<VV> Rant (minor corvair)

Bill Elliott Corvair at fnader.com
Tue Oct 18 11:27:44 EDT 2005

This is one of my favorite subjects to rant on, but I will try to keep this as non-political as possible. While I 
repsect your opinions and your knowledge of cars, you are SEVERELY underestimating the effect of 
unconstitutional federal Government regulation on cars. On Jan 1, 1968, several whole classes of cars 
were declared illegal in the US. No lightweight economy cars, no lowslung sports cars, etc... and barriers 
to real competition sprung up overnight. 

No more low production businesses starting up. No more small companies importing cars used in the 
rest of the world. Convertibles were very nearly outlawed (to the point that all American companies 
ceased production). And the rules changed so hard and so fast that the large American companies 
couldn't change direction quickly enough and were nearly driven out of business by state-supported 
Asian businesses that were already building small cars and could afford Federalization.  Look at the 
number of European carmakers who stopped selling in the US during the 70's and early 80's... it was no 
longer worth trying to meet ever higher and higher standards in safety, emmissions, and certifications.

The "certifications" is the big part. Does anyone really think that Eurpean safety standards are inferior to 
US ones? Yet the vast majority of cars sold in Europe cannot be sold here due to certification 
differences. That not only reduces competition (driving up prices in the US), but also drives up prices in 
Europe for companies that would like to sell in the US (but can't due to certification costs) or spend 
inordinate amounts of money to produce a US spec car (driving up prices for both of their markets).

Don't you believe that all of these safety standards are not strictly regulated by the Feds. Yes, airbags 
are required Federal safety gear and have been for many years. Virtually every aspect of a car is SO 
regulated by the Feds that if a car isn't specifically designed to meet the US safety and EPA specs, it's 
fiscally unreasonable to get it certified. (Only new ground-up designs get sold here... the new BMW 
MINI, the new Lotus Elise, Mercedes knows it will take the next generation SMART to even consider 
offering it here, etc)

And the Corvair content is that ALL of this began with "Unsafe at Any Speed".  Without the Corvair, the 
same sort of thing would have likely eventually happened, but Nader was able to show that "different = 
bad" and that thought resonated with the public. Since then, the US Government has been driving 
towards a single "specification" for cars... dramatically pushing up both weight and the power necessary  
to achieve "average" performance levels while still trying to give the American public what they think they 
want. One of the reasons folks gravitated to SUVs is that those were less regulated than the cars... and 
were therefore cheaper for a given equipment spec.

Many people say that small lightweight cars like those sold in Europe and Japan wouldn't sell here due 
to the market... but what they really mean is that a small lightweight car like sold in Europe and Japan 
wouldn't sell here due to the cost and weight penalty of Federalization. There's not a market here 
because there haven't been cars available in this market since 1968.

In this day and age, you have to sell a HUGE volume of cheap cars to recoup your up-front costs... it's 
simply not worth it. Lotus is charging close to 50% more for their low volume Elise here than they do in 
Europe... but can do that because the car has no direct competitors here.  Allow EU safety standards 
and you'll see small volume manufactuers (and large volume European and Japanese manufactuers) 
suddenly reenter the same market they abandoned. Pick up any European car magazine and check out 
the cars they are driving...

As another thought exercise, think how far the auto industry _could_ have gone were it left relatively 
unfettered like the motorcycle industry.

Whether you think Federal regulation of cars is a good thing or a bad thing depends on your political 
outlook. For me the lack of freedom of choice, less competition, and the higher costs due to multiple 
levels of certification (not to mention the bending of the Commerce Clause to allow  the Feds access 
into ALL SORTS of areas that they have no business messing in) outweighs the (somewhat 
questionable) enhanced safety aspects (which the market would have provided eventually if the majority 
of buyers found that important).


>>And so, you cannot buy the car you want. You cannot make the decision to
>>save money by not having a bumper, or an airbag. Because you, like me, are
>>not free.

>Who boy, doesn't anyone do any research any more ? What a pack of BS laced 
>with occasional allusions to the truth. Among other things, the 5 mph 
>bumper law no longer exists. Also I know of no *law* requiring airbags, 
>they are more of a marketting ploy and are effective for those who refuse 
>to wear seat belts.

>I have been wearing seat belts since the early sixties because I prefer 
>that I (and any passengers) stay in their seats if an evasive maneuver is 
>necessary. Believe there is a law in that case, enacted in or became 
>effective in 1966 and a good thing because good seat belts require good 
>anchoring points. They are also inexpensive if not tricked out with gee-gaws.

>Yes, congress has enacted some really stupid laws (e.g. seat belt law in 
>1974) fortunately they do not last long. However, generally the 
>manufacturers give the American people the cars they say they want, 
>generally proven in the marketplace. The American public has generally 
>wanted big and that is what they have received.

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