Joe Ganley
Writing code since 1979
I have been a professional software engineer for over 10 years. I have written many kinds of software, but my particular strengths are interactive graphics applications, compilers and interpreters, and algorithms.

I also enjoy writing, woodworking, and home improvement. Also this.

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Thursday, April 07, 2005

The people's car

Something I've long wondered about is whether it would make sense for a car manufacturer to make a car with the philosophy of the original Volkswagen: Simple, cheap to buy, reliable, and easy to repair. Every system would be as simple and reliable as possible; this probably means no electric locks or windows, perhaps a carburetor instead of electronic fuel injection, electronics only where they are more reliable than their mechanical counterparts. The body would be made of user-replacable panels made out of Rubbermaid-type material (I believe, but don't really know, that the body panels in a typical car are not structural). The only option available would be body color, which could be implemented at the dealer using those replacable body panels. It would be a small four-door hatchback, perhaps similar in size and style to the Toyota Matrix. The big questions are: Could you make such a car substantially less expensive than existing economy cars? Would people buy it? Clearly, this would be pure transportation: A family's second, commuter car, or a teenager's first car. How much do emissions and mileage requirements impact my goal of utter simplicity? It seems inevitable to compare this idea with the ill-fated Yugo, but I don't know whether that car's failure was due to the idea being intrinsically bad, or simply due to poor execution of that idea.

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Comments:
I think the Yugo failed on the execution front - it was a very poorly made car.

I would totally buy the type of car you describe, which I think is probably starting to appear in the US in Toyota's Scion line. The car is very low-key and no-frills, but does allow for a certain level of personalization - to make the car your own.

It looks like a fridge on wheels - but you can get a pretty loaded one for like $15K so that's something.
 
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