I have a little secret: I'm a car junkie. Some of you may not have realized this,
but I actually really enjoy cars, and the auto industry. I loved working at Ford,
when I got to touch the cars and see the actual product (as opposed to when I was
doing my job, which was all tech, all the time). This said, however, by and large
I don't like American cars. It's not that I have a generic dislike of all things
American, but rather that the American car industry produced junk for much of their
history, and now that they've stopped, they're producing boring instead.
This all said, I still look forward to the auto shows in the US, in large part
due to the concept vehicles, which often introduce all the features and styling
which should already be in production vehicles. So I watch mostly in the hopes
that someone will surprise me. And for the foreign cars, which are generally
well ahead of the curve.
On Sunday, the Detroit Auto Show opened its doors to the press, and started
introducing this year's stuff. I had been waiting for this for a while now,
as I had heard several small cars would be introduced, and I had hoped they
would include some of the European styling (and efficiency) I have become so
Unfortunately, the first couple of products I saw were at the other end of the scale.
GM introduced two new hybrid vehicles: a new
Saturn SUV and a new
The only points these two vehicles seem to be trying to score is 'who can build the
biggest vehicle and still pretend it's fuel efficient because it has a hybrid engine?'
I mean, a chevy Tahoe? According to the 2006 specs, this thing weighs 5000 pounds.
And that's without the added weight of the hybrid system! Compare that to the civic
hybrid, at 2800 pounds.
After wading through the three ton vehicle section, I finally managed to find the
small cars I had been seeking - the Honda Fit and the Toyota Yaris. Sadly, although they both qualify for cute, they are also
both aimed at first time buyers. Since apparently people don't buy small cars unless
they can't afford anything better. Thank goodness Mini seems to get it (although I don't
know what to make of the
Mini concept vehicle). An additional oddity is that both small cars get singularly
unexceptional gas mileage, despite small engines.
I will close this rather long post with the
Chrysler Imperial (large pic),
which seems to cover the American market in a nutshell - big, ugly, and with mileage rated
'gallons per mile' instead of 'miles per gallon'.