Wednesday, July 19, 2006
Time To Gear Down?
July 19, 2006
High gasoline prices and heavy traffic congestion seem to be having an impact on the nation's car buying decisions. New Ultra-Compact automobiles have lately been appearing more frequently on the nation's streets and highways. At first purchased only by Greens and other ultra-liberals, they are now being seen in the Midwest and the South as well as other Red State strongholds. Lately, they have been appearing even in SUV dominated Southern California.
As can be seen from the picture, the little cars are small enough to park almost anywhere. No more driving around the block or the parking garage for hours waiting for someone to leave and then hope you can beat everyone else to the empty spot. In fact, the car is actually so light that if a parking spot cannot be found it can simply be picked up, tucked under an arm, and taken along.
There are, however, some rather obvious drawbacks to the small vehicle. First, it can carry only one person and a small person at that which would appear to exclude the family market. Second, there is no room for even a briefcase, much less luggage. Third, the car is driver-powered, a selling point among the health conscious and physically fit, but anyone not so inclined or equipped is likely to seek a less demanding mode of transport. Finally, the little cars definitely hold no appeal for soccer moms.
It remains to be seen if the diminutive vehicle will eventually find its niche as the manufacturer has predicted. In fact, a two-seater is scheduled for delivery this fall. Experts are divided over its utility and some suggest that it is merely a passing fad. "It may be cute, but it's more of a gadget or toy," said the CEO of a major manufacturer who wished to remain anonymous, "more useful for running up and down the driveway or along the sidewalk to a friend's house. Then, with a wry smile, he added, "It may be practical, but I don't think I'd want to travel across the country in one."