Planned Obsolescence

DEFINITION of 'Planned Obsolescence'

A manufacturing decision by a company to make consumer products in such a way that they become out-of-date or useless within a known time period. The main goal of this type of production is to ensure that consumers will have to buy the product multiple times, rather than only once. This naturally stimulates demand for an industry's products because consumers have to keep coming back again and again.

Products ranging from inexpensive light bulbs to high-priced goods such as cars and buildings are subject to planned obsolescence by manufacturers and producers.

Also known as "built-in obsolescence".

BREAKING DOWN 'Planned Obsolescence'

Planned obsolescence does not always sit well with consumers, especially if competing companies offer similar products but with much more durability. Pushing this production too far can result in customer backlash, or a bad reputation for a brand.

However, planned obsolescence doesn't always have such a negative connotation. Companies can engage in this activity solely as a means of controlling costs. For example, a cell phone manufacturer may decide to use parts in its phones that have a maximum lifespan of five years, instead of parts that could last 20 years. It's unlikely most consumers will use the same cell phone five years after purchase, and so the company can lower input costs by using cheaper parts without fearing a customers backlash.

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