Monday, June 16, 2008

The Death of Our Love of the Automobile

The Death of Our Love of the Automobile

Starting way back when the automobile was first invented and when a gentleman could first buy them... one had to admit that we purchased them back then, just like now, to impress the girls.
Admittedly, this is not the only reason to be sure... but in our youth - it started out that way and is built into our social, male DNA.
Many of us at some point grew to love the automobile for what it was, a beautiful looking, seat-of-the-pants-feeling and sounding thing... to touch, drive, work on, pamper, race, listen to, hell... just stare at!
And sometimes, God help us, women, seemed to get in the way actually resent our automobiles... hmmm....
Anyways... What I'm trying to say here is that the automobile at times seems to be able to able to compete - on a level of asthetics with almost any other thing on the earth including our women because they (the cars) are so very powerful, fast, expensive and beautiful. And most of us guys, shamefully, lust for them.
There are few things on this planet worth pining for and dreaming for, saving for, working for and planning for - you could name these few things off with the fingers on one hand.
  1. A good job
  2. a beautiful girl/wife
  3. a dream house
  4. a good education
  5. a sleek - fast or big, powerful truck or car.
Some guys substitute the venerable 4-wheel drive or motorcycle, but it all represents the all the same things. Lust, Speed, Power & Beauty.

Here in America, as we have grown through the 'Age of the Automobile' the cars around the world have gotten more refined by virtue of their development at the racetrack. The engines have become more refined at all displacement levels and have become affordably powerful even to the "average income" man or woman.
Lately however, it's been a bunch of fun to watch the car magazines scampering to find viewpoints to justify all the various offerings of BMW Saab Mercedes etc., - not to mention all the U.S. Carmaker's SUV's and pitiful mid-sized family car (18-22mpg city) offerings that families just don't want to buy anymore.
But it's definately no fun watching American car manufacturers scampering to revamp their model lineups (again) after getting caught with their pants down - being the effect of oil speculators driving prices up on the world markets. It's also very sad watching the American consumers and families who having gotten caught in the middle with gas-guzzling SUV's that are now costing $80-$90.00 and more to fill up which only a short time ago were status symbols and who are now laughing stocks in their own neighborhoods.
For those trying to "think ahead" and buy the new technologies, you are in for a frustrating wait. Battery technology is waaay behind what think-ahead carmakers want to offer Thinking Consumers want to be offered... which right-NOW is plug-in Hybrids. with lithium- ion batteries (abbreviated Li-ion) batteries rather than a nickel-metal hydride battery, (abbreviated NiMH) Prius-type tech.
In order for Detroit or Honda or Toyota or Nissan or offer the newer battery Plug-in technologies we are in for another six-years at least to get into production to get the cost down under $50,000 per car for a car such as the upcoming Chevy Volt that the "average guy" can afford... Remember this is a car that is a "low-end vehicle".

The reason why there are so many fewer Prius available this year than last is #1) Toyota is afraid to oversell the tail-end of a dying battery technology. Imagine yourself as the owner of a NMHyd Prius owner seeing a new Prius being offered the very next year for the same price with a Li-ion Battery (that is also Plug-in) and you are told you can upgrade your model for $12,000! #2) Availability of the dying NMHyd and the new Li-ion technology both are very, very scarce.
It used to be so much fun with whatever model of performance car you happend to prefer to put your butt in your car, turn your radio on, fill-up your tank, hit the road and find a piece of asphault that could challenge your heart, your skill, your automobile and mood. But no more. The guilt-trip is just too high, the dent in the family budget is too deep. If you are a single guy without a care in the world and have not yet met a woman who will give you the evil eye... then buy the Boxter and stomp your foot. But your days are numbered. In reality, for the rest of us, see below. 
If you still want to enjoy driving and gasoline powered automobile...
The only way this can any longer happen is is you are #1) Rich enough not to be concerned about how much gas costs... #2) Writing for a magazine and are trying to pretend like the automobile as we knew it isn't dead #3) Have fast-forwarded into the future and found our electric, compresse-air or hydrogen solution.
In any case, every now & then, when I'm not turning off my air conditioning, or coasting down hills, or turning my engine off at long traffic lights... I find myself at that perfect freeway merging ramp - and see an opening at about 40mph thru traffic - and I think about my $48.00 fillup in my Ford Focus ZX5 SES and I think...what the hell!

Copyright 2008
Jay Bradley Rephan

(such as the $100,000 Tesla)