The "Big Three" here in Detroit have been struggling lately, posting stocks at record lows, lagging sales and plant closings. Now I know why. My van, brand new 14 months ago, has been back to the dealership three times for a major transmission problem - all in less than 11,000 miles. The first visit, only a month after purchase, the transmission was completely rebuilt. The second, changing out some modules and parts. This week, the third visit came up with a diagnosis of a completely new transmission that must be installed ASAP.
Luckily, this is at no cost to me, except for the aggravation, countless trips back and forth from the dealership swapping out car seats, back packs and toys. So, wait, I take that back. It cost me a LOT. But, what cost do auto repairs have on the environment? Where is my old transmission going to go? Scrap yard, landfill, recycling center? I'd like to know and I plan to ask.
We all assume the major impact automobiles have on the environment is carbon emission and fossil fuel consumption. What about parts, oil, motors, grease, axles, rims, tires, windshields, fluids, anti-freeze, plastics and electronics? When I bought my van, all I really saw was the gas mileage, seating for my entire family and some pretty groovy DVD screens. What about all the other "stuff". Where did it come from, are the materials recycled or brand spankin' new? What about at the end of the van's life, does the company have a take-back or recycling program?
I have another year left with this van - we lease here in the Motor City - it's incredibly cheap and helps to keep new cars on the road, so they say. So, next year I plan to ask a few more questions other than gas mileage and DVD players. Maybe I will buy instead of lease. Maybe - close your eyes eco 'burban dad - I might buy a Honda.