Too complicated

Yes! It is always fun to play with gadgets, but that soon wears thin when all you want to do is get to town or take a quick trip to the next state. For that you only need a car or, perhaps, a van that can take you there reliably and in comfort.

All the other on-board computers, map displays, zonal climate controls, and digitized seat modulators are distractions that often require someone to pull out the owner's guide to figure out how to make it function. Besides that, the toys add more cost than function.

I follow what I preach. The most complicated device on my 1996 minivan is separate controls for the front and rear climate control. My 1998 pick-up truck has only a radio and simple heater. Nothing ever requires repairs.
John O. Bartlett
Brighton, MI

Not complicated enough

No, cars aren't complicated enough — where it counts. It's the “behind the scene” complexity that can always be increased to improve the functionality of the vehicle while reducing the complexity of the human-to-machine interface (the automatic transmission is a classic example).

The complexity being presented to the driver is a cop out of the engineers and management. They, in effect, cause the driver to engineer/calibrate the car by configuring its systems. This is the homework that should have been done by the company had they understood their customer and the purpose of the car's systems.
Tom Mioduszewski
Dearborn, MI

Lifestyle drives consumption

It doesn't take a statistician to look at the data presented by John McElroy in the article.

It's our lifestyle that drives consumption, not any silly mandate about efficiency. So people will still work farther away, and the distance people drive will potentially increase to 20,000 miles (32,000 km) a year. But this is all really buried in the consumption numbers. Consumption still increased because there are more people, more people live farther away from work and have to drive more to do their chores, and they need more cars to do it in.

Cars being more efficient enabled all these Americans to change their lifestyle, needing to drive more, buy more and have more babies? So why is everyone still buying SUVs and other fuel pigs? I doubt the significance of consumption change by any of the factors you mentioned because they are numbers that will increase regardless of mandated fuel economy.

There is no one solution. Better standards, higher taxes, less driving, better infrastructure are all going to help to improve the dependence/consumption of limited resources issue.

The question is, does anyone really care enough about our grandchildren to do it now?
John RA Benson
Portland, OR

But is it legal?

Re: “Are Cars Getting Too Complicated?” (see WAW — March '01, p.26). BMW's valet parking instructions appear to show that the 7-Series does not comply with FMVSS 571.102, which requires “Park” to be adjacent to, and above “Reverse,” on a column mounted shifter. The question is not, is it too complicated, but is it legal?
Jay Susalla
Auburn Hills, MI

Don't cozy up to Japan

I'd like to comment on Drew Winter's commentary on WJR this morning March 7, 2002, which also appeared in the March WAW Scuttlebutt column (see WAW — March '02, p.23). He talked about the e-mail that has been circulated concerning the charitable contributions made to 9/11 survivors by the Japanese auto companies. His report was that Toyota and Honda made significant contributions and that their presence in the U.S. was extremely valuable because they employ tens of thousand of jobs in this country.

At this point I wanted to throw up! What he didn't say while he was in the process of sucking up to the Japanese auto makers was that they are shipping unprecedented numbers of engines and transmissions into this country like there is no tomorrow with exorbitant cash flowing back to Japan.

Their government is taking advantage of the U.S. by exporting their way out of their own recession while the U.S. auto makers are suffering a $3,500 currency exchange advantage to Japan.
Name withheld

Editor's note: Japanese companies expanding in the U.S. while Detroit's Big Three are slowing lines and shutting plants certainly is a painful trend for many whose fortunes are tied to the success of GM, Ford and the Chrysler Group, But an intelligent discussion on global competition and trade issues has to be focused on facts and not disinformation. The “facts” in that e-mail are false.

Not everyone can afford an Audi

This is a response to Paul Parker's comment in the February issue (see Letters, WAW — Feb. '01, p.14) that the people who buy from the Big Three simply don't know any better.

I am the proud owner of a 2001 Pontiac Trans Am WS6. I bought it primarily for its looks and performance. I am very pleased with the car inside and out. Although the quality is not up to Audi or BMW standards, I would like Paul to show me anything from those companies who are supposedly light years ahead that compares to this fabulous GM creation, and comes within $10,000.

I am very familiar with what Audi, BMW, and Mercedes have to offer, not to mention VW, Honda, and Toyota. I tell you that the Big Three are prime competitors for my money. Besides, not everyone can pay $40,000+ for any car.
John Bomgren
Sheldon, IA

Question of the Month<br />April 2002

Are cars getting too complicated?
Yes 89%
No 11%

Question of the Month<br />May 2002

Will there be more consolidation among automakers and/or among major suppliers within the next 12 months?

E-Mail, FAX or Write your response along with your comments to:
FAX: 248-357-0810
Write: Ward's AutoWorld 3000 Town Center, Suite 2750, Southfield, MI, 48075.
You must include your name, address, and phone number. Unless otherwise notified, comments are on or off the record.

Join us on the web

Visit daily for a look at the world of automaking written and compiled by the award-winning staff of Ward's Communications.
Or for a look at current and past issues of Ward's AutoWorld, visit