Dexter Ford, the long respected auto industry journalist, recently had an article printed in the NYT, “As Cars Are Kept Longer, 200,000 Is New 100,000”. I was surprised at what he thought was important in that article until I began “walking a mile in his moccasins”, if you will. Here is a guy who has been writing about cars for decades. His very livelihood is based on the evaluation of new models – year after year. Has this man or for that matter, has any individual so well embedded in the auto industry ever driven a single vehicle over 200,000 miles? To most of these people, the very concept is probably a concerning and potentially embarrassing thought.
While economics are an extremely strong factor for driving the same car year after year, there are other motivations. If I have dated a woman more than a month, then they have heard the following explanation of my values. Most men purchase a new car and “Baby it” with frequent car washes, timely fluid changes, better quality fuel, they park it waaaay out in the parking lots to avoid door dings, …. Ah, but when the car is a few years old, the car washes are reduced or cease altogether. The fluids changes are between late and very late, they burn the cheapest gas and they park the vehicle right up by the grocery store door for every shopping cart and other cars to ding and potentially dong.
Now this never made sense to me in that a new car was less susceptible than an older car to scratches as the clear coat was thickest when new. Also, the fluids changes for a new car, at least beyond the initial break-in period for oil, would have less impact to wear than a much older vehicle. Burning cheap gas in a new car would have less impact than to an older model due to higher performing fuel and ignition systems. Door dings and the dreaded dongs are never desirable and are always worth a slightly longer walk from the parking lot.
Why have the women in my life heard this speech? Simple, older cars, like older women, require more tender loving care and a higher level of sensitivity than new cars. Women commonly receive lavish attention in the early years of a relationship and far less as the years pass. A mature, responsible guy takes the time to understand the needs of his car (and those of his woman). Is that to say that men who change their cars frequently are more superficial than those who drive the same vehicle for many years? In a word, yes. But I digress.
Dexter, someone with whom I have corresponded over the years, is out of his element on this issue. He likely has no experience nor does he exhibit any love for the art of longevity. His article paints these long term car owners almost as a curiosity. I understand he is in the business of selling new cars and convincing people that longevity is a good thing reduces the number of cars sold so ultimately results in less UAW workers. The migration to 75% light fleet diesel vehicles in the U.S. will result in a 40%-50% reduction of U.S. auto workers due to the proven 300,000-500,000 mile life-cycle track record. Yet, please consider this diesel migration is exactly what happened in Germany over the past 10 years and Germany has one of the strongest economies in the world.
Very simply, longevity is critical to sustainability. It reduces the manufacturing and recycling efforts which demand vast amounts of energy and new materials. People should embrace the concept that old cars are cool and environmentally friendly. Oh, wait, that is already a multi-billion dollar annual industry in the U.S. Within my firm, we are currently converting a DeLorean to be an Extreme Green Machine. When this first project is complete, we will convert classic Mustangs, Corvettes and maybe a T-bird. We might even convert a Toyota Prius, Tesla and Fisker Karma to run on B100. All of these vehicles will then achieve over 50mpbg on sustainable biodiesel from 2nd generation feedstock.
So, have I ever driven the same vehicle for more than 200,000 miles? Yes, in fact, I have driven every car I have ever owned (save a Toyota Supra that I had for less than a year) more than 100,000 miles, 2 cars over 200,000 miles and 1 car over 300,000 miles. I plan to drive my current vehicle, a Jeep Grand Cherokee 3.0L diesel, over 500,000 miles.
There is an old Chinese Proverb: A great lover is not someone who makes love to a different women each night, but rather makes love to the same woman every night for a lifetime. To paraphrase, the Greenest Car driver is the individual who drives the same environmentally friendly vehicle for decades.