What happens when a bunch of politicians get to dictate to automotive engineers how they should build cars?
Obviously, technical problems! The recent recall of Ford 3.5L EcoBoost, much like the recall of 1.6L EcoBoost whose antifreeze would get so hot it would light on fire*, merely highlights this fact.
*I bet that cooling the turbocharger that gave the 1.6L almost 180 hp could have contributed to the complications that the improved software is meant to address.
It's no secret that vehicles with direct injection suffer increased carbon build-up and that turbochargers add yet another expensive and highly technical component that can break on vehicles. Yet, because of a federal mandate not subject to a vote of Congress mandating that the average vehicle run at only 54.5 mpg by 2025 (that's in 12 years, folks), we are going to see many unproven technologies foisted upon the driving public.
You know what that means. A return to defective fuel injectors, bad fuel injection pumps, leaking turbochargers, HV battery problems, excessive carbon build-up and more.
Even though I am confident that improving technology will mean that vehicles will ultimately break less, in the short term forcing vehicles to achieve technical feats before their time comes with a cost.
This has been proven again and again throughout history. I wound suggest that a recent example of this was the Apollo Program. It gobbled up about 2.2 percent of America's GDP which in today's dollars is about $312 billion a year. Sure, we got to the moon heck of a lot faster than anyone... actually, no one has ever gone to the moon outside of the U.S.! In fact, no one has returned there in 40 years.
Landing on the moon was way ahead of its time and it is a matter of opinion whether it was worth it. In the minds of some, greater fuel efficiency is an equally important, if not more important, goal.
So, while making ambitious EPA standards will save a lot of fuel, any informed observer knows that it is going to cost something such as money or vehicle reliability. If it were as easy as simply making a standard, then why not force the car companies to shoot for 100 mpg? How about 1,000 mpg?
Being that car companies will have to find people to buy these cars, they will have to make vehicles that are affordable. The only way to accomplish this is to make vehicles smaller, give them diesel engines and make use of fuel-saving technologies. The more you push the envelope, the more any of these technologies will fail.
Luckily for those of us in the automotive repair world, this will provide us opportunities to make more money diagnosing and repairing driveability problems. Brand new technology, such as the Auto EKG developed by ITW and Automotive Test Solutions, allows for shops to diagnose, for the first time, carbon build-up without taking apart parts in the vehicle. This makes upselling fuel system cleanings easier than ever.
When the consumer realizes his direct injection vehicle needs more upkeep than the "bulletproof" late 1990s and 2000s vehicles, they will desire such services just like the tune up back in the day.
Because of all of this, I see some silver lining in these fuel-efficiency related recalls.