The End of ASS, at Least

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There is an upside for every downside – or at least, most downsides have some upsides. With regard to Corona Fever – not the virus, the fever about the virus – there will be an upside to the cratering of the economy now in process

We may one day have ASS-free, “assistance”-free cars again.

It will be after the economy craters, taking with it the car industry – which has become in many ways even worse than the government as far as forcing saaaaaaaaaaaaaaaafety tech down car buyers’ throats. Not by mandating it, which power the car industry hasn’t got. But by making it unavoidably standard in virtually every new car.

Some will say that this is done because it’s what the market wants – like AC, which every new car also comes standard with.

Perhaps.

But the difference is that AC was once optional in almost all cars until the ’90s and the reason it became standard is because almost everyone opted for it, in the manner of indoor plumbing.

No one clamored for ASS – the engine stop/start system almost all new cars now “feature” as part of their standard equipment package.

The same is true of saaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaafety systems such as Lane Keep/Steering Assist and Automated Emergency Braking, Drowsy Driver monitors and so on. Some people want these things, certainly. But – unlike AC – there are still many people who don’t want them.

And while we’re at it, how about the eight, nine and ten-speed transmissions that have been replacing five and six-speed transmissions? Is there market demand for these?

Direct-injected engines? Very small engines running very big boost numbers – to maintain the power of the larger, not-turbo’d engines that are mysteriously disappearing.

It would be very interesting to see how many buyers would opt for these things – would freely pay extra for these things – if they were optional things.

It is likely we will soon see. Or rather, we will see eventually – whenever we reach the other side of this tunnel.

The Orange Man’s Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin says he anticipates unemployment may reach 20 percent.

It is currently under 3 percent.

Well, it was – before Corona Fever set in.

If it goes even half as high as Mnuchin says it may, there will be millions of people who can’t afford a car, period. Let alone one stuffed with all the latest saaaaaaaaaaaaaaaafety “features” – which presumes the financial ability to sign up for six years of $400 monthly car payments.

Plus payments to the insurance mafia.

These people will need a $4,000 car. It may not even have AC. Which might not be such a bad thing, either. Were wing vent windows and vents bad things? They actually did a pretty good job of keeping you cool while you drove – while keeping the car light and your wallet full.

But AC would be affordable – if the rest of the car was. If it were free of all the folderol mandated by the government  . . . because the market didn’t want it.

Like air bags, which were forced down, pate de foi gras style.

And the folderol added by the car companies, who decided years ago to anticipate the government’s mandates and even egg them on, in order to virtue signal and lighten our wallets.

But that doesn’t work when people cannot pay anymore – and the system cannot finance. People will, however, still need to get around – just a lot less expensively. This will mean no electric cars, incidentally – another upside of Corona Fever. They were economically untenable before the Fever struck. They will be impossible henceforth and ongoing. People who don’t make even $30k a year are in no position to afford a $30,000 EV – the price of the least expensive EV.

Reality will re-assert itself.

Which could be a very good thing. Channelling the opening of The Six Million Dollar Man, we have the technology. The good technology. The inexpensive, hugely beneficial technology.

Not ASS and not “assistance” technology.

The technology to make a new car as well-built, durable and reliable as a new Toyota Corolla that gets twice the gas mileage that a 1970 Corona did while costing half as much.

Take out the ASS, the eight air bags, the litany of saaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaafety and “assistance” technology; get rid of the direct-injected/heavily turbocharged little engine paired with an eight/nine or ten speed transmission and in their place a modern throttle-body-injected (TBI) four cylinder engine paired with a four or five (maybe even six) speed transmission with one rather than two or three overdrive speeds. Which it wouldn’t need because it would weigh so little – which would let it get great gas mileage and deliver good performance without costing what a current new car does.

It sounds like a pretty good thing to me.

. . .

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30 COMMENTS

  1. Wishful thinking Eric – I think this will just be used as an excuse to push more and more people down the route of public transport or ride share, forcing them to live closer together in more crammed and congested cities which are close to work….

  2. “These people will need a $4,000 car. It may not even have AC. Which might not be such a bad thing, either. Were wing vent windows and vents bad things? They actually did a pretty good job of keeping you cool while you drove – while keeping the car light and your wallet full.” EP

    Eric,
    Don’t just go halfway by deleting seatbelts, airbags, A/Cs, and multi-speed automatic transmissions. I’ve got a Great Idea about how to make future cars even more affordable, light, simple and nimble. Get rid of that unnecessary electrical starter, and go back to the tried and true hand crank. We don’t need all that luxury crap. A hand crank has fewer parts to fail. Plus it increases driver involvement and fitness.

    • Hi Mike

      I don’t think he wants everything to disappear,,,, rather he would like the option of not being forced to buy them because they all come in a standard package. To elaborate, most would probably want the starter and more than willing to pay for it. I don’t think Eric is against all tech,,, he is against being forced to buy it if he wants/needs a car.
      This reminds me of an old Burger King sign. ‘You get it your way.’
      Today the Auto companies say “You don’t get it your way, You take it our way or you don’t get the damned thing!”

    • I like electric start. Hand cranks break too many arms.

      I would like to have hand crank in addition to electric start. Especially as since manual transmissions are basically extinct, bump start is not an option.

      My friends old Lada Niva had both and there were at lest two times the hand crank got us out of the bush. You can’t bump start in deep mud.

        • Foolish? Aren’t you a dick. Guessing you are one of those city folk herd types, scared when the pavement runs out. Stay there. Us dirt road folks don’t need your approval.

          And a Lada Niva is far from a “car”.

          • Got this from another site:

            “The Niva was never the best of road cars, but off road, with its minimal 1210kg weight, narrow tyres, low-ratio transfer gearbox and diff lock, it was formidable across the mucky stuff. And when you had got both it and yourself covered in mud and goo, you could fling open the doors and hose out the interior.”

            Never saw one but apparently they were good off road.

            Good review.
            https://www.autocar.co.uk/car-review/lada/niva

            • They were awesome. Basic, functional and very dependable as far as my friends one went.

              I had a Sidekick and it was good, the Niva was much better. I think they dropped the hand crank after around 1994.

              • My neighbor had a Sidekick and it was awesome. It was an ex-Red Bull car so it had a built in cooler, the perfect back country fishing machine. I thought I had dibs on buying it but it disappeared without me so I was evidently mistaken.

                They are great pasture cars and will damn near climb a tree. Get good mileage too.

            • Hi Ken,

              Back in the ’90s, I had the opportunity to drive a Soviet off-road vehicle called the UAZ. It was as primitive as a T34 – and had all of its charms. Wish I had one now. Heck, I wish I had learned to fly and Fiesler Storch as a way to get out of dodge when the poo hits the fan.

      • Great idea Rex! That’s gotta be much cheaper, lighter and simpler than that rack and pinion junk the manufacturers try to force on us. Don’t need all that high speed controllability. We can have a lot more fun “driving fast going slow.”

        PS. If you’re going to mangle my last name that way, put another “a” after the “i”. Then I can be a retired great Major League catcher, and presumably more affluent than I am now. 🙂

  3. Hopefully it comes to fruition, and hopefully the EV craze dies off as well.

    Turbos, I’ve always said, should be in PERFORMANCE cars, not some econocar to offset downsizing the engine.

    MAYBE if they remove the stuff, people like us would actually buy the new stuff instead of scouring our favorite used car sites for their next purchase, who knows.

  4. Seeing the entire EV industry become a giant lithium battery dumpster fire will please me greatly and be one one of upsides of a possible depression.

  5. I don’t foresee there being any new cars available at all for much longer, with the economy being willfully destroyed, and the distinct possibility that “lock down” becomes the SOP of the Sociopaths In Charge for the foreseeable future. No one will afford one, or need one, and the manufacturers won’t afford to make one.

  6. I seem to recall the window sticker for the 62 Chevy, kept in the glove box, I drove as a young man listing the HEATER as an option. Could have been sourced in a southern state I suppose.

    • Don’t say that!,,,, that would put Eric OOB and eventually no website. Keep in mind his site is a one in a million where one can actually disagree with him, (civilly) and not get banned.

  7. Nice theory, but I think this will boost “transportation as a service” business models. You don’t buy your car, you just give GM or Ford $350/month and they’ll keep your car updated to the latest version.

  8. “Reality will re-assert itself.” – EP

    Indeed. Already, federal regulations limiting trucker hours were dropped like a hot potato, so Walmart can restock.

    As ol’ Saddam Hussein used to say, “Anything is possible now, my brothers.”

    Speaking of Lewis Carroll’s six impossible things before breakfast, crude oil broke down spectacularly overnight to a 17-year low of $24.56/bbl. Apparently it’s headed for the teens, as the magic broom of the sorcerer’s apprentice continues manically fetching crude oil which has no place to be stored.

    It was fun, fun, fun till Uncle took the T-bird away.

    Or as a busted Wall Street trader advertised with an era-defining hand-lettered sign in Nov 1929, “One hundred dollars takes this Stutz Bearcat.”

    • Crude got damned low in 2015. You could see thousands of us walking home or bumming a ride to the unemployment office.

      Since I have to put a donor body on my 93 Turbo Diesel and it needs just about everything inside, I’m going to try a vent on the roof, scoops on the hood for cooling, scoops for front brakes and vents on the front fenders. If you see it and say “Hey, I think I remember something else that was made like that”. It might have been that big rig that just passed you. Nice to have all that heat blowing out to the side. Might even put valves on the heater hoses since I’ll be right there at some point with nothing but the frame in front.

  9. The saaaafety features such as Lane Assist or Collision Avoidance (automatic braking) in a new Camry or Corolla depend on a $1200 camera mounted behind the windshield. I’ve experienced temporary (a few minutes) malfunctions three times, but Toyota won’t do a warranty replacement until the camera goes bad and stays bad.

    I don’t see Toyota being able to get away with out-of-warranty replacements on the camera at that cost — probably $15-1800 with dealer labor — without a lot of complaints to the government. If I had to guess, their backup plan is to simply change the software to turn the features off.

    All of the saaaafey features as well as ASS could be disabled with software.

    • By the way, the Toyota rep was *mad* that I knew the cost of the camera for my 2018 Camry when I called to file the complaint for record keeping.

      (Angry) “Where did you get that number?”

      “One of your own dealer’s web sites.”

  10. “These people will need a $4,000 car. It may not even have AC. Which might not be such a bad thing, either. Were wing vent windows and vents bad things? They actually did a pretty good job of keeping you cool while you drove – while keeping the car light and your wallet full.”

    Hey, you’re talking about my 1973 MGB. How’d you know?

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