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The Official Automobile of Texas

The New York Times used the truck rodeo to write a piece about pickup trucks in Texas:

“I call it ‘truck-itis,’” said Mr. Spell, the former automotive editor for The Houston Chronicle. “People in Texas will buy trucks even if they’re not going to haul anything heavier than raindrops. I was interviewing one guy. He had a 4-by-4. I said: ‘You live in Houston. Why do you have this 4-by-4?’ He said, ‘Well, I own a bar, and 4-by-4s are higher, and I can climb up on the cab and change out the letters of my marquee.’”

Whether for high-up urban letter-switching or more rural and rugged purposes, pickup trucks are to Texas what cowboy boots and oil derricks are to the state — a potent part of the brand. No other state has a bigger influence on the marketing of American pickup trucks.

Responses to this from the right tended to jeering and a criticism of what is sometimes called “Conservatives in the Mist” coverage of red states and their mysterious ways. Much in particular was made of the above quote and the sneering attitude (never mind that it was from a Texas resident). Maybe some of the criticism was fair, but most of it was kneejerk. The piece was, for the most part, an out-of-town lifestyles piece that introduced people over here to what the people over there were up to. I am attuned to the regional dynamics, and for the most part I found little objectionable. They didn’t even mention global warming, professed by some to be the rationale for the sneer.

More to the point, though, the “criticism” (such as it was) was pretty on target, from my vantage point. I lived in the urban south. Then I moved to the rugged west. One of my earlier observations was how many fewer trucks there were, or medium-heavy to heavy vehicles at all (excepting minivans). That, despite the fact that pickups, SUVs, and so on are actually a lot more useful to a lot more people out there. If you buy a sofa in Colosse, chances are it’s not from very far away and you can rent a UHaul. You’re less likely to need AWD for offroad adventures. Further, the inconveniences of heavier vehicles are much more obvious. Living in the city, parking and maneuverability count for a lot and my experience was “the smaller, the better.” Meanwhile, out west, the ability to haul stuff is more important because you might be buying a couch from 100 miles away, which gets expensive with a UHaul. All-Wheel Drive and a larger frame isn’t critical but can reduce worry for a lot of scenarios that aren’t an issue in the urban south. And few of the drawbacks of owning a bigger vehicle in the city exist in the country, with the exception of gas.

Ford F-150 photo

Image by charlie cars

So why were there more trucks in Colosse than in Deseret (and, later, Arapaho)? A lot of it came down to money. In either place, the number of people who really need a truck is a pretty small segment of the population. But Colosse is wealthier and people are more likely to get one if they want it, for whatever reason they want it. It has status symbol elements in both places, but they are not equally able to afford it. And perhaps, to some extent, living something closer to the life leaves them in a position where they don’t have as much to prove.

Which brings us to the undertone that generated so much ire: Texans – and urban southerners more generally – are spending a lot of money to conspicuously consume trucks as a status or self-image item. A statement of desired self. It’s a larger, $30,000 belt buckle that costs you extra money every time you use it. That may sound harsh, and I guess it is, but apart from environmental damage I don’t see anything especially bad about it, as far as status symbols go. It’s not the effete liberal in me that objects to it as much as the spendthrift. Further, there is nothing uniquely Texan or southern about impractical status statements – and New York has little room to talk – but it is what it is. If it hurts your state’s – or your region’s – feelings pointing out that a lot of people are doing this, that’s pretty much on you.

The New York Times piece lead to a firestorm on Twitter Tuesday night when John Ekdahl tweeted the following:

That lead to some pissed off journalists and some gloating by conservatives about out-of-touchism and bubbles and whatnot. It was a stupid trap, and some journalists defensively fell into it, but it was a stupid trap.

Not the least of which because the figure is misleading. Yes, pickup models are the three best-selling models out there. That doesn’t mean that pickups are the most popular kind of vehicle, or are especially popular overall. Pickup models punch above their weight because there are so few of them. Ford has only the F-Series for pickups, six models of sedans, and models of SUVs. Chevy has eight sedans, five SUVs, and two pickups. Dodge has eight models of cars/SUVs and one series of pickups. There are some makes that specialize in trucks (GMC, formerly Isuzu) but there are others that don’t offer any sort of pickup (Subaru, Kia, Hyundai, Jeep, Mazda, Mitsubishi). Point being, pickup trucks lead the charts because their sales are not divided. In 2015, while they were leading the charts, they accounted for less than 15% of sales, and an awful lot of that is regionally concentrated.

Journalists live in cities, where they make less sense than elsewhere. They also live specific cities where they make even less sense. If they’re looking for a touchstone to demonstrate that they are out of touch, this really isn’t it. If they’re looking for me to feel self-conscious about owning a truck, they’re wasting their time.


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Will Truman is a former professional gearhead who is presently a stay-at-home father in the Mountain East. He has moved around frequently, having lived in six places since 2003, ranging from rural outposts to major metropolitan areas. He also writes fiction, when he finds the time. ...more →

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365 thoughts on “The Official Automobile of Texas

  1. “Which brings us to the undertone that generated so much ire: Texans – and urban southerners more generally – are spending a lot of money to conspicuously consume trucks as a status or self-image item. A statement of desired self. It’s a larger, $30,000 belt buckle that costs you extra money every time you use it. ”

    Yeah, but as you said, you can say EXACTLY the same thing about the suburban/urban assault vehicle, the SUV. Hey, in Utah, you may need an Expedition to haul your 12 kids, but you don’t need a Mercedes Benz suv or a Porsche Cayman to do it in Bethesda MD, Wash DC, or NYC.

    Sure, Texas has a thing for trucks. Whatever. They are great in rural lands and in places where you gotta haul stuff. We had one growing up. We used it to haul firewood from the forest to our back yard. And when I grew of legal age to drive, I drove it to school.

    Regardless of where you live, you’re likely driving, if you drive, you’re driving something affinitized or self aspiring, etc…cars that’s what cars are.

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    • SUVs get a lot of criticism on the same basis as pickups. A lot of the same issues apply.

      I agree about sports cars, for the most part. They do tend to have advantages for everyday tasks (like acceleration) but at the same time make very poor use of space.

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      • Sports cars make very poor use of space? If you mean internal vehicle space, I would agree, but again, they aren’t made for space. Nobody buys a Porsche Boxer because they need to haul 30 bags of groceries. That’s what makes the market great, it provides satisfaction to a wide variety of peoples wants, needs, aspirations, etc.

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        • That’s what makes the market great, it provides satisfaction to a wide variety of peoples wants, needs, aspirations, etc.

          Yes, until the govt gets involved, telling folks they need back up cameras, and sets mileage requirements that cause carmakers to do silly thing to meet them.

          Speaking of which. A friend suggested that I drive the Volvo XC60 so I went to the dealer to test drive one. It was a great ride but when I stopped at the light the engine shut off. I turned to the sales guy and asked what happened. He said that was a feature that shuts the engine off at light to save gas. He said you could turn it off but in the next year or two that you wouldn’t be able to turn it off as Volvo was trying to meet the increasingly strict mileage requirements.

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          • notme,
            backup cameras cost less than a thousand a piece (closer to 100 dollars). They also, importantly, don’t cost significant weight. We’ve done a ton of fucked up safety enhancements around here, but that’s not one of them.

            You have no blasted idea why backup cameras were made mandatory, and because of that, I think you aren’t qualified to bitch. (I can explain if you’re actually interested).

            (Re: Volvo — really? I get doing that when you have a battery — you don’t need the engine all the time… )

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            • @notme

              Frankly, it doesn’t matter WHY they were made mandatory. They never should have. I don’t care how many parents back over their kids. Frankly, airbags shouldn’t have been made mandatory either….or ABS.

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                  • Or 3) you didn’t look before backing-up, or 4) you accelerated too quickly, or 5) the kid ran behind the car too quickly, or 5) you were drunk at the time, or 6) the camera wasn’t functioning well because of weather conditions, or 6) the kid was located in a sport that would not have covered by the camera.

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                            • But doesn’t driving around on a shared road put everyone else on the road at risk if you’re careless? Would you really prefer to share the road with a bunch of uninsured drivers, such that if they injure you and destroy your property there’ll be no way for you to get compensation from them? The whole point is that the liability insurance isn’t meant to benefit the person paying for it; it’s there for the sake of everyone else.

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                                • I don’t even see why we have reckless driving laws. I mean, it’s in an individual’s enlightened self interest not to put himself at risk, so it seems to me that reckless driving is, by definition, an impossibility.

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                                • A.)In populations that can work through their cost disputes, liability insurance is a form of rent seeking.

                                  B.)In populations that can’t resolve their disputes, liability is a cost where there would have been a cost regardless.

                                  Externality: the cost or benefit that affect a party who did not choose to incur that cost or benefit.

                                  In situation A.) there is no externality.
                                  In situation B.) there is a externality.

                                  To say this is a problem of the radical individual and not a problem of population interaction, appears (from this side of the table anyway) to be stealing a base.

                                  Hanley and I never got to discuss this before he left. I think we would have had a difficult time working through this disparity.

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                                    • I think I can, liability insurance is something that happened in the last few decades. Before we had liability it was somewhat a given that if you caused damage to someone elses vehicle/property/person, you were personally responsible to bear the costs of that damage.

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                                      • And without insurance, most of the time the injured parties cannot be made whole, making a judgment in their favor ineffective at actually producing any kind of fairness. How are you not harming other drivers unfairly if you undertake a risky behavior with the full knowledge that they will be unable to adequately get compensation if you harm them through your own negligence?

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                                  • It’s not stealing a base, since they not only exist in the real world, they’re entailed by a formalized view of individualistic sociopolitical activity! So they’re real, given not only the way things are, but the way a formal, rather than emotional, radical individualist’s conception idealizes them.

                                    Add: Are you suggesting that a negative externality is a “social construct”? If so, then I know I’ve lost you to the “dark side” of post-modernism. :)

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                                    • Well I would say they are real in some populations but maybe not in others. That may be the troubled reality of it.

                                      I think it very much depends on how a person looks at the world. I recently read something that Proudhon wrote about ‘liberty being the mother of order and not the daughter’.I mean that would sound correct to me, but I suspect it would sound backwards for someone setting accross the table.

                                      And again we often just begin without seeing where the other person is starting from.

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                                      • So, postmodernism all the way down. Fair enough.

                                        Well I would say they are real in some populations but maybe not on others.

                                        No, it doesn’t work that way. If a person experiences an economic cost due to the actions of another, then we’re talking about negative externalities. It has nothing to do with “subjective value”. (Ie, just because someone says “it’s cool” doesn’t mean there wasn’t a cost.)

                                        Which is just another reason why “subjective value” is problematic as a grounding economic principle.

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                                        • I think we are talking past each other in terms of externality and internalization.
                                          When the cost is internalized “i will pay the damage personally” That’s internalization and no longer external right?

                                          Your “it’s cool” thing kind of complicates this discussion but if you want to unpack it, let’s do. Because if your using ‘it’s cool if you dont pay the damages’ then you have released the individual from the costs of the damage, and the cost shifts to you.

                                          I’m not fluent in externalities yet but I have been reading here and there when I get the chance.

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                                          • Joe Sal:
                                            I think we are talking past each other in terms of externality and internalization.
                                            When the cost is internalized “i will pay the damage personally” That’s internalization and no longer external right?

                                            I don’t get what’s complicated about this. If I drive a car on a public road, there’s a significant chance that I’ll get in an accident that will cause damage to others, physics and human reflexes being what they are. It may well be my fault. Physics and economics being what they are, the dollar value of the harm caused by such an accident could easily be a very large number, such that most people would be unable to pay for whatever damages were caused if they got in a serious accident. Without insurance, those people can either not drive at all, which is extremely economically inefficient, or drive and hope that they don’t cause an accident, knowing full well that if they do, they might be completely incapable of making the injured parties whole. This offloads the risk of an accident onto others, which is unfair to them and makes driving unnecessarily economically risky.

                                            So we use insurance and distribute that risk across a pool of people. But liability insurance doesn’t protect the person buying it; it protects everyone else, which means that you have an incentive to free ride. Thus, to avoid the same inefficient and unjust outcome (uninsured drivers causing costly accidents), we require insurance for those who want to drive. Apart from Damon’s charming indentured servitude suggestion, what’s the alternative for making car use economically feasible for normal people?

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                                            • Concrete example: My former boss was cycling and somebody lost control of her SUV and swerved into the bike lane, hitting him from behind. He went up over the hood and the rear wheel rolled over his chest, breaking his back and about a million other bones, collapsing a lung, and leaving him in a coma for a couple of months. During that time, medical professionals monitored him constantly and performed a bunch of surgeries. He lost wages for about a year.

                                              Very few of us can write the kind of check required to make him whole after that, but all of us are capable of causing that type of damage by accident when we get behind the wheel. Driving around without the ability to pay for the damage you might cause is a real risk that you’re requiring everybody else on (and near) the road to bear.

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                                              • Let’s compare the different ways of dealing with this situation, shall we? Under the rules in the real world, everybody that drives pays a bit of money, that money is aggregated into a pool by insurance companies that take a cut, and those expensive medical bills are paid out of the pool.

                                                Under Damon’s indentured servitude suggestion, nobody pays anything beforehand. Your former boss gets hit and can’t pay for his medical bills, so he either becomes permanently disabled or dies. BUT he or his estate get the negligent driver to basically be their slave for life. This is better, you see, because there’s more freedom here than in the first scenario.

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                                                • Hopefully the person who crashes into you can at least cook or give a good foot massage. Getting hit by somebody who you wouldn’t even hire at minimum wage would not be a big win.

                                                  Of course, the people who are most likely to be indigent are also the ones you’d want least as indentured servants.

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                                            • What I am going to say next may sound snarky or insincere but I say it in earnest.

                                              The alternative is to not cause damage or harm. It’s what we did our best to do when liability insurance didn’t exist.

                                              If we look at agency, and risk, I haven’t created damage to anyones vehicle/person/property in thirty plus years of driving. If we look at societies agency it has a fishton of accidents in the last thirty years, some of which I have had to avoid.

                                              I can see the subjective value of liability insurance if you lived in population B. I can’t see the value of liability insurance if you lived in a population of A.

                                              I understand it doesn’t work like that because ‘society’ needs the risk pool to include good drivers, but from my point of view society is doing harm to me by mandating I become part of the pool.

                                              And I say all this as a explanation about why some individuals may recoil at being forced to participate in the endeavor, especially if their cultural norms more closely follow population A.

                                              People in situation A will not assume a externality while people in situation B do. This is a disparity.

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                          • I never figured out how tort law intersects with the David Friedman scheme. I didn’t think to ask him, back when we were discussing the scheme. The whole premise of torts is that we all owe a duty to one another simply by virtue of our shared humanity. The Friedman utopia is based on the principle that contractual obligations are the only duty we owe one another.

                            These seem incompatible, except that he also has (going from memory) this elaborate scheme in which everyone will contract with bands of hired thugs, though with a more polite euphemism such as “security companies.” Disputes between persons with no contractual relationship to one another would be handled by their respective bands of thugs, who would usually work it out, but with the explicit threat of violence should no settlement be reached. This, we are assured, is much better than the present system.

                            Oh, and apparently you get to pay the person at the gate for your kid to play on the playground. Freedom!

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                            • In the course of my deep dive into A Song of Ice and Fire fandom, I’ve done a bit of reading about how a big part of how strong monarchies developed was by establishing courts, which were enormously useful and popular compared to the arbitrary authority of a local lord. It’s beyond bizarre that people exist who basically want to undo that.

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                    • Of course. Cause when I had the “marital estate”, hitting a kid was ONLY possible if he was trespassing. He never should be there in the first place. Now, hitting a kid while in forward movement on the road, I’m totally to blame most likely, but backing out of my land, nope, sorry. I do realize however, that the “law” may take issue with my interpretation.

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                  • If I backed over your kid, 1) he was trespassing on my property or 2) you didn’t have control of him such as a public parking lot.

                    And if I ran him over going forwards, he wasn’t looking where he was going. And if I shot him, well either he was probably on my property or you didn’t do a good enough job training him to always walk behind things made of lead on the street. And if I just happened to kidnap him and demand a ransom, who’s the one who didn’t cough up money for a security team to and from elementary school? And if made a house of candy and then threw him into the oven because he was curious about it, am I to blame that you didn’t raise him to like healthy carrot and celery houses?

                    Seriously, I can’t understand why everyone’s always blaming me for loving freedom.

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            • Backup cameras are not all they are cracked-up to be: Backup cameras aren’t preventing drivers from hitting things in reverse

              Even with backup cameras, drivers still don’t look around their vehicles enough when in reverse and sometimes get distracted by any number of things as their cars roll backward, says Janette Fennell, president and founder of car safety nonprofit KidsAndCars.org [which lobbied for the regulations].

              Instead of looking backward and through their rearview window or checking mirrors, their eyes are glued to a screen.

              You cannot regulate conscientiousness, and technology assists can lull people into worse behaviors. My daughter is taking driver’s education right now, and her teacher instructs the students in the car to ignore the rearview camera.

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              • Backup cameras do what they’re going to do — they tell you about how far you can back up before you hit the car behind you.

                Is this something that you NEED?

                Depends. How often do you drive the car? If this is your first time, or your third, you’re thankful for getting metrics on “how far is too far back”?

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                • I think they are probably needed for large vehicles, particularly large SUVs that have poor visibility. My preferred regulatory approach would have been to require cameras if the rear blind zone exceeded some numeric standard. That would leave sedans and coups free to design more affordable cars.

                  If you scratch through the regulatory rationale here, there is an underlying subsidy flowing from lower incomes to higher incomes. Its true that the cost of adding a camera is pretty small for most mid- and upper- level vehicles because they already have a lot of computer/electronic functionality. The cost increases are for low-end models. In either case, repairs can be expensive, and we live in a country in which the average American does not have enough savings to repair their brakes. The assumption is that costs will go down as cameras become more common, so people buyer cheaper vehicles need to step up and do their part for those with bigger vehicles and longer driveways.

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                  • PD,
                    They’re needed for any vehicle you’re driving for the first time, I maintain. They provide metrics that you otherwise probably figure out from experience.

                    We’re looking at $300 per backup camera, no more. That’s less than 1% of a reasonable new car (so a little higher for a civic, but still…)

                    The assumption is NOT that costs will go down. The argument was “this is cheap enough now, and will save lives.”

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                    • “The assumption is NOT that costs will go down. The argument was “this is cheap enough now, and will save lives.”

                      Yeah, I could maybe support this line of thinking if it wasn’t a bunch of unelected bureaucrats making these decisions. As it is, it is and it’s not the individual item that’s the issue..it’s the whole line of them….cameras, lane departure, auto stop, CVT, lack of a spare, yadda yadda.

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                      • Damon,
                        I suppose I’ve been a bit pugnacious about this point. It might be because I know one of the people who lobbied for backup cameras. He hasn’t gone out of his way to pull strings for other stuff, but considered backup cameras pretty handy for rentals (which are an increasing portion of the “drives a car” market).

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                      • This is the same argument with all of the nitpicky building code stuff, but if you graph things like “number of people who died in a fire” over time, the reason for them becomes clear. Car accident deaths are still low hanging fruit in terms of how much effort/money we can spend avoiding them.

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                  • Actually the majority of the cost of a backup camera comes in the infotainment system screen. If it does touch then you have the needed screen. The cost of a camera to the manufacturer is likley less than the cost of a stand alone web cam on amazon. Say $20 or so. Plus design costs to modify the wiring harness. (but likley little to no per harness costs)
                    Note that in addition I expect sooner or later blind spot monitors to be required. Having one on my new car helps a lot in changing lanes. You still look over your shoulders but only once, and then use the outside mirrors to check.

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              • The first backup camera I used was a much better implementation than the car I have now. The screen was on the left side of the rear-view mirror, instead of the center dash, so your head and eyes were up, the rest of the rear-view was still in your vision, and it was easy to glance to your side mirrors as well as turn your head around. It blended in with the normal process of backing up.

                Having to tilt your head down to look at the screen doesn’t augment the process, it changes it. I would not be surprised to find that different implementations produced different results.

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                • Interesting, I thought I read that the display on the center dash was supposed to be better. I drive a Chevy Equinox that has the screen on the left side of the rear view mirror. I appreciate it because I have pretty poor visibility with a relatively small back window and large side columns. But when backing-up in rain/snow or into sunlight, details tend to blur-out and I wondered if a larger screen would help. Otherwise, I would like an on-off switch so that I could use the entire rear view mirror in some circumstances.

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              • I could see that being a problem in really slow stop and go traffic, but there’s a lot of stored heat for the heater to dump. It seems like you’d have to stop for some time before the heater became a real problem. The systems that I’m aware of start the engine instead of letting the AC cycle the battery way down.

                I’d also be very surprised is the engineers who designed the car didn’t take into account the stop and go cycles on the starter. Is there some evidence that the starters on cars with that feature have been dying early? As far as I’m aware, the feature has been around for long enough that we should be seeing it in older models.

                The flip side is less fuel wasted. So there’s that.

                A lot of this reads like whining about how “uncomfortable” seatbelts were when they started showing up. “It’s not like it was before! Help!!!”

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                • The flip side is less fuel wasted. So there’s that.

                  Yes, the screaming amount of gas savings for the individual driver is clearly noted in the pocket book. However, the saves in terms of fleet results for the manufacturer’s cafe targets IS.

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                  • Is the point you’re trying to make that large sums of gas being saved a small amount at a time are somehow less valuable than large sums of gas saved in larger chunks? I mean, if we divide something significant into infinitely small pieces is it suddenly not significant?

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                    • I’m saying this: Because of cafe standards, stuff like auto stop exists and becomes standard on cars not because the consumer wants them but because the manuf does…because the manuf is trying to meet increasingly rigorous goals with diminishing returns. Consumers have zero say in it. Some may want this. Some done, but we don’t get a choice.

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                      • This is true, and I would normally consider it a problem, but the flip side is that people who don’t have any say in those consumers’ decisions do want a say in how much environmental damage they do. Pollution and energy price stability are both things that everybody has a stake in, not just the consumers who affect those things. A fuel tax would be more efficient on that front, but our system isn’t great at doing that.

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                  • Let me say for the record that if we could replace CAFE standards with a federal fuel tax that produced similar total fuel usage and let individuals decide how to deal with it, I would absolutely prefer that. But since everybody freaks out over taxing fuel, CAFE standards it is.

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              • The wear on the starter is pretty much a non-issue. The harshness of starting is the start from a cold engine. Once an engine is properly heated and lubricated, starts are much easier. I would note that commercial fleet trucks have been using this technology for years before they hit the consumer market. If anyone knows how to balance fuel and maintenance costs, it’s a trucking fleet operator.

                I would note that my point was that it was weird and distracting for me because I’m not used to it, the car’s owner didn’t even notice it anymore.

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        • Yeah, let’s talk about sports cars that cannot legally be driven anywhere close to their capabilities, assuming the owner has the skills to push the car to it’s limits.

          It’s a silly hill.

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            • The posted limits are actually designed on the assumption that a certain subset of drivers will exceed them by fairly well understood average amounts. Averaging 20-30 mph over is pretty unusual, but traffic engineers don’t expect everybody to be under the limit.

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    • If you think about SUVs as minivans in drag*, then they make a lot more sense. My wife occasionally slips and calls her Highlander “the van” every once in a while. SUVs are slightly less practical than vans, somewhat more practical than station wagons** and if you think of them in that sense, the practicality critique largely evaporates.

      * Or alternatively, bigger station wagons
      ** I guess they’re called crossovers now

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      • I drive (in Houston) a four cylinders SUV.

        I use the storage space in the back about twice a year. Yeah, not much, but boy, am I happy I have it, instead of having to ask a friend to drive me to pick my new TV in HIS SUV (when I was in my smug years, sneering at SUVs being driven for no practical reason). So, all in all, it’s better to have the space than not.

        Four cylinders are plenty in most of Texas (I’m looking at you, Hill Country (ot trying to, where are the fishing hills?)). My car hasn’t seen a slope bigger than the on ramp of the highway.

        I have a friend, a young mother that works as a paralegal, that drives the biggest pickup you have ever seen in your life. Watching her (she’s quite petite) climbing that monster is a guilty pleasure all her friends enjoy, it’s like rock climbing without the harness. Watching her park is for thrill seekers (will she be able to get that big thing inside that little space?? ). But then she also lives in a 5,000 sq.ft. house in the suburbs that looks like a castle.

        Texas is a whole other place

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        • Texas is a whole other place?
          Dude. You should see Arkansas, where you really do ford creeks in the pickup, and a low slung car ain’t gonna cut it.

          You’re paying how much per month (gas mileage) to avoid having to ask a friend? (discl: my “car bill” is $100 a month, and that’s a luxury — wear and tear included in the bill)

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        • Americans who can afford it tend to buy vehicles based on the extreme cases for their driving. Here in Denver, there are maybe ten days a year where high-clearance and four-wheel-drive mean you can get through the snow, rather than waiting a day. The minivan is terrific for those two trips per year to Grandma’s, 300 miles with both kids and four people’s gear for a week. From time to time there’s an opportunity to have fun in the sports car. None of them are any better for sitting by myself in the traffic on I-25 at rush hour than my little Honda Fit, or for making my standard errand loop to the PO, the grocery, the library, and one or two other stops.

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          • The minivan is terrific for those two trips per year to Grandma’s, 300 miles with both kids and four people’s gear for a week.

            I make that very same trip, but with a station wagon. The secret is it has a roof rack. This would suck for regular use, but for the occasional trip it works great.

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            • A minivan may be a necessity to support that choice, but it’s still a choice.

              I have never tried to figure this out, but I wonder which would cost more:
              – spending more on groceries because you never go to Costco
              – hiring a babysitter once a month
              – checking out a minivan from a vehicle co-op once a month (assuming that’s an option in your area)
              – driving a minivan instead of a smaller vehicle year-round

              For my wife and I, it happens to work out well to not own a motor vehicle at all (I live close enough to work to cycle, my wife works mostly from home, from the house to our kid’s school is a quick and convenient bus ride).

              Sometimes we think “gosh, this would be easier if we had a car” – then we remember the annualized TCO of a car, laugh at ourselves pinching pennies when we already saved the dollars, and call a taxi without a second thought.

              Same thing with groceries – we spend a tiny fraction of the TCO of a car on extra grocery expenses, etc.

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              • An issue with little kids (which is still a choice) is the unexpected. Junior’s sick at 11pm and needs to go to urgent care and you have to bring the wee one and his stroller? Thank goodness the van’s outside!

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                • Certainly an automobile would help with that. The specifics of the automobile are subject to all manner of considerations, and a minivan may be the best option.

                  If you’ve chosen to have a large stroller because it fits in the minivan, then a minivan becomes necessary if you rule out leaving the stroller behind on drives or replacing it with one that fits in a smaller vehicle.

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                  • I guess my point is that the calculus varies by the person and situation and, ultimately, provided the person is willing to accept whatever tradeoffs come with the decisions they make, I say to each their own (yes, I recognize that cars have externalities but I’m reluctant to address those on the individual level).

                    If I lived in the city, my calculus would be different. As it stands, I could probably get away with not having a car — and believe me I consider it! — but the subsequent inconveniences are not ones I’m willing to accept. I’d have to either go to the little gym in my neighborhood with the shitty daycare OR trek probably 45 minutes into the city to the good gym with the nice daycare on a train that only runs every 30 minutes, trying to time it with two kids under 4 in tow. I’d have to shop at the shitty super market in the neighborhood OR at the specialty shops in Manhattan, paying an arm and a leg. And I’d still need a plan for the unforeseen; taxis really aren’t options with little kids and Uber Family generally only has car seats for older children (good enough for Mayo but not for LMA)I. ‘m just not willing to do that. So, yes, I *need* the car I have insofar as it supports the lifestyle I’ve chosen for myself, but I accept the limitations that come with that (like being out $160 every month just for insurance and parking) and adjust accordingly.

                    I’d really, REALLY like to be less dependent on my car and look forward to a few years hence when I can considerably downsize both the size and how often I use it (which still isn’t very often… almost never on weekdays).

                    ETA: Being a single dad is a pretty big factor in all this.

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              • If I could not have a car, I wouldn’t, but Houston is not conducent to not driving. But I bike for short errands like groceries (I’m European raised, I buy groceries every day or every other day)

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                • Since moving to downtown LA in July, we got rid of our car, and haven’t missed it since.

                  Its amazing how easy it is to get around and take care of our needs with just walking, subways and buses.

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                      • Well, I’m joking and I’m not. If often seems that any acknowledgement of a potential benefit of a liberal-oriented lifestyle is taken as a direct attack on conservatives, rubbing their nose in our excesses and decadence.

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                        • If often seems that any acknowledgement of a potential benefit of a liberal-oriented lifestyle is taken as a direct attack on conservatives

                          My guess is that pointing out those facts isn’t viewed by conservatives as a direct attack on them and their views, but rather that the accompanying judgment is.

                          {{Oh, I know. They started it…}}

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                          • Along those lines here’s something to consider.

                            Before Christmas I was speaking with the old-timer who used to own our property; he was giving me some of the local history and opening up about his youth; he pointed to a corner of our property and reminisced about how he and his family would catch the train at the (now vanished) station and take it all the way to New York City; or, how as a young man he took the train the other direction down to Virginia Tech; and, if it so pleased him, he use the train to catch the spur that went to Manassas and into DC Union Station.

                            These days? No one comes hither from NYC or DC and the only way we can get there is to drive – which many many folks do, day in and day out.

                            What about the tracks? Oh, they are still there, but now exclusively in service to the Virginia Inland Port; hauling goods from other places to places other than here.

                            Now I don’t think anyone of us out here blames you or anyone else… how does one ascribe blame to the forces of history? But when it comes to not needing a car to live a good life, fewer and fewer remember that it was also true in places other than cities. And that sometimes the cities came out to the towns.

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                • Most of Edmonton is not great for not keeping a car either. Our situation is fairly anomalous. Several of our choices, particularly what part of town we live in, were predicated on not relying on a car (even if we end up keeping one at times, we don’t want to need to always have one)

                  If you believe the figures that you can barely keep even a cheap car for less than about $4,000 a year TCO, we could take a lot of cab rides and not sweat it. At that rate it seems like it would be hard to justify car ownership for anything less than daily driving.

                  I haven’t checked this in a while, but I remember some years back, looking up the typical cost of keeping a car, multiplying that by the number of years since I began full time work – and finding the product was almost exactly how much money I had in all my bank accounts.

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            • I deny this. I have two kids, and it wasn’t all that long ago that they were both in car seats. I made that trip (to BJ’s not Costco, but it amounts to the same thing) in a Suburu Impreza hatchback, what we called a station wagon back in the day before station wagons were declared terminally uncool. The cargo space got pretty tightly packed, but it was never any problem.

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                • Headroom, mostly. But mostly the difference is that SUV-owners are rugged outdoorsmen who need rugged outdoors vehicles to drive through the woods and across small rivers to do their rugged outdoors stuff. Station wagons are owned by pathetic losers who are attached by the scrotum to their domineering wives. That and headroom.

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                  • When I bought the Equinox, I was considering a Suburu Outback but, surprisingly, my money went further with the former (in terms of getting a newer car with less mileage).

                    ETA: But I think that would have made me a lesbian then, right? Such silly nonsense.

                    I see cars as transport devices for A-to-B. If it gets me and what I’m truckin’ there safely, so be it. That is one reason why I went from driving my Grandma’s ’95 Ford Escort to an ’89 Chevy Blazer… the first one was free and then got wrecked and the second one cost $900 and was there for the taking.

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              • Fair, we could have gotten a model with one row fewer. My wife wanted one with a third row for the semi-regular occasions where we have visitors. As many of our visitors either come from the city, so they don’t have cars, or are visiting, so would have to rent. Sadly, my wife’s Midwestern manner overruled my, “They can rent a car or take a cab.”

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        • That “taking advantage of the capacity twice a year” thing resonates for me.

          There’s no point in my owning a car. I have no need of a car every day – I could use a truck every couple of months though.

          The need to transport something that I could move in a car but not on a bicycle is surprisingly rare for me. Either it’s big enough that a pickup truck is needed, or small enough that a bicycle will do fine. There’s also no way it makes sense to buy a truck that I would have a use for six or fewer times a year.

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      • As a concept, yes. But do you need a Escallade or a Benz or Porsche SUV? No. It’s the same affinity and status signaling that you find in sports cars, trucks, etc.

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        • No more than do you need a Cadillac, Benz or Porsche? Luxury SUV fills same sociological niche as luxury car is hardly a groundbreaking observation. Heck, a colleague and I were just talking about how a Lexus is just a maxed Toyota with a $10,000 badge.

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          • Mmmm, I don’t know about that. I’ve driven a Porsche, and a Lamborghini, and those cars are actually different (believe it!) than driving a Ford Focus. So they fill a sociological niche (I won’t deny that) but they’re filling an experiential niche as well.

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            • Adding to that: when I was a freshman in college I hung out with a rich kid with access to his dad’s collection of fine autos. On any given Saturday he’d say “you wanna go test drive some new [[Corvette’s]]?”, and I’d say “sure”, and then we’d drive into the Chevrolet dealership in his pop’s brand new Carrera and all the salesmen would race to hand him the keys to whatever car he pointed at.

              Most of us have never driven those cars – and they’re sweet rides! – but if we HAD driven them, and we HAD the money to spend, we’d prolly buy them too. And not because they signal that we’re rich.

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              • Im a sports car guy. Love em. Driven all kinds of them, and own one now. I’d drive it if I was the only person around. Id actually prefer that. At least for a while.

                That being said, sitting up high in a big pickup truck, safe as can possibly be, while different, is also kind of the same. In other words, its real easy for me to see why owning a truck “you” don’t think i need can very easily be explained by reasons other than signaling. Not that that’s never a part of it either.

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                • {{I hear that. I’m a pickup guy by training, but I also like being high enough to see over all those zippy little sedans. When I drive my wife’s Fit it takes a bit of effort to get comfortable with looking under the frame of the pickup in the next lane.}}

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      • I’m actually currently in the process of trying to rationalize getting a Highlander instead of a minivan for our next vehicle. The Forester is just a little too small if we have another kid. (If we don’t, then we’re good. We should know one way or another before the Camry dies.)

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        • We have two kids in car seats and an Outback. I love my car, but I find myself fantasizing about a minivan, which is a little appalling to the urbanite in me. But, we live in the burbs so I have come to realize that, while the Outback is perfect for a family of four and all our gear, even on road trips, the fact that I cannot haul around any additional people is frustrating. If we do things with the grandparents, we have to take two cars. We cannot carpool with other families at school since it is impossible to get a third car seat or booster back there. I have friends with SUVs with third rows and they complain about how hard it is to get in and out of that third row.

          The thing is, these issues have a finite life span. Is it worth it to get a minivan if it becomes less necessary in 5 years?

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          • My wife and I had different perspective about that, which was that if we get a three-row passenger vehicle, it would be convenient for other parents, but what would be really convenient for us is if other parents got a three-row passenger vehicle. Pretty much the same perspective as feeling that one doesn’t need a pickup truck for just a couple times per year, just a friend that has one.

            With the oldest now learning to drive, in retrospect we did not do much car-pooling. I’m not sure why, but it feels like car seats were an issue early, but as they got older, their interests and friends diverged over a larger geographical area so that car-pooling, particularly on a larger-scale, never seemed very efficient.

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    • There is definitely a self-image thing about SUVs, but there has been a lot of functionality drift over the decades. They started out as the sort of vehicle you take for your archaeological expedition in the wilderness, and had the chassis for it. Then they caught on among people who were using it to ferry the kids to soccer practice, but whose self-image didn’t allow them to buy a minivan, much less a station wagon. This was every bit as silly as some guy in Houston buying a 4×4 pickup.

      Since then they have merged with more realistic vehicles. They keep the SUV body styling, but many now have car chassis. This makes much more sense. Driving the kids to soccer practice in vehicle that handles like a truck is just plain silly. If you really need a vehicle for that archaeological expedition, you can still buy one. But most soccer moms aren’t driving that sort of beast.

      You could argue that this is even sillier than the urban 4×4, keeping the image while giving up the substance. I think at this point the SUV styling has moved beyond its origin. Now it is simply what certain demographics buy.

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      • I also think part of it was there was a while where you simply couldn’t buy a station wagon because of CAFE standards. The closest you could get was the longer hatchbacks. Something about either improved fuel efficiency or how crossovers are categorized have brought back the wagon.

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      • ” If you really need a vehicle for that archaeological expedition, you can still buy one. ”

        I seem to recall that someone tried to register an original land rover–you know..like the ones used in africa back in the day, and couldn’t. It didn’t meet emission standards. So, I don’t think you’re entirely correct. Frankly, I’d love one of those. I used to drive a 70s International Scout. It handled like crap, but was a tank.

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      • I assume some of this is cost. When I looked around about five years ago, minivans were generally more expensive than SUVs. We were open to either, but did not see the benefit of paying more. Now this may have something to do with SUVs having more models with varying price points because they are more popular.

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    • Regardless of where you live, you’re likely driving, if you drive, you’re driving something affinitized or self aspiring, etc…cars that’s what cars are.

      Can I opt out of the self-image game? Is this even possible? I drive a Corolla four-door, selected as being large enough to transport the family on local trips and carry groceries in the trunk, with good gas mileage and reliability. Can I drive this car simply because it meets my needs efficiently, or do I have to have my self-image wrapped up in it? If the latter, how is this different from any other decision I make beyond that to metabolize food and oxygen?

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      • Can you opt out? Of course. Sadly, the market place and gov’t regulations prevent me from having the car I want. I want a 2 door manual. That’s increasingly hard to get in a newer vehicle.

        Someone above commented on the size of the engine. After having a in line 6 with 250 hp and the same in torque, I’ll never want to go back to a 4 banger-even with twin turbos. I routinely would be cruising in 6th gear at 75mph and I could step on the accelerator and I’d have power. It’s one of the things I loved about my old car. It’s getting harder and harder to get a new car in 6 cylinders.

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        • There is no government regulation that prevents or disincetivizes car manufacturers from making manuals. The only law keeping car manufacturers from making manuals is the law of supply and demand.

          FWIW, the Mustang 4 banger has 310 hp and 320 lb-ft in torque.

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          • “There is no government regulation that prevents or disincetivizes car manufacturers from making manuals.”

            Yes there is…CAFE. Because the CVT is marginally better at fuel economy, it’s being adopted by manufactures. They same reason why full sized spares and doughnuts are being phased out. Less weight means better mileage over the entire fleet.

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            • Manuals were phased out well before automatics got better EPA emissions than manuals. And they are sold in such small numbers that they don’t have an effect on average fleet MPG. You’re falling into the trap of “something bad happened it must be the government’s fault” when it’s been clear for decades that the American consumer doesn’t want them. 4% of cars sold are manuals, so aside from certain niches, automakers have determined it’s not worth mucking up their largely automated assembly processes to make manual transmissions for that segment of the population. When you’re losing cars like the Aventador and the GT-R you’re not losing because of the feds.

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              • I’m pretty sure someone told him that last time he complained about how there were no manual transmissions anymore and how it was all the government’s fault.

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                • It may have been me, I distinctly remember telling him that a modern 4 banger Mustang has more horsepower and torque and better 0-60 and .25 mile times than a 6-cylinder Mustang from the early 00s.

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              • I’m not trying to argue that ALL of the decline in manuals was the result of gov’t regulation. Yes, manuals were in decline. I saw that myself. Most people don’t like driving manuals in stop and go traffic. However, the decline of manuals did get a boost from the regulations. And that, as part of my complaint about the regs, was an example among several I mentioned.

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                • At 4% of sales, which they’ve been for about a decade, they’re not going to affect fleet fuel efficiency, partly because the advantage is relatively small. Not to mention that in the mid-00s manuals were still slighly more efficient than automatics and were still selling at those low numbers. The decline is because the big manufacturers want economies of scale, so for a few enthusiast focused models, they’ll deal with multiple transmission processes. But for a mass market car like the Accord, NFW because it’s not worth it. There’s a reason why cars nationwide are California emissions compliant. The cost of having CA only cars and everywhere else cars is more expensive than having slightly more expensive CA emissions cars everywhere in the US.

                  I can accept that Firefly went off the air after one season and Two and a Half Men stayed on for 8 (?) because of the free market, you should probably accept the same for the manual.

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                • Today you find cars that have paddle shifters but have eliminated the clutch. The transmission will take care the clutch for you (likely the transmission has an internal double clutch). Any way with cars coming with up to 9 speeds imaging having to shift that many times in traffic.
                  The compromise of paddle shifters let you shift when needed but eliminate the need to clutch. (also they allow things like hill start assist, as well as making stop and go traffic easier)

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                  • I consider it a skill to be able to use a manual on a hill. It’s not that hard and distinguishes us “elite” manuals users from those who need assist / the commoners who drive automatics.

                    /sarchasm
                    /not really

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                    • So when I bought my current car, which is a manual, I didn’t know how to drive stick. I definitely sat through about a half-dozen cycles of a stoplight at the top of a hill in the middle of the night before I got the damn thing going once. it took me the better part of a week to learn, but damn did I learn.

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                      • Yep. I took drivers ed in high school and I started my first drive on a hill in a manual. the instructor said, if you can get going in a manual on a hill, you’ll never have an issue with a manual again.

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                      • The first time I drove a manual was when I took the first car I ever bought home from the dealer. And it was an entry model, so no tach, you had to go by feel – which, out of self-defense, I developed pretty damn quickly.
                        I don’t like hill starts with my current car, which is overpowered for it – it’s a constant balancing act between killing it and being in the backseat of the car ahead (since the driver doesn’t have any knowledge of my predicament).
                        I’ve never bought an automatic or even seriiously considered it (still underwhelmed by paddle shifters, even if they’re not total crap anymore). I plan to ride my midlife crisis straight into a self-driving old age…

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              • When I bought my car a couple of years ago, I thought of its manual transmission as a feature, not a bug.

                One part of my calculus, other than the pleasure of working the gearshift, was that it would prove the best theft deterrent device I could possibly have, as a would-be thief would be unlikely to know how to operate the vehicle.

                When I have to drive into the city and deal with stop-and-start freeway traffic, it’s a bit of a drag. Other than that, I quite enjoy having a manual transmission.

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                • Same here. Driving a stick is just so much more fun that I can live with inconvenience in traffic jams. It helps that I have a V6 that likes being at the high end of the rev range, so if its a rolling slowdown I can usually get away with leavimg it in 2nd, and in 1st for stop-and-go…

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                • I used to know a guy who owned a sporty little British car from the 1950s. Starting it was such an obscure process that he figured it could never be stolen. At least not by someone sitting in the driver’s seat and driving away. A group of husky guys could probably pick it up and put it on a flatbed and drive that away.

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                  • Similarly, the Top Gear guys managed to not get “valet parked” in front of a top hotel in Monte Carlo by driving up in an actual Model T, which doesn’t start like a modern car, and none of the controls except the steering wheel work the same…

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    • I essentially live in NYC and drive a single-back-row SUV. It often feels like too much car. But I have two young children, both in car seats, and who usually need quite a bit of stuff to travel with. And when I bought it, we still lived in the mountains and the AWD was really key. I toy with the idea of trading it in but until I’m done using a stroller, making such a move just doesn’t make much sense. So, yea, it kinda feels silly to drive such big car for just three people but I really do use the space and given the various considerations when I bought it (price, kids, snowy mountain roads), it made the most sense. The mileage sucks but I probably only average about 200 miles a month (with most months being well under that and the average being brought up by the occassional long weekend trip) so I wouldn’t see a huge different in fuel costs with even a really efficient car.

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      • two young children, both in car seats, and who usually need quite a bit of stuff to travel with.

        More accurately, who have been trained to expect quite a bit of stuff to travel with. Kids rapidly acclimate to their environment and then demand it. I am just old enough to remember when front seat belts were an option, and we clambered all around the back of the car. When I was little we had a beast of a Ford station wagon that had a covered well in the back between the rear wheels. I used to love to ride in the well. If you had told us that we needed to sit strapped into car seats you have had had an open rebellion. My kids? Start moving when they aren’t fully buckled in and listen to the response!

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        • Well, yes. I do wonder if the ever increasing age for which children are supposed to be in some sort of special seat if really necessary. Special Lady Friend’s daughter is 9 and still in a booster which seems odd to me but I guess that’s what the “experts” say.

          But my boys are 3.5 and 1.5, with the former being absurdly undersized (<5th percentile, with all the caveats about how screwy those numbers can be) and they really do need to be secured in something other than the standard belts.

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          • I’ve always thought motorcycle helmets in cars were not that far off. Recently I’ve even though Hans Devices may become more common, for highway travel at least.

            Given I’ve thought that for about 20 years, and nothing’s happened, I am probably wrong. I am not willing to rule it out though.

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  2. Even by typical internet bugbear standards this whole, “Do you even pickup truck, bro?” thing is particularly stupid. I’m a coastal elite and know a number of people that have pickup trucks and they are not at all culturally different from me or my median friend. The people that are most culturally different from me (e.g. no college degree, middle class, etc.) own sedans or coupes. I guess one of them owned a pickup truck a decade ago, so that sorta counts.

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      • Actually for me it’s, my next door neighbor, my friend from high school that works for SpaceX, my friend from college that worked for McKinsey, two of my coworkers, my friend from grad school’s dad who is a partner at a law firm. You know, real salt of the earth, working class folks.

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        • Well, as particularly stupid internet attacks go, it was an example of the shotgun blast form of attack.

          Here is a measurement of virtue: Given that 16% of the country drives a vehicle in the following category, do you know anyone who is a member of this particular minority?

          There are a number of people for whom the question is dumb. Really dumb. They not only work with guys who have one, they have one. Or they play poker with a guy who has one. Or, like you, they live next to one, have a friend from high school who now works at an awesome place who drives one, their college friend who works at an equally awesome place drives one, or the friend they made in graduate school has a father who has one.

          Other people might not know anyone who has one. This stings, though. I mean, it was framed as a “how broad/deep is your circle?” question and to say that your circle doesn’t have a particular kind of person in it is to reduce one’s own status because, hey, we’ve made a big deal in recent years about how important it is to have a diverse group of friends.

          I’m sure that there are approximately a jillion categories of things for which there are only 16% of the country that do.

          And it’s possible to frame each and every one of these jillion categories as an important trait that, if you don’t know anyone who has had it happen to them, demonstrates that you are in some kind of bubble.

          And we, as a society, have found that it’s very important to demonstrate that we are not in some sort of bubble.

          As stupid examples go, it works the same as the good examples did.

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          • For example, 16% is a reasonable estimate of how many atheisrs there are in the USA. Almost certainly not exact, but it passes the sniff test.
            Even has some of the same markers – large regional variation, both a racial and class component, strong association with one party due tp a history of thrown shade from the other…
            Think that question would get anything close to the same treatment?

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            • Same treatment from *WHOM*?

              I mean, here, half the commentariat is atheist. The other half knows better than to talk about their religious faith.

              Do we have any young earth creationists on the board?
              Do we secretly know that young earth creationists just aren’t inclined to hang out in places where everyone has read “Inherit The Wind”? (Or just read at all, amirite?)

              But let’s look at the circles in which atheists are more likely to keep their light under a bushel than the Christians would be. How does this question work in those circles?

              Self-segregation is no joke.

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          • It’s a stupid example because it’s something that is taste based and regionalized. No one outside the respective industries would think asking, “Do you know anyone that owns an LG or Motorola phone?” or “Do you know anyone that owns a Vizio TV?” are meaningful cultural questions.

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            • It’s a stupid example because it’s something that is taste based and regionalized.

              With the smallest amount of retooling, a matter of taste can be rephrased to be a matter of aesthetics. It’s only a little bit more tinkering to turn a matter of aesthetics into a matter of morality.

              Regionalized becomes a lot more interesting when you start looking at stuff like the Electoral College.

              “meaningful cultural questions”

              You’re not going to believe where some of those people find meaning.

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              • “Regionalized becomes a lot more interesting when you start looking at stuff like the Electoral College.”

                You do know nearly a quarter of pickup trucks are sold in California, right? California is big, but it’s not a quarter of US population.

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                • It’s not about pickup trucks, Mo.

                  But, yes.

                  California buys a lot of pickup trucks.

                  If it were its own country, California would be the number 8 economy in the world or something like that. It’s the America of America.

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                  • Sure and yet your riff directed at me was a complete non-sequitor to my point, which basically hit on my point that pickup trucks have no socio-economic relevance, but rather just a dumb comment.

                    So California buys the most pickup trucks, then Texas, what interesting electoral college or cultural implications does that tell us? To me it says rich places with their cities built for cars have more pickup trucks.

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                    • They do have something adjacent to socio-economic relevance, though. I mean, look at the responses (the entire *FLOOD* of responses) to the original tweet.

                      Some of the responses are similar to yours. Some are speeches about how people who live in real cities don’t need vehicles at all.

                      We know what he was *REALLY* asking with the question, right?

                      And we know that our answers were something to the effect of “Hey, I know what you’re really asking about me and my answer to your question proves your assumptions wrong… IN YOUR FACE!”

                      But that was one hell of a question. It was clumsy and, as you yourself point out, had far too wide a spread of the shot it was firing.

                      These questions will get better.

                      We see what was *REALLY* being asked by it.

                      They will figure out a way to phrase it properly, soon.

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      • I think you vastly overestimate the number of people who think like this. For an alleged libertarian, you have a lot of sympathy for Republican butt-hurt points and views that the only elites are liberals in Brooklyn, San Francisco, Portland, and Seattle even if said people are public defenders making 45K a year. They are liberal and live in Portland and that makes them elite. The Koch Brothers are just salt of the earth joes.

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        • For an alleged libertarian, you have a lot of sympathy for Republican butt-hurt points

          And this is surprising how? My working definition of a self-identified ‘libertarian” is “Republican with pretensions.” There are individual exceptions, but as a first approximation it works darned well.

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        • The guy who lives downstairs from me has a pickup, with a snow plow attachment for winter. So anyway.

          I’m pretty sure none of my friends own a pickup, but it’s freaking Boston. Why would they?

          I used to own a pickup, an F150, back when I did network installs in Florida. It helped. I could lug big giant spools of cable around, along with a core drill or whatever. So yeah. An F150 isn’t a “muscle truck,” but it did the job.

          I wouldn’t want it in Boston.

          The status symbol thing — at one point I almost bought a 4×4 F250 diesel. It would have been silly. I didn’t need anything like that. But still, it was sweet. If the guy could have come down about $1k on cost, they yeah. He wouldn’t. I moved on.

          On the other hand, when my divorce goes through I plan to go out and buy a shiny new Dodge Charger.

          I’ll prolly get the six-cylinder version. That will be plenty for me. It will still be fun to drive. I’ve never owned a “muscle” (-ish) car. I kinda wanna, so I can be a gorgeous middle-aged tranny roaring around in her sports car blasting Black Metal!

          Grrrr!

          Life is short. Have fun.

          All this said, there is definitely a thing where guys buy more truck than they need, to go to home depot and buy power tools they won’t really use much, and haul their expensive golf clubs to the range, when they would suck the same with cheaper clubs. So whatever. It’s fine. I don’t judge.

          (Ha! I’m lying. I judge a little bit.)

          On the other hand, I bought the cutest little purple Coach backpack the other day, cuz my everyday backback is too bulky to wear dancing. It was only $300.

          But then, it really does look cute when I dance. I dunno. To me it feels like conspicuous masculinity has its own character, the whole “I’m tougher than I really am” thing. It seems so try-hard. A truck doesn’t make you tough. Being tough makes you tough. “Too much truck” is a thing.

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          • The status symbol thing…

            I have a friend in Houston that owns a six cylinder back ass pickup (a Titan I think, doesn’t matter, massive). He, of course works in an office and has zero use for a truck.

            For months he was all mopey because he wanted to trade his truck for the eight cylinder version (at the cost of a score of thousands dollars). I asked, from the outside, what has the difference, how could someone know if it was a six or eight cylinders. He replied; “There’s this cool V-8 symbol on the sides”

            I suggested he went to the dealership, say that his V-8 thingy that fallen off his truck, sticked a new pair in his old (like two years old) truck, and that he could pass.

            He didn’t appreciate my suggestion.

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            • @j_a — You can buy “knock off” designer clothes and fake diamonds, I guess. I dunno.

              There is a thing about being fake. It’s hard to explain. But, for example, I know a lot of MIT grads who love to go around wearing MIT gear, and look, this is pretentious as heck. On the other hand, they indeed graduated from MIT. Whatever signal an MIT sock hat is meant to send, they indeed qualify.

              I like to brag that I’m a high school dropout who taught herself math and now works for Google. That signals something also.

              I know guys who sign up for a “tough sounding” martial arts school, attend one class a week (maybe), are soft af, but they still wear the tee shirt.

              They are wimps. They know they are wimps. But they want to look tough.

              To my mind, this shows a lack of character. The sad part is they are so obvious.

              Are “knock off” goods the same? Are fake diamonds the same?

              I dunno.

              On the other hand, having a “work truck” when you don’t really “work” (in the sense that needs a work truck) — the question is, why? What is the motive?

              My favorite shirt I bought at TJ Max, even though I can afford designer clothes. My favorite skirts are respectively from Forever 21 and some no-name company selling through Amazon.

              I buy a lot of Calvin Klein stuff also. Their style suites me, I guess.

              I don’t mind looking a little bit posh. I worked hard to land a high-status job. I’ll “signal” that. Yep. But then, I really do work for Google.

              I’m sure this all signals something. Whatever it adds up to, I don’t think it’s phony.

              Not all “status plays” are the same. Sure, we can abstract them to mere “status games” withing a “community.” But communities are large and complex, and status is multi-modal. The point is, “status plays” have content. A person who tries to signal status by looking strong and capable of violence (the martial arts tee shirt) is doing something different from when I signal status by wearing sexy clothes. Similarly, the soft, suburban guy with a “working man’s” truck — he is doing something different from the same guy buying overpriced shaving gear. They represent different models of masculinity. They express different cultural modes. But more, they reveal different insecurities.

              What insecurities do I reveal? I have plenty.

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          • I kind of love the image of you in that Charger. Today I keep noticing in posts and stories that the right’s view of the left is as stereotyped and caricatured as the view the left often gives of the right.

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        • Saul, it was more on the riff of “do you even *HAVE* any black friends?” that the pickup question is a weird reflection of.

          In the original tweet responses, there were a bunch of people who, yes indeedy, knew a bunch of people who drive pickups. There were even people who owned them who went on to tell the stories of how they are sick and tired of helping one of their friends or their friend of a friend move every g-dang weekend.

          But there were also people who puffed up and started explaining that, hey, if you live in an urban center where there is actual culture, you’ll see that there is actual public transportation and so your core group of friends might not even include someone who owns a car. Go on to explain that even the friends who did drive cars drove small ones rather than huge trucks. Go on to explain that not knowing someone who has a truck doesn’t mean anything.

          In the same way that “do you even pickup bro?” is a strange reflection of “do you even have any black friends?”, the answers that range from “Yes I do and I’m offended you’d even ask that” vs. “I’m offended that you would even ask that!” is a strange reflection of how the answers to that question worked as well.

          Here’s a quick and dirty virtue test multiple choice question for you:

          A) Of course I’m virtuous and here’s how
          B) Of course I’m virtuous and you don’t have the right to ask me whether I’m virtuous
          C) Of course I’m virtuous and you’re only asking me if I’m virtuous because you’re not virtuous
          D) Of course I’m virtuous and you’re “butt-hurt”

          Wait, I forgot to ask the question.
          I suppose it doesn’t matter.

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          • Perhaps but all your fire seems to be aimed at liberals and you seem to strangely validate or at least hold as plausible conservative vague sneers against the “elites.”

            I laid out my objections to all the “prole” tests to Will below and have said so in the past. Why do rural whites and their folkways get the monopoly on being called working class? Aren’t there plenty of minorities that are working class with very different folkways? Yet we spent a whole election talking about how the true mantle of working class ness belongs to whites and only whites. It seems we talk about this every election.

            I’m tired of it. I am done with it and I don’t care for the sneers against where I am from and who I am and who my friends are. Yes there are more white, working class people than black working class people but only because there are more whites than blacks in the United States. Percentage wise, more blacks are working class.

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            • Saul, all matters of taste are plausibly valid.

              All. Like, without exception. There is not a single X that is arguably better than Y where there isn’t a similarly valid argument that Y is better than X.

              It’s a matter of taste. There isn’t a right or a wrong. It’s a matter of taste.

              As for your questions, I’d say that it’s because this is the election where working class whites finally realized that they themselves are a voting bloc in their own right and they did a calculus or three and, for some reason, decided to vote against their best interest.

              As for my fire going against liberals, does this board even have any conservatives? Other than notme, who presents identically to “stupid”.

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                  • Yep… I suppose we should also do a topology of traditionalist, conservative, movement conservative, republican, etc. Though the main point that there aren’t a lot of full throated defenders of Trump and the new republican brand is still true.

                    One of the fun things I’ve thought could work on a site like this would be a voluntary badge system… where you pick a flavor that represents your views and add some fun reindeer games around your badge turning different colors with input from other folks.

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              • If people want to sneer about my friends, that’s fine. Let ’em.
                Lord knows there’s enough reason.

                I’d rather sneer at people who don’t get out enough to know how other folks live and breathe.

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                • “I’d rather sneer at people who don’t get out enough to know how other folks live and breathe.”

                  This. Like my very liberal friend who claims she doesn’t live in a bubble, but has only lived in Manhattan and inside the capital Beltway, and I’m the only one she knows that has a differing opinion of HRC. I don’t sneer though. I just listen to her rant and smile. That shit is GOLD.

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                  • The odd thing is, cities tend to be a lot alike, even some places like Houston and NYC. So many people, you gotta just let things lie. Impersonal like. “you don’t trouble me, I don’t trouble you.”

                    Small towns? Middle of Nowhere? Every single place is different. Different culture, different ways of control.

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                    • True, but Seattle is VERY different from DC or Baltimore or even NYC I’d say. Sure, the liberalness is there, but Seattle, at least as of 92, still had a strong libertarian/let me do my thing vibe that I’ve never seen in Bmore or DC.

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        • For an alleged libertarian

          Also, I stopped calling myself a libertarian a couple of years ago.

          I still have libertarian sympathies, I suppose. But I realized a couple of years ago that libertarianism is very much waaay past the things that are important and I need to care about the things that make such things as libertarianism possible in the first place.

          Now, I did spend many years being one of the loudest libertarian voices on the site (if not *THE* loudest) and when I stopped being one, I didn’t stop being one in the direction of being particularly progressive so it probably presents suitably similar to libertarianism to not be reasonable to blame people for making the assumption.

          But, seriously, I stopped calling myself a libertarian a couple of years ago. I even wrote a post about it.

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          • Wikileaks, internet freedom, freedom of money from outside interests — these are all really really important things.

            I’m not really a libertarian, though, because I don’t think they’re the ONLY important things.

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      • The funny thing here, , is that by trying to point out Mo’s limited interaction with people who own pickup trucks, you demonstrate your own limited interaction with people like Mo.

        My dad drives a pickup, mainly for work purposes early and now just because he has it. But he probably doesn’t count either. I mean, he’s just my dad.

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        • The funny thing is he completely missed my point. My point was that on a SES basis/job basis, you could not tell my friends that owned a pickup truck from those that didn’t. Like If I listed: name, job title, employer, employer industry, annual household income of all of my friends, you would have no way of distinguishing between my friends/acquaintances that have a truck and those that did. Well, except for my father-in-law.

          But your point is also well put. A lot of people who barely know me are surprised that I, a Middle Eastern immigrant raised in SoCal and living outside NYC, have a strong finger on the pulse of middle America. Surprise, surprise, I do. I jokingly tell the junior person on my team that I need to teach her about the rest of America.

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          • Where outside the NY area are you? I’m in Yonkers myself.

            Your point is a good one. While there are no doubt bubbles (all around), there also tends to be an assumption that disagreement = lack of understanding. Which seems premised on a, “If they only understood what I understood, they’d agree with me and choose accordingly.” I don’t think this is unique to one ideology or another, but it does seem to be given a particular weight among contemporary conservative, rural America.

            People look at me, a self-proclaimed city mouse, and assume that is all I know. They ignore that I did the whole “house in the burbs/sticks” thing. I spent 3 years living in a neighborhood with no sidewalks and few street lights. Where the idea of “walkability” wasn’t even a thing. Where my neighbor put up a huge Mitt Romney sign on his property, but which I couldn’t see unless I drove down that road because we all lived on acre+ sized properties. Where many of the neighboring towns had large swaths of farmland.

            And it just wasn’t for me. I got that folks there loved their life and power to them. But it wasn’t for me. I tried it. Didn’t like it. So I moved back.

            But I’m just some smug liberal who doesn’t understand middle America/rural folks/the working class.

            And this is before I talk about my father who was a fire fighter and a landscaper and all his friends who worked in similar fields and the countless hours I spent as a child in the back of the Moose Lodge with all these quasi-surrogate father figures who probably had fewer college credits between them then I accrued in my first year of undergrad but who took care of me when my dad wasn’t (because, ya know, that’s how liberal kids grow up… in a bar while their dad is working even though it was his weekend with the kids) and who I still send Christmas cards to.

            Yep… I need to “listen more”.

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            • I live by Rye.

              The thing is, I lived what could be a stereotypically bubbled existence. My family came to SoCal when I was 1 and lived there for most of my upbringing except for 9 months in Raleigh in middle school, then my life was elite college in Boston (not that one, the better one), NY, SF, LA, b-school in South Bend and back to NY. But the thing is, I actually tried to meet people. I befriended locals when I was in grad school, one of my closest friends doesn’t have a college credit to his name, but I didn’t meet him until well after high school. I have a bunch of friends from all over the country, and most of them love where they’re from, rather than people that fled where they’re from and speak only ill of home.

              In NY, I met and ended up marrying an Iowan. Her folks are retired, but own a family farm*. At our wedding had a bunch of Iowans (largely Catholic) and Egyptians (all Muslim) got together and had a blast together. It’s almost like people are a lot more complicated and accepting than stereotypes would lead you to believe.

              * And when they pass it on to us, I will become a real American™

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                • Harrison, the H in HPN.

                  Actually, MIT. I had a good friend that went to Tufts at the time and I remember putting up silk screened party posters at BC back when I was an undergrad. Good times.

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              • And when they pass it on to us, I will become a real American™

                A farm in Iowa definitely suffices. I say that as someone raised in Chicago (not America) and now lives in Boulder CO (really not America) but ALSO owns a ranch* in Texas, so now I feel I’m also a real American. (For example, I am now allowed to say substantively insane but stylistically important things like: “What do you know about, pal? Do YOU own a ranch in Texas?”)

                *The term “ranch” is technically defined in Texas as anything more than five acres.

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        • So it seems that the most important thing is that one be able to communicate that one’s interactions with people are not limited…

          Anyway, we’re going to start seeing more of these little litmus tests in the future.

          I’m sure that you’ll be able to demonstrate that your interactions aren’t limited in most of them, and thus “win” the interaction.

          You’re going to get sick of winning.

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          • You’re going to get sick of winning.

            Man, you just helped me realize the downside of that slogan. Murkins don’t like winning, they like complaining about how they’re NOT winning. Our future is gonna be deja vu all over again…

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            • I’m worry more and more that Trump is going to eat his opponents alive and they’re not even going to understand what happened.

              “But we were playing chess when he was playing checkers!”

              “Yeah. The game wasn’t checkers either. You were playing the shit out of chess, though, I tell you what.”

              “I’m very good at playing chess!”

              “This isn’t about you playing chess.”

              “Acknowledge how good I am at playing chess!”

              “Why do you care about chess! You’re in Trump’s belly!”

              “If you’re saying that I’m not good at chess, you’re objectively wrong and I want you to acknowledge that.”

              “Fine. You’re great at chess.”

              “You’re in Trump’s belly too!”

              “Yes. I am.”

              “So you’re not good at chess either.”

              And so on.

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    • Its just another example of the “Real Americans” stuff.
      Real Americans live in the suburbs and rural areas and do this, eat that, and wear the other thing.

      They could have asked the journalists how many of them knew anyone who was a shift worker, or showered after their workday instead of before it, rode a bus, or ever used payday lender services.

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      • They could have asked the journalists how many of them knew anyone who was a shift worker, or showered after their workday instead of before it, rode a bus, or ever used payday lender services.

        Except, chances are they’d know just as many. They’re trying to make regional consumption preferences a proxy for understanding cultural differences and being in a bubble. The thing is, the critics are in a similar socio-economic bubble, but think that because that bubble is in Texas or Georgia, they’re absolved because they occasionally eat at a Waffle House.

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      • Yes. Exactly.

        How many people do you know have been sent to prison?
        How many people do you know have ever been arrested for drugs other than marijuana?

        Those two off the top of my head, I’m sure that we are going to see more.

        This sort of thing was discussed way back when when we were talking about Charles Murray’s “How thick is your bubble?” and its followup.

        What we are seeing is the weaponization of the quiz.

        And, on top of that, we’re painfully aware that Trump got elected and we’re seeing that the Democrats, election-wise, have been decimated. Worse than decimated.

        It’s one thing to be asked “do you even have any (category) friends?” when you’ve got the White House and Senate and House and 4.3 seats on the Supreme court (soon to be 5 or 6!).

        Quite another in an America back on its way to being Great Again.

        It’s going to get worse.

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          • Yeah, that’s a good test as well.

            Remember “Games People Play“? Huh. It was published in 1964. I would have guessed it would have been written in the 70’s. Certainly written after Kennedy’s assassination.

            Anyway, the game I remember is “Let’s You And Him Fight”.

            As far as I can tell, Trump is very good at setting this game up. He deliniates the sides, everybody automatically knows which side they’re “really” on, and then they proceed to throw their backs into it.

            That test seems to measure which side any given person would feel like they’re on, deep down. The better a score you get, the stronger the siren song of the stimulus.

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          • I firmly disagree with the “prole” test because it makes lots of assumptions. My parents are boomers. A lot of my friends have boomer parents. My dad happened to have a high draft number. He grew up Jewish and middle classish (unusually his parents remained in NYC instead of moving to the city.) I knew people whose parents also grew up Jewish and middleclassish but ended up serving in Vietnam because of low draft numbers.

            My grandparents did set up money that paid for my education but that was because my maternal grandfather grew up poor and his university education was cut short by the Depression and by the time WWII ended, he was a dad and needed to support his new family. My grandfather was psychologically shaken by his experiences during the Depression and probably never really got over them. This made him save and save and save.

            All of these “prole” tests correspond to a very narrow definition of working-class. One that is very white and usually very rural seeming. It doesn’t take into effect someone who is hispanic and whose mom works as a cleaner in a hotel or someone whose parents run a low-cost Chinese restaurant or many other variants of working class.

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          • FWIW, I am at -18.

            The traditional family one is stupid especially the rules about New York and California and entertainment. Something like 50 percent of Boomers went through a divorce so it clearly transcends socio-economics.

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          • I got +1. So what does that mean?

            Okay, so I’m not counting my high school graduating class, which was a large suburban school, inasmuch as I’m sure someone got into an Ivy League school, but I quit high school, and none of the people I hung out with went to a good school. In fact, the majority went either to community college or tech school or no school at all.

            My sister had a two year degree. My father went to seminary. My brother is a firefighter. My mom tried community college as an adult, but did not graduate.

            I got my points from (no) travel and discipline. I might actually have +2. I don’t recall if I was ever physically disciplined after age 12. Those years are kind of a blur.

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        • My ex-g/f, the one I was dating last year, served time in prison. She had been working in “collections” for a drug gang. Things went wrong. She shut her mouth and pled. They gave her a nice chunk of cash when she got out.

          I’ve known quite a few people who did time for major drug charges. I knew a couple guys, not close friends, who got sent up for homicide.

          What are these questions meant to determine?

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          • What are these questions meant to determine?

            When they’re using them? I imagine some variant of “which side are you on in the ‘let’s you and him fight’ game”. The answers (more importantly, the emotional response) helps hammer out in the player’s mind which side they’re *REALLY* on, despite the question, which they see what it was *REALLY* asking, even though they had an answer that just proves what a jerk the questioner was.

            When I’m using them, it’s more of a “STIMULUS RESPONSE STIMULUS RESPONSE STIMULUS RESPONSE” kinda thing.

            And I say that as someone who saw the original question and felt warmly as I thought of my friend Fish and his red pickup truck with which he has helped us many a time move such things as couches and cat furniture that just won’t fit in a Yaris.

            But after I felt the warm glow of endorphins, I yelled “HEY WAIT I’M FEELING ENDORPHINS THAT MEANS THAT SOMETHING ELSE IS GOING ON”.

            So those questions are also meant to determine what else is going on.

            Do you know anyone who has been wounded in Iraq?

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    • The VP/GM of my company drives a big ass, slightly lifted, ruggedized truck. He lives and works in the mid atlantic, in a 100% democratic machine state, and is an engineer by trade. :)

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  3. Excellent work Will.
    I just googled it for the first time in a couple years and found four cylinders are back in some of the smaller trucks.

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    • The new CAFE standards that are coming into play substantially raise the targets for small trucks. The manufacturers all knew how they were going to do it when they agreed to them: four cylinders, mild hybrids, shave weight, harder tires, diddle with the ECU parameters. Not every vehicle sold, but enough of them to meet the fleet requirements.

      I’m waiting to see if the Congressional Republicans figure out that they can kill about six birds that they keep talking about with one stone: a one-sentence modification to the Clean Air Act that says, “For the purposes of this act, carbon dioxide is not a pollutant.” That sentence takes the EPA rules and the Supreme Court decisions that mandated those rules completely out of play.

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          • The inspections process in Texas is both.

            The first year of the new system was painful, but now it’s pretty easy. Get your inspection done, and if you get your new registration that day, you just bring the printed-out results with you. Otherwise it’s in the state online system the next day.

            It’s been easy enough the last two years.

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            • In Tx whether it is just safety or safety and emissions depends on which county you live in. Live in the Boonies and it is just safety inspections (a total of $15 between the inspection station and the state). In counties with 4000 or less people you don’t really need the emission tests. It is just the Houston, Dallas, Ausitn and El Paso areas (the main county and surrounding ones).

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          • I don’t like the whole concept. Part of driving a vehicle is making sure it is safe to drive, and if a operator can’t at least meet that threshold any given day, then what is one inspection every X amount of days going to resolve?

            Emissions aren’t a big deal, that process can easily be defeated if need be, I just haven’t failed one.

            Then there is the inconvienence, I mean really it’s 2017 already, If we haven’t figured out cars, Darwin solutions need to be implemented.

            It’s not my ax to grind, but if you squint your eyes in a certain way, it could appear a useful tool to pull over people you wouldn’t normally have legal justification to pull over.

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        • California, that noted liberal dystopia, does not have safety inspections. It has emissions inspections, maybe once every 5 years or something, and they work really smoothly. You go to a station, they take the reading and transmit to the DMV. You can then go and renew registration online the next day.

          I recommend this for all states.

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          • My state, a similar liberal dystopia, has both. Consumers bringing a vehicle into the state need a safety inspect. A 20 ish page listing of things to check from window tinting shade to mechanical stuff. My dad failed the check because his headlight knob had fallen off, leaving only the shaft. UNSAFE. You could pokey your hand on the stub.

            Emission inspections are required every 2 or 3 years. Not correlated to registration. Older cars have a max dollar amount one must pay to “fix” a car that fails. If the problem is not fixed after that amount, you still get your registration.

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          • Virginia requires a safety inspection each year, and emissions every 1 or 2 (up to owner). But recently, they set up emissions monitors all over NOVA where your emissions are tested without you even knowing it. A month before you registration needs renewing (which requires an up to date emissions), you get a note in the mail telling you either you passed and where to pick up proof, or you failed (and I assume what metric you failed by, so you can get it fixed). Its pretty smooth, once you get over the idea that big brother is monitoring your emissions all the time.

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      • Although they serve the same general purpose today, you do realize that CAFE standards are technically unrelated to recent EPA attempts to regulate CO2, right?

        CAFE standards were established in 1975 as part of the Energy Policy and Conservation Act, in direct reaction to the Arab oil embargo. This was well before concern about global warming had really made it into the mainstream.

        The EPA is attempting to regulate CO2 by interpretation of the Clean Air Act.

        Since the statutory framework for each effort is separate and distinct, undoing one would not automatically undo the other.

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          • Massachusetts v. Environmental Protection Agency, Kennedy plus the four liberals, during the Bush administration. Ruled that under the current language in the CAA, CO2 qualifies as a pollutant. Then the Obama administration reached an agreement with the auto manufacturers for much higher CAFE numbers, with everyone agreeing that such would reduce CO2 emissions from mobile sources. CAA language requires that if mobile sources are regulated, then fixed sources must be regulated. Which led to the fractured decision (Wikipedia’s word, I use something harsher) in Utility Air Regulatory Group v. Environmental Protection Agency that said while the EPA must regulate CO2, it could only do so in situations where it would already regulate the sources based on more traditional pollutants (ie, large sources such as power plants). The EPA developed the Clean Power Plan. The DC Circuit heard challenges to that in September just past but hasn’t issued a decision. The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 back in February to stay enforcement of the CPP at least until the DC Circuit issues a decision. Lots of speculation about what might happen if Trump takes office before the DC Circuit reaches a decision.

            And ‘s right, Congress can render the whole thing moot by adding one sentence to the CAA: “For the purposes of this Act, carbon dioxide is not a pollutant.” Probably takes killing the filibuster to pass that.

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            • The SCOTUS in Massachusetts ruled that the EPA was wrong to reject a citizen petition for rulemaking on the grounds that CO2 was not a “pollutant” under the Clean Air Act’s coverage. That seems pretty uncontroversial to me, but it just involves the initial question as to the scope of a statute. The EPA’s actual rulemaking power is more limited in terms of standards to be applied in rulemaking and the remedial powers granted the EPA. Any rules would likely be quite modest, or if not, locked up in seemingly unending litigation, by which I mean court orders directing the EPA go back and consider some issue more thoroughly with public notice and opportunity to comment.

              I don’t think this is very controversial; I’ve read that the Obama’s preference was to use the threat of ineffective CAA regulation, plus the common law public nuisance cases being brought against power plants, to persuade Congress to enact suitable global warming laws.

              In any event, seems to me that the easiest thing for Trump to do is withdraw any rules that are not finalized or are currently stayed for further evaluation and improvement, and study the matter for 4-8 years. My rough political sense would be outright repealing EPA’s power to even evaluate what can reasonably done about global warming would be unpopular. There is probably a more subtle poison pill, such as an amendment requiring any regulation premised on global warming concerns to take into consideration China.

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  4. I lived in Houston for 28 years, and another advantage of a pickup there, is that a pickup will clear street flooding that would stop a car. Quite often in Houston, the streets flood curb deep which stops a car, but a pickup having a couple more inches of clearance makes it thru. Of course if you don’t have one all the time, one can rent a pickup for about $60 a day and if you plan things right, you could do a lot of hauling in one day.

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    • I’ve lived here 40 (although not quite so long as a driver) and I can tell you this: I think I’ve seen more flooded out trucks and SUVs in high water than cars, because the SUV and truck drivers have…optimistic…attitudes about the water level. (And go faster in flood waters, making it easier to get water into the engine).

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      • I used to see if the water was going to be higher than the curb then don’t go in in. Standard curb height turns out to be 6 inches and it appears 8 inches is about the standard ground clearance of a full sized pickup.

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  5. Since I’ve never lived anywhere that was more than 10 miles from salt water, I’m definitely coastal, and yeah, I guess I qualify as “elite”. I once owned a pickup (a little Nissan job), then a Jeep Cherokee (an SUV) and I now drive a Highlander (another SUV). It was not especially a vanity thing for me, I needed to haul stuff at a rate of about once every 2 months, and that made owning cheaper than renting a pickup when I needed to haul stuff to the dump or wherever. Our other car is a smallish sedan. This is all west coast.

    My neighbor drives a Titan, which I might feel inclined to mock, but he uses it at his job. He works construction. So, I kind of feel that both the trucks are mockworthy, the equivalent of belt-buckles, as Will says, and the reports of out of touchness are exaggerated.

    That said, I did have someone at work wax incredulous at the idea that I owned a pickup. They did not elaborate. I just “didn’t seem like the sort of person who would own a pickup”. Which is kind of a reason to do it, in my thinking. I freaking hate stereotypes wherever I find them.

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  6. It would seem to me that different areas have different ideas on what is and is not a status car or a practical car. This should not be controversial. However, since the United States and we live in an era where everything has to be another bomb in the “real America” culture wars.

    A lot of New York City residents do not own cars because owning a car is a very expensive luxury in the city. Unless you live in the suburban looking sections of Queens, Brooklyn, Staten Island, and the Bronx, you will probably not have a garage. Most apartment buildings don’t have parking garages. People with cars in NYC either pay hundreds of dollars a month for a parking space or they need to get up at 5 AM a few times a week to deal with alternate side parking rules.

    On Long Island, pick-ups were not a status symbol but a practical vehicle used in certain industries. Lots of SUVs though. My mom still likes her Range Rover even though the kids are grown and out of the house. My dad always liked sportier vehicles.

    SF does have apartment buildings with garages but these garages are small and a lot of street parking is in small spaces. My mini-Cooper works well in SF because it has decent storage capacity especially if you lower the back seats and can fit nearly anywhere. Though a friend from law school was from Kentucky and he had a pick-up truck. A lot of surfers will have bigger vehicles for their boards including pick-up trucks.

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  7. I lived for a year in rural South Dakota where one would expect to see pickups. My father-in-law is a farmer who owns a pickup. The common denominator is that the trucks were used for work, and only for work. Driving to town, church, etc., is done in the family car, usually an American made sedan.

    Pickups in these milieus are not status symbols, nor are they used to convey any notion of “real American”-ness. They are strictly utilitarian vehicles.

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      • Quite true. The distances traveled and lack of traffic mean you might never leave your land, or only for a short distance. Lord, I miss driving out there. I’d run up from Chamberlain to Pierre, through the Lower Brule rez, and hardly see another car between towns.

        Also, many underaged drivers. My kids were driving the pickup around the farm when they were 12. In SD, at least then, you could get a daytime license at 14.

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  8. A Tesla model S ($70k) has a range of approx. 300mi, at witch it needs 8 hours to charge its battery (unless you have a 440 system, then it is only 2 hrs.) A Prius V gets approx. 43mpg at $30K. But everyone knows how much you care about the environment. A Mitsubishi Mirage gets approx. 37mpg at $15K… But that is just a cheap car.

    I drive an ’02 Ford Ranger long bed, white with a cross box. Looks like a utility vehicle, which is nice. I also get to park in commercial parking, as (in CA at least) a pickup is considered a commercial vehicle. Gets around 25mpg and cost me 5k. I expect to get another 100k miles out of it. Works out really well for me as I tend to move a lot of stuff around. Really handy for a family to have one around, firewood, antiques, bicycles and such.

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    • 24k, not 30k. (30k is the base price for their most expensive Prius model). A Prius C starts at 19k, which is roughly where their Corolla’s start at (18.5k).

      The Prius c gets 53/46 mpg, the Prius gets 54/50. The Prius V does only get 43, but that Prius V is the Prius equivalent of a hybrid station wagon (extended cargo room).

      If you’re going to compare a Mirage with a Prius, use the Prius c (the compact) not the one closest to a crossover.

      So it’s 15k for 37mpg versus 19k for 53/46.

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      • My wife – being the good liberal that she is :) – had two criteria for her new car: that it gets over 40mpg and has heated seats. We looked at the Prius and the Honda Fit and rolled with the Fit because of the battery replacement issue (about 6k every however often) we well as the entry price (a lot cheaper than the Prius). She loves it. It gets over 40 on the highway, near 40 in the city, and her butt stays nice and warm on cold winter days. I’m not criticizing Prius here as much as lauding the Fit: it’s a really great car for the money.

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        • I adore my eight-year-old Fit. Its mileage isn’t quite that high, but Honda does tend to improve things over time. Probably the most practical urban/suburban car I’ve ever owned. What’s really impressed me is the reliability. Over those eight years, aside from things designed to wear out — battery, tires, wipers — maintenance has been assorted fluid and filter changes every 6,500 or so miles. No “scheduled” maintenance in the Fit — the software decides when it’s time, and for what.

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          • Probably the most practical urban/suburban car I’ve ever owned.

            I agree. Small, zippy, functional, fun to drive. The other criteria my wife had which I failed to mention was the hatch in the back. Apart from being able to load groceries and other stuff into the car easily the way the seats fold down makes it into a (small) cargo van (which was essential for her since she does lots of art shows). And the computerization is amazing.

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        • I looked at the Fit, but I suspect I’ll end up getting another Prius when the time comes.

          My 2009 has run 120k so far, and has had exactly one repair so far.

          120,000 miles and other than routine maintenance and replacement (tires, oil changes, etc) I’ve put a single, 400 dollar repair for a failed part into the thing. (Admittedly, it’s about two years out from needing new pads and rotors on the front axle and the shocks and struts on both axles are getting pretty worn in general….).

          That kind of reliability, well….yeah, that company’s made a fan.

          I got my money’s worth, even without the excellent mileage.

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          • Well, that’s a sad story. Not yours, ours. My wife’s SECOND most recent car was a TDI Golf hatchback, which was a simply incredible vehicle. She absolutely loved it. But then she got smashed at a stop light by a guy looking at pron on his cell phone. Totaled. Given the recall/retrofitting issues we decided to not go back to a TDI, but they’re great cars.

            What type of diesel are you driving?

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            • A passat. Yep, one of those “evil” VX diesels. My state exempts diesels from emission testing, so I don’t have to deal with sitting in line waiting for some guy to check my vehicle computer. I’ve no intention of turning in my car for cash. That would just end up with me in more debt. This thing is paid off. In fact, unless required by law, I’m not have the emissions “fixed” either.

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              • Here’s an interesting factoid about the “emissions” scandal: In Boulder CO we have mandatory diesel emissions checks (unlike lots of states/locales) and when she brought it in the guy did the test, gave her a “pass” in the report and then asked her if he could retest the car with the “chip” disabled. Which he did. And that car – a 2012 four door Golf – passed again. By a significant margin. With the cheater chip disabled.

                Given that, I don’t know what to think about all this “emissions” scandal stuff. Yes, VW cheated, and they should be punished. But our car – at least before it was wrecked – passed emissions straight up anyway. Which means, to me anyway, that it passes the EPA standard on emissions.

                It’s weird.

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                • I consider the VX scandal a “rules violation” and no real harm done. No consumer has been harmed and I don’t think the gov’t has demonstrated any actual environmental harm..ie, these cars generated x amount more in NO2.

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                • I’m guessing either you or he didn’t understand what was going on, because I’m pretty sure VW isn’t paying out the nose for something that was complaint.

                  IIRC, the disabling the chip would have actually kept the car in compliance. Because I believe the chip in question both detected when the car was being tested AND was responsible for determining when to disable emissions control for more power. Disabling the chip directly would have indeed prevented it from determining it was being tested, but would also have turned off the car’s ability to bypass emissions control in return for power.

                  In short, a broken or disabled chip kept the car in the legal emissions zone. (Which makes sense, because the last thing you want is for a broken or bad chip to expose what was going on. So your car’s default is “compliance”. )

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                    • Sure. But without the chip it passed emissions.

                      What the EPA seems to be busting them on is the tailpipe emissions in real world conditions, which – I submit – lots of car manufacturers violate.

                      Whatever, tho. VW has admitted to cheating.

                      Which brings up another point: why are diesel light trucks, including pickups, allowed to spew toxins while diesel passenger cars are super-strictly limited? VW has a whole line of passenger cars that get 70+ mpg which aren’t allowed in the US. I really don’t understand the rationale of that (from an environmental pov anyway …).

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                      • I believe that non american diesel uses higher sulfur fuel that the american regulators don’t approve of here.

                        American diesel is “low sulfur” and the cars also have a urea spray into the exhaust to reduce emissions further.

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                        • I hear you about urea, but if urea was a standard feature of European cars, why aren’t those vehicles offered here?

                          I think the issue is Cali (as always): import regs are largely determined by the largest market in the country. And I’m not objecting to that. far from it. My objection is that we allow Ford and Dodge diesel pickup trucks (not to mention the OTR vehicels) spew SOx while hyper-restricting those emissions for passenger cars only.

                          On an emissions/mile basis, I’m not seeing how it all adds up.

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                          • I hear you about urea, but if urea was a standard feature of European cars, why aren’t those vehicles offered here?

                            They are. Ever seen something called “AdBlue” at the auto shop?

                            VW didn’t want that system. That’s why they didn’t offer it.

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                      • Yes, but then they committed advertising fraud by lying about the car’s performance. So VW either shipped a car that didn’t meet emissions standards or they committed fraud, neither one of those things is good.

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                        • Sure, no denying it at this point. My point, tho, is that our own car, covered in the lawsuit (2012 Golf), actually passed State emissions with the cheater chip disabled. The car is legal!

                          Which makes me wonder about all sorts of things….

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                          • Sure, no denying it at this point. My point, tho, is that our own car, covered in the lawsuit (2012 Golf), actually passed State emissions with the cheater chip disabled. The car is legal!

                            Yes. But it doesn’t perform as advertised anymore.

                            I have a lengthier post below, but the tl:dr version is: You are entirely confused about what the chip does and doesn’t do and how that affects emissions. (if you don’t believe me, ask yourself: Do you really think you and a mechanic buddy figured out something that VW didn’t? That you two are the first person to every say “What happens if we disable this chip?”)

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                            • Morat, I’m not confused, You’re confused about what I’m saying, which is this: my car passed emissions without the chip.

                              The cheater chip was based on different standard than the state tail-pipe test, since they didn’t need it to pass. Either with, or without the chip, the car passed the test. From a testing pov, it was unnecessary.

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                          • …is that our own car, covered in the lawsuit (2012 Golf), actually passed State emissions with the cheater chip disabled.

                            Isn’t the Colorado state test for diesel cars just an opacity test? That is, unless you’re blowing visible smoke you’re going to pass? I seem to recall that the subject of actually testing NOx and fine particulates comes up in the legislature from time to time, but they always decide that the equipment is too costly and they’ll just take the federal EPA’s word for it that a particular model meets those standards. NOx and fine particulates is what the cheater chips were for — you’ve got to seriously break a VW small diesel to get it to smoke enough to fail the opacity test.

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                            • I don’t know about any of that. All I know is that my wife brought her new (to us) TDI into the DMV and they said “get an emissions test” (there’s one in the county) and etc as you’ve heard. The dude administrating the test gave her the printouts of both testing results. And she showed em to me! (They were different.) And both passed.

                              As far as I could tell it was a normal test: COx, Nox, Sox, particulate (or whatever that’s called), etc.

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                              • And I quoted your own state law back to you that said what you GOT was an OBD test, which queried your car to see whether the various systems were working.

                                I’m pretty sure your OBD computer didn’t query it’s own cheater chip.

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                      • Sure. But without the chip it passed emissions.

                        Without the chip it passed emissions but drove like crap

                        I don’t think you grok what the chip was FOR. VW didn’t want to use one of those urea systems (which is what everyone else uses to cleanup excess emissions — of sulfur, I think– when the diesel ran when needing more power — like when accelerating fast).

                        But without running at those top levels of power, the car would accelerate slowly, struggle at high speeds and on hills, and generally handle sub-par and people wouldn’t buy it because it’d be crap to drive.

                        So they designed the same type of engine as everyone else (it had a much more sulfur-emitting high power mode it went into when it needed more oomph) but instead of adding in the urea system to capture it, they added in a simple chip.

                        What the chip did was determine when to allow “MORE POWER” mode.

                        MORE POWER = MORE POLLUTION.

                        So disabling the chip disabled the MORE POWER mode. Which means emissions were normal. But if you drove with the chip disabled, the car handled like a pig.

                        I know this because VW still doesn’t have a solution, and to make it street legal and comply with standards you can…disable the chip, which disables MORE POWER mode, which means emissions stay normal.

                        What your friend did by disabling the chip wasn’t testing “How it was really polluting”. He removed it’s ability to go into it’s MORE POWER/MORE EMISSIONS mode entirely.

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                        • Without the chip it passed emissions but drove like crap

                          Wrong. Without the chip it (supposedly) fails emissions and drives fabulously. The chip only kicked in when the real wheels weren’t spinning along with the front uns.

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                          • Let me ask you something:

                            What’s more likely? You and your mechanic either screwed up or misunderstood something OR that VW, with billions on the line, didn’t notice they build an entirely unnecessary cheater chip, then paid billions for a recall and in fines?

                            You’re spinning a theory in which VW created an unnecessary cheater chip, then failed to point out it was unnecessary, and nobody — not the EPA, not VW, not the guys who build the car OR the chip, not with tens of billions of dollars on the line….realized it.

                            So here’s the bottom line: Cars with a functioning cheater chip emitted way too much pollution. Up to 40x the legal amount of some particulates. This was verified in road tests. VW admitted this. VW paid out BILLIONS in fines and recalls and lost god knows how many sales.

                            Including your car.

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                            • Morat,

                              VW did introduce a cheater chip; it was engaged only when the front wheels spin and the rear wheels don’t (ie., during an emissions test) thus contraverting the actual performance-based emission specs under the test.

                              The cheat was discovered only when tail pipe exhaust tests were done during real world driving conditions, ironically, as part of an advocacy campaign promoting VW’s line of clean diesels.

                              But look, here’s the deal: our TDI was tested with and without the chip and passed CO emissions spec both times even with radically different specs in each case. Make of it what you will. (Which obviously isn’t all that much….) Those little engine run pretty clean, from what I understand. Especially when they’re not under load.

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                              • Those little engine run pretty clean, from what I understand. Especially when they’re not under load.

                                You should tell Volkswagen. Who admitted they run dirty, then paid billions of dollars because of it.l

                                I’m sure they’ll be relieved to know.

                                I look forward to the sounds of their shock and awe, and then the mass firing of their legal team and all their engineers.

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                                  • I’ve lost track of what it was, honestly.

                                    I think he thought the cheater chip worked 100% of the time, and that his emissions test measured emissions.

                                    But, if upon finding out that removing the chip didn’t change anything, why would a sane person not ask “Okay, where am I wrong?” given the umtpeen billion dollar loss (and admission of guilt) VW has suffered?

                                    It’s like doing the famous gravity test (“I drop a feather and a rock, they should hit the ground at the same time”) and then declaiming “This gravity thing is suspicious as all get out!” instead of asking “I clearly did this test wrong or didn’t account for something obvious, because this is a standard test that was famous….oh wait, air resistance”.

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                            • Let me propose a third possibility: Without the cheater chip, VW’s pass emissions test some of the time, and fail some of the time. Performance varies from case to case depending on maintenance, temperament, and minor malfunction. So there is a range of possibilities on how the car will do. Without the chip, too much of that range is in the emission failure zone. With the chip, they are safely outside of it.

                              Even if most of the time the car does fine, if 5% of the time it fails, that’s a pretty big deal. You want your vehicle as far from the failure range as can be.

                              Is this possible?

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                              • Yeah, but as I realized about halfway in — the cheater device isn’t there to fool your state emissions test.

                                Any car built after 1996? The state emissions test is the OBD test. They plug in a monitor to your car’s onboard diagnostics and run the car, checking for any error responses from your emissions system.

                                They’re designed to see if your systems are working, not to analyze what your car emits.

                                The EPA does that. It simulates multiple driving patterns on a roller, tests actual emissions, etc, to determine what your car actually emits — that the emissions systems are sufficient.

                                The VW cheater device was aimed at the EPA test. The OBD test done yearly for emissions doesn’t do anything but report whether your systems are working for any car built after 96. (1980ish through 1996 used a roller more like the EPA does).

                                In short, the simplest explanation is…his VW’s emission system was working correctly. They removed the chip. His emissions system continued to work correctly, because the chip didn’t control the emissions system at all. (It controlled the engine.)

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                              • I think something like that is likely. But I also think that while other car companies were focused more on the real world spec – which the EPA claims they test in the form of actual cars tested on actual roads – VW gambled that the EPA wouldn’t actually do those tests (which, from what I could gather from a bit of research isn’t unusual at all) and relied on a chip to ensure test passing.

                                So part of the problem is a lack of (can’t remember the term for it but…) prototype approval of a new engine by the EPA, and part of it is the EPA’s functional can-kicking by reducing compliance with EPA standards to the tail-pipe test in a controlled, roller-based emissions testing facility.

                                Either way, while VW looks bad in this case (and they are bad, and should feel bad…) the EPA doesn’t look all that good either since these engines had been around for 7 years and they never actually did the real world tail pipe test which is (supposedly) a necessary component of those engines compliance approval.

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                                • Either way, while VW looks bad in this case (and they are bad, and should feel bad…) the EPA doesn’t look all that good either since these engines had been around for 7 years and they never actually did the real world tail pipe test which is (supposedly) a necessary component of those engines compliance approval.

                                  Um, the people who caught VW were testing a brand new type of equipment whose entire point was that it COULD measure tailpipe emissions on the road.

                                  The EPA uses roller tests (with very complex driving patterns) because hooking up an accurate monitor to the tailpipe was not something that could be done to a moving car.

                                  VW was caught when someone finally had a prototype of one that could.

                                  Your car pollutes a lot. Sorry man. It really sucks. I’ve a friend in the same boat.

                                  But I can assure you that if the cheater chip actually made no difference in emissions, VW would have trumpeted that instead of losing billions.

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                                  • But I can assure you that if the cheater chip actually made no difference in emissions, VW would have trumpeted that instead of losing billions.

                                    The cheater chip allowed all their clean diesel engines, across the board, to pass emissions. It certainly made a difference. For example, people could register their car and drive it legally.

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