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Past as Prologue: The Detroit Edition

Fuel efficiency standards, government bailouts, intransigent corporate cultures, Americans’ undying thirst for large cars… it’s beginning to sound like 1980 again. Where’s my K car?

From the archives of the New Yorker, this Detroit dispatch, by Joseph Kraft and titled “The Downsizing Decision,” (interestingly, the word only seems to refer to making cars smaller, and not laying off workers) is worth a look.

Sample paragraph:

Then, in April, 1979, G.M. introduced a compact four-cylinder, front-wheel-drive vehicle, produced as the X-Car and marketed as the Chevrolet Citation, the Pontiac Phoenix, the Oldsmobile Omega, and the Buick Skylark. Thanks to the comprehensive reduction in size, G.M. more than held its own at the time of the second round of gas lines. Its share of the market for American-built cars soared to over sixty per cent—and set new monthly records, which, among other factors, put Ford in trouble and sent Chrysler running to the government for help. Even though hard hit by the recent slump, with first-quarter profits down eighty-eight per cent from a year ago, G.M. is the only major American car manufacturer in the black. In April, it has accounted for sixty-five per cent of sales of American-built cars. Robert Stempel, the general manager at Pontiac, told me, “These days, it’s exciting to be at G.M.”

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This entry was posted on Monday, April 27th, 2009 at 3:34 pm and is filed under Cars, Etc.. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

5 Responses to “Past as Prologue: The Detroit Edition”

  1. aaron Says:

    More fuel efficient cars don’t mean a damn if we continue to give people bad information on how to drive and mis-manage traffic.

    Fast acceleration is better. Below 55mph, higher cruising speeds are more efficient (see graph, page 5).

    And slow acceleration decreases throughput at lights.

  2. aaron Says:

    And now we have the killer. Here each dot shows the speed and load for a typical mid size car at 1 second intervals during the US fuel economy test. Of the time the car takes to do the test, just 5 seconds are in the island of best BSFC. Quite a few of the dots (the authors say that they overlay) are at worst BSFC – idling at zero load with the car stationary!”

  3. aaron Says:

    (That’s not a criticism of the EPA testing, it’s a criticism of the way we drive.)

  4. Daniel Says:

    Oh-oh. Someone wants to make a point.

    Interestingly, the first paragraph of the very “page 5″ reads as follow: “Aggressive driving (speeding and rapid acceleration and braking) can lower your gas mileage by as much as 33% at highway speeds and 5% around town.” So much for “Fast acceleration is better”.

  5. aaron Says:

    Key there is braking and also highways speeds.

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Traffic Tom Vanderbilt

How We Drive is the companion blog to Tom Vanderbilt’s New York Times bestselling book, Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us), published by Alfred A. Knopf in the U.S. and Canada, Penguin in the U.K, and in languages other than English by a number of other fine publishers worldwide.

Please send tips, news, research papers, links, photos (bad road signs, outrageous bumper stickers, spectacularly awful acts of driving or parking or anything traffic-related), or ideas for my Slate.com Transport column to me at: info@howwedrive.com.

For publicity inquiries, please contact Kate Runde at Vintage: krunde@randomhouse.com.

For editorial inquiries, please contact Zoe Pagnamenta at The Zoe Pagnamenta Agency: zoe@zpagency.com.

For speaking engagement inquiries, please contact
Kim Thornton at the Random House Speakers Bureau: rhspeakers@randomhouse.com.

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Drive-on-the-left types can order the book from Amazon.co.uk.

For UK publicity enquiries please contact Rosie Glaisher at Penguin.

Upcoming Talks

April 9, 2008.
California Office of Traffic Safety Summit
San Francisco, CA.

May 19, 2009
University of Minnesota Center for Transportation Studies
Bloomington, MN

June 23, 2009
Driving Assessment 2009
Big Sky, Montana

June 26, 2009
PRI World Congress
Rotterdam, The Netherlands

June 27, 2009
Day of Architecture
Utrecht, The Netherlands

July 13, 2009
Association of Transportation Safety Information Professionals (ATSIP)
Phoenix, AZ.

August 12-14
Texas Department of Transportation “Save a Life Summit”
San Antonio, Texas

September 2, 2009
Governors Highway Safety Association Annual Meeting
Savannah, Georgia

September 11, 2009
Oregon Transportation Summit
Portland, Oregon

October 8
Honda R&D Americas
Raymond, Ohio

October 10-11
INFORMS Roundtable
San Diego, CA

October 21, 2009
California State University-San Bernardino, Leonard Transportation Center
San Bernardino, CA

November 5
Southern New England Planning Association Planning Conference
Uncasville, Connecticut

January 6
Texas Transportation Forum
Austin, TX

January 19
Yale University
(with Donald Shoup; details to come)

Monday, February 22
Yale University School of Architecture
Eero Saarinen Lecture

Friday, March 19
University of Delaware
Delaware Center for Transportation

April 5-7
University of Utah
Salt Lake City
McMurrin Lectureship

April 19
International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association (Organization Management Workshop)
Austin, Texas

Monday, April 26
Edmonton Traffic Safety Conference
Edmonton, Canada

Monday, June 7
Canadian Association of Road Safety Professionals
Niagara Falls, Ontario

Wednesday, July 6
Fondo de Prevención Vial
Bogotá, Colombia

Tuesday, August 31
Royal Automobile Club
Perth, Australia

Wednesday, September 1
Australasian Road Safety Conference
Canberra, Australia

Wednesday, September 22

Wisconsin Department of Transportation’s
Traffic Incident Management Enhancement Program
Statewide Conference
Wisconsin Dells, WI

Wednesday, October 20
Rutgers University
Center for Advanced Infrastructure and Transportation
Piscataway, NJ

Tuesday, March 8, 2011
Ontario Injury Prevention Resource Centre
Injury Prevention Forum
Toronto

Monday, May 2
Idaho Public Driver Education Conference
Boise, Idaho

Tuesday, June 2, 2011
California Association of Cities
Costa Mesa, California

Sunday, August 21, 2011
American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators
Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Attitudes: Iniciativa Social de Audi
Madrid, Spain

April 16, 2012
Institute for Sensible Transport Seminar
Gardens Theatre, QUT
Brisbane, Australia

April 17, 2012
Institute for Sensible Transport Seminar
Centennial Plaza, Sydney
Sydney, Australia

April 19, 2012
Institute for Sensible Transport Seminar
Melbourne Town Hall
Melbourne, Australia

January 30, 2013
University of Minnesota City Engineers Association Meeting
Minneapolis, MN

January 31, 2013
Metropolis and Mobile Life
School of Architecture, University of Toronto

February 22, 2013
ISL Engineering
Edmonton, Canada

March 1, 2013
Australian Road Summit
Melbourne, Australia

May 8, 2013
New York State Association of
Transportation Engineers
Rochester, NY

August 18, 2013
BoingBoing.com “Ingenuity” Conference
San Francisco, CA

September 26, 2013
TransComm 2013
(Meeting of American Association
of State Highway and Transportation
Officials’ Subcommittee on Transportation
Communications.
Grand Rapids MI

 

 

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