mad anthony

Rants, politics, and thoughts on politics, technology, life,
and stuff from a generally politically conservative Baltimoron.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Hey Ralph, keep away from my SUV...

Via Engadget comes an interesting tale of business and regulation.

A group of American investors want to sell a Romanian SUV in the U.S. The vehicle is a military-type truck that they figure will sell for around $20,000 and target marketed at hunters and off-roaders as a "poor man's hummer" (there's probably a dirty joke in there, but this is a classy blog).

But they are having trouble getting the vehicle through the web of regulations that the government has up. They've finally got the thing emissions-certified, but now they have to deal with safety regs. Specifically, the National Highway Traffic Safety (NHTSB) requires air bags - and the cost of putting air bags in the truck would bankrupt the importer, which wants an exemption.

This isn't the first time that air bag regs have blocked an old-school SUV - Land Rover stopped selling the Defender 90 (the classic Land Rover) because they didn't want to have to deal with putting air bags in it.

Arguing against the exemption is every car maker and enthusist's worst enemy, Ralph "unsafe at any speed" Nader, or more specifically his group "Public Citizen".

The group says the truck will "put thousands of lives at risk". Never mind that the people buying the thing are hard core hunters and off-roaders, who don't exactly define "risk averse". More importantly, aren't these people smart enough to figure out if the risk is worth the cost savings? What Public Citizen is saying is that they are smarter than car buyers and should make choices for them about the cost and benefits of a vehicle. And that angers me.

The irony? There is a way out for Aro - make the thing heavier, since trucks over 5500lb don't need air bags. Of course, this makes everyone worse off - truck buyers get a heavier vehicle that probably handles worse and gets worse gas milage due to it's increased weight. And people who share the road with the truck run the risk of being hit by a heavier, and thus more dangerous in collision, vehicle.

Which brings the conclusion that many government regulations have perverse effects that make everyone worse off.

I actually kind of like the idea of a cheap rugged 4x4. I'm planning in the next couple years to buy an old Jeep Grand Wagoneer, because I've always had a soft spot for them, and want a truck for those occasional snowy or rainy days or times I need to haul stuff. That would let me eventually replace my current car, a PT Cruiser, with something sportier for everyday driving.


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