Saturday, December 20, 2008

Car blather ...

When surveyed, most Americans as a group show more sense than more legislators as individuals. On abortion most Americans in surveys support a middle of the road approach, not supporting an out right ban, but supporting limits like a ban on partial birth abortions (except in the case of danger to the health of the mother, which is the only time I would hope doctors would perform this procedure anyway), they support parental notification and so on. In the case of gun control, most Americans do not support a ban on guns, not even on handguns. But they do support "reasonable" gun controls, like bans on assault weapons, rules and licensing for carrying guns, records and licensing for gun purchases, etc.

But I suspect when it comes to cars it has not sunk in yet for most Americans that gas is a finite resource, so using as little of it as possible is a good idea. Most people probably thing that bigger cars and SUV's give them better protection in crashes (sometimes, but not always) and that if they own an SUV, they are prepared for "emergency" situations that will never arise. The closest most Pittsburghers get to off-roading is when the park in the grass at Hartwood acres or Star Lake for a concert. And SUV's have the considerable potential to roll, because of their high center of gravity. Once they start rolling, the roof can sink down some and the person in the SUV can bang the top of their head against the roof repeatedly.

Never the less I believe the big three have decided that Americans want bigger cars, SUV's and pick up's, all with bigger engines and automatic transmissions. And as far as I can tell, Americans agree. They still seem to buy the bigger cars, SUV’s and pick up’s. Of course, the best selling car in America is the Toyota Camry, and the Japanese hybrids have sold briskly (faster than the Ford Hybrids). And a Pew poll found that Americans seem to overwhelmingly support higher mileage standards (in the form of higher CAFÉ standards).

But that doesn’t seem to matter to the big three. They make better cars in Europe, including a new version of the Ford Fiesta or Festa, or something. A diesel that does as good or better than the Volkswagen TDI, get something like 50 or 60 mpg. But it is not coming here, at least not in that form. It will be a gasoline engine, and bigger. In fact lots of car companies send cars with smaller engines to Europe, and cars with bigger engines (or just bigger cars) here. Now I hear that Chrysler is going to shut down for a month. It is hard to get too upset about that.

I have heard some people say American cars are just s good as anything made by the Japanese. Maybe, but what we seem to be able to count on is that the American car is bigger.

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