the view through the windshield car blog

Vehicles As Appliances

Sure, car guys don't feel this way - and get huffy whenever the subject is brought up - but to most owners, a vehicle is a just method of transportation - an appliance.

These days, referring to a car as an 'appliance' is considered an insult. It wasn't always so.

Appliances were new-fangled and wondrous things in the 1920s. My maternal grandparents didn't get an electric refrigerator until the 1930s. As a teenager, I could still see and touch the zinc-lined, mahogany ice box which my grandmother kept in the basement - 'just in case' electricity was repealed.

Although Bendix introduced the first automatic washing machine in 1937, most households didn't have automatic washers until after World War II.

Kelvinator was among some two dozen home refrigerator brands introduced to the U.S. market in 1916. By 1923, Kelvinator had grabbed an astounding 80% of the market for electric refrigerators.

The Depression of the 1930s hit the appliance market hard; sales dropped by almost 35%. George W. Mason assumed control of Kelvinator in 1928. Under his leadership, the company lowered its costs while increasing market share through 1936 - a remarkable feat. Mason then joined the auto field and manufactured Nashes successfully and profitably for many years.

For those Millennials who never heard of Nash, Wall Street Journal writer Dan Neil offered the 2016 Kia Sorento SUV as an example. The as-equipped, priced at $46,000 one - Ouch!

I think I'd look at a Subaru Forester Limited for under $30,000. But that's me. I'm partial to Subies. I'm not alone. Subaru expects to sell over 550,000 vehicles here this year and is increasing the capacity of its Indiana plant by 100,000 vehicles.

But ... I digress.

The Kia Sorento weighs almost 4,200 pounds, so that works out to $10.80 per pound. That's on the high side of my cars-by-the-pound theorem. The Kia has a 240 horsepower turbocharged 2-liter four-cylinder engine, does 0-60 mph in 8 seconds - which could run circles around your old white porcelain '35 Kelvinator - and gets about 22 mpg.

Dan noted "As much as car companies would like you to believe the products and brands are all different and special, they are, functionally, mostly not, at least insofar as most consumers would exercise them. Really, dude, is a car that goes to 60 mph in 3.8 seconds better than one that goes in 4.0? You are never going to … I mean, what kind of soulless monstrosity are you?

The truth is, vast forces are at work making cars of the same function and same price virtually the same car. Some are technical. The regimes of federal crash-testing and fuel-economy standards tend to flatten design opportunities, as does the unyielding pressure for lower weight and drag. Some causes are merely the vulgar work of industrial capitalism: supply and demand, supplier costs, labor and transportation.

The point is, once you see through the matrix, mass-market cars are revealed as commodities, sourced from one or another without a big difference in intrinsic value and function.

Now, while other car brands might flee at such a description, Kia really has embraced being a commodity, celebrated it even, much the way Pabst Blue Ribbon became weirdly chic. Kias are the happy widget."

For what it's worth, the Sorento is built in West Point, GA and has 53% U.S./Canadian parts.

Neil concluded, "Look, the mission is dreary, cost-effective shambling back and forth, day after day, between school, and store, and home, and work or station, until you die. This mission the Sorento will execute flawlessly."

This week, Apple announced that it might begin producing cars in 2019.

My grandmother used to keep apples in her refrigerator.

Circle of life. (posted 7/23/15)

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The facts presented on this website are based on my best guesses and my substantially faulty geezer memory. The opinions expressed herein are strictly those of the author and are protected by the U.S. Constitution. Probably.

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If I have slandered any brands of automobiles, either expressly or inadvertently, they're most likely crap cars and deserve it. Automobile manufacturers should be aware that they always have the option of trying to change my mind by providing me with vehicles to test drive.

If I have slandered any people or corporations, either expressly or inadvertently, they should buy me strong drinks (and an expensive meal) and try to prove to me that they're not the jerks I've portrayed them to be. If you're buying, I'm willing to listen.

Don't be shy - try a bribe. It might help.