cars, however, should be sacrosanct. The Mustang should be left alone. It is an icon. No one wants to see an icon change. If it changes, it is no longer an icon.

I figure if the car makers all get together and stop changing cars every year and do it—oh, say every three years, then the price of the cars can come down. They can use the money savings on needless cosmetic changes to make needed improvements to the fuel efficiency or pollution control or safety. It would be a win-win scenario. Just think, if Toyota had not made those changes to the Prius and Camry, then maybe they wouldn’t have developed those pesky sticky accelerator problems. You know the ’85 Camry didn’t have that problem. I said it before and I’ll say it on the way to my grave: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

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