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Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Save your (inner car guy's) soul

It seems to me that America as a nation as well as a people has lost its soul when it comes to the automobile. When thinking about American cars, most people point out the overall lack of reliability, refinement, innovation, or passion. Once in a great while, somebody will stop and consider the sports car offerings of America and summarize it all with the word "power."

Frankly, that makes sense. Looking at the current crop of popular American performance (I hesitate to say "sports car") cars, power does adequately encapsulate them all. There's the Camaro, Mustang, Corvette, and Viper just to name a few. All these cars have enough torque to spin the world like Superman and enough horsepower to be considered supercars just 10 years ago. As an addendum, they would all leave a considerable bulge in your wallet compared to their foreign counterparts.

So, what's the problem? Part of the problem is that "power" meant a whole lot more in a passed time. Power could be used to describe everything from the manufacturing prowess of this nation to its ability to design and engineer the best in the world. Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not some southern Republican who favors American products over everything else in the world regardless of quality. I just want to know where the American auto industry, or more importantly, the American consumer took a turn toward mediocrity.

As you would imagine, I am the person that family and friends gravitate toward when they want car buying advice. I love that aspect of being a car guy. If you're that guy, it shows that these people put some sort of faith in you. They trust you. You're not a car salesman trying to collect a commission. When this kind of thing happens, I feel it's my duty to find something that will truly make the person happy. However, I don't know how many times I've scoured the internet, magazines, and Sunday newspapers to find something worthwhile when the person comes back to me and says, "What do you think of a Camry or Accord?" Honestly, I would rather have that flaming Ford Pinto pin me against a fireworks factory. Atleast, that will get my heart beating faster! Please, I implore you, don't do this to that car guy you know. It's the most demeaning thing you can do.

However, about 80% of the people you know probably do something like this. Take some time during a nice sunny day to just sit by a busy street. Take your lunch outside or go buy a carton of "Ben and Jerry's". It doesn't matter what your excuse is. I already know your reason for being outside. Look at the cars that go by. It's a sea filled with boring shapes and boring colors. An ocean of Camrys, Accords, Altimas, etc. I bet the majority of them have the base motors too.

Now, let's consider the facts. We live in a time of unparalleled engineering (yes, even Toyota). New cars are asking for oil changes after huge time intervals now. It's not uncommon to see cars go 10000-15000 miles without an oil change. These cars are lasting longer than ever, even with those sparse oil changes. Never mind the added benefits of computer aided analysis to make cars stronger, stiffer, and safer for the occupants. Add in the fact that fuel efficiency is at an all time high. Most importantly, fuel is cheap. After considering inflation, three dollars per gallon is still less than what our parents were paying during the fuel crisis of the 70s.

Next time you're considering buying a new car talk to that car guy you know for his opinion. Remember to keep an open mind. Chances are he can think of something that will be perfect for you. Performance, luxury, safety, and efficiency can all be had as long as you know the right people to ask.

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