So, I’m down at the barber shop waiting to get my hair cut. I pick up one of the various magazines placed in rows on a table, something to page through mindlessly as I await my turn in the chair. One on sports, another on guns, a third on cars… I’ll go with cars.
I thumb through Car & Driver, middle to front, glancing at glossy photographs of automobiles I will never drive and most certainly never own. Toward the front I notice a column penned by David E. Davis.
I did not agree with all of the author’s points, but I nodded along many. I was called up before I could finish the article. It took finding it online later, at home, to get through it. Go figure, the time I find something I want to read through to the end is the time I get in the chair so quickly I can’t even finish it.
Here is the full article:
Blow up CARB, hang drunks, pass a gas tax.
BY DAVID E. DAVIS, JR.
As part of his strategy to make the United States more like Sweden, our president has established an automotive task force of which he is chief executive officer, and a Mr. Steven Rattner is, at least for the time being, chief operating officer. Within minutes of their takeover, everything in the automobile business suddenly got unimaginably worse.
In all this madcap fun, nobody saw fit to offer me the job Mr. Rattner got. Although it appears the position will again become available, my phone is not ringing, and I feel terrible about it. In all modesty, I can only say that I would be a goddamn great car czar. I have the white hair that distinguishes all famous statesmen. I have the gift of gab, passed down from my father’s Welsh ancestors. I am a journalist, which is the same as saying that I am always correct in my judgments and I never lie. Finally, I love cars, pure and simple, which sets me apart from all of the people in our nation’s capital who are currently clamoring to be heard in the debates about and against the automobile.
If I were car czar, I would strongly suggest that we can have no national automotive policy until we have fully comprehensive transportation and energy policies. This is serious business. We desperately need high-speed transcontinental trains based on the European and Japanese models, just as we need some modern version of the old interurban rail systems. If it is left to the present Congress, we’ll get the best thinking of the eco-nazis, the safety nazis, the California Air Resources Board, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, and the Biosphere 2 people. For the good of the nation and its citizens, these clowns should be kept as far from our automobiles as is politically possible.
We have a vast pool of automotive talent in this country, but far too many of those talented engineers and designers work outside the so-called Big Three because the companies have been hamstrung by creaking, bloodless bureaucracies. Chrysler broke free of the bureaucrats’ dead hand in the years before it made its deal with the devil and sold out to Daimler-Benz. Chrysler was free-spirited and freewheeling, and it was building cars more cost-effectively than Ford or GM, but the dream-team management went their separate ways, the German bureaucracy took over, and all that was left were the walking wounded.
Automobiles should be fun, and they should be pleasantly arresting in appearance. They should be big enough or small enough to successfully perform the tasks assigned to them. We live in a nation blessed with an extensive road net, but those roads are not adequately maintained, nor are the bridges, overpasses, and other infrastructure that allow those roads to reach 4000 miles from corner to corner of this great American rectangle.
The automotive constituency in this country is too varied and unpredictable to embrace any kind of centrally planned cookie-cutter cars. I’ve always believed that if Detroit’s output had come from the four corners of the country rather than that single, somewhat isolated and shrinking community just across the Detroit River from Canada, the cars would have been more varied and more interesting. They were more interesting when we had automobile companies in Buffalo and Springfield and Cleveland and South Bend and Indianapolis. The success of imported cars flowing in from the four corners of the world tends to support my argument.
As prospective car czar, I have a few first thoughts:
We should wipe out the California Air Resources Board as redundant to the national effort in this area and immediately establish a Los Alamos–type team to bring European clean-diesel technology to this country. The Bosch people have been doing good work in this area, and they should be encouraged. Diesel fuel should also be price-controlled at parity with gasoline. I recently drove a Volkswagen Jetta turbo-diesel to Florida and back and never achieved less than 39 mpg, or 565 miles on a tank of fuel.
Most of the world’s major car companies have built factories in the United States, usually in southern anti-union states in order to avoid the high cost of doing business with the United Automobile Workers. If any of them have gone broke recently, it wasn’t on my television. We must stop the flow of jobs to China and other countries who light cigars with our money and wonder why we’re such easy marks. No more. There are too many empty factories and too many trained American workers out of work. If you’re going to sell ’em here, you’d better build ’em here.
We need truly draconian laws against drunk driving. A hit-and-run death by a drunk driver should be treated as murder. Chronic drunks should be denied driving privileges for life.
Cell-phone use should be restricted to passengers in motor vehicles. A driver who needs to make or accept a call should simply stop at the first opportunity and chat for as long he or she wishes. Cell-phone use accounts for some of the most flagrant bad driving on our roads today.
It begins to look as though we’ll be at war with someone or other for the foreseeable future. Therefore, we should levy a one-dollar war tax on every gallon of gasoline sold in the United States. It would result in a huge revenue bump, immediately cut accident rates and highway congestion, and get consumers thinking about more fuel-efficient cars. It might even bring home to us average citizens the high cost of modern warfare. And, I might add, if one looks at what is presently available in the Yaris-Versa-Fit-Focus-Cobalt range, it’s pretty impressive.
And as long as our president sees fit to be driven from place to place in an armored General Motors truck with Cadillac limousine bodywork, everybody should just shut up about the unspeakable thoughtlessness of SUV owners.