This might not seem like a car blog topic. But it is, you'll see.
Like a lot of people, I'm getting rid of my Facebook account. I'm finally deleting all my content for all the usual reasons: Its unsafe, Facebook is unreliable and untrustworthy, and they've proven they don't care about their users even the smallest amount. Obviously, for the sake of this podcast, I can't fully delete my personal account, but I am going through and deleting every post, like, and comment I can, and then hiding the rest. This also means deleting all my pictures and videos, and wouldn't you know it - even though we only started this podcast last year, and even though I never really considered cars an interest of mine until maybe the last 5 years, I had a LOT of stuff about cars on my Facebook, and I want to share it here so it doesn't get completely lost to time, and as a benefit, I get to do a Facebook rant. Win/win.
I joined Facebook in 2006, back in the days when you still had to have a college email address to do so. At the time, it was a real milestone in social media. I remember getting my information packet from UW Stevens Point, digging through to my email address, and immediately using it to set up a Facebook account. I was excited to do it! Facebook was basic back then. The status box was prefaced by the word "is", so every post read "Andrew Tully is:____" and you put your status in the blank. There were these odd boxes around the website with quotes from Top Gun as placeholders for other content. Wow do I sound old talking about this.
In the past 13 years, I posted a lot on Facebook. My best guess is somewhere in the area of 10,000 status updates, and several thousand more comments, likes, posts, and none of that includes posting albums or private messages or pokes. There's a reason my generation is so attached to Facebook, and its a simple one: Facebook gave us an unparalleled power to share our lives with the people we chose to share it with, a power never before seen in all of human history. How could we NOT fall in love with that? Looking back through the people I had added as a friend back in '06, it was more impactful than looking back through any picture book. I could see, right there, what Jillian from English 150 posted on my wall, I remember exactly the class she was talking about. No idea what happened to her, I must have unfriended her years ago, no idea why. On my Facebook timeline I could watch the decay and eventual death of friendships from high school, which was...interesting. Its one thing to have nostalgia for the old days, its quite another to have an exact record of how and when I grew apart from Justin. The very first direct contact I had with my wife was a Facebook message. Without Facebook, none of that would have been possible. Without Facebook, I might not be married. How about that?
Facebook even became a necessity for me at some point, an accidental cloud storage. I lost the hard drive that had all of my photos from before I got a smartphone, including my semester abroad. Fortunately, the best pictures from my trip to the 2009 Frankfurt Auto Show did get uploaded, so I have those. Here's a gallery of what I saw there that year - and yes, all of these photos were taken with a point-and-shoot camera and manually uploaded to Facebook later. What a world it was!
This is a snapshot of automotive history! Volvos in the Ford booth, the Alfa 8C and Brera, the chrome R8, the Lamborghini Reventon, the BMW i8, electric concepts that are now in full production, the return of the Mercedes gullwing, I was there in person to see them all in their infancy. This show was nothing like I had ever seen before, and I've never seen its like since - BMW installed a full track inside their show booth, and they had their electric cars driving on it while the keynote on the i8 was happening. Audi brought their full RS lineup and a few race cars, along with the debut of the first-gen eTron. Mercedes brought Brabus and Maybach into their own display, and added a two-story, translucent, LED-lit centerpiece to top it all off. Again, without Facebook, all of these pictures would be completely lost.
Facebook also allowed me to chronicle the daily adventures of my life, at work, at school and otherwise. Cool cars, ugly cars, road trips, I tried to share everything I could. I guess, now that I can see all the data I ever uploaded compressed into one zip file, I've seen a lot of weird car stuff through the years. Here are some select highlights:
I was able to share these images and more with the people I liked and/or knew; the simple power of daily updates. All of these pictures mean something, just as every single picture, video, like, or status update on Facebook does. These are a text, they tell a story, they each have context and a place in a narrative. They carry emotional weight. They mean something to me, and I want them to mean something to other people, some of whom saw these moments alongside me. As an end user, all I ever wanted from Facebook was to be able to share the moments I deemed important with whomever I chose to share them with. But Facebook, solely in the pursuit of money, squandered any and all goodwill I could possibly have for them by giving corporations wanton access to my data, and your data, and everyone's data - even the stuff we chose to hide by using Facebook's own tools. That is nothing less than a full betrayal.
And I was a Facebook defender for a few years too! Let employers FIND my page, then we can talk about if I'm worried. I used Ad Blockers, because I'm not an idiot. I know how to spot fake news and sponsored content, if my English degree is good for anything, at least its good for that. With every leak that came out, I became more concerned, of course, but as a modern technology user, I'm willing to overlook some pretty outrageous abuses in order to keep using platforms that I like. But now, its been revealed that Facebook had deals with several other massive companies in order to share Facebook user data without limitations. Deleted content, hidden content, private messages, stuff marked "Only Me" - if those companies wanted access to it, they could have it. Facebook never even bothered to try and stop them. All in pursuit of a little more money. Just another million on the company valuation. Just one more stack on Zucc's net worth.
All I can say now, after looking through all the data I've ever put up on Facebook, is that this really sucks. It really fucking sucks. I liked Facebook, that's all it was. I liked that I could put my voice out there for the people I know to hear and see, anytime, anywhere. I liked to be able to crack jokes with my friends across the globe. I liked to be able to connect at any moment with the few people I genuinely consider friends, and all Facebook ever did was take advantage of those likes so that they could earn money. It was all a joke to them, the whole time. We were the idiots.
Deleting and hiding all those posts, from my engagement and wedding to the little jokes Tristan and I used to post on each other's walls while we were literally in the same room, made me extremely sad. That whole part of my life, all those little moments of accessibility that I chose to give my friends are now gone forever. They were hard to delete, because I liked them. And as I got back to the year 2006, and as I saw all those old names and interactions, those pokes and messages, I suddenly remembered a song that I hadn't thought about in years. The song is a memory too, back from my high school days playing PS2 in basements. The days of first cars and those college acceptance packets. It all circles back.
Last week, the new and very dumb electric vehicle startup Rivian announced their new vehicles called (presumably) SUV and Truck. They are respectively an electric SUV and an electric truck, and of course Rivian immediately starts off with the hilarious statistics: 400+ miles on one charge, incredible off-road capability, a "wading" depth of 3 feet, on and on and on. Each and every one of these "specifications" has an asterisk after it. Because every single number on the page is a projection, a wish list, a fantasy. Yet, for $1,000 very real dollars, you can preorder these vehicles, which may or may not ever exist and may or may not offer the performance advertised on this website that's so poorly coded they couldn't be dicked to put a single metadata tag in their HTML: A bit of website optimization so remedial, every single pre-built website creation platform on the internet has offered it for over a decade. Hey, at least these guys are promising full refunds upon request. I'm sure we'll see how that turns out before the 2020 production state date, no month given.
Now, the cost. A Rivian is predicted to cost at least $61,500...AFTER the $7,500 federal tax credit, which may or may not be around by the time these trucks may or may not actually start production, and Rivian will start with the most expensive trucks first, the ones that will cost probably double that $61,500 price tag - are you starting to see a problem here? These Rivian trucks and indeed pretty much every single EV are not for you. They aren't for me. They aren't for my wife. They aren't for Tristan, or Nick, or their partners, or our parents, or for fully 95% of the people any of us know. They aren't for any of us. Companies like Rivian and Tesla don't want to make EVs, that's just their angle. They don't give a shit about the environment or the future or The Children™. They care about money. And more than that, they care about making all of the money in one single transaction to the exclusion of all else, especially what the consumer needs or wants. This isn't unique to automotive manufacturers. This type of capitalism is endemic right now. It's the way most companies do business, and its a cancer, blah blah blah you've heard me talk about this before. But Rivian's announcement sealed it for me. I'm now sure that EVs are the equivalent of the Juicero: They're a scam for Silicon Valley-types who want to make a quick buck off investors and preorder donkeys. If the product fails? Who gives a shit. If the company goes under? What company, I got my buyout already. Just look at how Elon Musk comports himself in public. Right now he's doing some wild shit on Twitter, solid bet, and Elon has far too much money to be on social media at all. But the thing is doesn't and indeed couldn't give a fuck what happens to Tesla or EVs in general. It doesn't matter to him, because he got his money and his zealots already, and so he just does whatever he wants to do that second.
Yes, I can hear you out there, you BUT WHAT ABOUT-ists. Here's the But What About: If we look at the American automotive market, these are all of the EVs for sale nationwide right now: BMW i3, Chevy Bolt, Hyundai Ioniq EV, Nissan Leaf. That's it. 4 cars. You think you're finally gonna start the EV revolution with 3 subcompacts and a liftback? No you are not. Oh, by the way, the average price of these cars is $35,580 after the tax credit, with the Hyundai being the cheapest, and the corncob-sized i3 being the most expensive. For all the talk about EVs being the future, for all the dick-wagging and shit talking Elon Musk does every single day, there are only 4 EVs you can actually buy in all 50 states. Remember! You still can't buy Teslas in 28 states, and every other EV in production is only available in certain areas. Can you think of a solution for everyone isn't even available to the majority of people? Me neither.
Thus the Juicero comparison. Tesla, Rivian, Porsche, Audi, Fisker, and all the other manufacturers making EVs that cost $50,000+ are making the automotive equivalent of internet-connected juice machines, and the other EVs on the market don'e count because they either aren't available or they aren't practical. They're all expensive toys with little to no true function and decent marketing. Nobody asked for this. Nobody needs this. Because even if you can get an EV in your area, you probably can't charge it. Even if you can charge it, it doesn't go nearly as far as the company told you it would. Even if you're okay with low range, the inaccessibility of charging networks, and assuming you can get the car you want where you live, you've already made so many compromises that I believe its fair to say that what you're buying is not the same thing as what you've been sold, and that's without even addressing those foolish enough to preorder. Because EVs aren't for you. Even though they should be.
I believe that traditional internal combustion engines need to be phased out. I know global warming is real. As I'm writing this, it's December 10th and there is not one flake of snow on the ground in southeastern Wisconsin. It did not used to be like this, even in my short lifetime. But as much as I know that things need to change, I know that electric vehicles are not the future. They're an illusion, or in the best possible scenario, EVs are a stepping-stone that will move the world away from the ICE, and into some other technology that is viable. And I test this hypothesis by looking at the reality of EVs right now: If these manufacturers truly believed their own hype, if they honestly thought that EVs were so important to the future of the planet that human life as we know it would be entirely wiped out without them, is THIS how they would go about making this sea-change? In dribs and drabs? In limited markets? At prices nobody can afford? With impractical ranges and charging times? With all development focused on unreliable and blatantly dishonest tech startups? Without Toyota, the manufacturer who single-handedly mainstreamed electric hybrid tech twenty years ago? In body styles that nobody likes? With technology creep that makes Phillip K. Dick construct his own grave-rolling-over machine? With no realistic or foreseeable partnerships to ensure immediate charging station proliferation across the world? I'm supposed to believe this is the fucking endgame? No! Of course it isn't!
Its very simple: EVs need to be cheaper, they need to be better, and they need to be fun. In short, EVs need to be cars first, and electric second. Hyundai got it right when they priced the Ioniq EV at under $30,000. They got it right when they gave all of their EVs lifetime battery warranties. They got it right when they made their EV look and drive like a regular car. But that's just one single brand trying to set an example that I don't think caught on. If EVs are the real future, then we should all be able to go and buy one that fits our actual lives right now, for only slightly more than a gas-powered vehicle, with next-to-zero compromises on the ability of the vehicle. But we can't. Not a single person can buy that EV right now, because that EV doesn't exist. Most of us have 4 choices, and the sales numbers say nobody really wants any of them. Manufacturers see that EVs are just toys for the rich, and so they option them accordingly with self-driving hardware, all the newest accident avoidance tech, heated and cooled seats, and cruelty-free Georgian vegan cat leather and shit like that, which only inflates the already-high prices so that regular people can't buy them. It's about the money, not the future.
And so we're back at the beginning, with Rivian and Tesla and all the brands like them which are only playing at manufacturing cars while selling it all as some kind of miracle solution. It's snake oil with batteries. Rivian, no matter what they end up actually producing, will only ever produce toys for the extravagantly wealthy. The Rivian SUV and Truck will only ever exist on Top Gear, and in the pages of Automobile, and on the internet where they will do some kind of off-road mountaineering race against, like, a Humvee, a Ford Raptor, a Land Rover Discovery, and a pack donkey. They aren't real products, and they aren't real solutions. I've said on the podcast that I want my next car to be some kid of hybrid or electric car, and that's still true, but I'm not going to compromise what I want in a car in order to get it, and you shouldn't either. We should all wait until EVs are good to actually buy them, and that point still seems a very long way off. From now on, let's all agree: The companies have to meet us where we are, because we refuse to meet them at their current idiotic level. For me, the first company to make a hybrid or electric hot hatch that's fun to drive gets my money. Fight for it.
Guest Blogger Megan
Hello CEP fans! Andrew’s wife here. I thought I’d throw my hat in the ring and write a blog post for you all.
I got a new car the day before Thanksgiving and man, is it fun.
When I began thinking about what my next car should be (thanks to all the helpful suggestions from Andrew), I eventually narrowed it down to the 2018 Jeep Renegade Limited and the 2019 Hyundai Kona Limited. Actually, it was the 2018 Kona, but we’ll get to that later. I’ve had my eye on the Kona since they first came out in 2018 and Andrew showed me the green one. We have a good relationship with one of the salespeople at the local Hyundai dealership, so I’ve driven the Kona at least a couple of times and knew that I really liked it.
I had no experience with Jeeps yet, though, so we went to the Jeep dealership closest to our house to get some information about the Renegade. Everything about that dealership was garbage. I know Andrew has mentioned this already on a previous podcast, but the salesperson was awful. We’ve had great experiences with female car saleswomen, so it has nothing to do with gender at all, but she really made the entire visit feel so uncomfortable. Or, between her and the sales manager who painfully caned his way over and back to his office at what seemed like point furthest away from where we were sitting, the whole thing was very uncomfortable.
She sat us down and asked what I was looking for in the car, what I wanted it do to, etc. The basic initial discussion. The Renegade and the Kona I was looking at came with almost exactly the same features – heated seats, Apple CarPlay, AWD, they both came in bright green, and the two are roughly the same price. The main difference is that the Renegade can tow, and the Kona is significantly faster. A full 3.2 SECONDS faster from 0-60. Knowing my personality and how I drive, it should have been a no-brainer: GET THE FAST CAR, YOU IDIOT. But no – there was something so cute and alluring about that damn Renegade. Maybe it's the X-shaped reverse lights, maybe it's the fake dirt that replaces the redline in the speedometer, but it just has personality, and I liked that.
But the Jeep salesperson couldn’t tell us the differences between the different trims (Limited, Trailhawk, Latitude, etc), and she just kept telling us that any package can be put on any car. Not helpful. I wanted to know what each one comes with standard, not what I can put on it. And then, after telling her I was looking at the 2018 Altitudes or Latitudes only (because of the CarPlay and the engine), she put me in a 2017 Limited model to test drive. I never even got to see or feel the car I actually wanted. And then the sales manager came over. Neither one could make eye contact well, and both of them kept looking at chest level. I understand there was writing on my shirt, but glance at it once and move on. And then he had the audacity to make a comment on it? Come on, man. Just tell me about the fucking car already.
Of course, the next thing they always try to do is push you to talk numbers. I was literally just there to test drive the car and get a sense of how it drove, how I felt in it, and if it would be a good fit for my lifestyle, which is what I told her from the beginning. They had the car that met everything I wanted on the lot (even though they didn't bother to pull it up for me), and it was in the exact color I wanted, but I wasn’t ready to buy, and I certainly wasn’t going to buy from them, the garbage people. I spent the next few months thinking about but the Kona and the Renegade, and the Renegade kept drawing me in, even with that terrible dealership experience. The Renegade looked so much more fun. It looked super sporty. Plus, it was a Jeep! Everyone should have a Jeep phase, right? But two weeks ago, I was really honest with myself and paid attention to the way I was driving my own car and it was clear: the Kona was the right choice. Sure, I wouldn’t be able to tow anything, but having the faster car was more important (EDITOR'S NOTE: This is not what happened. I kept telling her to go drive the Kona again before she went with the Renegade, because I knew the speed would get her).
So, that Saturday morning we got up to get some groceries and suddenly we found ourselves at the Hyundai dealership. Doing some research over the last couple of weeks, I knew there were no green 2018 Konas to be found in the area, and I had to have that green. Had to. I even expanded the search radius to 500 miles and there were STILL none available. But if you looked at the 2019s, there were several available, and even though they were a little bit more than the 2018s, you got a few extra features.
We took a 2019 out, I loved it, and we drove the Kona straight to a different Jeep dealer where we know a salesperson who doesn't suck at their job. We drove them back to back, and the Jeep just wasn’t as fun. In fact, it wasn't any fun. Something had changed. It wasn’t as fast, it felt too big, and it just didn’t seem to fit me anymore. So we went back to the Hyundai dealership, told the salesperson that the Kona won, and she started to throw out some numbers. Suddenly, it was a real possibility that I was going to get this car! We talked about what my trade-in was worth, what my financing options were, and then they tossed out a leasing option. Knowing literally nothing about how leasing a car works, they went through all of the details. It’s surprisingly easy to lease a car, if you didn't know. Almost weirdly easy, compared to how much more intense it is when you buy the car.
The thing was, the dealership still had to get me my green Kona. They sent us home in a black one, and said they'd call as soon as they got the green one. The car came in Tuesday night, I was able to go in Wednesday morning and sign all the papers and pick it up, and then we immediately drove to Nebraska to spend Thanksgiving with Andrew's brother and his family. On that trip, I really got a chance to break it the Kona and spend some quality time with it. It rides well on the freeway, even on the appalling roads of Iowa. It gets good gas mileage, it can fit a Black Friday sound system impuse-buy inside it along with luggage and a big cooler, and the best part is that the Hyundai Kona is a quick car. You can get the jump on almost anyone in this car with the Sport Mode and AWD Lock on, and as it turns out, that won my heart. After driving almost 1,200 miles round trip, I can say I definitely love this car, and it was the right choice for me. I would even say that if you're looking at a small SUV, you have to drive a Kona, because you might just fall in love with it too.