Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Is the $10,000 Chery Unethical?

The Chery J1 will soon be selling for $9900 - brand new.

Given that this car has been criticised for having inadequate safety features:
The car doesn't have stability control, which, from the beginning of this year, is mandatory for all passenger vehicles registered in Victoria. There are anti-lock brakes but only two airbags, at the front.
Do you think it's unethical to sell such a cheap car if it's poor quality?

My concern is based on the idea that those who aren't doing well financially (or are, um, just plain old cheap) will buy this car based on the drive away price, not knowing that it potentially isn't the standard of quality you expect of a new car.

If I bought this car, I would be concerned that it would be less reliable and more prone to those mysterious car "issues" than, say, a new Toyota Yaris.

On one hand, I feel like large corporations have a responsibility to market products that won't need to be replaced any sooner than the average for that industry. What I mean is that if the average small car can survive to 250,000 kilometres before it gets driven to the big scrapyard in the sky, it's unethical to produce and sell a car that can only make it to 150,000. Whether or not the Chery J1 would be unethical by that measure is far too technical for my knowledge of cars.

On the other hand, it really is the responsibility of the consumer to undertake research on any product they purchase, including safety issues for a product like a car where poor quality could cause your untimely death. I wish I'd learnt more about safety ratings for cars before I bought my car in 2010 - it's only rated at three stars, and now that I know a little more, I should have paid more for a higher-rated car. I can't blame anyone but myself for that.

I'm also conflicted about whether the difference between a three star rated car (such as the J1, or my little Nissan) and a five star rated car is honestly large enough to increase the statistical likelihood of death or serious injury in an accident. Mr Money Mustache explains much better than I can that safety is an illusion - your chances of dying in a car accident are so minuscule anyway that a slightly "safer" car could be said to make no difference at all.

What are your thoughts? Are cheap, poorly-made cars unethical? Is the difference between a three star safety rated car and a five star car enough to make any real change to your chances of being hurt in a crash?

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