Thursday, December 31, 2009

My First Year as Car Czar: Thank you, sir. May I have Another?


I've had a great first year as President Obama's self-appointed car czar. I thoroughly enjoy popping off about politics and cars, even if they still won't let me in past the White House gate without a tall blonde.


Things Political ...

For those unlucky enough to have a self-appointed government position so way high up, and for those who still don't know what hit them with this whole Black Guy with a Middle Eastern Name Running the Country Thing, The Great Cataclysmic Year of Obama now draws to a close. Here's the score, minus numbers:

The U.S. economy, whose dismal state was somehow all the Big O's fault as of election day, now shows strong signs of recovery, somehow thanks not one bit to the Big O (who is a birth certificateless Secret Muslim who will steal your genitals if you look him directly in the eye. Forward this to all your friends).

One year down, and still no doom, except for the reality show wannabes who got into dinner, bringing America to its knees, and for President O's too-low bow to the Japanese prime minister, which signaled Total Capitulation to Japan, who now, of course, has seized Washington DC.

Aside from those abject disasters, everything's going to be just fine. This nation's great throng of self-righteous Real Americans have largely calmed down and returned to quiet lives of saying grace importantly before dinner, saluting the flag importantly, and importantly circulating chainmail purporting to be from embedded, retired, "former" or otherwise untraceable-but-important figureheads of Real American goodness – military, law enforcement, etc. – because by God, nobody else in this day and age has the decency or guts to circulate tell-it-like-is anonymous racist e-mail missives that are so self-flattering.

In summary, we have capped the opening decade of the 2000s with the previously-self-important vanguards of The American Way acting even more important in the face of their increasing unimportance. These folks even threw a few important Tea Parties to importantly decry the president's massive government spending bill, two-thirds of which pays for the tab their guy ran up while they importantly cheered-on billions for blowing stuff up anywhere where people wrap their heads in towels.


Things Automotive ...

On the automotive front, GM has successfully foisted its Joke's-on-You Hummer brand upon the world's new economic powerhouse, meaning better access to rolling delusions of grandeur for five-foot-four Chinese and cheaper access for five-foot-four Americans.

The nation has lost the no-negotiation-necessary vinyl-bodied mediocrity of Saturn and the We-Used-to-Build-Excitement-but-Now-We-Wrap-Chevys-in-Ribbed-Plastic Pontiac brand.

Saab, famous for making quirky cars prized for their Swedish design, nobody's-buyin'-it connection to "jet fighters," and charming heritage as the automotive brand that forced Kurt Vonnegut to make his living as a literary genius, appears to be dead, but is alive and well and doing just fine in another dimension of time's bubbled amber.

It appears that the world's automakers have woken up in a cold sweat to the reality that precious few people are going to keep moving up the sliding scale of silliness toward six-figure Cadillacs and hot rod German sport utilities ... and that cars that average teens for MPG aren't long for this world unless they're made by manufacturers whose names end in "i."

Soon, BMW will be introducing models with small-displacement turbos, regenerative braking systems, and electric helper motors. In other words, lots of new cutting-edge German technology to break down and keep those German car forums buzzing with their odd mixture of enthusiasts who are ecstatic over taking delivery of their new Teutonic road wonders or despondent over having them at the dealerships for two weeks while yet another no-start computer code is diagnosed.

Seriously, Germans: Please let the Americans or Japanese introduce the new stuff while you guys focus on vault-like build quality and just-right suspension and brakes. Then, two years into your model refresh, buy the working technology from Ford or Toyota and get on with your plans for world automotive domination.

Euro "B" class cars: one-point-something liter buzzbombs that are entertainingly quick until you put passengers in them, will be headed to the U. S. of A. as well.

Honda's neat Fit has already staked-out the high ground, and Ford's 2011 Fiesta looks to be staking out higher ground yet, weighing a few hundred pounds less than the Fit and looking one-hundred-percent less dorky. Fiat is threatening to send its cuter-than-a-Mini 500 model, better known to this nation's children as Luigi from the movie Cars. Wouldn't that be a riot? Pure Italian everyman spunk that might find VWs looking reliable by comparison.

These tiny low-displacement cars really are more fun to drive around town than the high-powered muscle/pony/sports class of car ... again ... until you add passengers or need to climb a hill on a hot day with the AC going full blast. They average MPG well into the 30s – sometimes 40s.

In closing, I'd like to remind every automotive aficionado who spent the 80s and 90s saying they'd wished they were employed and of driving age in 1971 so as to be able to buy all three iconic big-muscle pony cars cars of the day on the cheap that now is the time to put your money where your mouth was.

You're going to want a brand new, better-than-ever Mustang GT, Hemi Challenger SRT, and Camaro Z28 so that your grandchildren can brag about how cool and smart grandpa and grandma were. But instead of paying 12k for all three in 1971 dollars you're going to pay about 120k for all three in New Millennium Mo'. (Don't worry. In 40 years ... muscle car-spirit-willing ... the Holy Pony Car Triumvirate will no doubt be going for 1.2 mil. And again, the grandkids will be impressed. And those faster and better electric cars? Meh. Because ... meh).

Here are some tips:

Get the Challenger now, since there's no convertible or engine upgrade on the table, Chrysler is in its usual dire shape, and these majestic things are just sitting on car lots.

Wait until 2011 for the return of the 5.0 Mustang GT rocking nearly 400 naturally-aspirated hp (fixed roof so you can spec the Track Pack ... and don't give a second thought to the blown GT500 ... whatta nose-heavy pig).

Wait until 2012 for the Camaro Z28 convertible blowing out in excess of 550 hp with its factory supercharger.

If you missed the chance to buy stocks for pennies on the dollar last March, don't miss next decade's chance to own investment-grade American cubic inches. Might as well pick up one of those fire-saled McMansions with the three-car garage while you're at it.

I am the Car Czar, and I'm here to help.

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