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July 24, 2019

About The Autoextremist

Peter M. DeLorenzo has been immersed in all things automotive since childhood. Privileged to be an up-close-and-personal witness to the glory days of the U.S. auto industry, DeLorenzo combines that historical legacy with his own 22-year career in automotive marketing and advertising to bring unmatched industry perspectives to the Internet with, which was founded on June 1, 1999. DeLorenzo is known for his incendiary commentaries and laser-accurate analysis of the automobile business, as well as racing and the business of motorsports. Author. Commentator. Influencer. The Consigliere. Minister of the High-Octane Truth. DeLorenzo is considered to be one of the most influential voices commenting on the business today.

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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The Autoextremist - Rants


RANTS #462

September 10, 2008

Memo to Mr. Sepkowitz.

By Peter M. De Lorenzo

Detroit. It had to happen, of course, what with the burgeoning “Green at all costs” movement gaining steam in this country - to the detriment of rhyme, reason or rational thought, I might add - but the anti-car faction is now sharpening its knives and going after the Ultimate Evil (in their warped opinion): Speed. As in the put-the-pedal-to-the-metal automotive kind.

That the latest missive fired against that Ol’ Devil Speed (and all the inherent evils associated with the practice) was provided a home in last Sunday’s New York Times is no real surprise; after all, this is the same newspaper that can barely conceal its disgust with anything and everything to do with the automobile (despite the tireless hands on-staff that still try to churn out a competent car section every week), and the same newspaper that employs one Thomas L. Friedman, the self-appointed Patron Saint of the anti-car, anti-Detroit intelligentsia establishment in this country.

The author of this latest attack against the automobile - and traveling in a timely fashion - was one Kent A. Sepkowitz, vice-chairman of medicine at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, who, playing op-ed contributor for a day contributed a piece so filled with baseless statements, untruths and questionable statistics that it made my head spin.

I’m not going to regurgitate all of the turgid blabber that Sepkowitz deposited on the op-ed page of what once was an august media institution but which is now a fading, punch-drunk shadow of its former self fumbling against the ropes, but I will repeat just enough so that you can get the gist.

Let’s start with this opening passage:

“Speeding is the cause of 30 percent of all traffic deaths in the United States — about 13,000 people a year. By comparison, alcohol is blamed 39 percent of the time, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. But unlike drinking, which requires the police, breathalyzers and coercion to improve drivers’ behavior, there’s a simple way to prevent speeding: quit building cars that can exceed the speed limit.

Most cars can travel over 100 miles an hour — an illegal speed in every state. Our continued, deliberate production of potentially law-breaking devices has no real precedent. We regulate all sorts of items to decrease danger to the public, from baby cribs to bicycle helmets. Yet we continue to produce fast cars despite the lives lost, the tens of billions spent treating accident victims, and a good deal of gasoline wasted. (Speeding, after all, substantially reduces fuel efficiency due to the sheering force of wind.)”

After that bully opening, Sepkowitz veered off into a mind-numbing attempt to cherry pick statistics (that mean absolutely nothing) in his quest to link Evil Speed to every known affliction and challenge facing all of mankind. If you care to read the column yourself have at it, but I’ll save you the effort and cut to his conclusion, which was priceless:

“Because the ticket-them-till-they-stop approach simply would not work, we might consider my initial recommendation: build cars that can’t exceed the speed limit. The technology to limit car speed has existed for more than 50 years — it’s called cruise control. In its common application, cruise control maintains a steady speed, but a minor adjustment would assure that vehicles, no matter the horsepower, never go past 75 miles per hour. This safety measure should be required of every new automobile, the same as seat belts, turning signals, brake lights and air bags.

Sure, it would take us longer to get from here to there. But thousands of deaths a year are too great a cost for so adolescent a thrill as speeding.”

Oh, so that’s it. It’s that old speeding is an adolescent thrill concept that has Sepkowitz’ shorts all in a bunch.

Memo to Mr. Sepkowitz:

We auto enthusiasts – and a whole bunch of ordinary citizens to boot - are not ready to subjugate our personal freedoms for people like you. And don’t tell us we don’t know your type either, because we know exactly what you’re all about, and we can spot people like you a mile away.

You’re the type who is hell-bent on turning this country into a “no meaningful life experience” zone, where we all careen around in our self-inflated, air bag-equipped body suits and protective helmets (because after all, we might trip and fall and if our heads are exposed we might get a massive head injury, get sunburned, or worse, stung by horrific insects lurking behind every leaf or attacked by roving packs of wild dogs, or…) - a tepid wasteland where all of the vagaries and color of life are sanitized, homogenized or removed altogether.

You’re the type who would have us – once properly fitted with our suits and helmets, of course - drive our glorified golf carts around that would be so laden with air bags that the top speed would only nudge 35mph, downhill. 75mph? A distant memory. A convertible? You have to be kidding. Wow, just think of all the nasty things that might happen while driving around in an open car!

You’re the type who would prohibit your kids from going to a live concert (or heaven forbid, a car race) because the noise could damage their ears, and let’s not even get into what could possibly happen when teen hormones are unleashed in a parked car on a dark empty street (hate to burst your bubble there, Kent, but those suits would be off so fast it would make your head spin).

You’re the type who would legislate that any little league activity could only operate under the idea that everybody plays and nobody loses, because after all, you wouldn’t want your little darlings to be exposed to the reality of life, where people don’t make the cut and where there are - lo and behold - actual winners and losers.

You’re the type who is behind the notion that our schools should be havens of “education at your own pace,” - touchy-feely, lowest common denominator, pass/fail nirvanas where no one actually does anything and no one actually learns anything - and where students are constantly reminded of how “special” and “wonderful” they are even though they can’t write in complete sentences and can’t pass a rudimentary math exam by the time they get to college.

And you’re the type who thinks that ultimately everything and everyone is “ok” and that nothing is ever anyone’s fault (there is always some dark, faceless corporate institution to blame for the bad things that happen to people, right, Sepkowitz?), and you find that the notions of accountability and taking responsibility for one’s actions are strangely abhorrent and uncomfortable. Which is why you’re perfectly comfortable with having life handed to you on a platter at whatever portion our “leaders” deem appropriate for your safety and well-being, right?

Oh, we know your type alright, Mr. Sepkowitz, and we have no time for people like you. Not in the least.

Life happens. Fast. And most of us understand that there are consequences for our actions and that bad things can happen sometimes. But we’re willing to gamble it all and go out of our houses each and every day because going through the motions - or living with the “fear” that something bad might happen to us if we actually live our lives - is a risk we’re willing to take.

We don’t live in the country that you want to see happen, Sepkowitz, thank goodness. And we don’t ever want to, either.

You see, personal freedom isn’t an option here. It may be in other places around the world but not here. And we like it that way, amazingly enough.

So I suggest you sit down, take a deep breath, and go back to whatever it is that you do, because we have places to go and people to see, and you’re slowing us down.

Thanks for listening, see you next Wednesday.