Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Why people should feel bad about feeling good. Old cars, and the evil within

Photo: GM Media Archives
 Is it the end of the road for the traditional auto enthusiast?

Being around car people my whole life, I’ve learned to appreciate cars with all five senses. There’s no room for technology for technology’s sake, but if someone comes up with something that runs better, or looks better, or drives better, or sounds better, or smells better, or feels better, that’s progress you can believe in.

Take that last one—feels better. I’ve always thought that driving a low, wide, fast, loud Corvette, for example, feels good. And driving a tinny, gutless, cheap Chevette, well, doesn’t.

Anymore, though, our society seems to be conspiring to make what feels good feel bad. People should feel guilty for lusting after anything that might be considered fun, lest it make an impact on Mother Earth. Last year at this time we were crushing any old truck that didn't get 19-mpg so people could get a few bucks off a Kia. There’s talk about limiting speeds in cars electronically, decreasing speed limits, and government monitoring and regulating of our fuel consumption through GPS or other monitoring devices.

Right or wrong, the whole situation is disappointing to people that really love the auto hobby. Is that hedonistic ’66 Corvette big block even going to be legal in five years?
Photo: Wiki Commons

If you read the headlines, the problem is either that the automakers are building cars that are too powerful and don’t get enough fuel mileage, or the American consumer is not smart enough to choose what is socially responsible.

If we deplete the supply of fossil fuel beyond the point where we can’t sustain a gasoline-powered infrastructure, no one will buy a gasoline-powered car. The manufacturers will be forced to develop alternative technologies. Any of them that can’t see when the end is near and react appropriately will go out of business. It’s that simple.

 In the meantime, putting all of these regulations on everything causes manufacturers to make less money. If they are using all of their talent and resources to figure out how to squeeze ten miles-per-gallon out of a traditional gasoline engine before the stricter government-mandated deadline approaches, they are not spending those resources to develop real alternatives for vehicles produced ten, twenty years down the road.

If General Motors, or Ford, or Toyota expect to be in business for the next 100-years, it is up to them to develop sustainable products. If they can sell a million 8-mpg trucks a year, more power to ‘em. Let them make as much profit as they can by selling the products people want to buy. And if they want to be in business when or if gasoline becomes rare or obsolete, they are free to use their profits to develop new ways to power cars.

Heck, General Motors just needs to focus on making a profit so they can pay us back and get out from under Obama’s thumb.

Photo: Toyota Media
I certainly have a bias in all of this. Cars are a passion of mine. Some people understand what that means, and some people don’t. The state of the American auto industry is like a punch to the gut right now. Cars that truly mean something are looked upon as a blight on our society, and cars that are an assault on everything an auto enthusiast stands for are en vogue.

Do I want the earth to be a better place for my son 30-years from now? Of course. But right now we’re just focusing on making things frugal and guilt-free. I’d rather people could make their own choices and live their own lives, and put the burden on our carmakers to decide where they want to be in the future.

It might not be in the headlines, but some people actually still care about cars. I hope that is still possible for my son 30-years from now. I hope we don't ruin it.

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