Over the past few months, I’ve been keeping an eye on the new car market with an eye to finding a car that gets better gas mileage than what I have now. Also, I don’t want to get a car that’s too much smaller, and proven reliability is a requirement. Suffice it to say that my current car gets a fairly impressive 30-33 MPG (US Gallons) on my commute, and 37-40 MPG on long haul freeway/motorway trips. Those numbers are measured, not EPA estimates.
So, given the recent trends to “go green”, the burned-in memory of gasoline at over $4 a gallon in the US (yeah, I know, we have it easy compared to Europe!), and concerns over global warming and carbon emissions, you’d think it would be easy to find at least a dozen possible candidates, especially when considering hybrids or even all-electric vehicles.
Nope. Not even close.
It seems that car manufacturers are stuck in the rut of making vehicles bigger, faster, and more powerful. A catalog I received in the mail from Toyota a month or two ago was full of these, with only the Corolla, the Prius, and maybe one or two much smaller sub-compacts giving fuel efficiency that I found acceptable. Even then, I got the impression that the mileage for the Corolla had gone down, not up, over the past 4 years.
So I say this to the CEO’s of the major auto manufacturers: Stop it! You’re doing it wrong!! Not that they’re likely to listen, but someone has to spell it out. We need new thinking in Detroit and Tokyo:
- Oil is a finite resource; it’ll eventually run out. Stop depending on it for fuel!
- Aim for 60MPG in commuter cars. Or better.
- Take air resistance seriously (see below). Eliminate it as much as you can.
For what it’s worth, there are smaller cars available in Japan and Europe from some of the major auto makers; one does in fact get 60+ MPG (70+ in some consumer tests) but for some odd reason it doesn’t seem to be available in the US. This makes no sense to me; I believe a car with that sort of killer fuel economy would be far more popular in the US than the auto industry executives seem to think.
After much searching, I found what I’d really like for my next car. Unfortunately it’s not yet available, and when it does come out it’ll only be in California (for now). You can’t argue with 100 MPG, a price tag in the $25-40k region, and an electric version that gets 100 miles on $0.50 worth of charging. Not to mention aerodynamic drag that’s practically zero, and (to put it mildly) an appearance that is eye-catching and irresistably appealing to a geek .
Update 2010-11-14: Not long after this post, and realising that the Aptera’s availability around here is a long ways off, I gave in and got a Prius. So now I’m pushing 50-52 MPG on my commute most of the time, slightly more than that on long haul trips.
Some companies get it, some don’t.
The massive recall from Peanut Corporation of America in January and February of 2009 has really shaken out companies who know how to communicate with their customers from those who are, frankly, clueless in that area. However, the way the chips fell was not what I would have expected.
Take, for example, the box of Nature Valley Peanut Butter Granola bars that I had purchased before the news of the recall broke. When I went to look at the company’s web site, there was nothing obvious on it about the recall, so I found their “contact us” link and sent off a polite query. A few days later I got an intelligently written response from the parent company — General Mills no less — detailing the two products that were affected, and assuring me that for the Nature Valley line, they did not use that company or that processing plant at all. They answered my question with no evasiveness and no corporate doublespeak. For a large company, I found this surprising and refreshing. The Nature Valley website now has (at the time of writing) a prominent notice about the recall, with this information.
As a counterpoint to that, look at the experience my significant other had when trying to find out if the peanut-butter flavour dog biscuits in a product line from Natura Pet were affected by the recall. She asked a simple question: Does or did Natura use products from the affected Peanut Corporation of America plant in these dog biscuits? In other words, a simple yes/no question. The issue here is that their web site indicated they “contain no peanut butter or peanut butter paste“, but as we pointed out, the recall has been extended to all products from the Georgia PCA plant, not just these two. The evasiveness that resulted (in a phone call) was a classic example of corporate doublespeak and evasiveness such as we haven’t heard in a long time. This was apparently “Proprietary information” that could not be released. You can imagine how confident we now feel about that company’s products (and how our buying habits have now changed).
Experiences such as these are a litmus test, in my opinion, of how these companies will prosper or sink in the long run. No matter what decisions are made in the boardrooms or marketing departments, at the end of the day it’s how you communicate with your customers that establishes the reputation of a corporate entity. We are real people, not anonymous consumers, and if you don’t take our questions and concerns seriously, you can’t expect us to trust your products.
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Many years ago, I commented:
You might wonder why I don’t just use a blog; I have my reasons…
The concerns in that slashdot post and the ensuing discussion are still valid, but technology marches on, and it’s seemingly easier to just use a package such as WordPress for its convenience. So consider this an experiment as well as an outlet for what used to be Murphy’s Musings.