Nearly 43 million Americans will start their summers on a high note with a Memorial Day weekend getaway. This long holiday weekend, marking the unofficial start of summer vacation season, will see the second-highest travel volume on record since AAA began tracking holiday travel volumes dating back to 2000, trailing only the bar set in 2005. Overall, an additional 1.5 million more people will take to the nation’s roads, rails and runways compared with last year, a 3.6% increase.
Despite a rising national gas price average that is inching closer to the $3 per gallon mark, the vast majority of holiday travelers will drive to their destinations. For these motorists, INRIX, a global transportation analytics company, expects travel delays on major roads could be more than three times longer than normal during evening commutes.
“Americans are eagerly anticipating the start of summer, and expensive gas prices won’t keep them home this Memorial Day weekend,” said Paula Twidale, vice president, AAA Travel. “Consumer spending remains strong, helped by solid job and income growth. Families continue to prioritize spending their disposable incomes on travel, and near-record numbers of them are looking forward to doing just that for Memorial Day.”
I’ve always felt one of the big tests of a relationship is a trip together. This is especially true if one isn’t in the living together phase yet, since a vacay puts people together in an almost 24/7 situation over an extended period of time, and allows one to either appreciate what it means to have the closeness, or discover things that annoy the living shit out of being that close.
I once went on a road trip with a woman I adored, and still adore to this day, driving 13 hours from Memphis to Denver. I really enjoy just the adventure of getting in a car, taking off in a direction, and not knowing what I’m going to see and experience. I remember thinking how beautiful the windmill farms in Kansas were as we drove through a rain storm. Oklahoma seems to be nothing but flat earth and toll roads. And people think I’m weird for this, but I love eating different gas station foods along the way. But there were some bumps and a point where I seriously considered leaving my companion at a gas station in the middle of bumfuck Missouri after things became so tense we were arguing about everything, including which offramps to take and whether to stop at Subway.
We both look back at the experience and laugh about it now, but I remember we could barely talk to each other by the time we got home. It weirdly improved our relationship in the long run, since we were able to work through those issues and examine why they happened.
And I miss the days before we had to be grown ups where we could throw our stuff into a piece-of-shit car and do a road trip.
The definition of what a “piece-of-shit car” is nowadays is a bit more nebulous. Several contributing factors have eliminated the market for old beaters, including the global recession of the late aughts affecting production levels in auto manufacturing, Americans deciding to hold on to their vehicles longer given financial pressures squeezing disposable income, and the removal of old cars from the U.S. used car market through the Cash for Clunkers program (a.k.a. Car Allowance Rebate System), which was designed to promote the sale of new cars in order to invigorate the economy and have a positive side benefit on the environment by putting people in automobiles with better fuel efficiency.
The effects of the Cash for Clunkers program have been the source of much debate and criticism, but it along with the impact of the recession, and economic pressures at the time and since (like rising fuel costs), arguably did have the effect of removing a lot of cheap, older cars which were the source of vehicles for younger, first-time drivers and lower-income workers in need of something just to get them from home to work or school. As a result, used car prices spiked in 2014. As the automobile industry was helped back from the brink, the economy improved, and automobile production increased, it led analysts to believe prices would again fall as used car inventories were restocked with trade-ins and the end of lease agreements. But those inventories were newer used cars, which act as alternatives for people deciding between something new and something with some miles that might be cheaper. That doesn’t do much for someone on a very limited budget, who can’t just call an Uber if they need to go somewhere.
To that end, the average transaction price for a used vehicle was $19,657 in the first quarter of 2018. That was an 18 percent increase from 2013. And the current new car market has seen prices spike to where the average price was more than $36,000 in February, while the average annual percentage rate for new-car loans climbed to 6.26 percent, leading economists to believe demand in the used-car market will grow even more. But all of this has been compounded by the Trump administration’s tax policy, where smaller than expected income tax returns has affected what was usually funds used as the down payment on a car, leading to cars sitting on dealer lots longer.
Trump does plenty of dumb shit, but IMO, this (the Chicken Tax debate) is not a good fight to pick. It’s not hard to make an argument for the Chicken Tax if you ignore all externalities … Which you can absolutely count on his base to do:
- As pointed out, the F-Series is the best selling automobile in the country.
- The F-Series is made in America (FUCK YEAH!).
- The F-Series is protected by the Chicken Tax.
- Ergo, the Chicken Tax is good, and all your fancy, liberal, schoolin-math can’t change that.
Seriously, if you can’t write a rebuttal that is readable at a 2nd grade reading level, and using any more than four bullet points, then the argument is already lost.
Things Trump base gives zero fucks about:
- Trucks are more expensive than they would be if there was no Chicken Tax. Go ahead and try to prove that to them.
- Ford is a global company now. That is, expressly, the opposite of what they want.
- The Chicken Tax has stifled the small-truck market. Small trucks are for girls and homos, ya pinko bastard.
- Innovation in the truck market has stagnated. Counterpoint: EcoBoost engines, aluminum construction, GMC Sierra Six-way Tailgate.
- It has limited market choices. Can I still buy an F-150? Yeah? Don’t care.
Within the new car market, just as the used, there are many potential lemons. When people discuss “bad cars,” it’s either because of mechanical reason, horrible design choices, or what the vehicles have come to represent culturally.
The Hummer H2 pretty much symbolizes everything wrong with late 1990s and early 2000s SUV design. The H2 was an expensive status symbol which just screamed insecurity. After the death of the Hummer brand was announced, Jalopnik had a piece asking readers: “What Will Men Desperate To Prove Their Masculinity Drive Now?” And to top it all off, it was an SUV that drank gas, but for all its heft, the H2 actually had deficiencies going off-road.
“The car I learned to drive on was my grandfather’s Ford Granada … It may be the worst car that Detroit ever built,” the Illinois senator said in an interview with Indianapolis radio station WFBQ. “This thing was a tin can. It was during the ’70s when oil had just gone up, so they were trying to compete with the Japanese,” Obama said. “They wanted to keep the cars big, so they made them out of tin foil. It would rattle and shake. You basically couldn’t go over 80 (miles per hour) without the thing getting out of control.”
Going through the various media lists for “worst cars ever” over the years, there are a few models that come up over and over again.
- Triumph Stag: British Leyland vehicles weren’t exactly known for having the greatest of build quality (e.g., google search “Lucas Industries” and “Prince of Darkness”). Cooling problems, lubrication issues, problems with the ignition system, and the quality of the rubber and metal were all liabilities for the Stag. These problems were the result of British Leyland deciding the Stag’s V8 engine would be two Triumph Slant-4 engines welded together.
- Ford Pinto: The car was a public relations disaster because of its very famous safety flaw, which was that it was prone to blowing up if rear-ended. The Pinto’s design positioned its fuel tank between the rear axle and the rear bumper. In a rear-end collision, the tank could rupture, leak gas, and catch fire. Crash tests demonstrated this was a possibility, even at relatively low speeds. Ford was aware of the issue, but found the results of the test, as well as any of the proposed changes, “inconclusive” as to their merit, and chose not to change the design. Much hilarity and many, many lawsuits followed, including a criminal prosecution.
To make matters worse, Ford decided-in its infamous cost-benefit analysis of the situation that became known as the Ford Pinto Memo-that paying off the cost of settlements for the victims ($50 million) was more financially beneficial than recalling and reinforcing the car’s rear ends ($121 million).
- Trabant: The car was East Germany’s most popular for nearly 30 years, and it could be seen tooling around the other Communist bloc countries. A two-stroke engine gave it all of 18 horsepower. A dearth of basic features such as turn signals and brake lights didn’t help. To fill the gas tank you had to lift the hood, add gasoline and oil, and shake. This would be your prize for enduring a 15-year waiting list before taking delivery of a small sub-compact.
- Chevrolet Corvair: The car that made Ralph Nader famous. Like the Pinto, the Corvair had safety problems. A part that reportedly cost $6 was the difference between a Corvair that maintained its decorum while cornering at high speeds and one that grossly oversteered.
- Yugo GV: Yugos, priced below $4,000 when first introduced, are now remembered as cheap jokes, which they literally were. The GV was plagued with engine problems, steering problems, problems with the stereo, problems with the floor, problems with everything. What worked in a Yugo worked as poorly and cheaply as possible.
“I once test drove a Yugo, during which the radio fell out, the gear shift knob came off in my hand, and I saw daylight through the strip around the windshield.“
- Fiat Strada: Warnings were issued regarding service issues for the Strada —known internationally as the Ritmo— before it even hit the streets in 1978. It was riddled with rust on its floors, engine mounts, and suspension, which were all susceptible to premature oxidization. Coupled with the fact that it only produced 75 horsepower, dissatisfaction with the car was high. Lawsuits regarding the rust pushed the Italian carmaker from the American market until the brand’s reintroduction, which coincided with Fiat’s takeover of Chrysler. The Strada also managed to give robots a bad name: It was the first car built exclusively using robots.
- Chevrolet Vega: The first time General Motors tested this car on the track, its front end reportedly broke off from the rest of the vehicle. Starting at $2,090, the Vega offered little space with its 97-inch wheelbase (the distance from the center of the front wheel to the center of the rear) and had disturbingly little horsepower, 90, out of its four-cylinder aluminum block engine, which was prone to overheating issues.
- AMC Pacer: The car was ridiculed for its appearance, but it was a dud in terms of quality and execution, as well. Make your own assessment about its bizarre proportions, but don’t miss the one door that’s bigger than the other.
- Ford Bronco II: Although many people loved them for being a small, rugged SUV, in the 1980s Ford’s Bronco II practically invented the phrase “prone to rollovers.” How bad did things get? The vehicle’s drivers realized they probably shouldn’t drive a Bronco II up a steep hill. Ford’s employees said as much in an inter-office memo that was circulated in 1986. Ford sent out 288 service bulletins on the 1985 Bronco II.
- Pontiac Aztec: The car was ridiculed for its exterior design, which is generally considered to be one of the ugliest of any vehicle in memory. However, its part in being the signature vehicle of Walter White (Bryan Cranston) in Breaking Bad has given the vehicle some renewed love.
Long the butt of many a joke in the auto industry, the Pontiac Aztek finally got its day to shine on Breaking Bad. This is such a great choice of a car for Walt on so many levels. When the series starts, Walt is kind of a pathetic, ineffectual man who struggles to get respect from anyone. His life never turned out the way he wanted to. He’s reasonably happy, but he never lived up to his true potential. You know he bought that battered old Aztek used because he got a good price on it and hasn’t really taken care of it. It’s appropriate for his lame, suburban existence.
Then Walt gets cancer. And then he starts cooking meth and selling it to pay his medical bills and ensure his family’s viability when he’s done. And then he becomes a crime boss and a killer. Breaking Bad isn’t really about drugs, it’s about Walt’s plummet into a moral abyss.
And that’s why the Aztek is so fitting. The car was lambasted as a perfect example of groupthink and managerial bad decisions at General Motors. In many ways, it can be seen as a symbol of their downward spiral into near-death during the Carpocalypse. Deep down inside, it represents something ugly, not unlike the path Walt follows as the show goes on.
- Dodge Aspen / Plymouth Volare: The Aspen and its counterpart Volare, whose name means “I will fly away” in Spanish, were among some of Chrysler’s 1970s attempts at compact cars. They were also prone to issues with vapor lock. The Mopar Slant-6 engine is considered one of the most durable vehicle power plants in existence. However, the engineers at Chrysler thought it would be a good idea to put the exhaust headers right next to the intake runners in the Aspen and Volare, making the intake air nice and warm before reaching the pistons. Moreover, the carburetor sits above the exhaust manifold, and that gives the owner of these vehicles vapor lock, which requires a small process to get the car started. Moreover, drivers also complained the Aspen and Volare were prone to stalling at inopportune times, like in the middle of traffic.
- Ford Mustang II: It was Motor Trend’s Car of the Year in 1974 and was a financial success for Ford, who sold millions of Mustang IIs during the 1970s. However, it is now regarded as the worst Mustang Ford ever produced. It was a pony car which lacked in horsepower. It sports Firestone 500 tires, which had problems with tread separation. And its design was based on the Pinto.
- Cadillac Cimarron: The 1980s were a wondrous time of bright pastels and large mounds of cocaine. How else could one explain this car? Apparently, an executive at General Motors thought they could take a Chevy Cavalier, put in some leather seats, slap some Cadillac stuff on it, add an extra $5,000 to the sticker, and profit. And sadly enough, they pulled it off for a while.