Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Brock's obsession -- Given that, in his own words, hybrids "are stuck at about a one-half-percent market share of the roughly 17 million annual new car and light-truck domestic sales," why has Brock Yates devoted a disproportionate amount of his precious column space to castigating the green machines? ("He's long since had anything meaningful to contribute to the automotive discourse" is not a fair answer.)

In July 2003, he bravely took on Hollywood types and the political correctness of driving Priuses to the Academy awards. (Has any phrase been more drained of meaning than "politically correct" in Yates' hand?).

In October 2004, Yates heroically revealed the truth that, get this, early adopters of hybrid technology don't realize a cost benefit compared to traditional stingy-mobiles. (Note to Csaba: Brock is more enviro-friendly than he lets on. Much of this column was recycled from this column he penned for Tech Central Station a few months earlier.)

This June, he courageously slew the straw man that "hybrids are the future." (But, if he's betting, we'll wager that hybrids account for more than 3% of the market by 2011.)

And now, he fearlessly recaps the cost-benefit argument, complete with the Yates-requisite vacuous nonsense about political correctness and the liberal media.

And, don't miss the the snarks here and here.

We have no idea why this tiny little sliver of the automotive universe gets Yates so exercised. If it weren't so irresponsible, we'd speculate that it was some sort of inadequacy that only driving a Hummer could compensate for.

What interests us more is Yates' persistent blindness to the irony of his attack. If nothing else in his tenure(s) at Car and Driver, Yates has been a high priest of the religion that worships cars as statements, screw the cost. For chrissakes, he bought a Hummer H2, which carries less, tows less, uses more gas, accelerates slower, corners worse, brakes worse, and costs a load more than its Chevy Suburban cousin. Cost/benefit-driven decision or rolling screw you?

Prius owners aren't morons. They're far more educated than the average vehicle buyer. They know what they're doing. They're not trying to save money, they're making a statement about something they believe in. And, it isn't mere political correctness, because they're willing to sacrifice to make the statement. Toyota gets this. That's why the Prius looks like more like a spaceship than a Camry. It helps make the statement: conservation is good and necessary.

Brock, this is your Patrick Henry moment. Disagree with Prius owners' politics, but defend to the death their right to use their cars to express them.

One more point. The president's an oilman. Congress is captive to the extractive industries. Americans buy more small trucks than cars. Whose anti-establishment, now?

Monday, August 15, 2005

It's like art -- Forget the wet kiss to Bob Lutz rulebook-tearer-upper that opens this Car and Driver preview of the HHR. (Note to Aaron: Lutz has had four years. Name one Lutz product that's a segment leader or near leader.) What blew us away was the fact that the hood on Chevy's entrant into the now over retro craze "with its deep concavity and delicate accent lines requires five separate 'hits' from the presses and ranks as one of the most complicated sheetmetal parts GM has ever produced[.]"

When you're building a sub-$20K econowagon with sales forecasts that have been scaled back from 100K to 60K units, having one of the "most complicated sheetmetal parts" is not a fact to be proud of. It's a poorly designed econo-anything that is colossally complicated to produce.

As one point of comparison, consider the Honda Accord. Its hood looks like what they put on the development mule until a production hood was ready. The thing barely bends, and then in one direction only. There's nary a crease or character line. They can probably do ten hoods with a single hit of the presses. Doesn't look like it's prevented them from selling a kazillion.