Driving in Europe 2012
By Geoff Wheatley

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Geoff Wheatley

Driving in Europe
with Geoff Wheatley in, 2012

Just returned from Europe where the Automobile talk is all about GM and Chrysler with a few extra words about Ford! First question that the Motoring Public in Europe asks is simple. With the GM Vauxhall brand growing from success to success in Europe especially since the production was moved from the UK after seventy or more years, to Germany, why was GM in trouble in its own back garden and has GM really turned itself around in such a short period of time? Of course I had no answer but it did pose the question how can Ford both at home and in Europe be such a great success yet GM had to beg for taxpayer’s money to survive?

Whilst there I rented a small Ford Focus with a six speed gear box and all the American trinkets like A/C. and Cruise Control that you can never use on Europe’s crowed roads but looks good on the sales ticket. My inboard computer indicated that I was averaging 41, 3 mpg whilst driving at around 70 MPH on the Auto routes. As long as you remember to use the top gear as and when, you will get these performance figures. With fuel costing around eight to nine US Dollars a gallon you tend to hit that top gear quite often.

The other thing that is impressive is the way that European Motor Manufacturers have built and promoted Diesel powered private vehicles. The Ford that I rented was diesel hence the good performance. I wondered why the engine seemed to stop every time we hit the traffic lights or were held up in traffic in fact I was sure there was a fault in the engine until it dawned on me that this was a fuel saving devise, as soon as you put the car into gear the engine starts up with no assistance from the driver. I have a US Jaguar that burns about 18 miles to the gallon if I am lucky. The same car in Europe with a diesel power unit will give the owner at least 30 mpg on a town trip and 40 mpg on the open road, further more you would never know the car was a diesel its as quiet and as gentle as any gas guzzler this side of the pond. No manufacturer that I spoke with is concerned with manufacturing so-called highbred green cars and why should they when the average performance and consumption from their developed internal combustion engine is twice as good as anything in the USA, when we are being pushed to develop hybrid’s at inflated prices under the banner of a Green Society.

Obviously Chrysler was the main topic of conversation where ever I went and met with Car People. Now that Fiat has added this company to its list of vehicles like Alfa Romeo, and a few other successful European names there is speculation that Chrysler may become a success story both in North America and even Europe. Fiat is one of the largest car/vehicle manufactures in the world and has a success record similar to BMW.

One of the most striking things about the new passenger cars on the streets of Spain, Germany or Italy is the size. They are no bigger than the average BMW Mini sporting names like Mercedes, Alfa Romeo, Renault, etc. Each car is capable of transporting at least four grown adults in reasonable comfort any where throughout Europe and I suggest the same would apply in the USA. These are the private cars of the future and the sooner American manufacturers realize this the sooner America will get back into the automobile world market. I also drove a Smart Car for a few miles but have to admit that it was not a very enjoyable experience. I suspect they are ideal for crowded cities but the idea of taking one of these baby vehicles on any highway with large trucks thundering by is not my idea of fun! Looking at the price structure for cars in Europe and calculating our Dollar at $1.30 to the Euro prices seems about the same give or take a few bucks. However, the larger cars are more expensive and in some locations carry an additional tax simply because of their size.

The other thing that strikes any American is that very few cars have or even offer automatic gear systems unless you order them from the manufacturer and pay an additional amount above the list price.

As already indicated the cost of fuel tends to make the average driver confine his or her interest to miles per liter rather than miles per hour! However on the Auto routes both the trucks and cars can cruise at 80 mph with special lanes for these speeds, there is a 50 mph lane, a sixty five mph lane and a 75 or more lane. Coaches with passengers have their own designated lanes with a limit of 60 mph. This makes for pleasant driving especially if you are not keen on setting a new speed record! By using these lanes you can simply cruise along at you selected speed, no need to overtake and few ever do. However, should you be in a selected lane and then increase above the designated maximum speed to the danger of other drivers you will soon find your wallet about two hundred bucks lighter and if you are really stupid and argue with the law the rest of your vacation may well be spent in the local jail!
2012 Geoff Wheatley ©

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