The Smart Car, Here's an excellent study of reality.

Some of you might have read a past article about the ‘Smart Car’

I will forever remember one commenter who wrote, “I’m 60 years old, and I try to be a responsible person.” I reflect, and think just how subjective the term is.. responsible for what? Stick with this post, as there is  lot of study connected, and possibly learning too.

In this article, I suggested that the Smart Car is nothing new at all, and there is no marketing research indicating there is a market for the product in all of north America. Perhaps it’s just a research project, and the bones of the smart car will be tossed on the same mountain of bones created by other micro cars built to satisfy the demands of all too few.

I look for articles about Auto trends written by folks who understand the market, people who know that you need a buyer in order to make a sale. Many of us remember the glory days of VW, they sold cars people wanted to buy, and many of us learned their faults and worked around them, we added a relay here, and an oil cooler there, and we understood if you didn’t grease the front end, and adjust the valves at the recommended intervals, you’d pay the price. We were the DIYer generation, these were minor things for us in comparison to the advantages to being able to buy a dirt cheap fender and bolt it on yourself! Who owns the tools to remove that crumpled fender today?

The Smart car?  A Mechanic friend tells me, he was walking thru a parking lot and saw a guy dumbfounded by the task of replacing a head light bulb in his smart car, he looked under the hood, and later remarked to me.. “things are tight under there, I told the guy he might be best off to go to the dealer.”

Here’s an article I stumbled across this AM, one I think is thought-provoking. It touches on VWs strategy to rekindle the demand and loyalty North Americans once had for their products. The Author displays his knowledge of reality, it’s so often overlooked.. you need market products people want in order to make sales in volume.

But read those words.. ‘subsidies’, just what is that all about, and is it a long term help or hinder? And.. who does it help or hinder? I know, I know, .. someone out there is cocksure this is the responsible thing to do.

This post above is food for thought.. written for DIYers, we know that the responsible thing to do might be to let the market sort out the winners and losers. The DIYer knows how subjective ‘responsible’ is, fact is, he also knows he’ll burn less fuel, and create fewer emissions with one practical family car versus two or three cars in his drive way.  Making those cars, and spending the money to buy them created a mountain of emissions.

And BTW, thanks again for subsidizing the world in their efforts to build and sell products here.  In Washington State, we have wind turbines for as far as one can see in places, all manufactured in Europe, and built there. And our Gang Green Fellow Americans take pride in what they’ve done to place them. Americans enjoy a few hours of labor to tip them up in place.  I guess the subsidies for the Autos is far smarter than for wind turbines, at least it makes more American jobs.

Now for the learning: Go back up to that last link at the globeandmail, if you didn’t read the comments, then you missed 50% or more of the value of the article.

Sort through there, note the one guy who says he’s unhappy wiht your choice of a larger car, he apparently wants you to cram all six of your kids in the car of his choice.. he knows what you really need, and the world would be a better place if he were running it..

here’s one I reflected on.. look for the moniker Civil, perhaps he needs a new moniker. I’d give him ‘thoughtful’

4:11 PM on March 20, 2012  Civil says:

 Let’s do some simple math based on a US gallon, US EPA MPG and US ‘combined composite equivalent MPG’ (combined composite eMPG) data, shall we?
A base-model 2012 Chevy Volt with a manufactured suggested retail price (MSRP) of $33,045 (pre-tax but after the $8,500 Ontario provincial rebate) with a combined composite eMPG rating of 60 MPG* (72 MPG Imperial), as compared to a 2012 VW Passat TDi with an MSRP of $27,475 (pre-tax) and an EPA combined hwy/city rating of 34 MPG (41 MPG Imperial), driven 15,000 km/year (9,321 miles), based on a $4.69 per US gallon (3.78 litres x $1.24/litre) diesel price, would require a total of 6 1/2 years just to pay back the $5,570 price premium of the 2012 Chevy Volt over the MSRP of the 2012 VW Passat TDi given the Volt’s $557 annually saved fuel costs as compared to the 2012 VW Passat TDi.
However, the aforementioned 6 1/2 year payback period does not take into account the cost of charging the Chevy Volt (at today’s electricity rates – which will only increase once drivers switch from petroleum based vehicles to EVs and plug-in hybrids – placing more strain on an already precarious electricity grid), nor the cost of replacing the Volt’s Lithium Polymer Ion batteries at an estimated cost of $2,400 (plus labour) every 8 years – increasing the payback by a further 4 1/2 years to a whopping 11 years! Adding another $3,187 for a 240v charging station for your home’s garage increases the payback period by 6 more years to 17 years!
Interestingly, pushing the numbers on the Nissan Leaf yields even worse results – a costly home charging station, a whopping $12,000 for battery replacement every 8 years translating into a painfully long payback period of 45 years.
Not exactly a prudent purchase.
(Voice of Iliza Shlesinger): “Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf, you ran out of juice on the 8th hole and are little more than glorified golf carts – You are Excused!”




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15 Responses to The Smart Car, Here's an excellent study of reality.

  1. Bill Knighton says:

    I disagree about one general purpose car vs several cars and their emissions. I think having an old f150 for logs and materials and then a tiny car or motorcycle is a decent idea. I just would like the tiny cars to not be so antagonistic to the DIY crowd. like having to pull the power train to replace the timing chain as is the case with the smart car.
    I would enjoy one of the clown cars like they used to make.
    I am interested in how these cars were designed for a time in post WWII Europe when money was scarce and people knew what it was to have to walk miles is bitter cold and rain through crappy streets to get to work or school or for supplies. I know how delighted they must have been to get a tiny car and be able to move around dry and maybe even with heat. Even if it only had a 5-15 hp engine. That is an awesome power compared to the alternative. Did they even have the concept of non-user serviceable cars then? I can’t believe one of these was too hard to work with.
    I wish people could appreciate auto transport on an absolute scale and not relative to what they had last year. Billions are spent on advertising to shape the market and spin weird fantasies. Is what we see the real demand or is it what slick new yorkers have done to what were once the most practical minds on earth? And government has had its influence too. I disrespect the american car demand. I remember car reviews trashing the metro for lack of thigh support and a notchy shifter. Who do these insiders work for? Their readers or their payola? A forced march across somewhere cold and rainy would fix that thigh support and notchy shifter.
    A micro car and a unimog would be an excellent combination.

    • George B. says:

      Good God Bill! A Unimog? Those to the far left of us think no one should own one of those ever.. have you lost your mind ???

      Fact is, a general purpose car for the average guy is far cheaper and pollutes less.. This is based on a reduction of tax loads, auto insurance, and more.. you drive around polluting to earn all the money to buy these vehicles, and pollute more to support them. Bill.. you’re not average! Pull logs? Average guys don’t touch logs yet alone pull em..

  2. Bill Knighton says:

    Something for responsible people to consider: If you over pay on a car, say $40k for a car when 12k for a cheap new one or 1.5k for a used geo, what will become of that money? The tastes of the factory workers, engineering, management and investors who will enjoy your premium are probably not what you consider responsible. Wherever that money trickles up to it is almost certain to eradicate your green intentions.
    I have the same problem with whole foods. Pay 3x for a can of beans and where does the money land? Is going there an intention of principal and a reality of waste?

  3. Jack G says:

    I feel sympathy for the auto work who got stuck on the Volt line and not making Silverado’s. At least the Silverado production appears to provide some job sustainability.

    • George B. says:

      They can still rescue the line, all they need do is shelf the hybrid stuff, and put a zero emissions diesel in the car. Sales would be through the roof!

      I do wonder about a V4 Duramax….

  4. Bill Knighton says:

    When I look at the new unimogs they do not seem very interesting. Some older ones I have seen look just about right for hauling materials or small machine tools. 65 hp diesel ! I stand by the idea of a old beater for utility and a very small car for actually getting around. Both my geo and f15o are so old they have reached the bottom tax rate-flat fees are all that’s left. $33 each per year. The liability is low too. But I guess if everyone was trying to live this way there would not be enough crappy old cars to go around.

    • Bill Knighton says:

      How many people fix their cars? It seems like there are more and more auto parts stores and Internet sites. What I have been saying is useless if you are the type that pays someone $1600 to replace the head gasket on your 4 cylinder.

      • George B. says:

        Bill, we are the minority, our numbers are smaller each year.. but, there’s no reason the trend can’t turn around… unless the EPA makes it illegal to work on your own car..

        • Jack G says:

          Speaking unimog, here is a nice one that showed up with a 1983 Audi Quattro Coupe (UrQ) I bought a few years ago. The 1983 UrQ still gets 24 mpg if you can drive it under 76 mph. I like Bills idea of having a utility uni and a good mileage vehicle.

          • bill knighton says:

            I don’t know very much about these other than what is on wikipedia and ebay. I saw the first ones had something like 25-35 hp diesel engines! That fascinates me. If I had one and it was loaded up it’s not like I would want to go very fast and I wonder if a very sturdy, low power engine is a good choice for durability and economy.

          • bill knighton says:

            24!! That’s excellent. It’s not like i’d drive it to work. I normally trash mileage like that but for moving stuff around or at least getting to where the stuff to be moved is 24 is great. I assume it is easy to work on? Is parts availability good and priced right?

        • bill knighton says:

          I want what’s in the picture. Only not yellow but krylon fixes that.

  5. Bill Knighton says:

    You know what’s funny is that the same thing is happening with home owners. Look at lowes and home depot and other home stores. They are huge and the materials and tools are proliferating. Someone must be doing a lot of work at home. But instead of the EPA look at your state and county. For example there are few places in the USA where you can repair the framing on your home or replace a faucet or an outlet without a permit and inspection. Same for sheathing and insulation Of course everyone does it but that’s not the point. Look at your county’s web site. By that logic a moving vehicle on public roads should receive even more scrutiny from our minders.

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