Automakers love the media attention they receive when one of their vehicles passes the million-mile mark.
It has happened a handful of times to the likes of Volvo, Toyota, Saab, and Chevrolet. Sometimes the owner of a million-mile car gets special treatment by the automaker and occasionally even drives away with a brand new car.
Of course, most cars self-destruct long before reaching the million-mile mark. Many don’t even crest 200,000 miles, and most owners start thinking that it’s time for a new car sometime after 100,000 miles.
Automakers face a conundrum of sorts because they want their cars to be long-lasting, but also want to make money by keeping people coming back for new cars. So how long should a car last?
I own a 1999 Toyota Land Cruiser with 287,000 miles on the clock, and the engine still runs strong and remains reliable even when towing a 26-foot boat. The old Toyota shows no signs of an imminent death. On the other hand, I just got rid of a 2008 Audi Q7 with 128,000 miles that felt like it was on its last legs.
An article at The Truth About Cars brings up the idea of disposable cars and gives an example of some software built into BMW cars that hints at their expected lifespan.
Starting around 2002, BMW implemented a system called Condition Based Service (CBS), which is a set of algorithms that calculates how often service such as oil changes should be performed. The system uses sensors and mileage to make the calculations, allowing them to increase the time between service intervals without any detrimental effects on the vehicle.
The CBS system, though, stops working after 300,000 kilometers (about 186,000 miles). That’s not to say that the car will stop working after that predetermined milestone, but the car will no longer remind owners of upcoming service needs or monitor the car’s health. In fact, once the system stops working, the driver is continuously reminded that service is due via a red dash light that can only be turned off by a technician.
All of the details about the BMW issue can be read in the TTAC article, but the bigger point is this: Do automakers have expected lifespans for their cars, and what signs point to their coming demise?
How do you know when it’s time to get rid of a vehicle?