Are contemporary vehicles superior?

Let’s say you could go back in time, about 20 years and somehow teleport a brand new 1992 Honda Accord into 2012.  (I know the first thing you are going to say is that if you could time travel you wouldn’t be wasting your time on a 1992 Accord.)  Just humour me  for a moment, you have a brand new 1992 Honda Accord sitting next to a 2012 Accord.    Besides the novelty factor of the ’92, which car are you taking home?

I was a young technician at a local GTA Honda dealer in the early 90’s so this car has a special place in my heart.  To me it showed off Honda’s engineering and manufacturing team and it was during this period that Japanese auto manufacturers really started taking a bite out of North American sales.

To be fair, that ’92 Accord was a technological dinosaur compared to today’s standards, but most vehicles made by Honda and Toyota were at their best during this period and they haven’t really managed to recapture that same magic.  The magic I’m referring deals with the fit and finish,  ergonomics and reliability.   Other than the rust factor, the ’92 Honda Accord was simply indestructible, your teenage son could beat this car every Friday night and hand the keys back to mom without her having a clue as to the torture it had just been subjected.   Comparatively, I now know exactly when J’r. is behind the wheel by just watching mom and dad’s repair bills skyrocket.

So are today’s cars better?   Well, technology marches on and 20 years is a life time in the electronics industry.   Advanced crumple zones, multitudes of occupant air bags, traction control and advanced ABS all make today’s vehicle  much safer.  Traveling from A to B is also going to use far less fuel and who can live without their bluetooth and GPS enabled dashboards.

So I guess we can conclude that today’s cars are better, but are they cheaper to maintain?   A gigantic no on this one.    Manufacturer cost cutting measures mean that many pieces once made of aluminum are now made out of plastic.

Those monster 19 inch wheels may look great in the show room but the fact is most of those tires are “V” rated and will be worn out in less than 60,000 kilometres.  Wait until you get the replacement bill on a set of tires.  In order to get all the electronic modules like your bluetooth radio and GPS talking to each other we need digital modules to direct all the electronic traffic.  Technician skill level is at an all-time high (labour rates reflect skill level) and eventually you will feel the pocket book pain once the shielding of the auto manufacturer warranty has expired.

I could go on and on but I think you get the point.   I’d love to take the ‘92 Accord around the block for nostalgia purposes but it’s the ’12 Accord for the win.  I guess I’m a sucker for all the features on the new car and I’m willing to live with the maintenance costs, but then again I don’t pay myself to fix my own car.