Monday, March 14, 2011

Why The NA Car Market Sucks

I recently spent a bit of time looking at prospective replacements for my car. Guess what I found? Zip - nada - nothing. There are a couple of cars that I would consider if my current vehicle failed catastrophically, but nothing that I'm willing to fork out money for right now.

My complaints - what's out there is either far too large, or it has the wrong features. Most cars are getting godawful automatic transmissions crammed into them and standards aren't even an option (I'll consider a decent sequential shift design - but really, I prefer driving a standard); finding a decent mid-size car with good fuel economy, a standard and reasonable design is like finding hen's teeth - they're pretty scarce.

My disappointment with the offerings on the market turned to anger when I read this tirade on Motortrend whinging about how the VW "Bulli" mini-bus is so "awful" and inappropriate for the North American market.

The rest of the world lives with much smaller cars than we do - a 2.0L motor is a good size in most places, here it's a floor. I've been in Europe a few times (not as much as I'd like), and I've been in some fantastic little cars that are half the size of an average car here.

With two rows of fold-down bench seats, the Bulli is ostensibly a six-seater. Really, it’s more of a four-seater, for young couples or people with dogs, instead of kids. The seats fold down 50/50 front and back, and the rear windows roll down on conventional (not sliding) doors.

Whine ... whine ... whine.

It's no wonder the North American car market is so depressing these days. Not only have consumers gotten complacent, but the journalists have bought into the same complacency. Instead of cheering on more innovative and efficient designs (and while I'm not likely to buy a Bulli, I do admire it), they spend their time whining about how awful the vehicle is because it makes trade-offs compared to the bloated behemoths that dominate North American roads. Finding an automotive review with something good to say about a small car is next to impossible, and that shapes people's opinions quite dramatically.

The rising costs of fuel these days might spur a few more people to take a long, hard look at what they are driving. With a few more European inspired cars like the Ford Fiesta making their way to our shores, perhaps we'll start to crawl out of the doldrums of bloated, boring designs that currently dominate showrooms.

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