In last week’s newsletter (#212: Is the Thrill Really Gone?) two longtime NMA members reflected on the state of today’s car shows as well as on today’s automotive market in general. Playing off some of their more provocative comments we asked you if cars have devolved into appliances and if Americans have lost their enthusiasm for all things auto-related? Here are a few of your responses:From Dennis J. Capolongo, Maryland Sadly the magical wonder once found at U.S. auto shows is mostly gone. Is it the lack of innovation, imagination, or is it simply the cars? Maybe, but I firmly believe it is that our long love-affair with the automobile and the joy of driving have been effectively eroded by government intervention, over regulation, poor driver instruction, and severe congestion. The majority of drivers today look down at driving as a chore, a nuisance overcome with fear and resentment as our society has to readjust itself to extreme fuel costs, higher taxes, tolls and insurance, extensive robotic enforcement, and excessively low speed limits. These constraints have reduced the average driver to nothing more than a comatose zombie angrily going through the motions to get to their destination. Thus their lack of skill and enjoyment for the road has been passed along to us who now must share the road with those who unfortunately control it! From Jim Walker, Michigan Some of the “glitz” may be gone, but the cars are massively better than 30-40 years ago. A properly equipped Honda Civic will go 0-60 mph in about the same time as mid-level Corvettes in the 1960s. A decent high-performance sedan with race tires will lap a track in the same range of times as pure race cars of 30 or 40 years ago. It is easy to buy modestly priced cars that have top speeds of 125-150 mph—a range that was unheard of for ordinary cars 40 years ago. To a great extent the “glitz” to dress up lower performing cars is no longer needed—the cars already have performance-levels of speed and handling well above the cars of 30-40 years ago. From David C. Holzman, Massachusetts I’m sure that the cars most sold have always been the least visited at auto shows, and vice versa. But, yes, what with almost universal slushboxes, cars have devolved into appliances. And with less difference in styling among all cars than there was in the ’50s and ’60s between different models of Chevrolet, what’s the point of going to the auto show? The emphasis is now on “connectivity,” which doesn’t have a damn thing to do with driving, and which, when it finally does, will be about taking the car out of the driver’s hands, and running it with a computer. From Paul Mallon, Georgia Camry’s are appliances. Accords are appliances. Ford Escapes are appliances. But in each of these car companies’ offerings there are more exciting exceptions. A 4 cylinder Accord LX coupe is not the same as a 6 cylinder, 6 speed EX with leather seats. Consider the 400+ hp Ford Mustang GT, or the Camaro SS with 425 hp. These are not appliances but rather the best cars to hit the streets, period. And they put the early muscle cars to shame in handling, safety and fuel economy. When we look back in five years when cars have been downsized and emasculated, today will be seen as “the good ole days.” Editor’s Note: Other members commented on the ramifications of the driverless car technology that is on the horizon. This topic has generated lots of media buzz, and it’s something we’ll be talking more about in the near future.
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