PDA

View Full Version : Uncle Sam's car - or yours?


Valentine One Radar Detector

Eric
08-07-2008, 10:04 AM
If you could choose, would you choose a car free of government-required safety features such as air bags (and so on) if it meant the car would cost thousands less to buy, be simpler (and therefore easier to maintain) and get significantly better gas mileage (because it would be lighter and a lighter car can deliver the same performance with a smaller, less gas-thirsty engine)?

Or do you think it's a good thing that the basic parameters of vehicle design are laid down by government regulators - even if it adds many thousands to the bottom line cost of cars and limits the freedom of stylists and engineers to experiment with new designs?

Most people don't realize just how large a role government plays in the manufacturer of motor vehicles - and how politicized the car business has become as a result. Henry Ford designed his Model T as he saw fit - based on his sense of what the customer wanted. But today's automakers must constantly deal with Washington and cater to the government's wishes first. Each car company employs a small army of full-time lobbyists to "make their case" before power brokers and to counter self-styled "public interest" agitators such as Ralph Nader and Joan Claybrook. Modern cars must conform to a host of government-mandated requirements ranging from the installed height of their headlights to the type of paint on their panels to the amount of force their dashboards are capable of absorbing. Bumper impact requirements alone have effectively standardized the overall appearance of modern cars; there's nothing like the wild variation (bullet-noses, tailfins, jutting angles) of the past, when stylists were much more free to let their imaginations run wild.

If you've noticed a trend toward sameness in the way vehicles look, now you know at least part of the reason why. The basic mold has already been laid down.

In Washington, not Detroit.

Government regulations - and the costs they impose - are also part of the reason we no longer have dozens of independent brands with often-quirky products (remember Tucker? Studebaker? Nash? AMC?) instead of the huge multinational conglomerates we have today, such as Toyota and General Motors. There are only a handful of truly independent small automakers left - and even these exclusive brands are no longer quite as exclusive as they once were. Rolls-Royce has had to "partner" with BMW - and began using using BMW-built engines in its ultra-luxury cars. They were cheaper to install than designing new Rolls-Royce engines and getting them certified as "compliant" with byzantine government emissions control requirements. Maserati is today basically a subsidiary of Ferrari - and even Porsche has "partnered" with Volkswagen-Audi (another big conglomerate) to lower its manufacturing, development and compliance costs.

To remain profitable in a business where the costs of compliance with various regulations are tremendous, you need to be huge in order to take advantage of economies of scale. For example, a small automaker cannot easily afford to take 100 or more brand-new vehicles off the assembly line for purposes of crash testing them.

And buying everything from tires to the microprocessors that control a vehicle's Supplemental Restraint System (the air bags) gets less expensive the more you buy. When GM orders a couple freight train's worth of components from a supplier like Bosch, you can bet that Bosch gives GM a better per-unit deal on price than you'd get at your local auto parts store for one of the same thing. Smaller automakers often have to pay more per unit for the same stuff used in the cars built by larger competitors - which makes making the smaller automaker's cars more expensive to build. Those costs get passed on to consumers, who often just shop elsewhere rather than buy the more expensive vehicle.

In China and India - where they're about 30 years behind us, regulation-wise - it is possible to buy a brand-new car for the cost of a small motorcycle. These cars are rickety and underpowered by our standards - and have the crashworthiness of a mid-'70s Pinto or Chevette. But like the Pinto and Chevette, they're also affordable - something our new cars increasingly are not.

Disco Man
08-08-2008, 01:20 PM
Posted this article on the main site:

http://www.ericpetersautos.com/home/images/stories/automotive/other/08-08/unclesam-s.jpg


http://www.ericpetersautos.com/home/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=578&Itemid=10894

D_E_Davis
08-08-2008, 02:46 PM
The US isn't alone in the govermental meddling. A brand-new 1963 US-built car couldn't be brought into Germany in that year until: the headlights had to be changed, the windshield glass had to be changed, additional lights had to be added on the side, certain hood ornaments had to be removed or modified, etc, etc.

Disco Man
08-08-2008, 03:06 PM
The US isn't alone in the govermental meddling. A brand-new 1963 US-built car couldn't be brought into Germany in that year until: the headlights had to be changed, the windshield glass had to be changed, additional lights had to be added on the side, certain hood ornaments had to be removed or modified, etc, etc.


Germany is really bad in this area. They won't allow cars that drip any oil on their roads. I knew a few guys who went over to Germany and would scrub down for several days the bottom of their cars before an inspection. In Germany if an older car does not pass, most people take the car to the junkyard and gets made into tin cans. I know many German guys who come here to the US to find BMW parts for old BMWs like Bavarias and 2002s, since there is virtually no parts cars in Germany. I believe all parts cars must be stored indoors and out of site in Germany too.

misterdecibel
08-08-2008, 09:32 PM
Rolls-Royce has had to "partner" with BMW - and began using using BMW-built engines in its ultra-luxury cars. They were cheaper to install than designing new Rolls-Royce engines and getting them certified as "compliant" with byzantine government emissions control requirements.

Rolls-Royce has to use BMW engines because they don't have access to the facility that used to make Rolls-Royce engines. BMW only got the name and intellectual property when they bought Rolls-Royce, VW got all the physical facilities with Bentley.

D_E_Davis
08-08-2008, 11:00 PM
Germany is really bad in this area. They won't allow cars that drip any oil on their roads. I knew a few guys who went over to Germany and would scrub down for several days the bottom of their cars before an inspection. In Germany if an older car does not pass, most people take the car to the junkyard and gets made into tin cans. I know many German guys who come here to the US to find BMW parts for old BMWs like Bavarias and 2002s, since there is virtually no parts cars in Germany. I believe all parts cars must be stored indoors and out of site in Germany too.

Unless things have changed (and they may have since it's over 45 years when I was there) GI's cars weren't subject to the TUV inspection. A GI would buy a used car but found he couldn't sell it when he left as no local would touch it. The Army base at Stuttgart was littered with beaters that guys had just abandoned.