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There’s No Money in Simple

  Norman Taylor & Associates
  September 30, 2010

This is a subject that has been discussed and written about at Norman Taylor & Associates at length, yet we are drawn to it again and again in the California Lemon Law field.

Warren Rother, a senior executive at Mercedes said in an interview written for Automotive News in 2004 that he was going to reduce the number of software controls by 600 electronic functions; he also said that over the years their cars had become too complex.

It seemed at the time, that if a very senior executive at Mercedes had seen the “electronic hand writing on the wall” so to speak, surely those who had been saying for years that the whole industry has gotten too complex, could finally expect some simplification. And, if Mercedes did it, perhaps many of the other auto manufacturers would follow.

In the interview Herr Rother was trying to explain how Mercedes- as the standard bearer of quality, fell from grace. At that time Mercedes had fallen below the quality median on the J.D. Power Initial Quality list. From Herr Rother’s comments it was assumed, mistakenly, that Mercedes would see that simple was good and complex brought nothing but trouble.

This assumption was, speaking charitably and with twenty-twenty hindsight, naive. The very opposite has happened. Mercedes and all automobile manufacturers have gotten more complex, a great deal more complex.

Engineers are reminded over and over when given a product or component to design, that he or she should follow the K.I.S.S. method. It is translated as thus: “Keep It Simple Stupid”. Did the auto industry remember this hoary wisdom? They did not, and as far as can be seen, had no intention of doing so. Most consumers who have purchased a new car in the last five years have seen more and more gadgets and functions.

The sale of new vehicles has never been about complexity versus simplicity. In fact, it has always been about sales and the production of tens of thousands of automobiles. Complexity is the result of appealing gadgets that customers have shown that they want. This situation has not changed, so K.I.S.S. hasn’t a chance.

For most California lemon law attorneys this might be seen as a blessing as more gadgets mean more things that can fail and lead to more lemon cars. This probably seems like a cynical, self-serving view point. However, they too are car buyers and directly or indirectly, the success of our automobile industry has a direct affect on our collective survival. Because we are American chauvinists, we say to Ford, GM and Chrysler keep it simple, please. To the rest, be as complex as you like.

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