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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

watch it: the weekly address from President-elect Barack Obama

I keep waiting for Obama to say: Sure, we’ll bail out Big Auto, but any company that takes a bailout will immediately retool to build the most fuel-efficient cars on the planet. You know, like how FDR ordered you to retool to build tanks and shit in the 1930s, and you did it, and it was awesome. Listen, Detroit, you screamed at CAFE standards that mentioned 35MPG? We’re talking 60MPG, bitches. Suck on that.

Why doesn’t Obama say that?

I gotta tell ya, I freaked when I saw the price of gas when I was in England this autumn: it was something over nine bucks a gallon. But then I did a little math as I was driving around my wonderful little Vauxhall Astra rental: that sucker was getting somewhere between 50 and 60 miles to the gallon. This was not a tiny car, certainly nowhere near as small as the cars I saw in Paris in the spring. It had a back seat and a decent-size trunk. Why aren’t these cars, or cars like them, all over the roads in the U.S.?

(I know, the “trunk” looks small, but we fit two huge suitcases and other stuff in that hatchback.)

I’ll tell ya one thing: it ain’t because Big Auto has offered them to us and we refused them.

(photo by Bonnie-Ann Black)

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  • MaryAnn

    Also, that Vauxhall had a lot of power and was a ton of fun to drive. I wish I could rent something like that when I have to rent a car in the U.S.

  • Ken

    Notice anything curiously absent from the end of the address?

  • Mark

    any company that takes a bailout will immediately retool to build the most fuel-efficient cars on the planet

    Indeed. Or, as I like to think of it, we don’t give them a bailout — instead we hire the auto companies to build a bunch of fuel-efficient vehicles, in American factories with American workers.

    (one idea is to replace the entire federal vehicle fleet with electric, hybrid, and propane vehicles built under such a contract).

    If you haven’t, I’d encourage you to submit your thoughts to the transition team at change.gov. The Obama administration is certainly acting like they’re listening.

  • Jurgan

    JSW, was that spam necessary?

    “Notice anything curiously absent from the end of the address?” I’m not sure what you’re referring to…

  • Nathan

    Notice anything curiously absent from the end of the address?

    He forgot to put the turkey in the death funnel!

    Sounds like more campaigning to me. Hopefully he’s just waiting until he’s actually Pres before he gets specific.

  • MaryAnn

    What did Obama not say? He didn’t say, “God bless America.”


    And no, spam is not tolerated here, and JSW’s has been deleted.

  • Jackie

    It amazes me that an Astra is seen as terribly fuel efficient by US standards! I drove an Astra van for many years and it was OK. What’s the average mileage of US cars?

  • MaryAnn

    Oh, Jackie! I don’t know what kind of mileage the “average” American car gets, but there are ads on TV for cars that tout “surprisingly good” MPGs that are in the low 20s. (Those ads make me want to throw stuff at the TV.) If those ads are considered effective, then most people must be getting worse mileage than that.

    I loved the Saturn that I owed for ten years, and I was ecstatic when, on a long highway trip, with few stops and starts, it would get around 35MPG.

    I should say, too, that the Astra I rented was an automatic (because I can’t drive a stick). I’m sure a manual would get even better mileage than my rental did.

  • Ken

    What did Obama not say? He didn’t say, “God bless America.”

    Exactly. I hope it’s gone for good from presidential addresses. Maybe the cringe reflex will go away eventually.

  • Joanne

    As a Brit, what I’ve noticed in America is the complete lack of a) decent walking routes in towns and b) people willing to walk them. I did a big long walking tour round Boston with friends (two Americans, and a Norwegian) and mostly it was okay but there were some points where walking really wasn’t safe. And yet in London I’d happily walk an hour to work, through the parks, along the pavements. My American friends think nothing of getting a taxi for a trip that would take 20 minutes to walk. A whole culture shift around cars and transport is needed, I think; the authorities need to provide better public transport and safer places to walk or cycle; and the public needs to demand those things – and smaller, more fuel-efficient cars. Maybe more expensive petrol would help?

  • Gee

    The Vauxhall Astra is a General Motors car. I’m surprised there isn’t a US version. I saw US versions of the Ford Focus when I was in the US. They looked similar to my British Focus but not quite the same, so perhaps under the bonnet there are divergences also.

    I used to drive an Astra with the 2 litre petrol engine, which is at the top of the range, and it had plenty of get up and go. Plus there is no problem with luggage space. My Focus is a 2 litre diesel engine and I get 48 mpg for a mix of stop-start city traffic and 70-80 mph motorway. Again, using the gears properly, it has excellent acceleration and is a fun drive. If I think about driving more economically, I can get much better figures.

  • What did Obama not say? He didn’t say, “God bless America.”


    Personally, I don’t get the much ado about nothing, but it is interesting to get a glimpse of your priorities. ;-)

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