Saturday, April 15, 2006

Tell Car Makers What We Want

That's Steve's idea in a post from yesterday at Groovy Green, and he's started an open letter to auto manufacturers in response to Honda Executive Vice President Dick Colliver's claim that his company may have to cut back on production of hybrid Accords in response to low demand. Steve writes:
We need a bold company, perhaps a US one, that can tap into the more utilitarian roots of the automobile, and shy away from the luxury end of the spectrum. Yes, I am aware that in it’s current form and production that the hybrid engine is a money loser, and that all of the bells and whistles that are added to “the value” of the car are meant to balance out the manufacturer’s higher cost for the engine. How about a “working class” hybrid? Or a “simple” diesel car, with “stop/start” technology? There is a growing population of people, the so called creative class, that is balancing life decisions with sustainability. This may include decisions about income, how they invest their time, money and how they make their purchases. Yes, heated seats are nice, and a $400 6-disc changer used to be a thing of beauty. GPS navigation, engine computers that talk to you, or email you when they need an oil change sound really exciting. Most trips in the car are made within a 5 mile range of the home. Most trips, you know exactly where you’re going, and exactly what you want to listen to. (These days I’d take a link to my iPod over a CD player…)
This is only a start, and Steve invites readers to contribute ideas about what we really want in a basic automobile. My wife and I own two pretty basic cars (a Hyundai accent and a Pontiac Sunfire), and I'm quite happy with just the basics. The Sunfire (which I drive, because it has an automatic transmission) has power windows and locks, but I wouldn't miss them in the least if I could find a basic car in my price range (definitely the lower end) that got hybrid gas mileage. I do want air conditioning (St. Louis summers are brutal), but could do without the CD player (I'm a radio listener). I do like my sunroof, mainly because I can get hot air out of the car quickly with it. I really don't have any other bells and whistles, and don't feel like I'm missing out on anything. If you have ideas on what would go into a "working class hybrid," leave a comment at Groovy Green -- Steve promises to send the letter if he gets 50 comments.

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