How many updates do cars actually need?

BMW X5 M Updated
BMW constantly updates its models

How many times have you been watching TV and at the end of a news update you’ll hear, “More news in the next update.” But how many times is it more news? Usually, it’s the same news. Again, and again. Updates without actually being updates – it doesn’t really make sense.

Interestingly, one industry definitely understands what an update is; in fact it lives off updates. Yes, the car industry would be sunk if it wasn’t for incremental improvements.

Think about BMW. A contender for the most updated brand around, it even has a name for the updates – LCI, or Life Cycle Impulse. Plenty of other brands do the same, with names like Series II or numerical updates – how many times have you seen MY17.5 or similar?

Updates can be welcome. If your dealer is a good one, they’ll advise you that an update is coming and perhaps get you to hold off for a month or two. But updates can also cause issues.

Once you’ve bought your shiny new car and an update comes along, your resale value sinks instantly; often thousands of dollars have just been torn up. Then there’s all the included equipment that you miss out on when they’ve been included with a new update – larger screens, extra safety gear, updated tech, etc. It hurts.

Spare parts is another issue. Usually the updated car has been changed slightly on the outside. Bumpers, lights or even panels may have been changed. An accident will reveal that instead of having lots of available parts, these new, individual pieces will need to be shipped in because no one has them in stock.

All of that is a problem, but there’s even more of an issue behind the scenes. Cars are being created and shoved out the door too fast. It’s not the build quality we’re talking about, it’s the inception and creation itself.

After years of R&D, you would think that manufacturers would understand their target markets enough to create vehicles that didn’t need more equipment to keep people from straying to other brands.

We know that technology moves at a staggering pace, but there are certain things that people want as standard: automatic transmission, power steering, Bluetooth, climate control, electric windows, sat-nav and lots of safety equipment.

Beyond that, if they just make other luxuries an option, or simply include them in the first place. If you release a car and then update it with a few more bells and whistles you just demonstrate that you’re trying to eke every last drop out of that aging platform.

Making a car as good as it can be is the key. Rolls-Royce does it best. How many updates did the original Phantom get in its nearly 13 year life-span? Just two.

No-one wants a car that is superseded the moment you’ve bought it. Why can’t manufacturers just stop with the mid-life updates and start making their cars right to begin with. New models, not incremental changes.

Give people what they want. It’s not difficult.