Axel of Evil

Email Print
FacebookTwitterShare

Recently by Eric Peters: Ethanol is Hot — In Ways You May Not Have ThoughtAbout      

Would Americans buy smart cars if they were allowed to?

I don’t mean the Smart car – which is actually pretty short bus ($13k for a two-seater with no trunk that’s literally dangerous to use on the highway because it’s so underpowered and top heavy and which doesn’t get standout gas mileage either is many things… but high IQ it ain’t).

No, I mean smart cars, or said another way – cars that make sense.

There are very few such available and even those are heavily compromised by the rules and rigmarole that politicians, bureaucrats and lawyers (the true Axis of Evil) have imposed on their manufacture.

Let’s dissect one, the 2011 Ford Fiesta.

I have selected this car because it’s among the highest mileage (41 MPG highway) non-hybrid, almost -affordable new cars on the road. But its mileage could be so much higher – and its price tag so much lower – if Ford could build it the way I suspect many customers would very much like to buy it.

The base price of the ’11 Fiesta is $13,320. That includes dual front air bags, front seat side-impact air bags, head curtain air bags – even a knee air bag. Anti-lock brakes and traction/stability control are also standard features.

Now, all these air bags certainly make the Fiesta more crashworthy than it would be without them . But they also add probably $2,000 to the car’s sticker price. Figure another few hundred for the electronic traction control and ABS systems.

If these things were optional and you had the freedom to decide for yourself whether to buy them, it would be likely be possible to buy the new Fiesta for closer to $10,000. The money you saved up front could be used to ease the pain of ever-rising gas prices as well as those monthly car payments. As the cost of ordinary daily living – everything from food to fuel to utilities – rises seemingly with the sun, spending less where possible would seem to make a lot of sense.

But of course we don’t get to choose. Uncle – politicians, bureaucrats and lawyers – choose for us. In loco parentis. We are not smart enough to make the right decision (safety, always safety – whether we can afford it or not) so they will make the right decision for us – just like Mon n’ Dad! Even if it ultimately means that new cars eventually become so expensive that fewer and fewer people can afford to buy them.

The axis of evil is also partly to blame for the bloat – the ever-rising curb weight of new cars relative to the cars of the past. Each decade that has gone under the bridge has seen a ratcheting up of bumper-impact requirements, which in turn have required more metal, more bracing – more weight.

Consider: The ’11 Fiesta weighs about 2,600 lbs. – fairly light compared to the typical 3,800 pounder. But consider this: The 1984 Fiesta weighed almost 900 pounds less! If the new Fiesta could be lightened up by that amount, its fuel economy would likely be well into the 50s, without touching any of the mechanicals. And if the mechanicals were adjusted to reflect the lower curb weight – which would let the car deliver the same performance/accleration as current but with fewer CCs and thus burn less fuel – my bet is the car could be pushing 60 MPG.

True, a lightened-up and airbag-free Fiesta would not be as crash survivable as the current car. But it would make more economic (and thus, common) sense given the times we live in. Taxes at all levels are rising – to pay for politicians, bureaucrats and lawyers. Our money is worth less – that is, it has less purchasing power – from one month to the next – thanks to politicians, bureaucrats and lawyers. These same politicians, bureaucrats and lawyers continue to demand that new cars be ever safer – at our expense and even if it means they don’t get anywhere near the mileage they’d otherwise be able to deliver.

Perhaps because these politicians, bureaucrats and lawyers can comfortably afford the Latest and Greatest – enjoying the perks of taxpayer-financed six-figure positions from which it is nigh-impossible to detach them.

But for the rest of us, less might be more.

And smart, too.

Reprinted with permission from EricPetersAutos.com.

Eric Peters [send him mail] is an automotive columnist and author of Automotive Atrocities and Road Hogs (2011). Visit his website.

The Best of Eric Peters

Email Print
FacebookTwitterShare
  • LRC Blog

  • LRC Podcasts