Ever wonder why they’re trying to sell you a “connected” car, etc.?

Back in the old days, we owned stuff… Heck, sometimes we even made our stuff. My grandparents never even borrowed to buy a house, they build it from a shell they bought in the depression, adding on attic dormers, a kitchen and garage in the back, and a full basement and furnace underneath. They didn’t build their own cars, but they bought them cash and were quite proficient in the operation of valve spring and piston ring compressors. My parents paid off their house on a 30 year mortgage, and as long as the terms of said mortgage were satisfied, they were free to do as they pleased with the property. They paid cash for their cars and could darn well have rebuilt them if need be, and we kids rebuilt a couple engines in the driveway.

I belatedly became a homeowner, but the current generation of twenty and even forty somethings seem locked out of the mortgage market, the big banks preferring to lend to big apartment developers who will assure these young folks never acquire equity and the resulting retirement security of owning a home. Same with cars, trucks, and motorcycles as leasing replaces financing, and you’ll be penalized if you dare show up at the dealer with cash. And just to keep you yoked to the dealers and manufacturers wagon, they’ll be happy to hook you into years long maintenance contracts, etc..

This sleazy business practice is called “rent seeking”, and it’s a currently popular business model, which explains why your cell service provider wants to “give” you a “free” phone, then hits you for a hundred or so a month for the next couple years to pay for it. Same with vehicles, and all the manufacturers will be happy to tie you to one lease and maintenance plan after another for posterity. But rent seeking is so 2007…

Welcome to the brave new world of connected cars and kill switches! Like the assembly line which was actually invented by the packing houses to disassemble carcasses, the earliest example of this new economic model comes from poultry and hog barns, where Swift, Perdue, etc. own the livestock and the farmer provides the land, barn, feed, and everything else. Then when the livestock is trucked off for slaughter, the packer decides how much to pay the farmer. This scam obviously works to the benefit of the packers, who have nothing invested but some hatchlings and baby oinkers, while the farmer is in hock for millions to buy the land, tractors, feed, barns, etc.. And when the animal lovers demand bigger cages and the consumers demand organic, the farmer is on the hook for those extra costs. And if the packer screwed up and is having a bad quarter, they just pay the farmers less and look like Wall Street wiz kids. This has not gone unnoticed by the telecom companies… Apple hit AT&T for $400 and more for every iPhone sold back when they were the sole provider, then had to make that back over a two year contract. Try to escape that bad deal by rooting your iPhone, and Apple got even by throwing their “kill switch” and bricking your phone, even if you’d paid the $400 or more for it and owned it free and clear. No wonder my $25 el cheapo smartphone keeps getting “updated” by Sprint to try to make it leach off of my AT&T WiFi hotspot instead of their Sprint cell site!

So the auto and truck makers and soon the motorcycle makers too, still hurting from the last recession, are following the “killswitch” trend. Almost everyone is pushing “connected” vehicles, continually “calling home” to keep the maker appraised of where you’ve been at what extralegal velocities and RFID willing, how many cases of beer you overloaded the vehicle with. DIY repairs? Paper manuals that can sit on the bookshelf awaiting a later this century restoration are gone, and manuals on CDs and DVDs are an endangered species. You’ll rent access to service data for vehicles you thought you owned, if they let you access manuals at all… Volvo Trucks won’t sell you service data or parts to fix their automated manual transmission at any price, assuring a steady recession proof revenue flow and profitably (for them) shortened trade intervals. That’s just the beginning…

Remember how recently hackers revealed that late model Fiat Chrysler cars can be hacked, controlled, and shut down remotely over their “connected” network? As the techs used to joke… “That ain’t a bug, that’s a feature!”. Yup, wouldn’t be at all surprised if Fiat Chrysler built that “bug” right into the software to make repos easier. The insurance companies will love this new way to recover stolen cars, and don’t you dare forget to pay that insurance bill! But it’s the EPA that will make it mandatory, ’cause it gives them an easy way to shut down the “coal rollers” that defy them and the poor working stiffs just trying to keep there vehicle running by bypassing emissions hardware they can’t afford to fix.

Give ’em a decade or so and they’ll have it mandated on new vehicles. You’re driving along and every 10 miles or so, just like the Chicago area toll roads, your smartphone will play over “your” connected car’s “In Car Entertainment” system “Manufacturers service fee due”. You grit your teeth (don’t swear, they’re listening) and swipe your cell phone across the ICE screen and pay the ransom, ‘fore they KillSwitch” “your”car!