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Sunday, April 13, 2008

People Don't Like My Car!

It’s not a good sign that people don’t like my car.

People are agog over the Toyota Prius and the Prius is a respectable achievement, four doors, five passengers, room for at least some cargo. But it’s not uncommon for the car to not break 50 mpg (Consumer Reports put the real world mileage at 44 mpg).

I’m driving the car that was the first hybrid to come to the US, the Honda Insight (beat the Prius by a few months).

My r/t commute is 100 mi. door-to-door.

I get 65 mpg on a normal day; 58 mpg if I drive aggressively; 75 mpg with a little effort; and my record is 85 mpg (which involves annoying other people on the road—I’m in the right lane and I’m saving my inertia; I’m really sorry if you’re behind me; I like speed too).

This model (though not my car) has been hacked to get 100 mpg.

My car is the 2000 model year, the first to make it to the US, a year after release in Japan. And you have to figure a development cycle of how long—at least five years, maybe more. So they started working on this in 1995 or earlier. The 100 mpg car? It’s not the car of the future; it’s the car of the past!

The past and fading, because 2007 was the last model year the Insight was available. Off the market. Gone.

So why don’t people like my car?

Well, okay, people seem to like it—point at it, wave, ask questions about it. What they don’t seem to have done is buy it.

Cool car. Nice for you. I’ll take the Hummer, thanks!

The Insight is limited. No doubt. Only two seats, minimal cargo room. Will go over 85 mph but takes some time getting there (that’s what I’m told anyway, officer, I would never, of course, myself. . .) And for people who suffer road anxiety, well it ain’t big. A little bumpy on the high pressure tires, a little jiggity in the wind.

As far as I’m concerned though, it’s the perfect commuter car, the perfect second car. Most of what I need to do (in my one child, no pets family) is get to and from work, drive my wife or (not and) daughter somewhere, and do errands that involve more grocery bags than lumber. Can’t drive the carpool in this car. For that I take our BIG CAR, the two door Honda Civic.

But, but, but. . . 75MPG on a good day!! According to the government, the combined average for the US fleet in 2005 didn’t quite crack 20 mpg.

Who killed the Insight? I’m thinking we did, that Honda just couldn’t sell enough of them to make a profit (I believe they were selling them at a loss, too, which didn’t help).

Sounds like market failure to me. Can you say Carbon Tax? Betcha can. Not a fun word but something’s got to help the market along, provide some signals and incentives.

Sigh. . .

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