"Men live by their routines; when these are called into question, they lose all power of normal judgment . . . Discussion becomes a challenge; new ideas seem to be a threat. Men are gripped by fear, and fear, by its nature, is the enemy of thought. So that when men are too fearful to understand, they move to suppress, because they dare not stay to examine . . . Invited to experiment, they act like children who are terrified of the dark . . . They will listen to nothing save the echo of their own voices; all else becomes dangerous thoughts."--Harold J. Laski: Quoted, The Nation.

Well, it has finally happened. And as predicted. The reliability factor in the ignition interlock- seat belt system is raising havoc over the nation with the deliveries of the 74 models. If you have not heard from your own men or accounts, just ask any fleet dealer. The beeps and buzzers are turning on when they should not and they are turning off new car drivers.

Last spring GM engineers estimated that up to 3% of the interlock systems could fail - "enough to cause a tidal wave of customer dissatisfaction." Its failure to function properly is causing countless service calls and towing of the vehicles into the dealership. The systems are contributing to lost time-that still equals money- and they are forming a formidable group of Nader-Consumerist haters.

While the law decrees a severe penalty for any individual in the automotive repair business (dealers, service stations, etc.) to knowingly disconnect the safety device or render it inoperative, it will be interesting to find out in some kind of survey a year from now as to how many individuals (who are not covered by the law from tampering with the device) devise a method by which to turn it off.

While we are in this general area, we recently learned that Federal safety officials now term the automobile head rests (standard on all cars built since January, 1969) as a billion-dollar flop. Their study shows that headrests (which added $15 to $20 per car) are not doing the job intended; i.e., as a means of preventing neck whiplash injuries in rear-end crashes.

A report out of the University of Rochester (and a subsequent analysis prepared by the Motor Vehicle Manufacturers Association) concludes that the head restraints reduced whiplash injury by only 14%, which they considered 'disappointing.'

This is due, in part, to the failure of the users to adjust their head restraints properly. A total of 73% of the adjustable restraints were reported to be left in the down position.

Additionally, we have seen the growing use of rubber bumpers by makers like GM. Some started in the '73 models with further upgrading for the '74s. While GM is actually using a rubber-like plastic in its bumpers, it has some experimental cars with much more liberal use of plastic for the car fronts that have a 'soft-face'. Some 100 of these are being tested on taxis in New York City - one of the toughest test grounds.

GM's president Edward N. Cole explained that "during low-speed impact, the soft skin flexes to conform to the impacting surface." Afterwards, the front end returns to its original shape. It has been described like squeezing a rubber ball. And it saves some 76 pounds creating better cost per mile.

Also, there is serious talk of legation to restrict the speed capability of all cars to 95 MPH. Both Cadillac and Olds have revised their speedometers to register a high of 100 MPH.

Hey, they are taking all the fun out of owning and driving a car. And you and I are paying through the nose for it. Just ask any knowledgeable used car man what kind of residual there is for emission controls, head rests and harnesses. Some of the daily rental companies still order non-power brakes because there is little return on resale for the power.

Ford's Matt McLaughlin told it like it is . . . "We must recognize, like it or not, that government is probably going to keep its hand in the automobile game for some time to come. For that reason, we have a responsibility to the public - which pays - and to our businesses - which must survive - to oppose vigorously proposals whose identifiable benefits are disproportionate to their cost."

Our readers control over 2.7 million of these cars. Surely it is time for volume buyers to be heard.

 

 

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