Automobile Magazine's Car of the Year is the Chevy Volt. Yes, an American car. Yes, a Chevrolet. From the design staff and the engineering staff and the secretarial staff who drove and commented and submitted their ideas, the editorial staff decided that
Because it is sui generis, because it is taking the concept of the green vehicle off the drawing board and onto our roadways, because it is new, it is now the Car of the Year.
In 2007 and again in 2010 the Volkswagon GTI was awarded that honor. The Schnozz is a 2007 GTI, and it is a pure driving delight. It is mechanically sound and pretty to look at and has the sweetest little shift action. It is a car, not an experiment. The Volt feels like an experiment.
I'm not sure how I feel about a car that can't get me across the Grapevine and into Bakersfield without a fully charged battery pack. It's one thing to run out of gas; gas stations exist. But what happens when you are driving across Utah, or Nebraska, or Wyoming or Nevada? The roads are long and straight and lightly traveled; there are no gas stations let alone electric lines that run along the highways. People there live off the grid, without sewers, with wells, with lone wires running from a pole to the house. I don't see charging stations as a natural enhancement to the environment. Or a practical plan.
Now, to be fair, the Volt has a gas/electric hybrid system powering itself. You begin by using the electric charge and, when that runs out, after 25-50 miles according to GM, the vehicle switches itself to using good old fossil fuel. Premium fossil fuel at that. I suppose that's how I'd get across Utah.
The magazine found fault with the design, the interior appointments and the inaccessible back seat. It's plastic and not user-friendly and it costs $41,000. Somehow, though, it still became Car of the Year.
And so I wonder: is this our show-up-get-a-trophy world run amok? Do something different and people will rush to make sure you know how wonderful you are? Congratulations on making a ticky-tacky vehicle? The Volt might well be "an automotive pioneer" but calling it "the most important vehicle on the road today" feels a tad over-reaching. So does calling it the Automobile of the Year.
I'm sorry, but creating a vehicle that costs too much and delivers too little doesn't seem to deserve a prize.
Thanks to Big Cuter for this prompt. Apparently I did have some thoughts on the electric car :)