Car Prices and the free market

Posted by frodo_b 5 years, 10 months ago to Government
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  • Posted by Herb7734 5 years, 10 months ago
    There are as many reasons for buying a certain car as there are people who buy them. Since I have been driving longer than some of you may be alive, I'm pretty used to a bare-bones vehicle. My first car was a '53 Ford Mainline. Stick shift, 6 cylinders, radio and heater. In my case, I buy a car to get from A to B with relatively good mileage, and comfort. Being a very experienced driver, I don't need a back-up camera, or a GPS device. I check out the type of car that will accommodate my disabilities, get the best deal my negotiating skills allow (they are formidable skills if I do say so myself). Once the car is bought, I establish a relationship with the chief repair guy by various means and usually get excellent service. Easy-Peasy. To me, getting a car for its utility rather than its prestige is the way to go. From then on, careful maintenance allows me to usually keep it for a minimum of ten years. By then, it doesn't owe me a thing.
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  • Posted by $ splumb 5 years, 10 months ago
    My hubby is an powertrain engineer at Ford. He comes home all the time with stories of new unfunded government mandates.
    There are a lot more of them than you think.
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  • Posted by evlwhtguy 5 years, 10 months ago
    I have a 1994 toyota camry with an automatic transmission with 320,000 miles on it...bought it for $1,100.00 5 years ago with 250,000 miles on it. Recently took a 350 mile round trip to drop kids off at college and got 31 MPG!!! gets about 26 MPG around town. Now that is a car!!!

    The elio is neat but looks a lot like a coffin. I would also be uncomfortable plunking money down on a car that the website shows only CAD generated pictures and also touts the 84 MPG gas milage but when you read further they say..."As we continue to engineer the Elio for up to 84 MPG, we officially have liftoff. " I smell advertising Hype!!! Especially when I see the word "Green" mentioned so many times!
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    • Posted by 5 years, 10 months ago
      You may be right. That's why I didn't put a huge deposit down to reserve one.

      My motorcycle (HD sportster) gets about 80 mpg on the highway, and from what I can tell the Elio is basically a 3-wheel motorcycle with protection from the elements. Safety features be damned. If I can get about the same mileage as my bike, but with protection from the elements, ac/heat and a radio then count me in.
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    • Posted by robertmbeard 5 years, 10 months ago
      I understand your reservations about committing to buying a car before seeing and test driving it. However, the price is so low ($6800 base model) and the engineering/business case was solid enough to allay any of my typical concerns.

      They have a 4th generation prototype they have been driving around the country on a tour to show it off. It has a production-ready chassis and body but a placeholder Geo Metro engine. The prototype engine was undergoing final assembly prior to testing back in early November by the engine supplier IAV. Barring any significant increase in final engine weight, the overall vehicle weight is about 1230 pounds (base model), which is just over half the weight of a typical entry level small car...

      They purchased (for pennies on the dollar) the old GM manufacturing plant and its equipment in Shreveport, Louisiana, where the big GM Hummer vehicles were made years ago. Louisiana is a right-to-work state. They also have a long list of established North American suppliers, which results in over 90% North American content in the vehicle.

      As far as the coffin shape is concerned, that is a result of the aerodynamic design. Any small car that tangos with a large truck will instantly become a coffin. The Elio just conveniently is already shaped like a coffin; so, they can just drag you over to your final gravesite and plop you in, car and all... (I couldn't resist throwing in some humor there...).
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      • Posted by evlwhtguy 5 years, 10 months ago
        I actually liked your humor. It was a nice touch. This sounds an awful lot like the Tucker automobile.they had engine problems as well. from an engineering and marketing standpoint I would think that a custom engine is a foolish idea. You have too many obstacles to overcome as it is without having to design an engine and transmission system as well. They should have done what Buell motorcycle company did and use an existing off-the-shelf engine, the Harley Davidson engine.
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  • Posted by samrigel 5 years, 10 months ago
    I had a 1971 Subaru that was getting over 40MPG back in '71. So why now do they only get like 28MPG? That was rhetorical, get the Gov't out of the Automotive Industry and innovation will skyrocket.
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    • Posted by plusaf 5 years, 10 months ago
      Sam, back then there were rumors that the EPA 'calculated' gas mileage by analyzing all of the combustion by-products coming out the exhaust pipe and inferring from that an MPG calculation.

      Someone said that was like measuring rainfall by weighing the earth before and after a storm...

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  • Posted by robertmbeard 5 years, 10 months ago
    I have a reservation on a brand new Elio, which should begin production in late 2015:

    http://www.eliomotors.com/
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    • Posted by freedomforall 5 years, 10 months ago
      Their explanation for the high mpg's is not adequate. They claim its due to low wind resistance, but that has a relatively small effect on total mpg. My guess is that weight is a larger component of mpg improvement than air resistance, and performance capability (engine size) is an important part, too.
      Not saying they can't achieve 84 mpg, just that the reason may not be what they claim.
      I'd be looking for a 200cc-500cc engine and roughly motorcycle weight.
      I have an optional motor for my bicycle that gets 100-150mpg. No licensing required. (only 30mph maximum and no airbags;^)
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      • Posted by robertmbeard 5 years, 10 months ago
        Air resistance (drag) is proportional to speed squared and to cross-sectional frontal area of the vehicle slamming through the air. Most small, lightweight, high mileage, 2 seat cars have a typical side-by-side seating arrangement; so, the reduction in cross-sectional frontal area is not that dramatic versus a typical 4 seat sedan. In the case of the Elio 2-seater, a tandem seating arrangement is used, in order to cut the cross-sectional frontal area in half; so, it looks like half a car. By doing this, air drag is cut in half from all other high mileage cars.

        Yes, the other big variable in overall system efficiency is the weight of the vehicle. But the Elio is doing what no other car does because it is aggressively minimizing air drag by using a tandem seating arrangement to minimize the frontal area...

        Since the Elio is a brand new American company and American made vehicle, I wouldn't be surprised if it falls a little short of 84 mpg highway. But they are on their 4th generation vehicle prototype for the chassis, body, etc... So, their aggressive design goals for a lightweight, aerodynamic vehicle appear to be achievable. All that is left is the weight and efficiency of the 3 cylinder gas engine.

        It should be exciting to see how it turns out...
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        • Posted by freedomforall 5 years, 10 months ago
          +1 Yes, lowering the cross section is the method, and it will help. If they cut drag by 50% they could see 20-25% better mpg at freeway speeds compared to a similar weight/powered vehicle.
          I hope they can achieve the objectives and find a ready market for their product.
          I see their specs include a 900cc 55hp 55ftlb engine. That should provide decent performance if they keep weight low enough which is also required for 84mpg.
          they may also be able to avoid some fedgov requirements if it is considered/registered a motorcycle, not a car.
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          • Posted by robertmbeard 5 years, 10 months ago
            Because it has 3 wheels, it is classified as a motorcycle instead of an automobile by most states and the Feds. That helps somewhat on fedgov requirements. It exceeds all safety requirements for motorcycles and is comparable to all other super lightweight, compact cars, in that respect... I forget the exact vehicle weight target, but it will likely be one of the lightest vehicles around...
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      • Posted by Robbie53024 5 years, 10 months ago
        speed is also a factor. The slower you go, the less drag affects the performance.
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        • Posted by freedomforall 5 years, 10 months ago
          +1 Right, Robbie. Drag will have a significant effect at highway speeds, and very little below 45mph.
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          • Posted by Robbie53024 5 years, 10 months ago
            Yeah. When I was still working with Cub Scouts, we did an analysis of drag on pinewood derby cars. What we found was that, so long as you didn't drastically INCREASE the frontal area (basically maintaining the same size as the original block of wood) then there was absolutely no difference. You could even reduce the frontal area to next to nothing and not materially affect the drag. Of much more import was the rolling resistance of the wheels, and of course the total mass. This really helped many families as it allowed those boys whose families weren't all that wood tool oriented to reduce the anxiety over the design of the car.
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      • Posted by evlwhtguy 5 years, 10 months ago
        I have flown and designed model aircraft for about 25 years and I would think that they would be better off streamlining the front suspension in to 1 continuous front end, rather than have all those struts hanging out in the wind and the big holes that have to be there to allow the suspension out of the side of the body. You have a lot of induced drag for every part of that and especially at connections.....as has been discussed several times already though...drag is not much of an issue until you grt to about 40 or 45 MPH.
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    • Posted by 5 years, 10 months ago
      Thank you for saving me a search! I ran across news about the Elio last summer and decided to look into it again come 2015, but couldn't remember the name of the car.
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  • Posted by bassboat 5 years, 10 months ago
    The government as the article said not only has no business in telling auto manufacturers how to build a car but the same should be said about the oil industry, the nuclear industry, the drug industry, the insurance industry, I think you get my point. People should be willing to decide for themselves what products that they want at what price. The free market should always decide what the consumer wants, not some poly in DC. While I'm at it let's bring back the term limits thing, these last 20 years is enough of a reason to do so.
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    • Posted by Robbie53024 5 years, 10 months ago
      Not quite that simple. When it comes to gas mileage, I agree wholeheartedly. When it comes to causing harm, I'm not sure that tort law is sufficient, particularly as the extent and severity of harm grows. For example, a nuclear power plant. It is conceivable that a failure there could wipe out all of there neighbors, leaving few to sue in court for damages. Thus, there is no countervailing force to ensure that the plant ensure they are building and maintaining a safe facility. Does gov't need to do the task, not necessarily, but in the current system, that's how we do it. Insurance companies could also do the task, but again, if the insured are all dead, who would get the reimbursement for the damages?
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      • Posted by bassboat 5 years, 10 months ago
        Robbie,
        You answered your own question of who would regulate the nuclear industry, the insurance companies. I for one would prefer that the oversight of a plant to be overseen by the insurance folks as opposed to a government guy/gal that has no profit incentive. Ditto goes for the drug industry. We also do not need the FDIC or the SEC. They should be replaced by the private sector. Government should protect us and settle lawsuits and not much else. The first question to always ask is, "What government agency is better at something than the private sector?".
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        • Posted by Robbie53024 5 years, 10 months ago
          Not necessarily. If there are no clients left to seek reimbursement, then those insurance companies would have less inclination to demand safety measures. There's a possibility of an insurance scheme to work, I just don't see that being feasible in our current environment.
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      • Posted by robertmbeard 5 years, 10 months ago
        The nuclear power industry is the most overregulated industry in America. You can't do anything without filling out a bunch of paperwork to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. That's why the pace of innovation has almost ground to a halt over the past 40 years. A certain amount of regulation is necessary for public safety, but the arrangement we have is grossly hurting the progress that we could be achieving...
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  • Posted by dbhalling 5 years, 10 months ago
    Actually if we had never had these government mandates we would have both cheaper and safer cars. Regulation kills invention, which means things get more expensive and less safe than if there had been no regulations.

    Think of a cheap electronically driven car that is virtually incapable of being in an accident.
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    • Posted by plusaf 5 years, 10 months ago
      dbh....
      Completely disagree with that assertion...

      Virtually all of the cost/price increases we see in current models COME FROM all of the extra stuff that's been mandated IN by government regs and/or market/consumer pressure to deliver the safest, most reliable, least-maintenance, lowest-polluting vehicles possible.

      The EPA obsoleted the simple, fix-it-yourself carburetors after about 1973 because ONLY an electronically-controlled fuel injection system could control fuel mixtures accurately enough to 'meet exhaust specs.'

      Electronic ignition supplanted the 'obsolete' points/plugs/rotor/distributor mechanism for similar reasons... near-perfect timing of the ignition was required to meet pollution specs and not screw up the catalytic converters (more cost, lower pollution) with any raw gas getting into the exhaust system.

      Air bags and front crumple zones to protect drivers and passengers WAY beyond what simple lap-belts could do in the mid 1960's, too.

      Rigid chasses and roll-bar protection combined with soft bumpers that wouldn't tear up the underlying chassis in minor collisions... ditto.

      "The Whole World Is A Tradeoff" and these kinds of lists are perfect examples of how and where those changes to our cars came from and evolved.

      Or go back far enough and notice that fractured wrists and hands became less commonplace after the advent of the built in self-starter motor in cars, too...

      :)
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      • Posted by Robbie53024 5 years, 10 months ago
        Just one anecdote of an automobile safety device and what happened - draw your own conclusions.

        In the late '60's, Eaton Corp developed the first practical air bag system. Ford originally planned on adding this safety system in 1971, but found that customers would not pay the additional $300 and so dropped it.
        By the late '80's, Eaton could not get sufficient orders for the systems to make any money on the product and sold the rights to their patents (to TRW if I remember correctly). They (the new patent holders) then went to Congress and got a law passed that mandated air-bag use. Suddenly use and profits soared.

        Did the market cause the proliferation of air-bags? The evidence would say no, since it was stymied for nearly 20 yrs until gov't mandated use.

        These are facts.

        We can never know if the same proliferation would exist today without mandates, but I dare say that there are auto manufacturers in other parts of the world that do not serve markets that mandate air-bags that do not have a similar level of deployment.

        Please don't misconstrue this post as me advocating gov't regulation, I do not. But those who say that the market itself would drive adoption and implementation of technology at a more rapid pace are mistaken, at least in some cases.
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        • Posted by plusaf 5 years, 10 months ago
          No, Robbie... I think that's a great example... of lousy marketing, lobbying and manipulation of government AND the marketplace... by EATON!

          Talk about a prime example of crony capitalism or something of that sort! Excellent!

          Now, today, as far as I know, folks like the NHTSA are looking or thinking about sophisticated collision-avoidance systems, some have already appeared on high-end luxury makes and models. e.g., Mercedes and maybe some others.

          Back-up Cameras started to appear some years back; my wife's '12 Prius-V came with it as part of a high-end package on that model. I believe that some government agency or agencies is/are looking into making such cameras (as well as collision-avoidance systems) mandatory in the next few years, too.

          I stipulate that cars ARE 'getting safer,' but I see an inherent tug of war between companies and Naderite-types of do-gooders trying to push the features in as 'standard equipment' versus "Joe Public" who gripes about the added costs and expense when they go to sign the sales contract.

          Oh, and lest I forget, there's that nagging aspect that, by adding all of these options, features and systems to cars, what we're also doing is removing more and more responsibility AND skills requirements from the Drivers... Sort of Darwining ourselves down an evolutionary ladder, rather than improving our skills.

          That, TOO, is 'a tradeoff,' as I, for one, am pretty ok with accepting assistance From My Vehicle to keep me safer (or just plain alive) if someone ELSE does something stupid behind Their steering wheel! But I'm also lucky enough to occasionally afford myself a new vehicle WITH those features.
          Can _I_ / should I be the 'one' to make that decision for all other car buyers? Or even most of them, or a few? Or should the car companies? Or the NHTSA?

          Interesting questions, I think... :)
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          • Posted by Robbie53024 5 years, 10 months ago
            I think that only you should have that power. What I disagree with is that the free-market alone would cause that implementation to be more rapid and drive innovation. I don't see, at least in one example, that being the case.

            And yes, they were totally inept in getting regulations to mandate airbag installation. Had they been more successful, it would have been installed much sooner and they would have made much more money. But believe me, it wasn't due to any philosophical position against regulation, merely incompetence.
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            • Posted by plusaf 5 years, 10 months ago
              Nothing new there... follow the money, the power, the control and the connections...
              Nothing we haven't seen before or commented on here before...

              Now, as to changing that... ?????????????
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      • Posted by dbhalling 5 years, 10 months ago
        either you did not understand my position or you are wrong. Government mandates have slowed invention, and therefore safety devices which have made us less safe and increases are cost.
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        • Posted by plusaf 5 years, 10 months ago
          I think you're postulating an alternative future track based on the assumption that less government involvement would have inevitably resulted in cheaper, safer cars.

          While that MAY be true, we can't know that, because we haven't been down that future track. It's pure conjecture.

          But to claim that cars 'aren't safer now' is patently absurd!

          They might have become EVEN MORE safe if the free market had been free-er to respond, but cars today are NOT 'less safe' than they were decades ago!

          I don't understand how you can make that assertion. Explain or elaborate, please? Thanks!
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  • Posted by term2 5 years, 10 months ago
    I do feel I am forced to buy what I don't want, and I don't like it. Therefore I have been buying fewer cars. My latest is a smaller Kia Soul. I like the basic car, although I have no idea how much crap is in it from government mandates. I do notice the very annoying seat belt reminder EVERY time I start it up (I bought seat belt extenders to disable it finally), and the stupid message on the "agree" screen that you have to manually "agree" to each time you start it. I don't even remember what it makes you agree to, but its some stupid government message about safety I think. For me, those two things are the reminders that we live in a socialist country that wants to control me
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  • Posted by mccwho 5 years, 10 months ago
    The old Honda CVCC used to get 54 mpg.
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    • Posted by $ Radio_Randy 5 years, 10 months ago
      Yes...then the EPA stepped in and the equivalent Honda model gets mileage in the high 30's or low 40's, I believe.

      And everyone gets excited over 40+ MPG in a "hybrid"...what lunacy!
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      • Posted by mccwho 5 years, 10 months ago
        I know someone that still has one of these old Honda's and they still get 48 - 50 mpg when they do drive it. They were not at all like the newer honda's, these old ones were just cheap basic transportation. The cars they used to make before their facelift and image improvment, (and cost increase). Another friend of mine had a one of the first CRX sport models. he got around 50 with it. He took it into the dealer to get it serviced and they would not touch it. Saying the induction system was not anything they had seen before. He sold the car, then a year later went to buy another it never got better then 30 mpg. We still think he had some expreimental car. After all he bought it in Marysville where they make Honda's and have experimental models on their test track there.
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      • Posted by Robbie53024 5 years, 10 months ago
        And Ethanol decreases MPG as well. In the tracking that I've done with 2 vehicles, a pickup and a jag, the difference was about 10% (and the price difference was usually less than 10%, but now that the price level has dropped quite a bit, that isn't still true).
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        • Posted by plusaf 5 years, 10 months ago
          Spot on, Robbie! I see at least a 10% variation from tank to tank throughout the year in my '04 Prius... 39mpg to 44 or so, up and down, yet my 'driving style' doesn't change that much... just the month I gas up. I usually go to the same station, too, but on a few occasions noticed that one or two 'inconveniently located' stations end up providing a tankful of higher fuel mileage.

          And that doesn't even address all of the OTHER negative impacts of Gasohol, either!
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