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The best kind of cars

May 7, 2014
By Larry DeHays , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

People keep asking which cars are better: American, German, Japanese or Korean. Good question, too bad there is no good answer.

Each country makes cherries and lemons. Both the Germans and the Japanese make some great cars. They both got their big boosts from war reparations after WWII. That just proves that North Korea should have surrendered to us. If they had, they might be a booming economy by now, making great cars too. Instead, their southern cousins, who were our allies rather than our enemies, are making cars, without the boost of war reparations, and their cars don't quite measure up to the products of the war losers, but they're closing fast. It would seem that economics, like drinking, makes for strange bedfellows.

The one fly in the ointment of this theory is Sweden. They just continue to make great cars while they watch the rest of us start and lose wars. Maybe it's just too cold there to fight. The Volvo has been a solid car since forever (and still is) and the Saab, although sometimes looking really strange, has always been an engineering masterpiece. They used to put their engines in backward, with the belts against the firewall. I guess it was just an experiment. You can get very bored in cold country.

A big problem the manufacturers have is differing regulations around the world, making it difficult to make cars to suit different countries. European cars have to have white turn signals; America requires amber. American emission laws are stricter that anyone else's, except for California, which is even stricter than America. What? It's part of what country? You're kidding.

Also, Japan, Australia and all other former British colonies insist on driving on the wrong side of the road, so their steering wheels need to be on the right side of the car. An exception, for some strange reason, is the American Virgin Islands, where they drive on the left with American cars. This puts the drivers on the curb side of the car. Overtaking and passing is enough excitement to counteract the "rock fever" one gets from living there. Because their Vikings spent so much time raiding English castles, Sweden began driving on the left like the British. They decided to switch to the right many years ago. Nordic people are very calm and logical, so they simply set a date when the switch would be made at midnight. I doubt there was anyone on the roads on that midnight it happened. They simply made the switch and went back to work the next day, shoveling snow.

Even the air bags differ. American cars have to work even if people are not wearing their seat belts. The European models assume everyone is wearing their belts. Americans can be stubborn. I still hear people complain that the belts might trap them in a car, so they won't wear them. I suggest they take their theory to Daytona Raceway and try to talk those drivers out of using their belts and harnesses. So far they've not been successful doing that, but they won't change their minds.

So back to the best car question. It is all settled in the marketplace. You get what you pay for, with a little leeway for luck. An expensive one might be bad, and a cheap one might be good. The English make good cars, the Germans make some great cars, The Italians make a few great cars, and some other kinds. I think the French gave up, (imagine that) trying to make cars for Americans. North Korea failed to surrender, so South Korea is taking advantage of the slack. Our own brands went broke, except for Ford, but are cranking them out again -some good, some not so much- and price still seems to be the best indicator of quality. You can buy an older model of a high quality car, or a newer model of a cheaper one.

Would you rather have the best room in a cheap hotel, or the cheapest room in the best hotel if they were the same price? Think about it.



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