While I can understand the principle of built-in obsolescence, the marketer in me simply rebels when I see manufacturers continually releasing updated products and at that same time ensuring that all spare parts for previous models are recalled from service centres and distributors. No matter how minor the fault, if you need a new part - basically you're stuffed.
We have been chasing a replacement 'Planet gear' for our Raymarine ST4000 Tiller autohelm ram which recently cracked. There are 4 of these tiny gears located at the base of the ram, seated on 4 pins atop a small stainless steel spindle. The end cog on the motor sits between them and together they drive the ram up and down the arm. Not rocket science - just 4 x simple 22 x teeth gears made of bakerlite by the looks of them.
Most of you are probably way ahead of me by now - and yes - totally correct - Raymarine do 'not have' any parts. From their head office in the UK to here in Oz - they simply 'do not' exist and the only option we have is to fork out another $2400 for a new ram which 'miracles of miracle's will work with our existing control head electronics. Heaven help us if it didn't as the whole shebang retails at approx $3900.
Now I'm not talking about an item that went out of production 30 years ago with spare parts buried metres deep under Steptoe & Sons Scrap and Salvage Yard - I'm talking about an item that went out of production late 2006 early 2007.
I called the UK and spoke with everyone from the Sales Manager, Service Manager right down to the guy who replaces the plastic water cups in reception - they are all reading from the same script 'sorry - you'll have to upgrade to the new model'.
Now I'm used to software upgrades constantly dropping in my lap - but let's face it, they are replacement items that wont require us selling the neighbours kids to the next set of gypsies that pass through our area or my wife or I hocking a kidney on Ebay.
Even when I explained that we had the latest Raymarine radar, VHF, AIS, Wind Instruments, Charts, hand towels, toothbrush and tupperware collection - the story was the same. When I also added that while I was very happy with their products, I would now have to think twice about purchasing another autohelm from them for fear of being left high and dry next month when the next upgrade in the new Spring fashion colours comes along; you could almost hear the gaeilic shrug over the phone - 'sorry - not interested'.
Last week I ran into a local watch maker and jeweller - he took one look at the gear and said 'piece of cake'. He is now making a mold and will cast me new gears in bronze and if any of you are stuck in the same situation - drop me a line and perhaps we'll cast a few extras. Will my next marine electronic purchase be a Raymarine? - you be the judge.
Rant over for the day