Back in ’76, it wasn’t just a cruise ship lounge song. It was Plymouth’s new “compact” car – which by today’s standards would have been considered a very large car, as the sedan version was 201.2 inches long. This was only about 6 inches behind a new BMW 7 Series sedan (207.4 inches), which is also a very exclusive sedan. The Volare – and its Dodge Aspen cousin – weren’t. And yet, they were also rear-wheel-drive and available with a V8 engine.
Like the current BMW 7 sedan.
Just a point of reference. A sign along the road, down which we’ve traveled many miles since then. With government backseat driving, all the way.
The Volare/Aspen were had a number of problems, including unlined front fenders that rusted even before the “clincher” 12 month/12,000 mile warranty ran out – because they were hashed together because of government. Which was beginning to really flex its new-found power to rule via regulations to alter the kinds of cars Americans were to be allowed to drive . . . without any hassles about legalities. Congress never passed a law, for instance, that specifically stated Americans must no longer be allowed to buy big cars like the cars that preceded the Volare/Aspen and which millions of Americans had been driving, because that’s what they wanted to drive – and the market responded by providing what they wanted.
Instead, the federal regulatory apparat began issuing . . . regulations that had the force and effect of laws.
It wasn’t illegal, per se, to build a full-size car – which by the standards of the Volare/Aspen era were cars far larger than any new car most Americans can afford to buy today – all of them equipped with huge V8s as standard equipment. No engineer or car company CEO risked jail if such a car were built. The difficulty was selling them, especially to the people who used to be able to afford them.
The regulations – in this case, those pertaining to fuel efficiency, which the government somehow assumed the power to . . . regulate – imposed fines for what was (and continues to be) styled “non-compliance.” It works on the same general principle as the fines levied upon gyms and stores and restaurants that did not comply with the Face Diaper “mandates” issued by the regulatory apparat over the past going on three years now. A Face Diaper law was never passed. But businesses were obliged to foist the Diaper upon their patrons. If they didn’t do so, they risked being fined by the apparat. This made the cost of doing business with the unDiapered too expensive and so they didn’t.
Unless they Diapered.
Similarly, regulations were issued mandating that each car company’s fleet of new cars achieve a certain arbitrarily mandated average miles-per-gallon. This was (and still is) styled Corporate Average Fuel Economy, or CAFE for short. If the car company’s fleet of cars does not collectively average whatever the figure is then fines are imposed that are specifically meant to increase the cost of the offending vehicles, so as to make them less affordable – so as to make them more difficult to sell, except to the ever-diminishing handful of people with the means to afford them.
This is why, today, a new car about the same size as the Volare/Aspen with a V8 engine is a car like the current (2022) Dodge Charger, which is considered “full-size” by the standards of our time. It also has a base price of $32,500. With the optional V8 (it won’t be optional for much longer) the sticker price is $40,500.
If you’d like something bigger, your next (big) step up would be something like the BMW 7 Series mentioned earlier, which stickers for $86,800 to start.
Back in ’76, a brand-new Volare sedan stickered for $3,359. It wasn’t much then – and it’s not much now, either. Adjusted for inflation – that is to say, adjusted for the devaluation of the dollar since then – a ’76 Volare would have listed for $17,369.
You can perhaps see the implications.
The government, via its regulations, has effectively doubled the price of a Volare/Aspen-sized car such that a Volare/Aspen-sized car is one a dwindling number of inflation-adjusted Americans can afford to buy, today.
Instead, for about the actual cost of a brand-new Volare/Aspen, they might just be able to afford something like a new Toyota Corolla, a compact-sized (by today’s standards) car that is only 182.3 inches long (almost two feet shorter than the Volare) and front-wheel-drive and four cylinder-powered.
It also costs $20,075 to start – so not quite as affordable as a new Volare was, back in ’76.
Certainly, the Corolla is a fine little car. Emphasis upon little. As mandated by the regulatory apparat, using fines to ensure compliance. It is the modern-day iteration of the Aspen/Volare, made smaller and less than what came before via regulations rather than laws, neither of them having a sound foundation in what was, once, the law of the land.
Nowhere in the Constitution will you find the power to regulate (or for that matter, legislate) how many miles-per-gallon the cars Americans may buy must deliver. It was once assumed that was between the car manufacturer and the car buyer, the latter under no duress to purchase a “gas hog” and the former under market duress to build what would sell.
Granted, there were no cars back in 1787 – when the Constitution was ratified. But neither is there anything in the document regarding the size and type of horse (or wagon) Americans may buy.
Somehow, between then and now, the government acquired this power. Which it continues to exercise, such that – in short order – even a little car with a little engine like the current Corolla will become as unaffordable as a Volare/Aspen-sized car already is.
. . .
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