Once again it is that particular time of year, that interim period which, for want of a better name, is known in North America as the "new-car season."
I must confess that this year, as for the past eight, I will not be trooping on down to my friendly car dealer. Despite all the hoopla, refunds, and even free hot dogs, I will again ignore the bleating of Detroit.
Why is it, asks the cynic, if the 1979 models were representative of such overwhelming automotive perfection, that we now have 1980 cars? Were we misled in '79?
How come, if the new cars are so great, their value drops the minute they are driven off the showroom floor? If today's cars are so wonderful, how come you always need a new one?
I am not a heretic. I believe in planned obsolescence. A grapefruit should not be used more than once. But a car is a machine and machines ought to last somewhat longer than an open can of tuna.
If your car is now working, why do you want another? Is an auto a good economic investment? Of the millions of cars sold last year, how many will be worth more than they originally cost in six months -- even ignoring inflation?
Do you want a new car for prestige?
"Well, I just got a promotion. With that extra $18.12 every two weeks I can now move up to a Sneebish XRT." Are your kids really happy with beans and mush every Tuesday?
Why are there different brands? I often wonder if my vision is going when I see vehicles of similar corporate ancestry, design, and dimensions -- yet each with a different name. And price.
Many people innocently believe that cars are built to provide transportation. Not so. Cars are built to create a resting place for options.
"Lets see Mr. Klern, you like the invigorating sports model with genuine fake plastic air scoops on the trunk. Now, do you intend to get in or out of the vehicle often? If so, I would suggest the optional handle package. It provides you with a handle for each door that attaches directly in those unsightly holes beneath the window. I should tell you that if you fail to take the handle option you'll have to leave the windows open year-round. Of course, the warranty does not cover interior damage due to rain, snow, hail, or the growth of certain mildews. Fortunately, the seats are biodegradable."
An integral part of most cars is an obscure gadget called a fuel tank. It has now dawned on the automotive leadership that the availablility of gasoline is tightening while the cost is rising. This has lead to the shrinking car trick: whereas former models were longer, lower, and wider, new cars are shorter, lighter, and more expensive.
Detroit, to a very large degree, is responsible for a major portion of our energy crisis. For years, the imagemakers in auto city have spent millions telling us to purchase inefficient cars. Now the light has shined and we should all convert to fuel misers. But how is it possible that the very bright, and very well-paid, planners in the auto industry did not try the shrinking car trick 10 years ago? Does anyone really believe that we would have gas lines today if we all drove the equivalent of a Honda?
You can count me out of the new-car season. I will not be amazed by a new cross-axle dannel rod or sticker prices that rival the total debt of Borneo. It's a shame too. I really like to kick new tires. . .