Automotive Thanksgiving

Today is Thanksgiving Day and I have been reflecting upon the things for which I am thankful. Since my mind always runs through ideas related to the automotive world, I have come up with a list of things to be thankful for in the related to cars and trucks. Some of these things are silliness but most of them are genuinely good.

1.       Fuel injection: My thankfulness for fuel injection goes hand in hand with my thankfulness for the fact we don’t have to rely on carburetors anymore. When it’s really cold in the morning fuel injection helps your car run smoothly. Not having issues with silly things like a choke, and fast idle cam adjustment and that kind of nonsense is a good thing. When it’s really hot outside fuel injection helps your car run smoothly. Since fuel injection runs at a much higher fuel pressure, things like vapor lock never occur to leave you stranded out in the hot desert. When it’s wet and rainy outside fuel injection helps your car run smoothly. Air density and humidity are automatically compensated for in ways that carburetors could never handle. All of these things are completely taken for granted by just about everyone who drives. I’m sure old people, anyone who has been driving for the last 30 years or so, remembers the problems associated with carburetors all too well.
Injecting a bit of reliability
2.       Japanese Quality: What I am thankful for here are the Japanese cars that began to sell very well back in the mid 80’s. These cars were small and awkward, but were so reliable they won more and more market share every year. By the time the Japanese manufacturers started to design cars that were not just reliable but were also the size and shape that Americans wanted, they were selling more of these “normal” cars than the domestics. This higher standard that was introduced by the Japanese lead to the domestics slowly raising the quality of their product. When quality goes up across the entire market the consumer ultimately wins.
1985 Honda Civic with reliability that was so far ahead
of so many other things.

3.       European Quality: My thankfulness for European quality relates to ride and handling. Anyone who has driven a BMW or an Audi knows exactly what I am talking about. These cars are well built from the standpoint of being so nice to drive it is just plain fun. I am not sure if I can think of a car that has better handling characteristics and ride quality all wrapped in the same sheet metal than something like a BMW M5. The downside of the Europeans is that they don’t last as long as the Japanese cars, but then if you can afford a Mercedes E class, you can always sell it before it starts to fall apart and then you can go buy a new one.

2013 Ford Fusion
4.       Domestic Quality: Cars are so much better all around than they used to be, that even the domestics are building cars that last a long time. This is what happens in a free market. If you think I am way off base here in my assessment of the domestics, then name some models from the big three that were genuinely reliable and nice to drive from the 80’s or 90’s. They are very few and far between. Ford stands out in my mind as the domestic manufacturer that is really getting things done right. They are doing well building cars that people want to drive and that will last. Chrysler is doing okay too but they haven’t stood on their own two feet since the mid nineties. They are currently owned by Fiat, and before that Mercedes, so they will go as Fiat goes. GM is still owned by the government and the UAW so there is not much positive there, especially considering that GM continues to lose market share, as well as see their stock price fall.

5.       Power Sliding Doors: I have expressed my appreciation for this feature in the past but I cannot express enough how great this future is when you are a family man toting young kids around with you everywhere. This is feature only available on minivans and it is one of the things that make minivans so much better than SUVs for hauling your rug rats around.

6.       Natural Gas Vehicles: Here I go again pumping up the technology that I enjoy so much. My thankfulness for CNG all boils down to the low cost of the fuel. CNG is currently $1.60 per gallon where I live while gasoline is $3.60. I also love that natural gas comes from my backyard. My friends and neighbors literally work in the natural gas fields that surround my hometown. I am thankful that I don’t have to give my money to countries that hate me in order to drive.

7.       Platinum Tipped Spark Plugs: This is really thankfulness for spark plugs that last longer than 10,000 miles. The platinum and iridium tipped spark plugs of today can easily go 100,000 miles before requiring replacement. This means that cars and trucks are much more reliable today and require less maintenance.

The new Ford 6.7 Powerstroke
8.       Diesel Engines: I would be more thankful of course if we had as many diesel engine options here in the U.S. as they have in almost every other country around the world. These engines are so powerful and fuel efficient at the same time that using them more often would really make a tremendous amount of sense. The problem remains that most manufacturers are not quite willing to take a chance on selling these diesel engines in our market. They are getting pretty close however, and I think we will see more of them soon.

9.       Forced Induction Systems: Turbo chargers and superchargers are becoming more popular every year. This is good news for all. Not only are turbos good for making fast cars faster, but they are excellent for making normal cars more powerful with allowing them to consume less fuel. One of the strategies that many car companies are using now is replacing V6 engines with turbocharged I4 engines, and replacing V8 engines with turbocharged V6 engines. In each of these instances the cars on question have the same amount of power when it’s needed but use a lot less fuel when it’s not needed.

10.   Freeways: These are great for traveling across stateliness in order to spend thanksgiving with family. Nothing is better than hitting the highway in a nice running car and cruising to someplace that you want to go. The old adage that it’s not the destination but the journey that’s important rings true for those that love a good road trip.

 Have a good Thanksgiving. If you have a computer to read this from along with internet access, and electricity to run it all then you probably have something to be thankful for as well.

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