Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Customer Un-service by Automakers

Why The ‘Check Engine’ Light Must Be Banned
all the average motorist sees is that little drawing of an engine bisected by a lightning bolt. And all that tells them is basically nothing. ... the state of things now is that your car actually could do more than just throw an error code at consumers. It contains an advanced system to diagnose itself, but the actual information from that diagnosis is not available to the car's owner; the average owner must pay a dealer or mechanic to provide him or her with the codes, and what those codes mean. This is absurd. Early on, when in-dash displays were rare, one could understand why cars didn't just display what codes were being thrown (though I think a little in-dash receipt-type printer would have been cool). But today's dash displays capable of displaying text, or at a minimum numerical codes, have been commonplace in cars for at least a decade.
Exactly right.
Which is why we need a federal mandate that bans the generic "check engine" light in new cars and instead requires, on dash, OBD-II codes and a basic description.
I can understand thinking this based on the extremely poor record of manufacturers. How is this not done already? Seems very similar to their fighting air bags for decades before adding them under federal mandate. And then finding out drivers like safety and advertising about their air bags. With such past evidence I can understand thinking the manufactures are too out of touch to improve without federal mandates. Toyota, Honda, Ford, Volvo... please do what would have been the right thing a decade ago and make your diagnostics useful for customers. Don't require us to suffer until we finally have to get the government to do what you should have done years ago. I suppose maybe two million sensors on a crash test dummy helps (as Lexus keeps spouting in ads). Though I must admit it sounds an awful lot like hype, rather than valuable engineering info. I can't imagine that more than 80% of your customers would care much more about useful information from the diagnostics in their car, than flashy dummies. I find it hard to believe you get valuable information about car design from that many censors. A higher number isn't better if it doesn't translate into better design. If it does, great, we still want to know what is wrong with our car. I would think some manufactures have already done the right thing, but I don't know who. Add comments, if you know. Related: Customer Focus and Internet Travel Search - Making Life Difficult for Customers - Good Customer Service Example

1 comment:

Bryan said...

Hi John,

You can purchase OBDII sensors for your car and (at least on Android devices) can have the wireless transmitter feed codes and performance data to your Android phone. I think the app name is "torque". From what I've seen on the internet one could purchase all of the hardware and software for under $200. That's worth probably two or three diagnostic trips to your local dealer depending on where you live - just to tell you what is wrong, let alone fix the problem.

The OBD port is the very same which dealers attach their diagnostic tools to - it is a direct link to your cars computer.

I think some higher end OBDII units will also allow you to adjust settings in your engine system - great for tuners.

I'd prefer not to have the government "ban" anything else in my car, or dictate what should be displayed. That is simply granting monopolistic license to manufacturer's to charge exorbitant compliance fees to already overpriced vehicles. Look at air pressure monitors for cars after legislation resulting in the Ford/Firestone panic. Air monitoring sensors for one tire go anywhere from $35-100. Most people I know opt to not replace the pricey stems when a tire tech breaks them accidentally. They put up with the asterisks on their display screens in the car.