Clunkers... commentary from Jenny Phillips

Clunkers... commentary from Jenny Phillips

Jones County, NC – I don't let anyone disrespect the US auto industry at least not on reliability.

In 1993 I bought a new Plymouth Grand Voyager. It was my soccer mom, carpool car. We called it the "Land Yacht." I ferried ever-growing kids back and forth from school and sports. Then the kids grew up and got their own cars, and my role as chauffeur was over.

So I took out the middle seat, and the van became my truck. I hauled furniture, Christmas trees, beach gear, barbeque grills, and hundreds of plants. Once I packed a half flat of muddy centipede sod between the front and back seats. I used it hard.

The car kept going, a work horse not a show horse. With kids to educate it was hard not to love my paid- for vehicle. And even though I should be a free-spending Boomer, my older parents had married during the Great Depression. Thus the hard-eyed frugality of that time has informed my sense of how to live.

My parents taught me: "Use it up. Wear it out. Make it do or do without." When the car was about ten years old, I decided to wear it out. I announced that I would keep the minivan until it quit working--- or until I could buy an American made plug- in hybrid to replace it. After all, if I traded it in, someone else would be driving this gas guzzler. And it would not be energy smart to throw away the all the embedded energy that the tons of metal and plastic embodied. My tight- fistedness was now justified by my understanding of energy ecology.

The miles were adding up and years went by. Every so often General Motors would announce that a plug- in car was surely to be released soon always next year.

I bounced along and the van had its 16th birthday. It had 207,000 miles. It looked tired and burned oil, but was still reliable and still very handy. Its trade in value was zero.

Then in July the government announced it would pay $4500 for old cars. Free Money! I thought my new car moment had come, even though no plug- in was available. Surely my rusty old van was a poster child for "Clunker".

But no. My ancient, heavy, six cylinder car does not qualify because it is too fuel efficient. You heard me. It gets too many miles per gallon -- nineteen! according to the government web site. I was astonished! My 16 year old car gets more miles per gallon than many new cars.

So, I will keep driving my minivan for a few more years (knock on plastic.) The oil change guy told me that he had had one just like it that he sold with 250,000 miles on the odometer, although it had started "running a little rough" at 235,000. And just this month General Motors announced that the plug-in hybrid Volt will be on sale in very limited numbers -NEXT YEAR!.

They have raised my hopes for a shiny new car before. I hope my faithful companion can go the distance, but maybe I should hold out for a plug-in hybrid VAN!