Talking about automobiles there are two mindsets that exist, “The newer, the better” and “Old is gold”. There is a large number of people who believe the new technology, newer cars are always better than the older ones while, on the other hand, there is an equal number of those who believe the older ones were better than the new. As a matter of fact, both the statements stand true in their own respect.
Automobile development is quite a complicated process. Each automobile consists of several hundred parts & components and can be assessed in various aspects including looks, comfort, handling, performance, economy, space, reliability and many more. Manufacturers have to cater to a variety of customers, having different preferences. While they strive hard to come up with a better product, it is nearly impossible to develop a vehicle that excels in all parameters.
Determining whether new is better or old, largely depends on what parameter the vehicles are being compared. Built quality of the cars, particularly Suzukis, that were being assembled in Pakistan during the late 90s and early 2000s was better than what rolled out in later years. The interior, dashboard, quality of plastics, upholstery, fit & finish, etc. was better in the cars of that era. Cars that are assembled today cannot be compared to the older cars based on these parameters, but they are better in several other aspects than the older ones.
Take Honda City, for example, the first generation City with Hyper16 engine was primarily loved for its handling and road grip. It was nicely styled and provided ample power for a 1300cc sedan. Its successor, the 2nd generation iDSI, was known to be sluggish, with a somewhat unusual shape. Many have the opinion that the old Hyper16 was better than the IDSI, which stands true if you compare the acceleration, handling and the least number of blind spots for the driver. However, the City iDSI was purely designed for economy and comfort. It offered a spacious cabin, enormous luggage space, and better fuel consumption, all of which were better than its predecessor. Pakistani auto consumers are a strange bunch.
The 9th generation Corolla replaced the 7th generation Corolla in our market and despite being better than the older model in many ways, the 9th gen had very unpredictable braking and holds a miserable record of getting out of the hands of a driver. Similarly Suzuki Liana, being the newest of the three sedans offered by Pak Suzuki is the least successful among all. Suzuki Margalla, despite being the oldest of the three Suzuki sedans of our market is considered to be the best in terms of CNG compatibility (mostly attributed to its carburetor engine), maintenance and spares. Honda Civic 5th generation was a great success due to the tremendous room for modifications it offered. The 6th gen Civic that followed was better in its own respect but was never popular than a 5th gen in terms of modifications. Similar debates comparing the 8th and 9th gen Civics are common, where there are a lot of people who vote for the 9th gen to be superior to the 8th gen, there are an equal number of those who prefer the older 8th gen over the newer 9th.
While the ‘Old is gold’ theory stands correct considering the above examples, it should not be an excuse to shy ourselves away from the new. With limited purchasing power and the fear of losing money, lot of people initially criticize the new, but favor the same when it gets old. When the front-wheel drive cars appeared in our market in the early 80s, potential buyers, and particularly the mechanics of our market, initially labeled them flop but as the years progressed, they adapted to the change.
The car mechanics and technicians, who are the primary source of advice for an ordinary buyer, have faith in older technology. This is because they don’t have to invest in new, they don’t have to learn the new either, and since most of the vehicles including cars and motorcycles are being developed using older technology, they can generate good money without having the need to update; thus their faith in old is still strong. I wonder what will happen when Honda Atlas introduces their new turbo engine in the upcoming 10th generation Civic.
Wagon-R sales are a recent example of this mindset; people initially hesitate to go for the new. Pak Suzuki Wagon-R replaced the 1000cc Alto in 2014 and while average sales of Alto were well above 11,000 units per annum (sold 1,34,011 units were sold in 12 years) when it was discontinued in 2012, the Wagon-R however has just 6,800 units sold so far since it was launched in year 2014.
It entirely depends on what basis the comparison of the vehicles is being made. One vehicle will always be better than the other in terms of a specific aspect. The debate of “New vs Old” will never end, new vehicles will keep coming, they will have something good to offer and perhaps a few short-comings too. But the fact remains, the old which is now gold was once new!