Friday, July 06, 2012

A Call for a First Car

There is a nice big fat gap in the car market. What we need is a very simple, mechanical, zappy first car. It needs to be like the Land Rover. It has been said that 75% of them are still on the road and why is that? Because they can be repaired by anyone with a spanner and a few mechanically-minded brain cells. As Peter Baxter points out:

"The thing about a Land Rover is that it can be fixed when it breaks down with a Swiss Army Knife and a piece of wire. I often compare it to a Kalashnikov rifle. You can shake both and they rattle. It has such wide tolerances that a cup-full of sand poured into the mechanism has no effect on it whatsoever. They say that 75% of all Land Rovers ever made are still on the road. This is simply because almost all the parts are interchangeable across the models and editions."

So, why not produce a similar basic car for those who have just passed their driving test? They usually have little money and so repairs and maintenance could be done by the owner. Institutes that offer evening classes could have a special course for these cars.

They should be able to take 4 people at a squeeze, be robust, and big enough to accommodate all one's worldly possessions when moving in or out of a student house - so probably a hatchback. The design should be racy enough to appeal to the young and contain as little in the way of electronics as possible. There would be no need for an excessively huge engine. One that keeps to the speed limit would be quite sufficient, in which case maybe insurance companies could adjust their tariffs accordingly (down).

The trouble with modern cars is that they are too complicated, necessitating expensive maintenance and even more expensive repairs. The young are enthusiasm- and time rich but money poor, and they would be no doubt keener to maintain their car themselves than not maintain it because they can't afford the garage mechanic's rates or his costing for parts.

As for price new, it should be very very reasonable. A simple car should not cost the earth even it's not made in Romania. Just think, if 75% of these first cars could be on the road after say 20years what a success story that would be. People around the world would be as keen to get hold of one as they are the Land Rover.

We have cars for every other niche possible. The only one left is the first car brigade. Not a prestigious group I know, but everyone at some time needs a first car. That's quite a crowd.

And finally, here is a joke on 16 ways to recognise a company car, but could also apply to the average student car too:
1. They travel faster in all gears, especially reverse.
2. They accelerate at a phenomenal rate.
3. They enjoy a much shorter braking distance.
4. They can take bumps at twice the speed on private cars.
5. Oil, battery, tyre pressures and fluid levels do not need to be checked nearly so often.
6. They have a much tighter turning radius.
7. The floor is shaped like an ashtray.
8. They only burn the cheapest gas available.
9. They do not have to be garaged at night.
10. They can be driven up to 100 miles with the oil warning light on.
11. They need cleaning less often, especially inside.
12. The suspension and trunk floor are reinforced to allow concrete slabs and other heavy materials to be carried.
13. They are adapted to allow reverse to be engaged while the car is still in forward motion.
14. The tyre side walls are designed for bumping into and over curbs.
15. Unusual and alarming engine noises are easily eliminated by the adjustment of the radio volume control.
16. No security is need. They may be left anywhere, unlocked, with the keys in the ignition.