Sunday, December 28, 2008

More Car Stuff

On one of my favorite subjects, I see in a report in the USA Today Business section on Friday that now that gas prices are down, Americans have quit buying compact and economic cars (down 63% from when gas prices peaked) and are now looking at larger cars and I am guessing trucks. If nothing else the American consumer is amazingly stupid. Again, my opinion. I am not saying all consumers need small cars or should not drive trucks. But how often I see one person in a vehicle, I wonder how big, how fast or how uneconomical they need to be. In terms of national security, the less foreign oil we use the better. Maybe there is a market for upscale smaller cars.

Cars of quality--I rent many cars as I travel and some are underpowered, some are tinny, some are solid and some have neat little extras like really, really nice seats with adjustable bolsters and automatic headlights. Some are old rear-wheel drive dinosaurs (used when driving around three or more people and you don't want an SUV.) It is just hard for the American psyche, where cars are part of identity and not only tools. There are many good reasons for higher corporate fuel economy standards. I can remember the first time CAFE standards and emission standards were introduced, cars really became large, underpowered objects. In the last ten years more powerful cars with better controls and comfort were the norm. Try driving a '63 Bug to see how far amenities have come with the same gas mileage. Better handling, more quiet, more power and much safer. and in some cases, more fun. I think, regardless of what auto makers say, that if the CAFE standards were raised again, they would rise to the occasion and make better cars. I know deisel truck drivers feel that soot traps and emission standards will put them out of business. Probably not, the market will adapt and the roads and the air will be cleaner.

As an aside, I am always amazed at how many big SUVs and pick-up trucks proudly have "Support Our Troops" stickers on them, or America Proud (aka love it or leave it) on them. So let me get this straight--you want to own a vehicle that burns more fuel, keeps us on foreign oil, embroiled in conflicts to keep the pipelines open to America and then want to Support Our Troops?! Doesn't this begin to seem incongruous?

On another note, GMAC is now being recognized as a financial institution by TARP and will be eligible for bail out funds if they broaden their business to include banking. You know they will and GM will have less control over it. They have already sold 51% to Cerberus (the holding firm that owns most of Chrysler.)Time to pack.


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