When you think about expensive automobiles, there’s one data point that doesn’t often enter into the discussion. That would be reliability.
It seems the more you spend on a car, the less reliable it becomes. But is that truly the case? Jason Fenske from is here to examine this idea, see if it holds up, and discuss why it might not really matter in the end.
The conversation unfolds as Fesnke pilots a Mercedes-Benz S560 Cabriolet. It’s a $155,000 drop top filled with all manner of technology and upscale features. This Benz is a great platform to use as an exploratory element in the discussion. For example, the climate control system adjusts automatically based upon whether or not the top is up or down. Additionally, there’s an air quality sensor which makes sure the air the occupants are breathing and experiencing is as good as it should be.
That’s just the climate control system, which utilizes 18 actuators just to keep the cabin cozy. Now multiply the amount of sensors, actuators, filters, wires, fuses, and other controlling elements used by the myriad systems present in a car like the Benz S560.
With greater amounts of controllable and adjustable features, there is a greater amount of items that can fail or act up. But they’re not likely to do so during the initial period of ownership. And that’s just fine for the initial owner of a luxury vehicle. The typical ownership period these days is two to three years occupied by a leased car. During that period, any faults that might pop up are covered. And then the well-to-do owner moves on to the next latest and greatest.
Fesnke makes a great point that the automakers in this space are building a feature-packed vehicle aimed at the dollars of those who will only own their car for a few years. So you wind up with a car that has a massive list of things it can do, and over time some of those things will act up.
But it doesn’t matter as much to those who need to be first…their future car problems are left to the second and third owners of the car. The result, of course, tends to be huge depreciation.