Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Don't blame them a bit

White House staffers park on West Executive Drive next to the White House. In the parking lot, Politico found 23 cars recently; only FIVE were American nameplates.

The Monk has owned four cars in his life (technically five, because I'm the listed owner of Monkette's car) and all four (five) have the same common trait -- I did NOT buy American.

Car 1 = used '88 Nissan Sentra. That was the college car and the only American car that was competitive with the Corolla/Sentra/Civic class was a Ford Escort . . . which looked terrible. The Monk's progenitors extolled the virtues of Japanese compacts and, in the '80s, the Japanese compacts far outperformed American cars in quality.

Car 2 = new '96 Passat. The Monk didn't even consider an American car -- I looked at cars for about 12 months before purchasing and each of the relevant Consumer Reports car issues had nasty black marks for the reliability ratings of American cars in the Passat's category with one exception, the Ford Taurus. The Taurus' handling (I rented plenty of the dang things on trips) was too loose for my taste and I wanted a little sexiness in the vehicle. The Taurus was Madeleine Albright on the sexy scale. I checked out the Accord, Camry, Maxima, Taurus, 3-Series, 5-Series (boy, those Beamers are overpriced!), Acura TSX, and wound up with the Passat due to price and handling -- it handled like a German car and was priced less than similarly loaded Hondas, Toyotas or Nissans.

Car 3 = barely used (< 14K miles) Saab 9-5 Aero. I'd liked Saabs since riding in my college roommate's duckmobile (the old Saab 900) and the Aero got better mileage than comparable cars because of its Turbo engine. Got it at Carmax while there to look at a 9-5 SE. There was no American car that could compete in that class -- Lincoln is for old people; Ford has no high-end sporty sedans; and I wouldn't be caught dead buying a Cadillac because the fecking things are wholly unreliable and fugly. And all that conventional wisdom about how a turbo is good only until the warranty runs out is rubbish: I never had an engine problem with the Saab; it was a pretty reliable machine and it kept my family safe during the crash that totalled it. The worst injuries we suffered in a bad wreck were burns from the airbags and an impact injury to Monkette from the airbag whacking her arm. The baby was unscathed (and a nod to Chicco baby seats too).

Loved that car.

Car 4 = even less used than the Saab -- a Volvo S80. No turbo, so the mileage isn't good. But it's steady and has both the 5-star safety ratings from NHTSA and top ratings from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (whose tests are probably better than NHTSA's). Again, why even look at an American car? The Caddies are ugly and unreliable, Lincolns are still for oldies and concentrating on their gargantuan SUVs, the high-end Chryslers are thuggish (and sluggish). The competition was Acura, Infiniti and Lexus but none had the right combo of same size as the Saab and unbeatable safety ratings. No repeat on the 9-5 because its safety rating was lower than the Volvo by a lot (the Saab 9-3 safety ratings are excellent across the board, but that car is too small for me, wife, small man, and hopefully additional critter).

Car 3a = Monkette's VW Jetta TDI. No vehicular problems in the 3 years she's had it. She wanted a top car for fuel efficiency and manual shift. This thing gets 35-40 mpg in the city and is more fun for her (TURBO) than the poncy Prius or some Fusion like vehicle that takes 10 minutes to reach highway speed. And the safety ratings are top-notch.

So, The Monk bought non-American cars for their looks, cache, performance, and safety. Seems like a lot of people have made the same calculus as The Monk. And at least 18 of them work at the White House.

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