The Compliance Car

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There’s a new model out you may not have heard about – the compliance car.

It’s a car that, for one reason or another, almost no one is willing to buy – and so must be given away at a loss.

Well, that part isn’t new.

From the Edsel to the Pacer to the Aztek, there have been errors of judgment – and marketing or design/manufacturing problems – that led to automotive belly flops. Cars that just didn’t do well. It happens.

But it wasn’t intentional.

That is the distinction between a belly flop like the Aztek – and a compliance car. The latter – the compliance car – is a car designed to fail. A car they know ahead of time won’t sell, that they’ll have to give away at a loss.

And they build it anyway.

And continue to build it.

Here’s the latest for-instance: The Fiat 500e. It is a Fiat 500 that’s been Aztek-ized (or Pacer’d, if you prefer) via the removal of its nothing-wrong-with-it engine and transmission, with a lots-wrong-with-them electric motor and battery pack taking their place.

Now, instead of a car that stickers for $14,995 to start, averages about 30 MPG – and which can travel 300-plus miles on 10.5 gallons of fuel that can be replenished in less than five minutes, you’ve got a vehicle that stickers for $32,795 that can maybe go 87 miles before it conks out and needs to be recharged for several hours.

But don’t worry! Fiat includes ePass – the use of a free loaner 500 (the gas-powered one) when the electric one conks out.

Two – for the price of three!

Teeth beginning to ache yet?

So, naturally, the question occurs . . . why? Wouldn’t it be easier to just give away every third 500 they build? It would probably end up costing them less – and would certainly be less embarrassing.

Which brings us back to the title of this rant. The 500e and the many others just like it (another being the latest iteration of Volkswagen’s eGolf) are compliance cars. Purposely built as economic throw-aways, designed solely to comply with the “zero emissions” fatwas coming out of Washington and state capitals (California, particularly) that insist a certain number of these things will be built each year.

Whether they sell is not considered relevant.

In the minds of the people behind these fatwas, such grimy considerations are of no interest. What interests the – as Orwell styled them – beetle-like men (and, lately, women. . .  kind of) who occupy the cubicles within the bureaucracies that issue the fatwas is that “zero emissions” electric cars shall replace conventional cars.

No matter how much they cost us.

And so they are built. And then, they sit.

Finally, they are given away.

Fiat, for example, will lease you a 500e for $69 a month, with no money down, for 36 months. (My phone costs me $45 per month – and its battery lasts longer.)

That works out to $2,484 to  drive a 500e every day (briefly) for the next three years.

Still no takers for the pitiful little car.

Fiat’s CEO Sergio Marchionne openly admits that each 500e costs his company $14,000 to get rid of – and yet his company continues to build more of them.

Marchionne is many things but an imbecile isn’t one of them. He builds the 500e because he must. Not because of market demand – but because of government demands. He knows he will not be allowed to sell any cars at all unless he builds a certain number of electric lemons.

The fatwas only specify that he build them. Not that he actually sell them.

And so he does – and doesn’t.

As do – and don’t – the others.

VW, for example, just revealed the latest iteration of its eGolf, which – like the electrified version of the 500 – costs about twice what you’d spend on the gas-engined version and only goes about a fourth as far.

SONY DSC

No doubt, lines are forming even now.

GM “sold” three of its electric Cadillacs, the ELR, during the last couple of months. It’d look better if they just paid lot boys to drive them to the Hood and leave them there with the windows down and the keys on the seat.

But then, the boys in the Hood are more discriminating. They’ll jack an Escalade instead.

This baying at the moon in a meat suit insanity is going to get worse, too. The automotive press is mostly unwilling to note that the emperor not only has no clothes, he’s manually pleasuring himself in front of the kids. I just finished reading through a review of the 500e (here, if you can stomach it) published by a hack at Edmunds.com – an advertorial/press kit recycler that was once, a long time ago, a decent source for information about cars – in which not a mention was made of either the 500e’s range or the time it takes to recharge one or the economic imbecility of spending $32,795 to convert a $14,995 car to electricity.

What would be the upside, friend Edmund? We’re saving gas – of which there is plenty – but hemorrhaging money, which is finite (for most people, certainly those worried about the cost of gasoline) as well as time – also finite – and meanwhile rendering the car’s range much more finite and thus, the car much less useful for the purpose people generally buy a car for – which is to !$%&!! blankety-blank get somewhere and then (ideally) be able to turn around and go back. Without a three-hour intermission.

But the car press – like the press in general – is guilty of bumping uglies with the powers-that-be instead of telling it like it is. They have egged-on this mess by never questioning the wisdom let alone the rightness of such a thing as a compliance car.

Thirty years ago, guys like Brock Yates (RIP, good buddy) would have been all over this. I guess now it’s up to me.

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57 COMMENTS

  1. Author takes criticism and says thats the persons “opinion” without being able to accept that his article (which is a lot of HIS opinion) is just the same.

    Why you made Eric? I bought my Fiat for a couple of reasons. 1) tired of driving ugly old natural gas Crown Vic. 2) enjoy driving legally in the carpool lane. 3) price.Clover

    I don’t give a damn about what it cost the “tax payers” as it happens I’m not black, latino or any other minority special group who benefits from MY more than generous donation to the Federal and State governments at gun point (thats taxes if you aren’t following) – when they allow us working people who contribue more than we have EVER taken back, I take it.

    So cry yourself a river. And I’ll wave as I drive by in the carpool lane, with a big smile on my face, in the car that I paid out of pocket just under $1400 for 3 years (thank’s California Liberal Democrats)

  2. You’re a complete Luddite. Are you paid to shill for the auto and oil industry financial interests? Or do you simply suffer from Conservative Ideological blindness? Your one-sided argument is willfully ignorant.

    You fail to realize or mention the benefits this “forced” production” of “compliance cars” affords: First, it drives demand for new battery technology. The overwhelming cost of the vehicle is the battery, and prices are plummeting. Nissan Leaf replacement batteries have gone from $14,500 at the model’s introduction to $5,500 currently and not only are the falling prices accelerating, but the battery capacity and life are improved dramatically. The batteries are better. That’s innovation. That’s what “compliance cars” are supposed to be forcing, assuming the manufacturers are acting in good faith (Nissan is, GM finally woke up with the Bolt). But that’s okay, if they drop the ball and drag their feet, Tesla will be there to eat their lunch. They will go the way of “Chemical” Kodak when they let digital technology wipe them out; when the tectonic shift “suddenly” hits auto manufacturers in their business model, they can feign shock and surprise. Adapt or die my friend. Clover

    The reality is this: the electric car is both inevitable AND massively disruptive.

    Journalists / bloggers like yourself continue to present false arguments: cost of purchasing gasoline is NOT the basis for going to an electric vehicle. Costs to the environment of gasoline and carbon pollution, on the other hand are a good reason. But a selfish reason is REDUCED OWNERSHIP COSTS.

    You see, the main immediate benefit to consumers is there’s is virtually ZERO maintenance costs to these vehicles. And that’s what should be plastered on the side of them, not “ZERO EMISSION,” but “ZERO MAINTENANCE.”

    But that’s a dirty little secret the auto industry doesn’t want you to know.

    Now, in fact, neither is actually true, the electricity comes from somewhere and eventually, everything wears and requires maintenance. But an electric car need only tires and brake pads. After 200,000 miles, you can do some bearing work maybe.

    There is NO ENGINE: So, there’s no oil to change. There’s no engine oil seals or complex emissions systems or spark plugs or fuel filters. There isn’t even one single fan belt! Do you know what it costs to fix a leaking rear engine seal on anything?!

    Cost of gas my ass. Electric cars represent auto maintenance Nirvana. Unless of course, that was your business model: repairing cars and selling parts. Woops, too bad 4 u.

    There’s NO COOLING SYSTEM: No engine coolant to flush. There’s no hoses to crack and leak and replace regularly, there’s no water pump to fail or fan belt pulley’s to even drive it. The #1 cause of vehicle breakdown is the cooling system.

    There’s NO TRANSMISSION or DRIVETRAIN: You can throw your automatic transmission away every 100,000 miles; 200,000 if you’re very lucky. Electric car has two gears and it’s permanent oil fill. Let’s generously call that worn out in 200,000 miles for the auto industry’s benefit. But really, I’m thinking 400k easy here. No guibos, driveshafts or center bearings. Just some half-shafts that need to be replaced every 150k or so. It doesn’t get any simpler or cost effective FOR THE OWNER.Clover

    There is only an electric motor, electronics to manage the motor speed and the inverter/charger. Call these 40 year lifespan electronics. (Extrapolated from my Bosch electronics from the 80’s lasting 28 years or so on my BMW’s and Porsche’s — remember when people feared electronics and resisted leaving carburetors behind? Luddites, just like yourself. Because, well, they thought the toilets they were familiar with were better at regulating fuel. Not so.

    Anyway, for running carpools and errands in Atlanta Traffic, my Leaf rules. On the racetrack, I’ll keep my BMW and Porsche, and my Dodge Cummins to tow them.

    But electric has it’s place, and for > $2.00 I can charge the Leaf in my garage. And my only exposure is battery life. But by the time it needs to be replaced, they could be $2k. I can’t service my German cars for that — or my pickup truck! Never mind correct a major failure — transmission, blown head gasket, etc. Clover

    So stop kidding yourself: the reason nobody is buying a Fiat is mostly because, well, it’s a Fiat. And you can get a used Nissan Leaf for $5k to $12K …

    The next generation of electric cars, with 200 mile ranges, are due out next year: new Leaf, new Tesla Model 3. They will be the leading edge of the tectonic shift.

    Stop spreading ignorance.

    • Sigh.

      Has anyone else noticed that Clovers can’t read?

      I’m a “Luddite” because I dare to observe that electric cars can’t be justified on economic grounds and continue to suffer from very real and very significant performance/functional deficits relative to IC cars. That somehow makes me a person who is opposed to technology. Something I never remotely indicated.

      Clover doesn’t challenge the facts. He just calls me a “Luddite” for referencing them.

      Then this guy goes on and on about the benefits – as he sees them – of electric cars, which is neither here nor there as regards the question of forcing their production and then subsidizing their sale. But he wants them subsidized and force-fed because he likes them.

      He makes an imbecile comparison between EVs and Kodak. Note that digital technology (which replaced film, etc.) did not have to be forced onto the market. Clover of course misses that.

      Clover is also innumerate.

      He talks about the cost of batteries going down. But the cost of the electric car is still exorbitant. He thinks spending $30k for a Leaf that can travel maybe 80 miles on a charge is somehow an intelligent buy vs. the purchase of a $15k Corolla that can go 400 miles on a tank. And be refueled in less than 5 minutes vs. at least 30-45 minutes for the Leaf.

      But just wait! A Tesla that only costs $40k and can go maybe 200 miles before it needs to be plugged in for 30-45 minutes, minimum, is just around the corner!

      It’s the future! Huzzah!

      • They do better than read, they feel and believe.

        The great wizard god king has gifted us with the future, the electric car. Never mind that electric cars are a late 19th century invention. Their feelings are also better than math. He’s not paying his fair share for the roads by avoiding tax nor counting his up front costs.

        Maybe I should tell him how much taxpayer money and tax breaks went into the Leaf. Just a small clue, Nissan makes Musk’s TM look like a piker. Basically all in all it’s cheap to him because his neighbors pay for it. They payed a subsidy to the Nissan to make it, they paid him a subsidy to buy it, they pay for the roads he drives on. Damn a car is really friggin’ cheap when you don’t have to pay for much of it.

        His babbling about the Leaf not having a cooling system had at first made me think he was just ignorant because Li-Ion packs that size need cooling to work well. Turns out it doesn’t have one. Because of this cost cutting measure Leaf owners have to take special precautions above and beyond that of typical modern electrics.

        http://www.greencarreports.com/news/1077731_how-to-keep-your-nissan-leafs-battery-pack-happy-in-hot-weather

        • I know damn well the car has a cooling system for the pack. And Leaf owners pay a higher registration tax to offset the gas taxes they don’t pay. But who’s paying for all the oil industry subsidies? Taxpayers! Air pollution. Superfund sites. MBTE ground pollution — it’s staggering what you’re overlooking. Meanwhile, electrics have a 1% penetration and that’s with tax subsidies. Of course they’re not economically viable yet.Clover

          But this could very well be the game changer where they become “an overnight success”:

          https://news.utexas.edu/2017/02/28/goodenough-introduces-new-battery-technology

          • You stated clearly no cooling system. And you’re correct for the leaf, they made it on the cheap without one even though it should have one and better electric cars do.

            Oh my, a slightly higher registration in your state… nobody else gets to buy an unlimited miles plan.

            Yes, there are subsidies for big oil like any other big business, but here’s the difference, they aren’t passed on to me. My neighbor isn’t taxed for my benefit. It’s just garden variety corporate welfare writ large because of the wars. Of course there are wars for the resources for electric cars too.

            MTBE? MTBE was an oxygenate that was added to meet an EPA requirement. It was used where it was impracticable to use ethanol because of the transportation issues. Now ethanol gets trucked in burning diesel fuel to do so. It’s just a government boondoggle for the benefit of corn growers and ethanol manufacturers. Just your big government doing what it does best, helping its friends at the people’s expense.

            So you’re saying that anything which is a tiny minority of the market shouldn’t be taxed. Great! Stop taxing the old car hobby.

            I’ve been hearing about the technology that will give us viable electric cars for decades. The oldest articles from the 1970s and yet with all the wealth transfer that viable, affordable, practical product is yet to come to market. It won’t because it requires a fundamental breakthrough into technology that has been in the realm of kooky people. Technology we aren’t supposed to have. Technology that would decentralize energy. The point of the electric car is to further central control, not make a zero point system.

          • Clover,

            Did Henry Ford need subsidies?

            Notice that everything you’ve claimed about electric cars’ viability is conjecture.

            I’ve been a car journalist since the early ’90s. I’ve been hearing about “just around the corner” breakthroughs for decades. They never seem to arrive. Electric cars have been around since the early 20th century – for more than 100 years. Same problems today that existed in 1917.

            Certainly, the performance of electric cars has improved. But they are nowhere near being economically competitive and still have enormous functional liabilities.

            You believe electric cars will eventually be economically viable alternatives to IC cars. That’s lovely, but it doesn’t justify the crony capitalism you advocate.

            Also, has it ever occurred to you that, absent the crony capitalism, the necessary focus of EV development would be economy and practicality? Instead of – like the despicable Tesla – quickness, looks and gadgetry?

            Because economy and practicality – vs. an IC car – would be the only way to convince large numbers of people to buy electric cars, as opposed to government mandating production quotas of EVs that can’t be sold but which must be given away at a huge net loss per car?

            Thus, we have economic idiocies such as your $30,000 Leaf – a car that is functionally and economically inferior to a $12k Versa.

            You’ll probably reply with non sequiturs about “pollution” – but you’re all wrong on that score, too. First, you’ll equate real pollution with carbon dioxide – which isn’t pollution, at least insofar as air quality, which is the only relevant issue. Besides which, your EVs emit plenty of C02…. just not at the tailpipe Instead, they emit it at the smokestack.

            I’ll happily debate you on the facts – as well as the morality – of electric cars.

            I’m just not interested in debating your beliefs, including your religious ones in re “climate change.”

      • While it is true that a well-designed electric car may save money on maintenance costs and energy costs, it is not clear at all whether the grand total of those savings is more than the premium paid AND FINANCED at current battery prices.

        Additionally, while there are fewer components to break, the remaining ones won’t exactly be cheap. Cooling systems, power controllers, thermal management computers aren’t free and neither is electricity.

        In states like Hawaii, it is cheaper to run on imported gasoline than locally generated electricity.

        • Hi Shock,

          Yup. A Leaf stickers for about $30k. Even if Clover sops up a beefy federal subsidy, it’s still at least $8 or $9k more than a brand-new IC economy compact. So, how far could one drive on the money one saved by purchasing the economy car? How much gas does $9,000 buy? How many miles of driving at say 32 MPG (average) would that take you?

          And that doesn’t even begin to take into account the recharge times or the still-comparatively much shorter range.

          Leave aside the “Green” posing and there lies Economic Madness. It’s why almost no one except the affluent (who can indulge their politics or their interests) can afford them… which is why they are not and never will be other than toys for people with the extra money to spend.

          It is no different than buying a Porsche – just more pretentious!

          • I wouldn’t say never. But the price must be less than gas with longer range and shorter recharge than filling tank and the charging infrastructure has to be there BEFORE the tide will fully turn.

            Even then they are more likely to be part of an automated, on-demand urban transport solution rather than privately owned.

      • Libertarian = Conservative Republican. There’s no difference, except Libertarians want to distance themselves from the establishment of Republican politics so they can criticize it and dispel any responsibility. You just want gov’t to go away, like a four-year old temper tantrum. You’ve taken rugged individualism far too seriously. So congratulations, you belong to a party that doesn’t exist, but holds the same values as Republicans. What am I missing?Clover

        Your issue is that you don’t believe that the government should fund electric cars. You’re wrong. It (we) should. It’s an excellent use of our tax money. It discounts the current cost-prohibitive battery technology to create adoption which addresses our massive air pollution issues immediately while driving battery innovation that results in newer, lower price points. Without government funding no new business models are created. We massively subsidize big oil (the war in Iraq). And it’s actually bankrupting us. You think what you pay at the pump is the true “cost” of gas? That’s ignorant. We pay in an endless war machine. Trillions. And in air and ground pollution in additional billions. It’s just the taxpayer can’t see the whole parsed out. Tesla is selling very expensive, high margin cars to accomplish the same goal.

        The 2017 Leaf will have > 200 mile range, as will the Tesla 3’s. That eliminates the range anxiety problem, which, at 87 miles for my 2015 Leaf (realistically 60), is a significant limitation. I did not and would not pay $35,000 for the car. Nor did anyone else who leased it with tax credits and subsidies. It’s an errand-running golf cart or commuter car. But works for 98% of my daily driving needs. A used 2015 with 10k on the clock is $10k. So, what battery premium? First, it was leased away and subsidized by taxpayers. Now it’s over-depreciated away making for a great used-car value.

        It costs me $2.00 to charge my Leaf to go about 60 miles. If other locations have double the rate I have in GA, then you’re looking at $4.00. Electricity costs are always far cheaper for the consumer, and far better for the environment (even with coal, the plant was running anyway, the marginal incremental load is negligible in the middle of the night). And out west, there’s surplus wind power they don’t know what to do with.

        But the maintenance costs are the disruptive technology nobody is acknowledging that make them very cost effective. It’s what prevents car companies from wanting to build them: their business model evaporates. There’s nothing to service. No parts to sell. They’re harder to ‘wear out’ and replace. Just swap in a new battery pack when the old one expires. That’s why GM killed the electric car they tested in CA back in the late 90’s: there’s no way to support their dealers. That means consumers are winning. That’s how you KNOW it’s a huge savings for consumers.Clover

        And arguing over gas cost vs. electric costs misses the point entirely: the only issue is how do we get to affordable, scalable battery technology?

        Yes there is a “temperature management system” in the Leaf to attenuate the battery temperate as needed. But it’s not under anywhere near the stress of a engine’s coolant system, so the coolant service interval is 15 years. Not 3 to 5. No heat, no chemical deterioration, no pump failures. No hose stress. Nothing to break, nothing to fix.

        It’s mechanical simplicity on steroids. And once people figure that out (you’re certainly not helping), the gas-burners will go to the dustbin.Clover

        There’s a new glass-based battery technology that was just developed by the co-inventor of the Lithium Ion battery that promises to be a game changer: no battery deterioration, instant re-charging capability and safe, non-volatile.

        GM’s new Bolt is also a tell — they wouldn’t be building it if they didn’t think they had to. They can see where this is going, and that’s not one of GM’s strong suits.Clover

        Anyone who sees this differently is dumber than GM. And that’s saying a lot. 🙂

        • Clover,

          That you equate Libertarianism with “conservative Republican” indicates you know nothing about Libertarianism. Just as you care nothing about using the force of government to promote the things you deem desirable and which you want… at the expense of other people.

          Clue for you: Libertarians reject in principle taking other people’s stuff for any reason.

        • Jeffery,

          “What am I missing?” Well, because you asked, here goes:

          – “Libertarian = Conservative Republican.” – Wrong. Conservative/moderate/liberal Republicans as well as Conservative/moderate/liberal Democrats as well as greens, socialists, alt-righters, etc…, and you, all believe that it is OK to threaten others with force to get what you want. Libertarians don’t.

          – “Your issue is that you don’t believe that the government should fund electric cars. You’re wrong. It (we) should.” – Partially true.
          Of course, as civil, peaceful people, we do not believe it is acceptable to force our preferences (or anyone else’s) on others. That you believe that the government should do so is merely your opinion. That you believe that “it” = “we” does not make it true.

          – “Without government funding no new business models are created.” – Wow!
          Lodge practice, a new business model created without government funding, essentially solved the health care access problem well over 100 years ago. It took government and industry cooperation to crush this “dangerous” business model.

          – “It discounts the current cost-prohibitive battery technology to create adoption which addresses our massive air pollution issues immediately while driving battery innovation that results in newer, lower price points.” – False.
          It transfers the cost of innovation from the entrepreneur to the taxpayer, which destroys the risk/reward role of the entrepreneur. This punishes genuine entrepreneurs (those who risk their own assets for profit) and rewards political entrepreneurs (those who risk other peoples’ assets for profit). CO2 is not an “air pollutant”. Subsidies direct “innovation” in a politically desired direction, which does not usually coincide with the “best” direction. Subsidies often reduce the “price point” of a given thing, but never reduce the real cost of that thing.

          – “The reality is this: the electric car is both inevitable AND massively disruptive.” – Maybe.
          If the electric car is inevitable, why the need for subsidies? You may be right about the future viability and superiority of electric vehicles. However, with the interventions you endorse, we cannot ever know.

          Government funding decisions are, by definition, political. Funding decisions are not determined by rational, economic calculation, but by cold political calculation.

          The tragedy, as I see it, is that everything you want would likely come about sooner, more efficiently and with far fewer atrocities if you could jettison your irrational faith that central planning is necessary.

          Jeremy

        • $2 for sixty miles. That’s about what I pay to go 60 miles minus taxes in my Mazda. Except it only takes a few seconds to put in two gallons of fuel and if I have more time I can get a lot more range. Oh and my Mazda cost me $2K.

  3. You see what these things are bringing at auction, after the lease is done? It’s nuts. Dealers are retailing them for $6000, $7000, with 20K to 30K miles and a decent amount of warranty remaining. Not for me but if my daughter were of driving age, I’d be looking at one… in the white and orang-ish-tangerine color. She doesn’t need range to get to school, practices, church functions, etc. …and they’re actually quicker than the gas version.

  4. “It was curious how that beetle-like type proliferated in the Ministries: little dumpy men, growing stout very early in life, with short legs, swift scuttling movements, and fat inscrutable faces with very small eyes. It was the type that seemed to flourish best under the dominion of the Party.” — Nineteen Eighty-four

    HA! That is as I have always pictured it. Little men in little rooms, deciding what will be manufactured and for whom, not a thought for efficiency or even responsibility.

  5. Fiat, for example, will lease you a 500e for $69 a month, with no money down, for 36 months. (My phone costs me $45 per month – and its battery lasts longer.)

    Wow. If Obama were still in power, I’d guarantee you this would be Son of Obamaphone: the Obamacar.

  6. A $69/month lease does sound enticing – even just to keep commuter miles off my other cars.

    Even Sergio Marchionne said he hopes they don’t sell any 500e’s because they’re losing $5k on each one!

  7. Another thing that is not discussed is that the pricing paradigm for household electricity does not have built into it all these electric cars sucking off the grid! If the bazillion cars that are all out there were on the grid, my guess is electricity costs for juicing up the car would probably cost around…. wait for it…. $3.00/gallon!

    Ok, the real arithmetic is $$/mile, so (just to make the math easy) assume $3/gal and 30MPG is 10 cents/mile, which is what it is (roughly) now. So, when Mr. Market comes around on the electric car charging/electric rate paradigm, guess what? You’ll normalize to $0.10/mile.

  8. “Thirty years ago, guys like Brock Yates (RIP, good buddy) would have been all over this. I guess now it’s up to me.”

    It is up to you Eric, and people like you. Truth tellers, capable of critical thinking.

    So thank you for thinking, for writing, and for keeping on.

  9. I commute back and forth to work in my Chevy Volt. My commute is totally electric. I haven’t put gas in that car since October of last year when I moved into my new place which happens to feature a free to use public charger provided by my apartment community. The thing is, my commute is so short I would only have had to fill up with regular or premium gas once a month anyway.

    Even buying the vehicle used it would be silly to pay the premium just to save money on gas. You wouldn’t even break even after 48 months. That’s before you even calculate all the extra interest you paid on the price differential by not paying cash for the car up front.

    I simply enjoy the driving qualities of that particular car because I can fill the tank with gas and head to grandma’s on a whim.

    • Hi Shock me,

      A thought occurred to me based on your comment about not putting gas in it since last October. Gas has a fairly short shelf life; I strongly advise you to burn it up – and refill with fresh gas that’s been treated with a fuel stabilizer.

      Modern cars especially are very vulnerable to problems arising from stale/contaminated fuel.

      • That has been an interesting topic in the Volt forums. To start with the tank is sealed and quite small at only 10 gallons. Periodically it will do maintenance burn of gasoline to keep all the parts humming. Then a drive to grandma’s burns the rest and you are left with whatever is in the tank when you come back.

        Some drivers have gotten the near-stale gas message at which point the vehicle flips to gas only until you burn through the rest.

        Since most of my non-commuting miles are out of town trips, I’ve never kept gas long enough to trigger the changeover.

  10. Wait a sec…I can lease a car for $69 a month? Damn, I got to get on that. Wonder if I can charge a Fiat 500e at home. That would work for me.

    Eric, wonder if you could total up the total dollar amount spent on producing the elusive compliance car since the inception of CAFE…or at least an approximation. A lot of waste.

  11. In a lot of ways the GAS powered Fiat 500 itself is a compliance car. The folks have a gas 500, and those don’t go for sticker price either. I have driven it a number of times now, and it attracts attention wherever you go because there is so few of them around. The number one question asked? What kind of car is that? The funny thing one time was, a teenaged girl knew what it was, because it’s in a Carly Rae Jepsen music video. I am guessing Fiat paid a product placement fee.

    Overall its not a bad little car. It hasn’t been a problem the two years they have had it. Like most little cars it does what it does pretty well. But like all little cars is pretty useless for most things people really need cars for, so they don’t get bought. I would never pay over 30k for one.

    • Richb: “But like all little cars is pretty useless for most things people really need cars for, so they don’t get bought.”

      Well Richb, “little cars” as you call this one, are nothing more than subcompact, 2 or 4 door, 4 or 5 passenger, usually hatchback cars – what most of the rest of the world calls “city cars”. They are extremely popular in almost all of the rest of the world, except perhaps not so much so in the US, and every major manufacturer makes one or more of them, most of which are not sold in the US.

      There are many of us Americans however, myself included, who actually like city cars – and find them quite useful for what I need a car for – namely lower cost transportation. Indeed, I have owned only city cars here in the US for the last 40+ years; and not only they have all served my personal automotive needs quite well; but I have also enjoyed owning and driving them.

    • I have 2 Fiat 500’s ( Mine a 2012 Abarth & my wife’s 2015 ‘1957 Ed’ 500C) and they are great little cars for living in crazy Silicon Valley traffic.

      As far as the 500E goes they are going to be VERY avail soon in the used car market since the 1st year leases are all ending this year ( saw one going for $8k with 20k miles on it ) but ya they are only good as a second car based on the refuel time / range ratio being really sucky still.

  12. I have a friend that leases the 500e, and another that has the eGolf (don;t know if it is leased or bought). I drove the 500e, and the only thing I can say about it is that if you stomp on the accelerator from a stand still, the thing feels like (and drives) like a go-cart. Other than that, meh. I have no idea what these people are thinking though spending good money on a car that requires the equivalent of an IV line to fill up the tank.

  13. Almost $33k for a Fiat 500? Are you shitting me?

    OK, yeah. EVs will work for urban core dwellers. And maybe suburbanites who live close to the supermarket and the doctor’s office to use as a second car. But it takes me most of a day to get to the next state – an EV just won’t fly under those conditions.

    Oh, and I saw my first ELR in the wild the other week. Pretty sharp looking. Doesn’t look the price, though.

    You know what the next thing to come out of Sacramento will be, right? It’s not enough for a car maker to offer these cars for sale in the state. They actually have to sell a certain percentage. This will be called a “goal” and failing to meet it will mean fewer of their IC cars can be sold there. Imagine going into the Jeep dealer in August and finding out they already sold as many as they were allowed to. “But … snow!” “Sorry. Can I offer you an electric Fiat instead?”

    • Hi Chip,

      Yup. The eGolf is just as batshit. They are all batshit.

      The less sense they make, the harder they are pushed.

      And, I agree – “goals” will be next.

      I believe we are not far from a kind of event horizon, beyond which the entire industry is going to collapse.

      • These cars are all crap in a way, even $100k Teslas. I’m a gear head, I own several fast cars and drive cars hard. I once drove a Tesla roadster in some twisty mountain roads in a spirited way, and it went into thermal emergency mode after about four miles – cuts horsepower to something like 1/4 of maximum and makes throttle response sluggish. Until then, I thought the Tesla roadster was a really cool car.

    • Here in the People’s Republic of CA, you can get a 3 year, 12,000 mile per year lease on these cars for a total of $80/month, that’s like a mid-range cell phone plan, for an (almost) car. Also, this being CA, the taxes on an $80/month car payment are an additional $40. I was tempted to do that just because it was so cheap! Here, the CARB sets quotas on electric car sales, and if a manufacturer falls below, they can’t sell gasoline cars until they’re caught up. What’s stopped me from exploiting this is that I feel like it’s government sanctioned theft from the manufacturer.

  14. Eric,

    That other review was “painful” to read.

    Love the weasel words–
    But you will still want to consider whether an electric vehicle fits your lifestyle before taking the plunge.

    Plenty of range for daily errands and commutes
    I guess I should ask for definitions of “daily errands” and “commutes”. The range of this car would leave me stranded in the middle of my “daily errands” and “commutes”.

    Surprised the price tag was not listed as a con. ~$18 000 USD can buy plenty of fuel (Especially @$2.50/gallon — 7200 gallons for about 216,000 miles — many people will never drive that many miles before getting a different car. I will not bother getting into opportunity cost of the 500e.)

    I note that Fiat is bright enough not to sell this vehicle in a cold weather areas (Although some areas in OR and CA do get cold.)

    For me an electric vehicle needs to be at least as convenient to use as an ICE and be similar in cost. (I might consider paying some premium over an ICE, but not much.)

    • Hi Mith,

      Yup; this is what “automotive journalism” has become. Chirpy press kit recycling. Nothing substantive or critical; no context. They will criticize things that are politically correct to criticize. But nothing that’s not.

      • I’ve never been a big car buff, but I enjoyed the occasional Car and Driver until Csere quit. The writers after that were puerile “ain’t that automatic transmission just the coolest thing in the world” twits. Who can forget Motor Trend’s sometimes hilarious picks for Car of the Year?

        Must be a general trend. Auto writing went the way of sports writing, which is to say, from good (sometimes great) to often leftist claptrap and PC maunderings. That’s one advantage to being around a while: you can compare eras to each other and stand a little outside of history. That’s also one disadvantage to getting old: melancholy at what’s been lost, or as Tennyson put it (perhaps not entirely seriously), “O Death in life! The days that are no more.”

        • Morning, Ross –

          ” That’s one advantage to being around a while: you can compare eras to each other and stand a little outside of history.”

          Yes, exactly!

    • Also: In re “plenty of range”… note that these clowns never mention that an EV’s range, unlike an IC engined car’s range, is dramatically affected by conditions. Run the AC or the heater/lights and your EV’s range will go down markedly. In an IC-engined car, heat and cold have much less effect on mileage.

      • eric, how do you get CEO’s of the largest corporations in the world to verily gut their profits? Tell them it’s pc to follow the “climate change crowd” around like rodeo clowns at the fall parades cleaning up the presents the horses left on the street. Never mind that automaker stocks were once something you wanted in your portfolio and now they exist just for the raiders who can buy bulk cheap and sell it with when a tiny spike comes along. Probably lots of stock on WS is being watched with baited breath hoping one of them will recover enough to unload it at not such a large loss.

        I’d sure like to have been a fly on the wall when the CEO of Exxon/Mobil met with Trump and you know those traders would have given their left one to hear it too.

      • I drive 5 miles to work and 5 miles back home. One of these EV’s would work just fine, theres a bunch of other folks doing the same. Thing is I need a truck. I drive my truck the 5 miles and still only fill up once a month. There is no benefit to the EV. Maybe for someone living in a congested city, especially if you got a preferred rate for parking and such due to being small.

        Still it seems in every case you’re better off with a used gas car.

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