Growsing about Protectionism

So, seeing that the “Twin-Up!” (link) is released. It reported will about 215 mpg with an 8 gallon tank (consider refueling every 1600 miles, eh?)

But it likely won’t be released in the US. Well, no problem, just buy it there and bring it over. Woops. You can’t drive it here? Why? Because it has a CE safety rating which isn’t the same as the US ratings. What is the biggest difference, after all emissions isn’t going to be an issue, it doesn’t burn enough to have any substantial emissions? So then, what is the problem? It seems side air bags in the US are required to protect people who don’t wear seat belts, but in the CE they are only required to protect passengers wearing seat belts. Uhm? It’s illegal to drive in the US without a seat belt … so why then do we require cars to protect people when they engage in illegal activity? There is no good reason …

Or more accurately, the real reason is to isolate the CE and US markets from allowing cars approved over there from competing over here and vice versa. It’s all about smaller confined markets.

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5 comments

  1. Boonton says:

    The article says the car is just a concept car right now being exhibited at various auto shows that only has the ‘potential’ to become a ‘production car’ (i.e. one a normal consumer could actually buy and drive on a daily basis).

    I’m not seeing anything about side airbags preventing it from being sold in the US nor do I get why this is a problem for Volkswagen….which I know sells plenty of cars in the US being an astute champion of the driving game ‘punch buggy’.

  2. Boonton says:

    It’s illegal to drive in the US without a seat belt … so why then do we require cars to protect people when they engage in illegal activity?

    Before Ralph Nadar came along, the philosophy of auto safety was centered on addressing ‘unsafe drivers’. The problem with that approach, though, is it is attempting to engineer human nature to fit the technology, but it’s easier and more sensible to engineer technology to fit human nature. In other words it’s easier to make something idiot proof than it is to get rid of idiots.

    Since people will drive unsafely, auto design should be premised on the idea that people will behave like idiots behind the wheel. If hard and soft penalities convince many people to be less stupid, that’s great. But that will never be sufficient.

    As for your protectionism thesis:

    Or more accurately, the real reason is to isolate the CE and US markets from allowing cars approved over there from competing over here and vice versa. It’s all about smaller confined markets.

    The only problem is the US market is huge. If all that was standing in the way was air bags, VW would simply put the air bags in the car and tap the huge American market as well as enjoying the local market (I’m sure CE (Central europe?) doesn’t ban cars that exceed the local safety regulations).

    You’ve done this before with cars, Model X is sold in Europe but not the Us therefore it must be due to some regulation somewhere. I think more often than not the reason has to do with manufacturing capacity. A factory can only run 24 hours a day, it takes so much time to retool between different production lines. A manufactuer will not simply make every possible product for every possible market but will limit production to only the markets they think will generate the most profit to be in. Cars that do well for Europe may not do so well in the US so I wouldn’t be surprised if VW thinks their US manufacturing should center on Beatles, Jettas and other models that sell huge numbers here while keeping the micro-models for the European market.

  3. Mark says:

    Boonton,

    The only problem is the US market is huge.

    The market is not huge. There is not a high demand for “city cars” or small high efficiency cars. The market for them in the US is small. As I noted, I’m willing to ship the damn car myself … but it is illegal to drive here. Why? Emissions and air bags were the two reasons given. The air bag thing doesn’t make sense, but it does make sense to open markets up between the two regulatory zones (CE/US).

    Since people will drive unsafely, auto design should be premised on the idea that people will behave like idiots behind the wheel. If hard and soft penalties convince many people to be less stupid, that’s great. But that will never be sufficient.

    I’m sorry. Requiring illegal behavior by code to be safe doesn’t make any sense. Your explanation makes as much sense as requiring school children to wear bullet proof vests while guns in schools are not legal. Why aren’t your gun control maniacs pushing requiring vests to be worn by everyone at all times?

    I’m not seeing anything about side airbags preventing it from being sold in the US nor do I get why this is a problem for Volkswagen….which I know sells plenty of cars in the US being an astute champion of the driving game ‘punch buggy’.

    One cite quoted as saying the design requirements for making the car legal, remarks centered on the air bags, and tested for US markets was not worth the small market expected over here for that car. You looked in the wrong place. Look up importing cars and driving them here. If you want to do it on your own, you have to bring over and crash test three cars (and expense over 200k) before you can drive one here. This means you can’t do it alone.

    I think my alternative is to try to see if I can license it as an experimental kit car and see what I have to do to get it pushed into that category. Unless VW does decide to send it here.

    The points remains why not allow CE licensed cars to drive here and vice versa? You haven’t given a reason that holds water.

  4. Boonton says:

    You’re not describing a closed market, you’re describing a niche one. VW is perfectly capable of putting an airbag in the car for the US market, they don’t because it’s not worth it for them to tool their factory to sell to the handful of Americans willing to buy the car.

    I’m sorry. Requiring illegal behavior by code to be safe doesn’t make any sense.

    How does an airbag require you to not wear a seat belt? Also are seat belts substitutes to air bags? If they are then why not simply eliminate the seat belt requirement for all cars that have airbags? I suspect they are compliments, helping each other. If you’re going to be in a collision, it’s better to have a seat belt AND air bag since neither is perfect by themselves.

    Why aren’t your gun control maniacs pushing requiring vests to be worn by everyone at all times?

    How many people do you know who ever got shot in their life? Contrast that to how many people you know who have ever been in a car accident.

    If you want to do it on your own, you have to bring over and crash test three cars (and expense over 200k) before you can drive one here. This means you can’t do it alone.

    On the other hand what if you found 20 other people, fanatics for high mpg cars, who were willing to go in on it. Since crash testing 3 cars is a fixed cost, you can split the cost with them. Problem solved. VW may even be willing to make a deal that they will reimburse you if they decide the US market is worth the effort. (If you found more than 20 people, it’s quite possible you might get a European dealership to toss in the 3 cars for the crash testing too….)

    Clearly you represent a niche market with some money since it’s going to be expensive to buy a car from Europe and ship it to the US regardless.

    The points remains why not allow CE licensed cars to drive here and vice versa?

    Because different countries have different laws. Why is your 20 yr old allowed to drink in an English pub but not an American bar?

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for allowing exceptions for niches like yours. I would also make it easier to comply with the laws. For example, if they did 3 crash tests in Europe I think they should be able to submit the reports from those to the US and vice versa.

  5. Boonton says:

    Anyway from what I’m reading this is still a concept car whose only to be found at auto shows in places like Tokyo. Since it hasn’t gone into mass production and isn’t available to buy as a general consumer anywhere in the world how do you know the final product will not have air bags or won’t be available in the US?