Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Venting for a minute . . .

Allow me to apologize here, but I'm sick and tired of listening to the whiners of the world going on and on about how ____ (insert your favorite domestic manufacturer) is an idiot for contributing to global warming, inefficient vehicles, etc. It really irks me to see people babbling on completely at odds with what they (meaning the general population) have been buying for the past number of years. Once upon a time, I purchased a fairly lightweight (all aluminum V8) Buick sedan with decent gas mileage, room for six adults, and many other wonderful features. It, along with a lot of other vehicles in the era were manufactured for gas savings and guess what . . . it wasn't five years ago . . . or ten . . . or even twenty! My Buick was build in 1962! GM and it's subsidiaries (Buick/Pontiac/Oldsmobile) were making all sorts of interesting vehicles . . . even if your name wasn't Ralph Nader. My point is, the buying public shunned them and they went away very quickly . . . well, almost . . . the light(er) cars stayed and the engines just got bigger and become the muscle car fodder. (Ford Falcon -> Mustang, Pontiac Tempest -> GTO, Plymouth Valiant ->Barracuda, etc...) Fast forward to the 1980's . . . four cylinder cars with fuel savings . . . but trends towards bigger engines and bigger cars. Why? Because PEOPLE BOUGHT UPWARDS!

The minivan is a prime example of this trend . . . what started as a small people mover has blossomed and grown over the years. In doing so it brought people into shunning the platform, going instead to the SUV ranks to avoid "soccer mom" badges. ARGH! I remember having discussions wtith people . . . talking about the "need" for a huge four-wheel drive vehicle. I'm sorry, but the weather in the locale I'm at only makes 4wd a convenience a few days out the year . . . adn I've maintained, if I can't get around in a vehicle with FWD, then there's probably a good reason not to even be out!

So cry me a river how your not going to trust _____ (fill in your punching bag manufacturer) because they don't provide xyz car with 100 mpg. People are wondering how manufacturers can make money on small cars . . . . it's very simple . . . do the same thing that they did with trucks/suv's. They took standard old technology -- simple RWD platforms and began optioning them to the moon. Suddenly the farm truck had heated leather seats, power windows, moon roof, and a bazillion other options . . . since the suburbanites "need one" for towing a boat or camper once or twice a year. The balancing act will be offering cars they can charge a premium for, and ones that will be affordable for others to drive . . and making them appeal to each target market. Can you picture a $30K Chevy Cobalt or Ford Focus? Honda/Toyota/etc... have successfully pushed the envelope in that . . . but we'll see what happens in the next five years.