Still, its come as a huge shock to nearly everyone who knows me, that the Caliente era is coming to a close. My beloved Volkswagen New Beetle Convertible was a fantastic, fun car for two, but not at all a good fit for three. So, a couple of weeks ago we said "Hello" to our new, comfy, more family-oriented car (dubbed Rocket by Liam).
Its a bit bittersweet, of course, knowing that this means a very sad "Goodbye" to my sweet little Cali, who sits dejected on the curb with a forlorn "For Sale" perched in her windshield. (Call me for a price on an award-winning, sporty, fun, little car!)
Is this the first of more big changes to come in 2010? Oh yes! Stay tuned…
Dede decided it was finally time to let the personalized "CALI N T" license plates on Caliente go. (It was always a lot of fun to watch people read that plate, scratch their heads a bit, and then see the meaning finally dawn on ’em!)
Is this a foreshadowing of other, bigger changes to come? Time will tell…
Gasoline has now peaked $4 per gallon and you’re stuck driving a hulking behemoth that gets 12 M.P.G. — if you’ve got a tailwind. How the heck did this happen?
It’s not easy to admit, but most of us are willing victims of marketing. Very, very clever people are paid lavish salaries to coax, convince, or otherwise cajole our ideals and opinions about everything from cars to shoes to pizza to trashbags. Yup, these are the guys whose job it is to bend our wills — and they’re very, very good at it. In particular, U.S. automakers & their marketing wizards have a magical hold on us. They’ve been hand-crafting the public’s perceived need for the kind of vehicles they want us to buy for decades now. Not sure what I mean? Don’t think you can be manipulated? Need proof?
"That thing got a Hemi?"
Pure genius. I didn’t even know what the heck a Hemi was when that Dodge advertising campaign launched, but I sure was checking the contents of my shorts, feeling so inadequate over not having a big honkin’ truck equipped with a Hemi engine. Think that doesn’t sell vehicles? Think again! Take note of how many big hinkin’, 8-cylinder, 4-wheel drive, quad-cab trucks and lumbering, oversized SUVs are on the road serving as nothing more than single-occupancy commuter vehicles.
Yup, American automakers haven’t needed to be concerned with fuel efficiency or catering to the small car market because they’ve had most of us securely under their spell for so long. They’ve snookered us into believing that bigger & more cylinders are better and that we need the horsepower to do zero-to-60 in 6.5 seconds or else we’re pansies. If you’re driving a small, inexpensive car with a fuel-efficient 4-cylinder engine, you must either be destitute (because affluent people drive big cars with beefy engines), or some kind of treehugging, rice-eating, commie-lovin’, hippie.
By golly, if you’re not driving a big-ass, rubber-burnin’, God Bless America, gas-guzzling GM truck, well, Bob Seger & John Mellencamp are going to come over to your house, beat ya up, drink up all your beer, and prolly take your girlfriend!
And women aren’t immune to the crafty marketing pressures either. A decade or so ago, U.S. automakers began targeting that segment by hoodwinking safety-conscious moms with the false perception that SUVs are safer.
Even now, they’re feverishly trying to hustle the more environmentally-aware among us with SUV hybrids. These are nothing more than a sad, misguided, & utterly greedy attempt on the behalf of automakers to seem "green" yet continue to cater to outdated, redneck attitudes. The whole idea of the improved fuel efficiency of a hybrid is almost completely negated by the added weight & poor aerodynamics of SUVs. (Not to mention that they’re still not nearly as safe as they’d have you believe.)
So how the heck are we supposed to feel good about buying a small car from these hucksters now?
After more than 50 years of profiting handsomely (to put it mildly) from skillfully shaping our desires & subsequent purchasing habits by building false perceptions and stroking our redneck egos about how horsepower equals manhood, the automotive industry & their marketing geniuses have a social responsibility to apply that same moneygrubbing fervor towards making Americans feel OK about buying smaller, less resource-wasteful cars.
Advertising shapes public opinion so automakers need to get busy selling a new idea!
“Jumbo shrimp.” “Smart bomb.” “Freezer burn.”
Oxymorons. We’re all familiar with these. Oxymorons are the bringing together of two opposites or contradictory terms. With that in mind, maybe it’s high time we added another phrase to the long list of oxmora:
Almost daily, I hear people defaulting to—and defending—the choice of a SUV when the option of buying a new car comes up. In almost every case, the primary reason listed is safety. And who can blame them? We spend an increasing amount of time behind the wheel and people want their families & children to be safe & secure on the road. The perception is that bigger is better, more steel equals stronger, and taller means superior. Add it all up, SUVs just seem like the safest choice, right?
For most SUVs, nothing could be further from the truth…
A string of largely-ignored tests performed by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety over recent years has thoroughly documented the fact that many cars are far safer than SUVs. Yet in spite of the known hazards—such as SUVs being prone to rollovers and having weak roofs & comparably poor crash protection—consumer continue to snatch up these hulking behemoths in record numbers. People are, in effect, willfully overlooking vehicle safety concerns because of reasoning that’s known to be untrue.
I urge you to check out Malcolm Gladwell’s very compelling article Big & Bad: How the SUV Ran Over Automotive Safety for a closer look at the pyschology & rationale behind chosing SUVs for safety.
In choosing SUVs, drivers aren’t only placing themselves at greater risk. No, as I mentioned in my Risky Business post back in January, the combination of highly-touted safety innovations (4-wheel drive, ABS brakes, side-curtain airbags, etc.) and the more risk-tolerant attitudes & driving habits of SUV-owners, makes them a greater threat to other drivers as well. Little if any thought seems to go into the issue of SUVs being much more harmful to the other vehicle in a collision but in fact, the more SUVs bought in the interest of safety, the less safe the roads actually are. Popular assumption is that because of the larger size, stiffer frame, and heavier weight of SUVs, they’ll naturally be safer but the taller stance poses a considerably greater rollover risk, the stiffer frame is very inefficient at dissipating collision forces, and the added mass makes for far less break responsiveness & maneuverability.
Be sure to read Physics Today’s very interesting Vehicle Design and the Physics of Safety article for more insight on the impact (pun intended!) of SUVs & pickups on American roadways.
This is all worth considering before plunking down your hard-earned cash on your next vehicle… Will your next ride still be a SUV?
It was another fun year at the 8th annual Roswell R2k New Beetle Car Show this past weekend. We met up with some of our old friends from past years and made some new ones. It was great seeing everyone again and checking out all the bugs that entered in the show.
There was a group of Volkswagen New Beetles that started in Chicago and did a Route 66 caravan to the show and are continuing on this week to end the route in California. Thanks to Antoine, I got a copy of all the photos the crew had taken from Chicago to Roswell and it looks like to have been a great trip. I wished we could’ve taken time off to join in on the fun!
Top 5 trophies for each New Beetle car class were given out at the show and Caliente scored Top 5 in the Convertible class. Yeah! There were 2 New Beetles that I hadn’t seen before that quickly became my favorites of this year’s show. One was The Great Pumpkin and the other was Fastball, the Cracker Jack Baseball car. The Parade down Main Street followed the awards ceremony and, as always, we had fun throwing out candy to the kids along the street.
Once again, we’re prepped, loaded, & on the road to the 8th Annual Roswell R2k New Beetle Car Show in Roswell, New Mexico. Although the competition gets stiffer each year, we’re hopeful that Caliente will fare well — maybe even score another trophy — thanks in part to Cali’s newly-painted brake calipers and some new chili-pepper themed decorations.
As with the previous years’ R2k shows, we’re especially excited about the "Parade of Colors" that’s held after the car show on Saturday afternoon. We’ve bought several pounds of candy to throw to the kids watching the parade — they always get a huge kick out of seeing all of the decorated VW New Beetles cruising down Roswell’s Main Street.
It was a big night for Caliente; she finally got her long overdue pedi. We’ve been talking for a couple of years about wanting to paint the brake calipers but were afraid to tackle the project alone. Thanks to Trey (a.k.a. T-Dawg), tonight it finally happened.
It took T-Dawg & Rob about 2 hours from start to finish. Not bad at all! I was on-hand as the project manager & official photographer. I trusted them with my baby and, I must say, the boyz did an awesome job!
Here’s a picture of the guys gearing up to start. Click here to see the rest of the photos.
Remember the Andy Warhol quote, “In the future, everyone will be famous for 15 minutes?”
Well, I guess it's Caliente's turn to have a few fleeting moments of celebrity…
Although I saw the Hot VWs magazine crew taking photos, & interviewing owners at the Roswell 2k New Beetle Car Show back in June of '06, I never suspected that we were noteworthy enough to be featured. But sure enough, we've made it into the February issue!
We’ve returned from the R2K v7 New Beetle car show with yet another unexpected win. This time, instead of categorizing the New Beetles by year, David divided the cars up into 4 classes and awarded trophies to the top 5 in each. Caliente made me proud (again) by taking home the Best Convertible trophy!
It was another fun trip! We saw lots of our old friends and made several new ones. Volkswagen reps were on-hand to show off their new EOS hardtop convertible car that’ll be released later this year and pass out all kinds of free goodies like t-shirts, keychains, & custom dog tags. This year’s guest of honor was Barry Meguiar, the chipper host of Speed Channel’s Car Crazy TV show and CEO of Meguiar’s Inc. — makers of lots of the car care stuff that keeps Cali looking so good!