Saturday, January 31, 2004

Car Talk question

This morning on NPR's Car Talk Tom and Ray were discussing a recently purchased Dodge Caravan. I'm not sure which of them was speaking, so I can't say which one bought the minivan, but apparently one of them (let's just say it was Tom) bought a new Caravan and was, as per the driver's manual instructions, breaking the car in slowly. Unfortunately, despite this careful driving, the car at some point "threw a connecting rod." Now, obviously Tom, being a car aficionado, knew that the sound he heard emanating from the engine area was that of a thrown rod. Tom also knew that if he stopped driving then and there, Dodge would take the car for a month, and eventually return it to him with a refurbished engine (which would obviously be inferior, and not the kind of thing one wants in one's new car). So, rather that stopping, Tom just kept on driving, thereby completely destroying the engine (a result he knew full well would occur). The result: a brand new engine, presumably higher resale value for the car, and in much less time.

I'm not sure what to make of this. It's very clever, certainly. Beyond that, it seems somehow wrong, although unless he violated some contractual provision in the warranty, I can't imagine that there would be any legal recourse of Dodge's part.

Society would have been better off if Tom had just brought the car to Dodge and they had given him a new engine and refurbished and sold the damaged one. Obviously it's a small subset of the population that knows enough about cars to destroy their engines -- but you'd think that Dodge would want to somehow get these damaged engines in for replacement... What would have happened if Tom had said to Dodge, "Listen, I have this thrown rod. I'm going to keep driving until the engine is worthless, unless you promise to give me a new engine (and perhaps pay me a fee)." Dodge would be better off paying epsilon less than the value of the refurbished engine (ignoring service costs and the like), right?

Incidentally, at the conclusion of each Car Talk the brothers go through their list of "cast and crew." The whole list is available here and worth taking a peak. Some of my favorites:
-- Fact checker: Ella Fynoe
-- Race team driver: Andy Zoff
-- Safety officers: Mort & Fay Tality

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