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 fond of.

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 Chevy SUV. 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'.

Jason in Egypt commented:
Are comments working? I didn't see many posted. Anyway, I always liked the Detroit Auto Show. Fun to see lots of cars that I knew I wouldn't buy! *laugh*
on Mon Jan 9 22:20:55 2006

David commented:
Alright buddy - enough with the commentary on my readership! I'm actually thinking of buying one of the cars - the Yaris is pretty cheap, and small, and cute. I'll wait and see what happens - maybe there will be a no-interest promotion in the fall or something....
on Tue Jan 10 04:10:30 2006

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