planned obsolescence

In the automobile mass production of cars, the automobile producer can't own all the cars he's producing. You get up to something like at Chrysler Company, or the Dodge factory there are 5,000 cars in one assembly plant of the many assembly plants just one plant turning out 5,000 a day. And they were, say, something over a thousands dollars, so you've got a thousand times five thousand, and so that's $50 million, it's a very yes, it's about $50 million the company can't own it's own product. There is not enough capital to possibly do it.

So what happened is that the automobile "inventors" got going and Henry Ford and others, the others had it too, where people wanted their cars, there was a great profit for a distributor of a car, and it was very worth while being a dealer. So the dealers there is something called "distributor" which is a state area, and there is a local "dealer" within it so the distributor has secondary dealers. A distributorship of the automobiles had been a very profitable matter. So much so that Henry Ford and others were able to write in their contract, that if you happen to have my distributorship, you have to guarantee to take so many cars a year. So the and you're going to have to then, in the contract, agree that you're going to have to let me know weekly what the cars exactly what kind of car you want. Your quota for this week, we'll say is going to be 300. How many of what are those going to be? Opening or touring cars? Run abouts? What are they, what color and so forth? So the automobile distributor has to give a schedule so many station wagons and such and such, and such and such a date is agreed on. He must then, the distributor must be at the end of the production line his representatives must be there with banking papers to pay for the car as it comes off. And it goes through a testing and he drives it away. Puts it on his truck today, or whatever way he's going to ship.

This is the only way, then, that the automobile mass production could occur. Then the this meant that the local dealer rather the distributor, got his contract, because he was a well-known business man, and a business man apparently, when he undertook to do something, could bring it off so that he risked the money and would make a profit, and everybody came out alright. So the distributor himself, could not possibly put up the money to buy all these cars, so he went to the local bank. And the local bank knew him as a businessman who didn't bite off more than he could chew, so he would finance him. So it meant then that the local banks, and the local banks didn't own the money, it was the people's deposits. So what happened then was that the people's deposits were, you and I didn't know that our deposits, but are funding Detroit to produce cars. And our funds, our deposits are literally buying those cars and they are held temporarily in the paper work by the bank, and they go on to dump it as soon as they can on some customer.

But, and the very, very high equity advantage of the banks it's done at such a percentage that the bank can't really lose. You're not really losing money because his replenishment capabilities and so forth, are really very high, and along with unjust terms.

At any rate, the banks then, Walter Chrysler found, the banks owned the automobiles. Then, furthermore, the salesman in order to be able to sell that car had to agree to take the car in. So, it, then again, the distributor couldn't buy all those cars, so the banks bought them. So we find the banks all the lots full of cars around the country here, your deposits own those. You don't know it, but the Bank Manager is very eager to get to be sure to get rid of those. And so far at least up till now he's done pretty well. And the equities they have, I say, are such that they can the mark can go fairly far off.

But, what Walter Chrysler discovered was: that if you advance car #1 your best car, too fast, it deteriorates the value of your second hand cars, it accelerates the deterioration, and the banks would not allow the automobile companies at Detroit to advance their models. They could be really quite superficial, where what they did was, then, to make a superficial change in the body and then in the styling departments of all these automobile companies, they were putting clay in the mud guards making these a little more streamlined each year. And then making them so the mud guards and everything outside looked different, but they were exactly the same chassis. There were gradual improvement of the better brake where the brake is. There were some engineerings that did get better, but this was really very slow. And the changes were really entirely superficial.

So that the banking equity was not in jeopardy. In other words, it was not a matter of the automobile companies wanting to produce the Dymaxion Car, they just found they couldn't.

Now, I've told all that to you because, after W.W.II, W.W.II found all the enormous production capability of Detroit wanting to get in on the enormous money of W.W.II, so that they had to agree to give up their automobile production while they were getting out the tanks and everything else. But all of the automobile companies, then, agreed, one with the other, and they advertised that everyone wanted, the men when they got back, wanted to have their nice old car, that ran this way. I want my new Franklin, I want my nice new Franklin. But it's going to be just like that car so they advertised that this was what G.I. Joe wanted and so forth, keep everything for me so they kept all their dies.

Now new tooling of a car costs around oh about, my figures I haven't had this recently in 1951 I know it cost about $70 million to re-tool a new car. So they don't like to spend that kind of money. At any rate, they agreed to keep their tools. W.W.II technology advance was incredible. It meant then when the war was over, then, Italy and the foreign people were not in this mass production, but were really producing cars really went all steel, were very, very advanced. And the American companies came in, got out all the old dies, and they couldn't compete with the beautiful technology of the rest of the world.

As a consequence, they found that the distributors didn't like their automobile business anymore. The cars were not selling with the ease that they did. General Motors and Ford got enormous building programs where they get fancy new quarters Cadillac and Buick continually upping the sales rooms, trying to make things look more "schmaltzy" and so forth, but the distributor found that he just was having a very hard time to sell his cars because, in the meantime, labor rates were going up, everything was going up, and the margin of 30 or 40% that the distributor had was really eaten up by everything his rents and the works. He was going through a terrific headache, and making no money. So that he said, "I'm going to give up my dealership," and they realized he was a very good man, and they didn't want to lose him, so what the automobile companies started doing was designing a perfectly good car, but deliberately putting in inferior metal into this part or that part. It looked like just the way the part should look, and so it should really fool your eye alright, but it was designed to wear out in an hurry.

So they guaranteed that all their dealers selling cars that the customers would come back at least once a month and would pay so much, and what they did then was to advance the prices of the parts in the catalogue, to where if you wanted to put together a car out of the parts catalog of the Buick or so forth it would cost you four or five times what the Buick would cost. So that the only way they were able to keep their dealers was this is where the words "designed in obsolescence" came from. America, then, really started then cheating itself. It's own businesses deliberately fooling its own people. This was a fundamentally very unhealthy matter.

Well, I'll come to the point now, that I am renting my cars, and I find that when I rent the car because they, General Motors and Ford own their Avis and their Hertz and so forth, then they maintain the cars and they don't put in the bad parts. So when I rent my car I get a very superior car to anything I can buy, I assure you. And I can get almost a new car every time, and it's really very pleasant, and I can keep it as long as I want it. When I go out for Christmas time in California with my family, I'll rent a car for the month, and it's my car just as much as it ever was my car. There's no kidding about it, so this was just pure kidding myself about owning it.

[Buckminstel Fuller - Everything I Know]


There is a fundamental evolutionary patterning in which, with each new era and phase of technology and social-economic venturing, both the tools and their products get bigger and bigger, and the numbers of humans involved multiplies. A period of doing more with more until a mammoth peak magnitude is attained which is followed by evolutionary production of ever more effective results with ever less pounds of material, ergs of energy, and seconds of time, all of which integrating synergy produces ever more comprehensively effective tools with ever smaller technological artifacts produced by ever fewer unskilled human workers—the 1895 to 1929 model "T" waxing to the 1960s Cadillac limo, then waning to the 1980 Japanese Honda.

For example, trans-ocean traffic brought into use ever more gargantuan ocean liners leading eventually to the five-day-Atlantic-crossing leviathans, such as the 81,000ton Queen Mary and her sister ship the Queen Elizabeth. Using the World War II technology's new, lightweight, high-strength, saltwater-impervious aluminum alloys in her superstructures the S.S. United States was built to carry the same number of passengers and the same amount of cargo, and to cross the Atlantic at the same speed as the Queen Mary, though weighing only forty-five thousand tons, that is, 55 percent of the weight of the Queens.

These five-day-Atlantic-crossing passenger carriers are now obsolete. In 1961, three jet airplanes outperformed the S.S. United States in carrying capacity, in hours instead of days and at less expense.

In 1980, ever lighter, swifter "liner"-type steamships are being built, but only for luxury cruise ships. For twenty years, these obsolete ocean liners have been progressively replaced by ten-to-thirty ton, one-third-of-aday-transatlantic-crossing jet aircraft.

Another example of the little-to-big-to-little evolution is manifest in the world of mathematical computing. In developing trigonometry and its solution by logarithms, thousand of monks worked for hundreds of years to produce the one-degree tables of sines, cosines, tangents, and cotangents. During the Great Depression years of 1930 to 1936 the British and German mathematicians were hired by their governments in a joint project to calculate the table of functions to a one-minute of arc exactitude. Then came the big post-World War II calculating machines, Univac et al., filling whole university buildings with thousands of thermionic tubes. Then came the tubeless transistor and computers weighing and bulking far less, until we came to printed circuits and "chips" and table-top equipment doing better work than the whole-building-filling equipment. Before all this, I myself spent two pre-calculator or -computer years carrying out the trigonometric calculations for geodesic domes. I had to do so "longhand." Then appeared seventy-five-pound electric calculating machines, followed by the pocket-size computers with which the trigonometric problems that took me two years of work became solvable in one day by one person.

[Buckminster Fuller - Grunch of Giants]

life span increase

When the U.S.A. entered World War I in 1917, it was asked by the British to replace all the line-of-supply ships the British had lost to German submarines and simultaneously to bring the U.S. Navy to parity with that of the British while also training, arming, transporting, and Navy-escorting one million soldiers across the Germansubmarine-infested Atlantic to the battlefields of France. When the numbers of U.S.A. troops killed and wounded in World War I battling reached unprecedented numbers, the U.S. Congress was confronted with the enormous cost of training, arming, and transatlantic-replacing of their killed and wounded troops in France. The U.S. Congress was then informed of an alternative solution to the replacement problem.

The U.S. medical scientists informed the U.S. Congress of the potential ability to save and repair the wounded U.S. soldiers in France, provided enough money was appropriated for a known-to-be-possible vast advancement in medical science: drugs, equipment, and practice. The cost of this capital investment in medical science, though historically unprecedented, was far less than the cost of entirely new troop replacements from the U.S. Convinced of these facts, the U.S. Congress appropriated the funds for the medical-science solution of its problem.

It worked. When the war was over and the saving and rehabilitation of vast numbers of veterans was realized, the new-era medical establishment was not disbanded. Enthusiastically supported by citizens in general, scientific medicine refocused its attention on the U.S.A. home front. One after another, the immediately fatal and "incurable" diseases, lethal conditions of yesterday, came swiftly under complete control. Medical information regarding further curing and effective anticipatory avoidances was enormously expanded in the late 1920s. It was discovered in the late 1920s that the area of highest mortality was the period of childbirth and its first ensuing four years. This brought successful coping with these initial years' fatalities into general effectiveness in the 1930s. The seeming population explosion after World War II was due in fact not to a postwar increase in the birthrate, whose small rise in the U.S.A. lasted for only two years, but to the coming of visible age of those who used to die but did not now or hereafter die in the womb or at birth or within their first four years in the 1930s, as had those conceived or born before the 1930s, together with the subsequent escapees of the pre-1930s childhood mortalities.

[Buckminster Fuller - Grunch of Giants]