A little Krazy Glue and you’re good to go (provided you haven’t lost any of the pieces).
Hmm, pretty sharp impact! Well, in a world free of heavy impacts, I kind of like the idea of plastic fenders and their ability to absorb slight dings without denting. I especially like the freedom of corrosion, provided the space frame or structure underneath is sound.
But in the photo Paul posted, there is probably no repair for that fender, which begs another question: When those fender molds have cooled and been junked by GM, who takes up the slack for future body parts? I think the answer lies in that we now live in the age of the disposable automobile, one that is made obsolete with each new model year. Are the automakers still required to maintain a parts supply for 10 years or was this just an old wives tale that has been told?
Another train of thought asks about heavy impact damage on those flame-broiled BMW designs, or anything with sharp creases, strakes, convex and concave surfaces and the plan of attack in repairing those modern designs…
Michael, I work as the parts inventory and supply manager in parts supply for a major car brand (in a small country). I can tell you that here at least there is no regulation on how long you have to maintain supply of parts for. From what I can tell with my dealings for JDM spec cars they don’t have any either.
That said, it is a matter of commercial sense for the car companies:
A) they’ve invested a huge chunk of money in their product in design, development, production and marketing, and parts supply is one way to get some of that investment back. In our case, as a distributor, parts is one of the major profit centres for the company (and the dealers).
B) when a part is no longer available it can cause dissatisfaction, and car companies are acutely aware of customer satisfaction issues and the damage this can do to their brands, so they avoid this situation if possible. Frequently an original part won’t be available, but a substitute can be used (e.g. colour coded bumpers covers no longer available, but can be replaced with a paintable cover. A particular hose is no longer available, but a substitute one can be used if trimmed to length etc.).
In my experience, if there’s demand, the company will continue to supply. So you generally get a situation where trim and panel parts are no longer available before structural panel, which will usually be no longer available before mechanical parts. I’ve supplied genuine brand new mechanical parts for 40 year old cars with no problems, but had cases where a minor trim piece is no longer available after approximately 8 years.
I’m not sure about any current regulations but in the US there was a law that required critical replacement parts be maintained. So that meant things like brakes, taillight lenses and such but not major body pieces and cosmetic items. If you did not maintain availability of those parts then you could loose your ability to sell cars in the country. Because of this IH kept all their Scout stuff until they sold all the inventory, remaining tooling, and rights to reproduce items in 1990 after they had fulfilled their obligation.
Everybody is wrong. The only law that I know of, is that a manufacturer is required to make parts available for as long as they offer a warranty. In other words if a new car has a 36/36 warranty than 3 years is the limit. I dont agree with Styles about the lack of parts bringing ill will upon a maker. In my experience I’ve seen many people walk away because of the price. If anything that is where the aftermarket has it’s advantage. I’ve often wondered how many millions of dollars the OEMs are losing in the reproduction parts realm of the business. I can only speak from my experience with GM but I’ve found that if there is a demand, and the tooling is still around than GM will kick out a batch. I also know of some stories of suppliers stealing the tooling from GM keeping them from doing just that. But on the other hand some of that tooling is just plain worn out and the parts made from them is just a waste of money. Anybody bought some OEM sheetmetal for a 30-40 YO car in the last 10 years? Than you know what I mean.
Another point I’d like to bring up. Remember the term “planned obsolescence”? Now Paul might argue that it could be a DS for just about anybody building cars but I disagree. Why? Without it you wouldn’t have any change. Any choices. I don’t know if you could say that PO doesn’t exist anymore but I have a feeling that there isn’t a manufacturer that takes owner loyalty as seriously as they did, say 10 years ago.
Now the real reasons for plastic fenders.
1-Cheaper to make. Oil is still cheaper than steel.
2-Easier to make. There are a least anywhere from 12 to 20 different steps in stamping out a piece of steel(or aluminum) sheet metal. Only a couple when you’re dealing with molds instead of dies.
3-They last longer. So much for planned obsolescence.
4-They weigh less. Less weight,better MPG.
Paul. Another stupid question. Why didn’t you ask the question, “why does everybody use plastic bumpers?” Those are made from the same crappy grade of plastic.It seems like half of the 10 year and older cars(and trucks) have bumper fascias that look 10 times as worse than that LeSabre fender. If it was me I’d have posted a pic of a 90’s Saturn SL with busted up door skins. Nothing says poverty like showing the world the inner workings of your car door.
I have sold and ordered 1.3 zillion crap-loads of parts in my life so I will chime in a bit. What really surprised me was that if something drove in my shop, there was pretty much a 100% chance I could find what it needed. This even applied to weird stuff the BL Hydragas or anything French. I suppose that if the car exists, there is a demand for parts to repair it. Over the years I have always been amazed how much there was out there. With the internet, even vintage stuff is easy, not that it was that that hard even 25 years ago.
Parts sell for big money; there is loads of mark-up in the entire system, so retailer, wholesalers and factories all pack big margins on them. There is also a lot of competition as to which jobber parts company can produce the needed part the fastest. It’s an excellent example of the good side of capitalism.
It only needs for someone to get hold of a good fender, and make a mould, and they can reproduce it in GRP very easily. There are lots of replacement GRP body panels available for “classic” cars like the 60’s Triumph Herald and Spitfire. If there is a demand, someone is likely to respond to it.
There is no requirement for carmakers to maintain parts for ten years. If you bought a Daewoo, you are SOL. Same for Saab except that you paid big bucks for a rather unexceptional 4 cyl sedan.
Most crash parts are made by OEM suppliers, not by the carmakers themselves. In this digital age all the information needed to reproduce a Buick fender can be emailed with ease. No need for original tooling, just demand.
Kevin, Uncle Mellow, Eric and Style79:
Thanks much for your replies! Without doubt, you can always get an answer to your questions on this fine site! Just one of the reasons I love visiting here every day!
During my brief but very rewarding (sarcasm) career as an auto sales associate, we were taught to take the side of our fist and whack the front fenders of Silhouette minivans (Dustbuster edition) to demonstrate their impact resistance. You did not want to try this on a door or quarter panel, as those were of a much more rigid plastic and, um, hurt.
You go online or to a U-Pick yard for one, they made hundreds of thousands of these Park Avenues, you can still find a fender.
One advantage is the entertaining way plastic body parts explode on impact, as in the recently discussed movie The Junkman:
Exploding C3 Corvette @ 4:30.
Oh, and Paul, better hide your eyes @ 1:15.
I almost included a picture of that very Citroen crashing when I wrote the “Junkman” piece…
Weight and less expensive equipment to make the fender, no rust.
The real question is…why did they switch to steel fenders mid way through production that look the same…
Because the steel fenders were cheaper to make overall.
A hit hard enough to do that would dent a metal fender to the point it couldn’t be repaired, either.
I’m all for more plastic body parts.
I’m not totally sure of the anatomy of this incident, but the door was involved too, and it’s damage is pretty minor. It appears to me that the the plastic fender shattered more easily than I would have thought, instead of deflecting.
It looks to me like the impact came in at an angle and the edge of the fender is what took the impact where it was least able to deflect and rebound.
Surely plastic will shatter more easily in cold weather, and you do get some very cold weather.
This reminds me of Consumer Reports’ road test of the then new Saturn Vue at a time when Saturn’s TV ads were hyping their plastic body parts’ resilience. CU’s tester hit a vinyl traffic cone on the handling course and shattered its fender.
That said, my 97 SL2 is still running 3 out of 4 original fenders, after losing one to a sideswipe by a Honda Accord.
SMC parts are a bit like carbon fiber, they can take a lot but eventually shatter. They also can be made on cheaper tooling than steel parts.
Yes the tooling is cheaper for SMC than steel but the cost of the material is much cheaper leading to a lower per unit cost. You only have to buy the tooling once but you need more material with each part produced.
A friend owned a 1994 LeSabre, a hand-me-down from parents, that suffered identical damage. Good thing too, because it motivated her to get her first new car (an Impreza 5-door 2.5i premium). The plastic fender surprised us both.
Well there is one major advantage for the industry point of view anyway. With a steel wing, you’d probably be tempted to live with the dent. With a shattered plastic one, you have to replace it. Not only does it look worse, but in the UK it would fail the MOT inspection as a hazard to pedestrians.
(according to the boffins who developed the test, pedestrians are not the averagely intelligent human, but rather bumbling sub-normal morons intent on active self-endangerment who seek out hazards into which to endanger themselves).
Thus, plastic body parts are a bodyshop’s charter. It MUST be fixed, at about £1000 a pop. The auto body industry probably sent thank you letters when these things were first used.
Yet, from a classic car owner’s point of view, I have respect for any company who uses bolt-on outer body panels instead of structurally welded front and rear wings as was standard practice in the ’60s-80s. There is nothing more frustrating than trying to cut off a rusty front fender and then re-weld on a pattern part that only vaguely resembles the shape of the original.
“(according to the boffins who developed the test, pedestrians are not the averagely intelligent human, but rather bumbling sub-normal morons intent on active self-endangerment who seek out hazards into which to endanger themselves)”
This sentence speaks for itself. Bravo!
Reminds me of the Monty Python sketch of “Upper class twit of the year”. Priceless!
FYI: the word “boffin” has the same meaning in the UK as the word “nerd” has in the USA.
My grandparents’ (and now my Uncle’s) 2001 Renault Scenic (same colour as the one below) has some plastic panels – including the front guards (aka fenders to y’all). They were (and still are) incredibly flexible, and great for pulling tricks on unsuspecting friends – I’d pretend to ‘trip’ in front of them and slam a hand into the guard for support, whereupon the guard would cave in considerably. Much horror would ensue until I’d remove my hand and the ‘dent’ would pop right back out again. Hilarious, and hours of fun! (ok, I was a lot younger at the time…) The only thing more hilarious was (and still is) its spectacular (and possibly award-winning) lack of reliability – it’s almost as if the major mechanicals were built out of plastic too…
My guess would be that the fenders were plastic purely for CAFE reasons. Any little weight loss anywhere in the car could help get that fleet MPG number up just a teeny bit, and all of those weight savings add up.
Get a 3D printer and a 13 year old with a Macbook and a keen eye and you’re good to go! 😉
“Everybody is wrong. The only law that I know of, is that a manufacturer is required to make parts available for as long as they offer a warranty.”
Yep! Chicago Tribune still gets letters from people with 10 year old cars complaining about parts availabiltiy and they always assume there’s “gotta be a law that requires parts stock for 20 years!”.
I owned several plastic saturns and was always impressed with the toughness of the product. I think metal or plastic will bite the dirt if the object is sharp like a corner of a truck bed and that appears to me to be a likely cause of this one.
The gelcoat (or whatever) instead of paint was a big seller in my case. My 10 yo POS Opel/Saturn Vue with almost 200k looked like it just came off the showroom floor. It was also impervious to shopping carts. The opel Vues lost a customer for GM in my case. They should have continued with the SL. Highway 40+mpg at 70+mph while still looking good beyond all expectations is a winner.
In some cases, plastic parts were used to keep certain cars in a lower weight range for EPA tests. I once owned a 1980 Buick Regal, and was asked if my hood was steel or aluminum when I was buying a replacement gas strut.
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