Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Why are Car Operating Manuals so fat today?

Have you recently bought a car? Did you read the operating manual(s)? Well, if you buy a car such as the Volkswagen Passat you receive a booklet with approximately 500 pages. It's so fat that it doesn't even properly fit into the dashboard compartment. If you want to read it page by page, you probably spend more than three hours. And this is only one language! So, next time, when you rent a car, will you go through all of this? Probably not.
Well, in the past this was quite different. As you can see on the picture there are a number of car manuals displayed. The operating manual of the Renault 4 has 24 pages, the one for the Ford Granada 64 pages. That's a fraction of what the new car brings to the owner. Why this difference? This probably has a number of reasons: Cars have become more complex, things like the entertainment system need a lot of explanation. Car manufacturers have become much more risk averse. Anything I driver could do wrongly and has the potential to create a liability lawsuit needs to be documented in the manual. And, people today have much less technical understanding compared to the past. Remember, in the 50ies or 60ies you were asked technical questions for getting your driving certificate!
I am still impressed from the Renault 4 operating manual. It's so condensed, the 24 pages even include the index and the table of content. And funnily they had to add another 4 pages to add corrections to the 24 pages already printed in large numbers before.

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