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August 14, 2019

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DeLorenzo's latest book is Witch Hunt (Octane Press It is available on Amazon in both hardcover and Kindle formats, as well as on iBookstore. DeLorenzo is also the author of The United States of Toyota.

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RANTS #446

May 21, 2008

“Scooterlicious?” Not so much.

By Peter M. De Lorenzo

Detroit. In this new era of $4.00+ gasoline (soon to be $5.00 or even $6.00 according to which dire prognostication you ascribe to at the moment), the American car-buying public finally seems to be getting the message that they need to make smarter choices when it comes to their vehicle selection process. That would merit a “Duh of the Week” from us if it weren’t so obvious - or pathetically late - but nonetheless at least the message is finally hitting home. But along with America’s new head-first charge into fuel efficiency is the inevitable downside, and by that I mean the rampant stupidity that comes with it.

How so? Let’s face it, we’re a faddish country. We don’t just embrace what’s “of-the-moment” hot, we beat it into submission until every last vestige of why we were so enamored with it to begin with has been hopelessly lost in the frenzy of the “gotta have it” chase.

We only have to look as far as what happened during the height of the SUV craze to see how foolish and absurd things became. People were clamoring for more, and the Detroit Three accommodated them with SUVs for every segment and every checkbook. Or, you could easily argue that the Detroit Three, smitten with the gargantuan profits built into them, fueled the artificial demand for more SUVs by making them smoother, more accessible and easier to drive, to the point that people were buying them for their solo commutes to work. Suffice to say, there’s a lot of truth to both sides of the discussion when it comes to explaining the off-the-charts popularity of SUVs at the peak of the craze.

No, I’m not disparaging all SUVs, because if you need the room and the space, they’re hard to beat. But clearly by the end, I would venture to guess that 60 percent (or more) of SUV purchases fell into the totally unnecessary category. And now today, all of that illogical thinking that went into people rationalizing getting SUVs that they didn’t really need is coming home to roost in a hangover of collapsed retail prices, upside-down trade-ins, and for the Detroit Three a basic elimination of the profit center that they dined on for years.

A giant bowl of not good all around, I’d say.

But now that Americans are finally realizing that the era of cheap gas is over with, the rampant stupidity I spoke about is really starting to get cranked up. People are making wildly irrational decisions to get into fuel efficient cars left and right. How does that basic common sense meter get screwed-up enough in consumers’ heads to compel them to take an $8,000 to $10,000 cash hit on a vehicle transaction in order to “save money” at the pump?

The only explanation I can come up with for this nonsensical behavior is that it’s clear that the frenzy caused by the spike in gasoline prices has started to affect people’s brains, and not in a good way, either. I could go on about this subject for several columns, but needless to say, there are a bunch of car dealers out there quietly smiling to themselves every day as consumers suspend all rational thinking and make boneheaded decisions to their own personal financial detriment.

But I reserve particular ire for the burgeoning scooter movement that’s being written about on an alarmingly frequent basis in the media with every new report of another record price for a barrel of oil. Now, don’t get me wrong, because I have nothing against scooters. I like them, as a matter of fact. They can be fun, efficient and even cool in the right circumstances. But presenting scooters as a viable transportation option for the masses in this country is flat-out irresponsible.

Let me backup here for a second and repeat that sentence: “...can be fun, efficient and even cool in the right circumstances.” Guess what, folks - riding your Vespa down Woodward Avenue, Michigan Avenue or Fifth Avenue does not constitute “the right circumstances.” Americans clearly watched too many Italian movies from the 60s and became enamored with the whole "sweater tied around the neck/sunglasses on top of your head/voluptuous girl hanging on the back of the scooter" thing, and this latest gas frenzy has started to warp their thinking, big time.

First of all, scooters aren’t cute little toys. The typical American motorist doesn’t quite grasp this concept. They just think things through about this far: “I can save hundreds of dollars a month if I buy that thing!” Now, normally I can laugh along with this kind of Homer Simpson-type of instant gratification logic, but the reality of this thinking is not so appealing.

Anyone with two-wheeled experience will tell you that if you’re a serious, competent and responsible rider there’s nothing casual about two-wheeled motoring. You have to anticipate, avoid putting yourself in precarious situations, and always assume that the other motorists don’t see you. To conduct yourself any other way on a bike is a recipe for trouble.

With that in mind then, take your average American motorist (who has the unfortunate attention span of a ten-year-old behind the wheel of a car to begin with), and then put him or her on a brand-spanking-new “cute” Vespa (or any other scooterlicious transport of the moment) and unleash them on the general populace. The words Not Good don’t even begin to describe the peril involved in the reality of that concept. Not to mention little things like the horrible, crumbling roads, which can send you flying in a nanosecond, or the distracted drivers on their cell phones in very large vehicles that don’t see you while you’re pretending you’re basking in life’s wondrous glow along the Cote d’Azur. (And guess what, folks - when you’re on a scooter, even a Honda Fit qualifies as a “very large” vehicle.)

I for one hope that the scooter movement doesn’t go too far. Sure, in very limited applications they can be all-good, but unfortunately the last time I checked we aren’t exactly a nation chock-full of narrow, cobblestone streets that lend themselves to jumping on your scooter and going into the city center for some baguettes and provolone.

No, instead we’re a giant nation with legions of distracted drivers roaming around hard-scrabble city centers and suburban byways, and we don’t take too kindly to stray, distracted scene-sters taking in the color of the city while pretending to live La dolce vita.

But true to form, especially given our faddish, hula-hoop history, we’re going to have to endure this latest American fad-frenzy for a while now, however - and the totally irrational and illogical thinking that comes with it – from monumentally dumb car deals to errant scooters careening around in search of espresso.

Just remember to double-check that sideview mirror, because there might be a stray “Marcello” or “Sophia” hanging off your rear bumper pretending to be somewhere else, which means they’re probably not paying attention, which means that...oh never mind.

Thanks for listening, see you next Wednesday.

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