Reader Question: Trump, Elio and Dimpled Cars?

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Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply!

Michael asks: Do you think that there’s anything Donald Trump could do to help Elio make it to mass-market? Ending restrictions that Elio has been dealing with, perhaps? If there’s anything Donald Trump could do, would he/should he?

Is there any way that Elio could take advantage of him being president as opposed to Clinton, Rubio, or Sanders?

I know that some persons have received Elios for review purposes. Would buying an Elio review car be possible for an average person like me? Would the Totalitarian Anarchists stop me? Would registering an Elio review car in my name be possible? Would the Totalitarian Anarchists not go along with that? A show named Mythbusters used to run on Discovery Network. The persons in the show did several science experiments each episode. One of those experiments was making a car dimpled like a golf ball. The hypothesis was that doing so would mitigate drag on the car and thus increase fuel efficiency. Here’s a clip of what I’m writing about.

If they did the experiment correctly, why don’t automobile designers and manufacturers make products that are dimpled? Obviously they wouldn’t use clay; they’d probably use some sort of hard plastic, but I’m not sure what material the companies would use. You tell the world about how restrictions force automobile designers and manufacturers to produce cars that are increasingly more and more fuel efficient. Do these restrictions also force companies to never dimple their cars?

My Reply: I’ve argued for years that regulatory capture – for example, government saaaaaaaaaaaaaafety mandates – have made it all-but-impossible for small start-up companies such as Elio to sell cars. Keep in mind that saaaaaaaaaaafety – as defined by government – is synonymous with its ability to protect occupants from impact forces in a crash. It does not mean a “compliant” car is less likely to crash. An old VW Beetle is thus just as saaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaafe to drive as a new Volvo, if there is no crash. And crashing is largely a function of driver error. And thus, under the driver’s control.

Anyhow, I don’t consider it any of the government’s proper business to impose crashworthiness regimes on free people. If we are in fact free, then we have the right to choose a vehicle that may not be as protective of our persons in the event we crash, but which is much less heavy and so gets much better fuel economy. Or is much less expensive – and so on.

Being able to choose among such variables is something free people have a right to do. The fact that we are not free to make such choices is evidence of our lack of freedom, all the prattle notwithstanding.

So, what could Trump do? He could issue an executive order stating that the federal government has exceeded its constitutional as well as moral authority by taking away Americans’ right to choose the car that they deem best for themselves; that it is obnoxious in the extreme for government busybodies to parent (at gunpoint; everything government does entails the use of lethal violence in the end) supposedly free adults.

If Elio did not have to “comply” with all the crash-test/DOT/NHTSA rigmarole it could begin selling cars right away – and they’d be even less expensive than the projected $8k cost.

On dimpling: It might work, but it would sure be ugly! Most of the things being done to cars in the name of MPGs are not visual or at least not obviously so. Dimpling would be. It’s one thing to fold a $200 per car (just for the sake of discussion) Automatic Stop/Start system into a car and something else to cover a car’s exterior in cellulitic dimples!

. . .

Got a question about cars – or anything else? Click on the “ask Eric” link and send ’em in!

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  1. So far as I know, Eric, Elio *isn’t* being made to conform to federal auto safety/crash standards- not yet, anyway. Legally, seems anything with less than four wheels is a motorcycle, as far as the federal government is concerned. There’s some potential trouble ahead regarding headlight regulations regarding that, but the federal government has been content so far to mostly ignore Elio- won’t do anything to them, won’t help them. I don’t think they have to meet any better than motorcycle emissions standards, either. In both cases, though, they’ve said they would (as much as they can) of their own accord, probably because so much of the market seems to like big cars and trucks, and they anticipate some degree of consumer and/or reviewer scrutiny on those matters. They’ve certainly said that about suspension and handling, saying (paraphrased) they have to be better than (not just as good as) other economy compacts, because the thing looks and feels weird at first, putting some drivers into psychologically unfamiliar territory until the vehicle’s handling characteristics reassure them enough to evaluate it more directly. Basically, it’s a (psychological) comfort consideration, part of the sell.

    Louisiana, on the other hand, has sued them for this, that and the other- mostly, for not yet joining and paying into the dealers’ cartel. Fined them for not licensing as a manufacturer, too, even though they’ve yet to manufacture anything in Shreveport (prototypes were all made in Livonia). This is where a form of regulatory capture has pinched them so far.

    Anyway, I don’t know if you heard about it, but a few days ago, Elio also released a statement regarding an MoU to use a specific OEM engine, going from their IAV-designed motor at about 55hp to something closer to 100hp. No confirmation yet on the engine maker, but Roush engineering is already slated to do the integration testing. It’ll be interesting to hear some more about that.


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