Over the weekend, your author was wandering through a massive parking lot in mixed company and was asked why modern vehicles are so much larger than their predecessors. It’s a frequent question and one that requires an answer that seems counterintuitive on its face.
While consumer preferences have trended toward larger automobiles of late, it’s actually the United States’ regulatory landscape that has been steering us toward gargantuan vehicles. Safety standards have required the implementation of systems that often won’t fit into older/smaller designs and loopholes in the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards have resulted in manufacturers sizing up models to exploit regulatory blind spots.
Uh oh. We’re talkin’ size today. That’s right, a topic tailor-made for awkwardness, embarrassment, even shame — something best not spoken of in polite company. Just amongst your close friends and, perhaps, a doctor… whose brother is a salesman.
The fact of the matter is, sometimes we don’t fit in the cars we love. Or, we can’t cram our gangly or girthy frames into a less desirable car with several redeeming qualities, thus striking it from our mental list of automotive “maybes.”
It’s happy times for those whose height or weight deviates from the norm. Vehicles in all segments are growing like Western nations’ deficits, stretching in wheelbase and expanding in interior room, providing us all with far more comfortable cabin than the vehicles of yesteryear. Remember the Ford Contour? Midsize, my ass.
This past Sunday night, I wandered over to my local movie theater to catch Black Mass. Although I’m suffering from a bit of Joel-Edgerton-related-ennui lately and I never really got over the idea of Hey, that’s Johnny Depp in makeup, I had to admit that overall, it was a tightly plotted and thoroughly entertaining film. More importantly, it had an absolutely killer lineup of Malaise-era automobiles, including an utterly stunning ’78 Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight with a white leather interior. In fact, until the moment that a 1980 Citation makes an unexpected and rather violent appearance on the scene, it’s nothing but wall-to-wall Seventies sedans. Just the way I like it.
I remember that as a child my grandparents complained about the squared-off, generic appearance of pretty much everything for sale in the post-Nixon era. I can sympathize a bit because although every car sold in the Fifties also looked just like every other car for sale, the general template of the Bel Air/Fairlane/et al was appealing and colorful and optimistic. But even if you don’t care for the ’74 Malibu Classic or the ’79 Granada, at least they had proportions that emphasized width over height. The worst of them had a certain dignity.
Not so with today’s rolling toaster ovens. We’re rapidly approaching the era where every single car for sale will be some variant on the almighty CR-V. The latest sales data from Porsche and MINI simply hammer that home, with a uniquely depressing twist.
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- JamesGarfield Re: Getting away from union plantsAbout a dozen years or so ago, Caterpillar built a huge new engine plant, just down the road here in Seguin TX. Story has it, Caterpillar came to Seguin City council in advance, and told them their plans. Then they asked for no advanced publicity from Seguin, until announcement day. This new plant was gonna be a non-union replacement for a couple of union plants in IL and SC, and Cat didn't want to stir up union problems until the plan was set. They told Seguin, If you about blab this in advance, we'll walk. Well, Seguin kept quiet as instructed, and the plan went through, with all the usual expected tax abatements given.Plant construction began, but the Caterpillar name was conspicuously absent from anywhere on the site. Instead, the plant was described as being a collective of various contractors and suppliers for Caterpillar. Which in fact, it was. Then comes the day, with the big new plant fully operationa!, that Caterpillar comes in and announces, Hey, Yeah it's our plant, and the Caterpillar name boldly goes up on the front. All you contractor folks, welcome aboard, you're now Caterpillar employees. Then, Cat turns and announces they are closing those two union plants immediately, and will be transporting all the heavy manufacturing equipment to Seguin. None of the union workers, just the equipment. And today, the Caterpillar plant sits out there, humming away happily, making engines for the industry and good paying jobs for us. I'd call that a winner.
- Stuki Moi What Subaru taketh away in costs, dealers will no doubt add right back in adjustments.... Fat chance Subaru will offer a sufficient supply of them.
- Dartdude Lorenzo, the reason for low manual transmission here is that most dealers won't stock them. I wanted a 2012 Kia Koup with manual tranny it was available, but no dealers ordered any from the factory hence there was none available. Go on any car manufacture's web site and price and build and build your model and you would be lucky if the model existed and was available.
- The Oracle Good news is that based on the model years many of these have already been junked or experienced terminal engine failure.
- Lou_BC I'm confused, isn't a Prologue a preview? This would be a preview of a preview.