No, I ain’t talkin’ ’bout license fees nor the few cents we pay at the pump that don’t even keep up with patchin’ the potholes and plowin’ our streets and highways… Heck, those taxes ain’t even kept up with inflation! Couple years back on tax day I wrote about how the often high cost of shipping amounted to a rather gross “tax” on everything. ‘Twas reminded of that the other day when I plopped enough oil filters and crush washers and such in my “cart” at Wunderlich America to see my new Super Tenere past 100,000 klicks, then clicked on to “shipping” and found that getting this few kilos of stuff from the left coast to Minnesota was going to cost near as much as the filters and such themselves. Wunderlich, if that abandonned cart bothers you, just bring it to the MOA rally and I’ll buy it, minus the inflated shipping costs. Heck, I’m even tempted to invest in the biggest hard bags and racks known to AdvRider so I can load up at rallies and save the shipping, even though I’m addin’ a big ‘ol ‘hack next winter. Now I will say in Yamaha’s defense that the local dealer’s price for the filter wasn’t felony level highway robbery, though the concept of “crush washers” is still foreign to them. But the bike is remarkably free of service reminders requiring dealer reset, I’ve already got a Yamaha repair manual in my hot little hands, and despite being a 21st century design the bike has no desire or ability to “call home” to “Mama Yama”. Taking a break from perusing the Yamaha manual, what should jump over the virtual transom but a PR missive from Volvo’s Mack brand informing me that if I’d given in to their previous PR pitches and bought a new Mack with their M-Drive automated manual transmission, they’d be following MY transmission all over the country. In fact, for the last couple years “telematics” has been a default option on new Mack and Volvo trucks, allowing Volvo to track YOUR Mack or Volvo as you wander the continent. Nice to know that Volvo is worried about the welfare of YOUR transmission and truck, but Macks have quite well covered billions of miles all over the world without Volvo’s newfound supervision. So you’re driving down the road in YOUR new Mack enjoying the beautiful day and shiftless Volvo transmission until the video display in the dashboard starts flashing and demanding your attention. You are informed that terrible things are about to happen to YOUR transmission, and Volvo has thoughtfully provided directions to the nearest dealership. You call your shipper and receiver and let them know you’ll be delayed, and drive a hundred miles out of route to the Volvo/Mack dealer… They’re kinda thin on the ground out here. Pull into to the dealer and you see they’ve been expecting you, with a new transmission in the crate at the ready and a stall held open for your truck. What the hell, it’s under warranty for 5 years and 750k miles, so you head off to the motel and to a sound sleep. Next morning you head back to the dealer, you’re truck is done and you head to the cashier to sign off on the warranty and collect your keys and get back on the road. But… What’s with this dollar sign followed by five digits at the bottom of the bill? You bother the service manager, who informs you that despite not even being halfway through warranty, Volvo has disallowed the warranty claim… And passes you off to Volvo’s 800 “Customer Assistance” number. Despite not having ever spoken with them, they seem to know a whole lot about your truck and where it’s been. Denying the claim, they cite that miserable dirt road you had to deliver down last month as “improper and abusive usage for a highway model truck”. And those 88,000 pound permit GCW loads you hauled last winter during the propane shortage? Volvo has rated and warranties the M-Drive software version you bought for only 80,000 pounds, even though the rest of your Mack is good for at least half again that. And how’d they find out about all this “abuse”? Remember how the salesman bragged about how YOUR new Mack could see the hills ahead, and adjust to the weight of the load? Yup, besides being able to “call home” to Volvo, YOUR new Mack has a road map of North America in it’s brain and thanks to the “wonders” of telematics, the ability to “call home” and rat you off! Now I don’t want to single out just Volvo here for some rightous indignation, they’re just the trend setter. Heck, I suspect GM bought OnStar from Hughes to make they’re too frequent RePos easier, and then figured they’d sell access to the actual car owner to defray some of the costs.  All over the industry, paper and even CD/DVD manuals are disappearing, replaced by online manual rental. And while the “evil” “Guvmint”‘ OBD2 standards democratized powertrain diagnosis, everything else is becoming proprietary- If you buy a new VW or even BMW, budget $350 extra or so for an aftermarket software or hardware “hack” so you can do basic diagnostics on YOUR vehicle. Yamaha didn’t get the memo, my new Super Tenere still happily displays diagnostic codes at no extra charge, but I suspect the next generation will “fix” that marketing “mistake”. But the trend is clear: Every manufacturer is working on putting a big ol’ video display in the dashboard and an extra antenna on the roof, and “freeing”you from the bother of buying all those manuals and disgnostic stuff and tools for YOUR vehicle.

So you think you own YOUR new vehicle because you bought and paid for it… The manufacturers think of it as a lease with a hefty front end deposit!

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