Tag Archives: Cars

When a Car is a House . . . by Eric Peters

Life has gotten progressively less affordable. From Eric Peters at ericpetersautos.com:

Financial experts will tell you that, as a general rule, you ought not to be spending more than 30 percent of what you earn on a place to live – i.e., your rent or mortgage – because if you spend more, you won’t have much left for anything else. Including whatever comes up that you didn’t expect, but always does.

Imagine spending half that 30 percent – imagine spending all of that 30 percent or even more – on a car payment.

Apparently, a lot of young people did just that over the past couple of years – and now they’re broke and not keeping up on their car payments. According to Jerry, a car insurance buying app, something on the order of $20 billion in car loans is headed toward default and most of this Everest of debt presses down on the shoulders of people in the 18-39 age bracket.

Jerry says four out of ten Gen Z car “owners” – in air fingers quotes to reflect the fact that you’re not an owner when you’re making payments on a thing that can be taken away from you if you stop making those payments – are paying 15 percent of their after-tax income on car payments.

One in five is paying more than 20 percent, or about what they ought to be spending on their rent/mortgage. Which probably accounts for why so many cannot afford their rent or mortgage. Jerry says 52 percent of Gen Z car-“owners” have had to defer a rent/mortgage payment in order to make a car payment.

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Better Than Banning, by Eric Peters

Governments bent on denying things to their subjects often find that it’s easier to make ownership prohibitively expensive rather than an outright ban. From Eric Peters at ericpetersautos.com:

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Bans are problematic when the thing being targeted is already in wide circulation. Gun being an obvious example. They can decree no new sales but what about the ones already sold – already possessed – by literally millions of people?

Door-to-door confiscation risks physical resistance and is logistically difficult regardless. It is much easier and equally effective to not ban possession of guns outright but rather to require that those who wish to continue continue possessing them pay for the privilege.

That they pay a lot for it. Not just once, either.

An annual registration fee, for instance. With the threat of criminal repercussions for failure to pay, if discovered (as during a “routine” traffic stop, for instance).

Also make ammunition expensive – as via heavy taxes. Not illegal, per se. Just generally unaffordable.

Presto! You have banned without actually banning.   

This method will likely be applied to cars that aren’t electric cars and – most particularly – cars that are not modern cars; i.e., those without built-in spyware (marketed as “apps” and “concierge services”) which present the threat – to the electric car agenda – of  being an alternative to them.

The electric car agenda is about more than just electric cars. It is about connected carsand electric cars are the apotheosis of connectedness.

The source of motive power is almost incidental to the fact that the powers-that-be can remotely control a connected electric car. Its range, for example, can be increased over-the-wire via a “software update.” It ought to be obvious what this implies. If the range can be extended, it can also be reduced.

To zero.

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Automotive Pre-Emption, by Eric Peters

It used to be you told your car what to do. Increasingly, new model cars are telling you what to do. From Eric Peters at ericpetersautos.com:

New cars do lots of things cars didn’t do in the past – which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Convenience has its merits.

But what about pre-emption?

Cars once did as they were told by their owners – and no more. If you didn’t want the doors to lock or the lights to come on they didn’t – until you locked them or turned them on. You could spin the tires – and lock up the brakes – as you liked.

New cars take those choices away from you – like a parent schooling a child.

It is about to get much worse.

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Carmageddon for Cars: “Cars” Are Scheduled to Die, by Wolf Richter

The US car industry no longer wants to make cars, only trucks and SUVs. From Wolf Richter at wolfstreet.com:

The end of an era in the US Auto industry — until $7 gas arrives.

“Cars,” as the auto industry defines them, are going to die. Not necessarily the vehicles, though they’re disappearing too, but the category of “cars” because sales have plunged beyond hope, especially for vehicles by the Big Three US automakers, GM, Ford, and Fiat-Chrysler.

It came to a head today: Ford announced $25.5 billion in planned cost cuts by 2022 – some red meat it threw to its restive stockholders, whether or not these “cuts” will ever materialize. But the cuts included a big category that is a sign of the times: all current Ford car models, except the Mustang, will be killed off.

This includes, in order of size, the Fiesta, the Focus, the Fusion, and the once dead, then revived, and soon dead again Taurus.

After which Ford dealers will only have “trucks” on the lot and a few Mustangs.

Industry-wide, “car” sales have been a nightmare: During the first three months of the year, “truck” sales jumped 10%, and “car” sales plunged 11%. In 2017, truck sales rose 4.3%, and car sales plunged 11%. And so on. This divergence of dropping car sales and rising truck sales started in 2015, and since then, “car” sales have gotten relentlessly crushed:

Part of the problem is that the industry’s division between “cars” and “trucks” is peculiar. “Trucks” include pickups, vans, SUVs, and compact SUVs (crossovers). But some SUVs and all crossovers are based on a unibody car chassis (instead of body-on-frame, which is the case with trucks). They’re stubbier versions of station wagons. For consumers, the switch from cars to crossovers is natural.

And part of the problem is that consumers have fallen out of love with cars. Gas is cheap (though getting more expensive), SUVs and crossovers are cool and immensely popular. And in parts of the country, pickups have for decades been the most popular US-branded vehicle type, and that love affair has only increased in recent years.

Including SUVs and crossovers, “trucks” accounted for 66.4% of total sales in March, the highest ever for a March. “Truck” sales have been above 60% of total sales for 21 months in a row.

To continue reading: Carmageddon for Cars: “Cars” Are Scheduled to Die

Another Gentle “Nudge” … by Eric Peters

Soon you will not be driving your car, it will be driving you…crazy. Crazy like your obnoxious older sister did when you were a kid and she bossed you around. From Eric Peters at theburningplatform.com:

Whatever their failings, machines generally don’t second-guess you. Turn them on, turn them off. Point them in a certain direction. Command them to move or spin or do whatever it is they were made to do and – assuming they are not broken – they will usually do it.

And won’t try to nudge you to do what they think is best.

Electronic gadgets, on the other hand . . .  .

They pre-empt and nudge. Do things you didn’t ask them to – and won’t do things you want them to. They turn on – and off- at random, according to their own lights. They are not broken, either.

Which means, of course, they can’t be fixed.

They seem to literally have a mind of their own – and in a very real sense, they do. They are programmed to guess/intuit/anticipate your needs – whether you need them to or not.

It is like having an insolent intern or personal assistant who is useful to you in some ways but an aneurism-inducing  aggravation in other ways. And unlike the intern or PA – whom you can fire and replace with a more deferential one who actually does do what you ask without giving you lip or funny looks or unsanctioned advice – and doesn’t do things you didn’t ask them to – electronic gadgets are pretty much all the same. In particular, their annoying penchant to pre-empt; to nudge you along certain pathways of the software’s – that is, the programmer’s – choosing.

Always because the programmer has decided it’s good for you.

To – in  a very real way  – parent you.

It most definitely isn’t a master-servant relationship, as it ought to be. As it was, with machines.

And it is spreading.

Do you see”safety” anywhere? Where is he?

Apple announced the other day that the next iPhone will lock you out whenever your car is moving. No texting, either sending or receiving. Nor swiping or tapping, either. For your saaaaaaaaaaaafety, of course. Just like the saaaaaafetyfeatures built into the latest cars that lock you out of many of the “infotainment” features while the car is moving. Also for saaaaaaaaaaafety. And automatically – parentally – mute or turn down the volume of the radio whenever the car’s transmission is put into Reverse. Or refuse to allow you to turn off the traction control. Flashes a red light at you when you exceed the speeeeeeeeed limit (yes, really).

To continue reading: Another Gentle “Nudge”

Agencies and Apparatchiks, by Eric Peters

If you start thinking about all the things we’ve come to take for granted, especially about government, very little makes any sense at all. From Eric Peters on a guest post at theburningplatform.com:

Why is the government even involved in dictating “safety” standards for new cars?

Did the EPA ever get put to a vote?

These are legitimate questions. But rarely asked – and forget about answered.

The Constitution lists – enumerates – the specific powers the government is supposed to have. The Constitution also clearly states that the specific powers not enumerated are “reserved” to the people and the states.

Well, where does it say in the Constitution that the federal government shall have the power to lay down bumper impact standards? Or require that cars be fitted with air bags and back-up cameras?

Just asking…
VW – and all the rest of them – have to bend knee to this “agency” (NHTSA) which no one that I am aware of ever elected. Isn’t the process supposed to be that we elect representatives who then write laws – which we have some degree of veto power over via removing from office representatives whom we decide no longer represent us?

How do we get rid of apparatchiks within an “agency” who never submit to an election – who are effectively tenured for life – but who have assumed the power to write laws? How did they get this power? And – better question – why do we defer to it, accept it as legitimate?

It’s palpably not.

We’re told as kids that we live in a country run by the consent of the governed. Really? Did any of you consent to any of this? Were you even asked?

Or did it just kind of happen – and now you’re required to accept it? Just because?

It is very odd. Or rather, at odds with what we’ve been told.

Remember the line about “no taxation without representation”? Well, uhm … what else is it when the government adds a cost to a new car that you’re forced to pay, but never asked you – never asked anyone – whether they thought it was a good idea, but rather simply decreed that it will be so?

If it walks like a duck…livestock

The “safety” stuff is particularly obnoxious because the “safety” of an adult human being is clearly no business of anyone’s except that adult human being and perhaps his immediate family, who may exert emotional pressure on him to do – or not do – this or that. But there is no issue of the commons. A man not wearing his seat belt may get hurt as a result of this choice, but he hurts no one else as a result of his choice. A man who drives a 1,600 pound pre-air bag/crumple zone Beetle may regret it if he drives it into a tree – but that is his business, is it not? His driving the old Beetle doesn’t hurt anyone else, at any rate. And is therefore his business – assuming we are free adults and not livestock owned by others who have an interest in safeguarding their property.

To continue reading: Agencies and Apparatchiks

Morlocks Need Eloi, by Eric Peters

From Eric Peters, on a guest post at theburningplatform.com:

Automated braking, Lane Keep Assist, Park Assist, Back-Up Cameras, Traction Control, ABS… all this technology is, is idiot-proofing.Eloi lead

It operates at the level of an idiot, too.

A skilled/competent driver not only doesn’t need it, he can often outperform it.

Skill and competence, are, however, not what’s wanted. They are the opposite of what’s wanted.

What’s being engineered, arguably.

You get what you encourage. And less of what’s discouraged.

The automated braking systems soon to be mandated decelerate the car when it’s either not necessary or so prematurely it’s preposterous. Like there’s an old lady (or a Clover) underneath the dashboard somewhere.

Which of course there kinda is. Joan Claybrook’s ghost, perhaps? An eHarpy you can’t kick to the curb – or turn off.
It engages when the car up ahead (way up ahead) is turning off the road and will be long gone by the time you actually get there. The concept of covering the brake pedal is something a computer does not grok. You, a human (and not an idiot) can evaluate changing conditions in real time with more perspicacity than a computer, which is programmed with limited parameters and does not do nuance. It may become necessary to brake and you are prepared to, if need be.

If not, you don’t.

But the computer will.

This is its own “safety” problem, interestingly enough. Abrupt braking when not necessary can trigger a chain reaction accident. The car behind you rear-ends you because your car braked suddenly and for no good reason. Another car passed within a few feet, say. Or, the light up ahead turned yellow but your car was already in the intersection.

You also lose the ability to power out of a potential problem – and avoid an accident – because the computer has cut the throttle. Which it will, when it applies the brakes for no good reason.

How, pray, is this “safer”?

Sometimes, swerving – and flooring the gas pedal – rather than standing on the brakes – is just what the doctor ordered. But the presumption of incompetence denies this option. Acceleration – evil!


Slowing – good.

Also always.

The programing of all these “safety” systems is at the level of the most over-cautious/fearful (and not-skilled) driver imaginable. The sort of “driver” (air quotes for the proper emphasis) who slows down on a snow-covered uphill grade. Which is just what computer-controlled traction control does. The dumbed down programming seeks to limit wheel slip at all costs, even if that means losing the momentum critical to making it up the got-damned hill. A good human driver can modulate throttle, countersteer and deal with a little sliding, maintaining momentum … and make it up the hill.

To continue reading: Morlocks Need Eloi

The Four-Wheeled Bubble, by Eric Peters

From a guest post by Eric Peters on theburningplatform.com:

Bubbles are always obvious … in retrospect.bubble lead

Here’s one you might not see coming.

The Car Bubble.

People are taking out eight-year car loans.

This is – or ought to be – alarming. The automotive equivalent of the zero-down, no-doc, adjustable rate mortgage on a $500,000 McMansion circa 2004.

You know – just before the housing bubble popped.

New car loans used to be 36 months (three years) and then 48 months (four years). Back when the economy was sane.

Today, the typical new car loan is 72 months (six years). This is almost double the formerly typical length of a new car loan.

But even that is not – apparently – enough to keep the music playing.

Enter the eight-year loan.

Which might be ok, if cars were not appliances.

Very expensive toasters, basically.

Though modern cars are longer-lived than the cars of the past, they are – like any other appliance – something you eventually throw away because eventually, it will wear out. Or cost too much to fix – relative to the value of the car itself.

This is why cars always decline in value over time. It is the nature of the thing.

With an eight-year loan, the odds are high that it will begin to wear out – and cost you money to fix – before you’ve paid the thing off.

Then you’ll have a car payment and repair payments.

On a car that’s not worth very much anymore.

Are people stupid?


Or, on dope?

Actually, they are on credit – and debt.

Just like before.

Stretching out the loan from four to six (and now eight) years is a way to make a car you can’t afford seem affordable. To hide from view just how much a new car really costs.

To continue reading: The Four-Wheeled Bubble

Another Car We’re Not Allowed to Buy, by Eric Peters

In case you hadn’t noticed, free markets are long dead in the US, because in free markets willing sellers sell to willing buyers who have determined what best fits their needs among the many alternatives. In our no longer free country, bureaucrats get to decide which alternatives buyers even get to consider. From Eric Peters at theburningplatform.com:

Would you be interested in a brand-new, fully warranted, five-door crossover SUV built by a major, name-brand automaker that gave you 50-plus MPG with a gas (not diesel or hybrid) engine, that has a top speed around 125 mph, is capable of getting to 60 in 12 seconds (about the same as a Prius hybrid) that stickered for less than $5,000?Kwid lead

Yeah, me too.

It’s called the Renault Kwid (see here) and it looks kinda-sorta like a Nissan Juke or Kia Soul and is about the same size as those units.

It isn’t a latter-day Yugo either.

The Kwid comes standard with AC, power windows and a digital dashboard, a seven-inch LCD display in the center stack and most of the apps you’d find in a new Soul or Juke.

It also has a modern, fuel-injected engine and a five-speed overdrive transmission.

The difference is the Kwid costs about a third what a new Juke or Soul would cost you to buy: Its base price is just $4,700 (not counting taxes and tags).

Too bad we can’t buy one.

Not because such a vehicle isn’t available.

It’s just not available here.

Neither are other such cars, like the Suzuki Alto 800 (53 MPG and a base price of $3,870; $5,755 loaded) and the Hyundai Eon (50 MPG and $4,856 to start; $6,636 loaded).

To continue reading: Another Car We’re Not Allowed to Buy