One of the things that bugs me about most consumer goods is the throwaway mentality of their design. It's so... inefficient. Not only is it bad for the environment, but it's also more expensive over the lifetime of the products. There's also something spiritually wrong about the whole thing.
I understand the market forces at work: hyperbolic discounting, and that most people are cash constrained. Buying $50 blenders every 2-5 years is more appealing than buying one $100 blender, or even one $75 blender that last forever.
One solution to this problem is financing, so I'm surprised that even cars nowadays seem to be designed with planned obsolescence. Maybe this has to do with the distribution model of cars: the profits of repair and upgrades are captured by dealerships, so the auto manufacturers are disinclined to make ultra-durable cars.
Tesla doesn't have this problem because they sell direct to consumer. Perhaps they could offer a car of infinite durability! In a sense they already kind of do this with their wireless software upgrades.
I often think about products I'd like to buy that don't exist, so in an effort to try to put more of these thoughts on paper I wrote a fake press release for a buy-it-for-life car offered by Tesla.
Caveat: I know nothing about cars, or car manufacturing so... don't expect this to be any good.
Tesla announces new line of "forever cars".
April 1, 2019. Fremont, CA
Tesla CEO Elon Musk presented Tesla’s new vehicle, the Tesla Model 3∞, at the company’s factory in Fremont today.
The Model 3∞ is a sedan designed with a 100+ year lifespan. “We’ve designed this car to be the last car you ever own” said Musk. “Every single part of the car has been designed to do two things: to last a long time, and to be easily replaceable and upgradeable. Not just whole parts, like seats or brakes, but components too. Even the wire coils in the motors can be replaced with simple tools.” Musk then added: “This car can literally be kept up to date for the rest of human civilization.”
The Model 3∞ was designed to address the reasons people most frequently replace their cars. Tesla head of design, Franz von Holzhausen, commented on the design philosophy behind the Model 3∞. “People don’t switch cars because they stop working—they switch cars because the entertainment system is old. It seems silly, but that’s the way we’re wired. It’s kind of like looking at a movie with old CGI. It’s like how did I ever thought this looked good. The ∞ line of Teslas is designed to address this. Entertainment, safety, energy economy: as technology improves, so can your car. It will always be up to date.”
This design is not without trade-offs. The Model 3∞ costs about 70% more to manufacture than the standard model 3. Yet the lifetime cost of ownership makes it more affordable than any car on the market. Musk commented: “At Tesla we have always thought about Total Cost Of Ownership. In the same way you should consider gas savings, so should you consider depreciation. Unlike every car on the market, the Model 3∞ doesn’t depreciate. You don’t have to get a new car, ever.” The Model 3∞ will retail at $55,000, but is paired with a 15 year car loan offered by Tesla Financial. “When you think of a car as a permanent good, it starts to make sense to offer ultra-long car loans” said Jimbo Jones, head of Tesla Financial. “This means you can get a Model 3∞ for about 300 dollars a month. That’s cheaper than a Civic. And again, this will be the last car you ever buy.”
Besides being more profitable for the consumer, it’s more profitable for Tesla. Tesla CFO commented on the Model 3∞’s impact to the Tesla bottom line. “Even though we will only sell this car to you once, Tesla will sell you service and parts for the rest of your life. Even taking this into account, the customer still saves money. The only people that lose are the junkyards.” Tesla is also creating an aggressive recycling program. “We can also re-use and recycle the parts you replace. So batteries that are no longer appropriate for automobile use can be installed in less demanding applications, and so on.”
Tesla is in a unique position to do this compared to other auto manufacturers. “Two things make this possible” said Musk. “The first is our technology. You can only sell a car like the Model 3∞ if you can do over the air updates like we can. The second reason is our business model. Nobody else can sell a car like this because the dealerships would rebel. It’s called channel conflict. They are fucked.”
Model 3∞ is a new direction for Tesla, and will be followed by a similar version of the Model S, the S∞.
The Model 3∞ will retail at $55,000 before government incentives. 3, 5, 10 and 15 year loans are available. Shipments start in January 2020.