At risk of offending my boss, I beg to differ with David Sedgwicks commentary on the Chevrolet Volt.
The Volt as presented to the public, he says, is a car that will appeal to a small group of consumers and a vehicle optimized for short hauls.
I agree. But he makes that sound like a bad thing. To that, I disagree.
For years, Americans have bought just in case vehicles.
A car shopper might use a car for a daily 90-mile, high-speed Interstate commute, but just in case some friend wanted help moving a sofa, he bought a three-quarter-ton pickup.
A car shopper might be an empty nester who almost never carried more than one passenger in the car, but just in case the grandkids come to visit her seniors-only retirement community for an overnight, she bought a car that seats six.
A car shopper might drive only on pavement in a city that rarely sees snow, but just in case foul weather threatened, he bought an SUV with four-wheel drive.
Consumers could get by with that in the 1990s, an era when gasoline prices, adjusted for inflation, were ridiculously cheap. Not so when gasoline starts topping $4 a gallon on a regular basis (which, by the way, is still cheaper than some bottled water).
Today, car shoppers are going to have to be more realistic about how they use their vehicle. How far do you drive? Highway or city? How much stuff do you haul every week?
If you commute solo 120 miles on highways every day, maybe you should consider ditching the standard V-8 in favor of one with cylinder cutoff, or better yet, a highway-friendly diesel.
If you mainly run errands on suburban streets, maybe you should pass on the macho truck and buy the car you really need. If twice a year you need to get peat moss from Home Depot to your back yard, maybe it makes more sense to either have the store deliver it or rent a truck that day.
And, if you really only drive 30 miles a day, maybe the Volt is exactly the right car for you. (I know, they say itll go 40 miles on a charge. In extreme cold? Or with the air conditioning fighting 98-degree heat? Well see.)
The point is, I think consumers are wise enough to see that with gasoline pricier, maybe they can get by 50 weeks of the year with a vehicle more appropriate for their needs, even if they occasionally have to rent in special situations. Theyll save on both gasoline and insurance.
Its probably too much to think that Americans also would go back to switching into and out of snow tires for the sake of better fuel economy, but who knows?
If the Volt becomes part of a discussion as to how much vehicle each of us actually needs, then it will be a true trend-setting car even if its not right for everyone.