I Want a New Car

06 Jul 2006

The van needs close to $1,000 in repairs: seriously bad brakes, a problem with the suspension, a shot battery. We’re currently dedicating a chunk of our available income to improvements to the apartment, so the van is sitting there waiting for repairs. I’m biking to work, and we’re trying to adapt to the reality, at least for the time being, that I’m not quite so mobile.

What I’d like to do is get rid of the van, and buy a small vehicle that I can use to commute. The distances I travel are low enough that a full plug-in electric vehicle would be ideal. I’d consider a full diesel, especially if I could run it on bio-diesel. I’d consider a hybrid, especially if it was a diesel hybrid.

I am just baffled by the lack of offerings in this area. There’s absolutely no technical reason why I shouldn’t be able to find a car like this that gets at least 45 mpg. They are widely available in Europe, and even in Canada. The auto vendors claim there is no market for them — but they set this up so that it is a self-fulfilling prophecy, as anyone who has studied the EV-1 fiasco.

Ford has a hybrid diesel concept car with solar panels but it is still a prototype.

Ford Focus Diesels are available in Europe — in fact, they are extremely popular — but there is some regulatory issue over particulates. This is pretty ridiculous, given that most SUVs apparently don’t have to meet the exhaust regulations that govern cars, on the grounds that they are supposedly trucks.

“Smart Cars” are being used all over Canada — an hour away from us, here in Ann Arbor! But we can’t buy them legally here; or we can, but only through gray-market sellers that modify the vehicles, which will cost us a huge premium, and some of whom Mercedes-Benz is actually in litigation with.

And don’t tell me that there’s no market for this kind of thing. There are millions of people who work in this country every day in order to create markets for things people don’t start out wanting. They are good at their jobs, too. Twenty years ago people would have thought it was weird, obnoxious, and tasteless to drive a Hummer, which looks like an emergency vehicle, handles like a barge, is dangerous and prone to roll-over, and gets a whopping twelve MPG. But it makes GM a lot of money per unit.

If I’m going to make a statement with my vehicle, it is this: it is basic transportation, not a NASCAR racer; it is as efficient as I can manage; I have arranged my life so that I have a short commute and often don’t use a car; I don’t need to drive 100 miles an hour, as a matter of course; and it doesn’t reflect the size of either my penis or my ego. Oh, and I want other people to be intrigued by it and realize that there are alternatives to basic sedans or compacts which still get apallingly low gas mileage. Wasn’t it twenty years ago that you could buy a Civic that got 50 mpg?

What an absolute failure of the American auto industry!

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