We are the most unlikely of friends. I am as polished as a potato. My friend is more of a ball bearing. We had each other's back.
Part way through our conversation I went on a rant regarding the cost of government regulation and how the world would be a better place if they backed off and let the customers decide.
"Joey, you are wrong."
That is what he told me, knowing full well that I am a blogger who is famous the length and breadth of Eaton Rapids.
"Joey, you are wrong."
I asked him to enlighten me. I try to keep an open mind and Ball Bearing is a smart guy.
"There were other benefits. I will not give you exact numbers but the cost of emissions controls runs between $100 and $700 per vehicle. The cost of meeting crashworthiness requirements, less the cost of air bags, is between $20 and $100 per vehicle."I told him I would have to think on that a little bit. Then I asked him if he could give me an example of a problem that did not get resolved because it was not impacted by Federal Regulations?
"When was the last time you had to adjust your carburetor, change your spark plugs, replace a cam-shaft, do a valve job or rebore the cylinders? All of those improvements can be attributed to the fact that there was no other way to meet emissions requirements...the base engine cannot puke oil smoke or it will poison the catalytic converter. We would have never implemented those improvements, real improvements for the customer, because the bean-counters would have killed them if not for emissions regulations."
"People used to brag when they had a vehicle that hit 100,000 miles. Now they expect 250,000 miles."
The metal in pre-Regulation bodies is tissue thin.
"Part of that is the use of heavier steel in the bodies/frames. And that steel is usually galvanized. That was not driven by a desire to give customers bodies capable of going 500,000 miles. It was driven by the need to keep the crash pulse consistent regardless of how old the vehicle was. A body rail that unzips would likely cause the airbag to not deploy. The bean-counters (grudgingly) approved that increased cost because it was the only way to pass "Crash".
Ball Bearing thought a second or two and then said:
"How about the cars with the fuel fill door on the right side? The Company subcontracted some design work out to a British firm in the late 1970s and the Brits designed the fuel fill door on the driver's side....for a British car that is driven on the left side of the road. But it is on the wrong side for drivers in the United States and Canada.
The issue was caught too late to change before it went into production.
Theory is simple. Reality is complicated. Ideologues are blind. I thanked Ball Bearing for giving me something to think about.
It never got fixed and is still annoyed drivers almost 40 years later.
The bean-counters never approved mirroring it over to the left side of the car (the driver's side for most of the world) because there was never any compelling need. That and the fact that there was never a Federal Regulation that resulted in us tearing up that end of the car...giving us the opportunity to "fix" that issue as a side benefit.
You see, Joey, problems are opportunities dressed in work clothes. I can get a lot of good work done if you give me a big enough of a problem."