Where Have All the Cheap Cars Gone?

The world used to be filled with small, practical and often quirky inexpensive cars. These little tikes were sometimes endearing in light of their paucity in options. We can’t have these anymore and it is everyone’s fault.

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Everyone sucks at driving. I refer to it as an iPhone mentality but it started long ago in a Detroit not so far away.

In public I often mock blog posts and op-ed pieces because the research behind them is lacking and impartiality, while sometimes present, is devoid of logic. On the internet, however, I can write any damn thing I want and not have to really back it up.

The majority of people in the United States cannot freaking drive. Therefore our cars have to do everything for us. That is a scientific fact backed up by nutritional labels. It’s damn organic and gluten free. Wait, I got the stick shift vaccine… now I’m going to die.

Your new car is as much a computer on wheels as an engine on a chassis. The overregulation of the auto industry and safety standards has killed the “fun” level of the inexpensive car. Well that and consumer expectation and entitlement. Some of you younglings, in the parlance of bad Star Wars movie Jedi terminology, may not realize this but electric windows, automatic transmissions and air conditioning were once considered the now HID headlights of the American auto consumer. That’s right, they were nice to have but not necessarily necessary (YES! I love using two words in a row).

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This article isn’t about options though… it’s about safety features. Screw them.

I love them so much.

The modern autocar driver NEEDS safety features. Why? Cause they friggin’ suck a driving. Every time I see a commercial for automated braking or crash detection system I cringe. I cringe at the fact the commercial is correct. Like that inattentive dumbass in the commercial most people can’t drive. The amount of safety regulations the NHTSA will soon require, as a whole, is staggering in historical comparison. Motorists in the US are unable to actually drive a vehicle in a coherent and responsible fashion. Hence the movement towards self-driving vehicles.

We’ve come so far at sucking there is no way back.

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I used to advocate everyone should learn how to drive on a stick shift car because it forces you to understand more of what’s going on. I used to claim that if you can’t tell me the number of cylinders in the vehicle you drive on the regular you should hand over the keys and toss your license in the garbage. Honestly, we’ve come so far past automotive ineptitude that the only option, for most people, is semi-assisted to fully automated driving. I’m not saying I’m without fault behind the wheel; listen we are all human here, I’m just saying I’m probably a better driver than most of you. Not because I drive slow, just because I check and am aware of my surroundings constantly. Don’t just look at the car in front of you, look further. Like chess you should anticipate what can and cannot happen. Unfortunately most people have too much going on while driving to do that.

Automate that shit. Automate it now. (FYSA I know my grammar is horrible.)

Why do I call it the iPhone mentality? Have you ever tried to help you parents, grandparents or someone from the baby-boomer generation (no-offense, ok some offense) set up a printer, router, tv, cable box, satellite box, smart phone, microwave oven, paper shredder, etc? Some of those were outlandish the point has been made. Wait… universal remote. Ok, now the point has been made. When the Commodore 64 became the bestselling personal computer of all time and the industry exploded everyone thought, “Damn I needs me one of them magic boxes.” Slowly but surely those boxes got more powerful, smaller. It’s in the palm of your hand and more complex than systems used to land men on the moon. But we aren’t all astronauts now are we?

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The smartphone, it has to be so user friendly that is more using you than you are using it.

You do not own your iPhone (or any Apple Device really). Understand that. The level of personalization and freedom (on the surface) is changing the background and ringtones and selecting from pre-authorized programs from a single party store. And that is alright. The true “gear heads” of the computing world can jailbreak it and do all kinds of things (albeit with great danger) if they want but the average person just needs it to do what Apple tells them they should be doing.

That iPhone, the one you can’t really do anything with… that is a Camry.

And ya know what? That is fine too. I don’t want you to hot rod your Camry. Seriously, please don’t. That isn’t what a Camry is for. You should be able to go into your local Best Buy and pick up a Camry (or other standard midsize sedan) from a kiosk right next to the refrigerators. Although the automotive trend of late is moving more toward Crossover vehicles (inset RAV4 or CRV when applicable). The point is the majority of vehicles purchased today are more an appliance than anything else. You just bought the beige model. Sure Hyundai’s are over styled and look car-razy (see what I did there?) but in the end they are often underpowered to maximize fuel efficiency and provide little to no steering feedback. Ohhhh you bought the lime green fridge, but it is still a fridge underneath. It does the same thing as all the other fridges.

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So how does this come back to cheap cars? The Beetle, the Wrangler, the Scout, the Corvair, the Falcon. Small, cheap, reliable (mostly), and charming to drive. These cars and many others like them had character. They required YOU to drive the vehicle. You were the ABS, you were the electric windows and you were the crash avoidance system. Pure Darwinism at its best. A stripped down, unadulterated driving experience. You did with them what you wanted and you had to know how to do it.

We can’t have that anymore. It is tragic but we’ve lost so much of know-how that the only way forward is to accept that the government has to regulate the industry for our safety from each other (and by each other I mean not me because I drive like a freakin’ boss).

Honestly there should be a test people have to take in order to drive. Wait… Shit.

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