Made In The U.S.A.

Car Parts as a Buying Bellwether

In Adventures on April 26, 2009 at 12:35 am

The hatch on my hatchback has turned into more of a guillotine than a trunk lid. The hydraulic lifts that keep it raised have lost their gusto. It happened slowly at first, making the hatch feel lighter to lift but unable to hold it open unaided. Then one day, they didn’t even help to lighten the load. That was the day I discovered that a hatchback hatch weighs roughly 100 pounds. Seriously. The thing’s heavy.

After enough bumbling around getting things into and out of the cargo area, I’ve realized that not only is having to hold the heavy thing open all the time a huge inconvenience, it feels pretty dangerous too. It’s imperative that I swap out the lift supports asap.

I’ve been looking for the replacement parts for a while now. AutoZone stocks Mighty Lift supports, and they have a part number for the version I need, but they don’t stock the version I need. That part number, plugged into Google, comes up with nothing. I can find similar options from other manufacturers online, but the price is pretty high. (I’m thinking the pair should be around $50.)

I’ve tried on three separate occasions to find the parts in a store, and have failed every time. I’ve tried two separate junkyard searches online (where you enter the information about a part you need and a pool of nationwide salvage yards checks their inventories) to no avail. I’ve even emailed a guy with an eBay auction for a completely different part from the same car in hopes that he’d sell me the hatch supports. He hasn’t.

I’m getting desparate.

At first, I thought I’d have a hard time finding American-made options for this very specific part for a Korean car. Now I’m having my doubts about being able to even find the thing in the first place. And it’s only a matter of time before this hatchback thing hurts somebody.

So I’m going to buy the first set of applicable lifts, regardless of where they’re from. I only home they’re MITUSA. But even if they’re made of imported illegally poached Panda ivory and assembled by disabled children who are forced to work for three cents a week in the worst sweatshop conditions, I’m buying them.

Which brings me to the whole point of this post.

My little project might be fine for a little project, but it’s unsustainable as a long-term way of life.

I don’t mean that I can’t wait for this year to be over so that I can buy shirts without concern for where they’re made or so that I can outfit my house with tchotchkes from India. I hope that my new sensibilities stay with me forever, as hopefully the ability to distinguish between want and need also will.

I mean that there are things that we need–really need–that we are going to buy. And if those things aren’t Made In The USA, or made in environmentally friendly ways, or made of locally grown products… oh well.

Cash, check or charge?

Someday I’m going to buy another computer. And I’m going to buy a pair of new shoes. And I’m going to buy the parts that allow my car to work safely. And I’m going to buy the things that I need to buy regardless of how and where and why they came from where they did.

I’ll still try to buy responsibly. And I’ll still try to buy used. And I’ll still try to buy locally, organically, environmentally and sustainably. But without major changes to the supply side, there’s no way that over here on the demand side  reasonable people can be expected to consistently vote with their dollars even when it’s counterproductive to their own personal well being.

People buy what’s best for them. Thus, there is Wal Mart. But hopefully factoring in the many times that what’s best for an individual is also best for the greater good can transform the way I, and we, consume. And hopefully it can make a dent in the way the suppliers provide us with the products we want and need–if for no other reason than because of the public relations benefits that come from producing conscientiously.

The bottom line, though, is that for many things we need, we are at the whim of the producers. And if they decide that it’s better for business to make the stuff we need in China, they’ll do it.

It’ll be “Bye Bye, American-Made Stuff.” But that won’t keep us from buying the stuff, because we will need it.

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