Green Cars Versus Red Cars

Ethanol Powered Silverado

Of course you’ve noticed—how could you not?—the Great Fissure in the auto world: As some cars get heavier, more powerful, and more expensive, at the same time we seem to be growing a whole new crop of greener, more efficient vehicles (which, however, don’t seem to be that much cheaper).

We try to cover both green and—let’s call them red—cars on this blog, but it’s strange that they seem to be in some kind of gigantic tractor pull against each other. Which is to say their makers are trying to sell to two very different, even opposing, types of customers.

So, why do you think it’s so difficult to get health care reform passed in this country?

Clunkers CrushedThe same thing appears to be true with the Cash for Clunkers (CARS) program. The Feds found a rather expensive way to get a few gas hogs off the road, but it has so many things wrong with it, and so many unhappy participants, that the program is withering on the vine. It has become neither red nor green, but brown.

Dealers have to submit paperwork to the government to get reimbursed for each CARS sale, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that 25 percent of dealer submissions get turned back because of dumb mistakes. Well, were car dealers ever good at filling out forms (except for the financing package)? Look at the list of reasons for rejection here, as the National Automobile Dealers Association reports that paperwork requirements are just too much for some of these guys. How about NADA sponsoring a GED program for them? The Transportation Department is trying to speed up Clunker payments to dealers; maybe that will help them focus.

On top of everything else, consumers are losing interest. Some say they’re buying Hummers and Cadillacs with their credits. Well, I kinda doubt that. Here’s a list of what they’re buying, and you’ll see that Ford makes four out of the top ten, including the top two. Not bad, and I see only two red trucks (and trucks are supposed to be red) on the list.

1. Ford Escape
2. Ford Focus
3. Jeep Patriot
4. Dodge Caliber
5. Ford F-150
6. Honda Civic
7. Chevrolet Silverado
8. Chevrolet Cobalt
9. Toyota Corolla
10. Ford Fusion

Maybe we’ll see Chrysler give over completely to the red-car concept and let Ford have its shot at the green (when they quit making Lincoln Navigators).

How long will it take for green to eliminate red in our crazy fissured auto world? Or do you think that will never happen?

—jgoods

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