You may think you're an educated consumer, but think again.
Think you’re ready to buy a new ride?
If so, odds are you’ve test-driven a number of different vehicles and have read multiple reviews. Having checked out prices, reliability ratings and safety records, you consider yourself an educated consumer.
But there are things automakers aren’t telling you. Here are five:
• “We love it when you buy crossover SUVs.”
Light trucks, including those in the red-hot crossover category, nabbed a record 60.7 percent of all light-vehicle sales in 2016. Demand for such rides rose 7.4 percent, while car sales slipped 8.9 percent. In fact, automakers are watching as crossover SUVs, or CUVs, become their most popular vehicles. That’s true of the Nissan Rogue, Mazda CX-5 and Lexus RX.
And while CUVs like the Honda CR-V look like trucks, they are based on modular vehicle architecture used for cars — in the CR-V’s case, the Honda Civic. Automakers can, and do, charge significantly more for these crossovers, even though the cost of manufacturing such vehicles isn’t significantly higher than producing sedate family sedans.
• “We did away with the spare tire.”
Don’t bother looking for that spare tire. Your new car or truck may not have one. Instead, you’ll find a tire-inflator kit.
Ditching the spare tire and jack generally saves about 26 pounds and, in turn, helps improve fuel economy.
Meanwhile, some cars, such as the Mazda MX-5 Miata, simply don’t have room for a fifth wheel. Still others have run-flat tires that after a puncture allow drivers to travel up to 50 miles at speeds up to 55 mph.
All of these setups are part of an effort to meet onerous federal fuel economy requirements, which have automakers looking to save every gram of weight that they can. A tire inflator kit weighs 5 pounds or so.
• “Your perception of us is out of date.”
When was the last time you bought a car or truck? How about the one before that?
Odds are, your perception of automakers dates back that far, or further.
As a result, many buyers still think American cars aren’t as well-built as foreign ones. In reality, though, domestic manufacturers sell models built and designed overseas, such as the Buick Envision, which is built in China, or the Ford Fusion, which is built in Mexico. Meanwhile, the Toyota Camry is made in Kentucky, and the Hyundai Sonata is built in Alabama.
These days, a foreign nameplate doesn’t ensure reliability. In fact, Consumer Reports no longer recommends certain Honda, Subaru, Mini, Volkswagen and Audi models.
• “Our competitors use the same components.”
The recent global recession thinned the number of automotive suppliers, meaning that today, the same suppliers supply the same components — transmissions and heads-up displays, for example — to every automaker.
The clearest example of this is the current Takata air bag recall covering 46 million air bags in 29 million U.S. vehicles. The defective air bags can rupture with age, sending shrapnel into vehicle occupants, potentially killing them.
The vehicles affected include Acura, Audi, BMW, Cadillac, Chevrolet, Chrysler, Daimler, Dodge, Ferrari, Fisker, Ford, GMC, Honda, Infiniti, Jaguar, Jeep, Land Rover, Lexus, Lincoln, Mazda, McLaren, Mercedes-Benz, Mercury, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Pontiac, Saab, Saturn, Scion, Subaru, Tesla, Toyota and Volkswagen.
• “You can’t fix your car anymore.”
The average new car or truck has between 25 and 50 central processing units, and some high-end models have as many as 100, according to a General Motors engineer.
Making a gas-electric vehicle run or park itself requires a lot of computing power.
Since 1996, on-board diagnostic systems have been implemented into all cars. Plug a diagnostic scanner into your vehicle’s 16-pin connector, and it will produce a code guiding you to your vehicle’s problem.
Aside from oil and filter changes, most maintenance can no longer be handled by DIY mechanics.