I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of that was intended to discourage shadetree mechanics as well.
Perhaps, but the legitimate things they are discouraging shade tree mechanics on, like servicing the NAG1 trans yourself, since it is very sensative to overfill, they remove the dipstick and replace it with a cap that says "Dealer Serviced Only".
Every manufacturer is putting these plastic covers on their engines, and perhaps in the reasoning for spending the money to do it, the idea of discouraging shade tree mechanics come up as well as reducing engine noise, protecting dirt build up in some areas, etc. and I still suspect the biggest factor is the stylist and marketing people getting together and showing an underhood picture of the vehicle without the plastic covers and arguing, "Our testing/polling shows, for the majority of consumers, when they open the hood at the dealership, while deciding to buy the vehicle, they are more likely to buy when the see the picture with the plastic covers on the engine."
Blame it on the ignorance of automotive consumers, I garuantee if the marketing research showed that a majority of consumers reponded like you and I do, when they saw those covers, saying, "why in the world do you put some stupid plastic cover on the engine to dress it up? who are you trying to fool?" The covers wouldn't be there.
The manufacturers didn't get away with exploiting consumer ignorance on the RFID ignition keys. A couple years back, several manufacturers, including Chrysler, went to all RFID ignition keys, and hoping that consumer ignorance would let them get away with charging 2000%-6000% profit on replacement keys. They suffered a backlash from consumers threatening to never buy their cars again if they can expect get stuck and have to pay $500 or $600 for a replacement key. Noticehow all the manufacturers have gone back to offering cars without the RFID keys, and the prices on the keys have dropped drastically although they are still insanely high.
The manufacturers still get away with keeping their electronic module software proprietary because of consumer ignorance. There is absolutely no reason why someone would be forced to go to a Dealership to have electronic diagnostics or electronically controlled maintenance procedures done. But, all the manufacturers design the systems and their tools that way and keep the information proprietary just to keep an inflated revenue stream to themselves and their dealerships. If consumers really understood that every shop or themselves could have tools that read every diagnostic code and perform every electronic controlled procedure at a very reasonable cost (granted some procedures should have a flashing warning saying, "If you don't know what your doing you could damage the vehicle"), there would be an uproar, but there is NOT, because most people don't even realize it and just assume that the Dealerships have these super smart, highly trained techs that they have no other choice to bring their vehicles too, when its totally untrue.