Its been a controversial day here on Oppo/Jalopnik: We saw Dave Mosher give his insight on the future of the automotive world and a couple of articles on the future prospects of Alfa Romeo (Here and Here). These two subjects really hit home for me, as I am a Millennial and the proud fourth owner of an Alfa Romeo. Now I've been wanting to do a short write up of the Alfa for a few weeks now and after listening to, and becoming angry at, Dave Mosher and reading about how Alfa Romeo has only lasted this long thanks solely to some romantic old men. This article is about my Alfa and my thoughts on millennials and the future of driving and automotive culture and my thoughts, or rather my hopes of, Alfa's return to the US.
The 'new' 1977 Alfa Romeo Spyder Veloce 2000!
I've always wanted to drive something special, out of the ordinary, and fun but it took me years to actually pull the trigger. Before the Alfa, I had only driven, and by driven I mean daily, Chevy products. I drove a 2007 Silverado Super Cab in high school and a 2004 Tahoe in college. Now I'm definitely not saying they were awful. Quite the contrary in fact. I loved my Tahoe and I'm sad that its gone but I've had the car bug since birth and needed something more adventurous. And I learned to offroad in the Silverado. It's really all I can talk about, cars that is. Ask my friends. I bordered on the obsessive for a while until I plunged over the edge into the abyss of automotive obsession. When I'm not working, playing GTA V, or hanging out with friends you can find me hunting for more knowledge or that unique car for sale on Jalopnik, Oppo, Petrolicious, Hooniverse, Bring A Trailer, Daily Turismo, and Craigslist or watching racing documentaries on Netflix or YouTube.
The insurance was up on my Tahoe this summer and I finally decided to seriously look for a new car. It had to unique. The kind of car that would provoke smiles and waves. The kind of car that you bring to a car show and people take pictures of it in the parking lot. Something the majority of my friends wouldn't recognize. And most importantly something that I would have fun driving: read manual required. I looked at countless E30 3 Series, 944s, '50's American metal, 300TD wagons, sedans, and coupes, and even a Peugeot 504 diesel wagon and an Alfa Romeo Milano. I wasn't originally considering a convertible of any sort because I live in the Pacific Northwest and its always raining in the winter, however when a nice old man responded to my add on CL saying he would trade me his Alfa Spyder for my Tahoe I didn't think twice. I didn't do a PPI (dumb I know) but he had all of the service receipts since new. There ended up being a couple of small issues but nothing major is wrong with the Alfa. I do, however need a second job to be able to afford having a car, not to mention paying for services and upgrades and the eventual paint job (Its rocking the original paint job and there are chips and dings). It runs really well but the front suspension needs to be redone (the rear has new shocks but the front ones were never installed and the bushings could stand to be replaced), the radiator has a tiny leak, 5th gear causes oil to spray all over, and the rear view mirror is missing it's dome light.
Its not particularly fast but its quick and on roads where you can't hit top speed quick is what counts. Like I said earlier, I never thought I'd ever have a convertible because I don't really trust them to keep the outside out, but damn they're fun! Its the best sunroof ever and makes avery drive that much more scenic. The 5 speed manual is a blast as well. I love the attention it attracts, mostly from, you guessed it, old men. One said I was living his dream, another it was his favorite car in high school. Most of all I love the feeling of driving it. Wind in my hair, exhaust note surrounding me (It's missing one muffler so its nice and loud, but not rice-rocket-civic loud.) Although I do have to wait about 15 min for it to warm up when I want to go somewhere, but I have a blast getting there and usually I end up somewhere like this:
Commuting will get you nowhere close to a place like this...
So now I have this fun sports car and am spending way too much money on gas because I drive it so often, usually going nowhere. You see I feel free when I'm driving. Its how I de-stress and where I best reflect on life. This brings me to Dave Mosher's rant. I disagree with just about everything he says. Now I do realize that makes some fair points à là Patrick George's article. I probably most disagree with the fact that he thinks robots will drive better than people. I just can not fathom that ever being true and the fact that someone can 'hack' my car scare me to death, which ironically is probably what would happen if someone 'hack's' your car. Just watch this video from Forbes. Now I know that they were hardwired into the car's ECU but its not hard to imagine what could be... In response to Dave Mosher's point that most millennials want to live in a walkable urban setting, I'm in agreement. I'm 22. I want to be able to walk to bars and not have to worry about killing myself trying to get home. I want to be able to walk/bike/take a bus or metro to work. I don't like driving minuscule distances to get one thing from the grocery store. Walking around urban centers is lots of fun. That being said, I'm still going to have my car and I'm going to drive the hell out of it. All the time. This bring me to my next point: Driving to drive is very different than driving to commute. We absolutely need better public transport in the USA. Better metro and bus systems in cities and towns so that when I want to go somewhere and I don't/can't drive there I can get around in a timely manner. This also means I'm in supports of better air and train systems. This will cut down on urban congestion and pollution and let people who don't like driving to avoid it. I also understand that fossil fuels won't last forever. This makes me sad because I love the way a car sounds. If you don't understand that go watch Claude Lelouche's C'Était un Rendez-Vous or find a video of a Mazda 787b or Columbo V12 revving. And if you don't know what a car can do to a man, or woman, do yourself a favor and watch RUSH, SENNA, and every Petrolicious video. Right goddamned now. I also love torque so I guess I could get used to an electric car and the jury is still out on weather or not I'll like Formula E.
I think that Dave made another good point in saying there isn't a car on the market here in the US that he is interested in buying. I don't think that for a millennial there are many good offerings in the new car market. To this I say: "BUY USED!" Lower purchase price for more car, plus its better for the environment to extend the life of a car thats already been manufactured than purchase a new one. This, however, is not good for the auto industry... In my opinion, the new cars that millennials could either afford to purchase now or wait to buy on the used market are, on the whole, less pretty and less fun to drive. So I say to car manufacturers, make something thats fun to drive, seats 5, and gets good mileage. Don't put a touchscreen in it. Don't connect it to the internet (You don't need to update your Facebook status while driving. Thats what passengers are for). Don't give it electric steering, 4 wheel drive, 8,000 airbags (one per passenger is enough!), or different driving settings or other nonsense the average person doesn't use. Do put in an AUX port so we can hook our iPods up to the stereo. Then offer a selection of engines: maybe a turbo V6 for sporty-minded customers and a turbo 4 that offers better mileage. Oh, and make it beautiful to look at! Millennials are about having cool things. If they we can have a cool new thing that looks good and can get us, our friends, and our stuff somewhere for not an insane amount of money then we will buy it!
This brings me to Alfa Romeo's return to the USA. I fear that it will be popular among enthusiast at first but then flop. They really need to advertise well. Make Alfa Romeo a household name again. Bring in some other models: maybe a hatchback to compete with the Mazdaspeed 3 and Focus ST and a sedan to compete with the 3 series and C class and bring the Spyder back in competition with the Miata. There must be something at a reasonable entry level! Maybe something starting around $25 or $30k. But please, for God's sake don't be over ambitious! Alfa needs to get a foothold and then give the USA a quality car true to its roots because lets be honest, Alfa's fist customers are going to be enthusiasts. And please eventually get your own dealer network. If Alfa only sells out of Fiat or Maserati dealers they'll never successfully grow here in the US.
I desperately want Alfa Romeo to succeed here in the USA. I want to see new Alfa's on the road. I know people will enjoy them. Hopefully it will also serve as an example to other European marques and persuade them to return to the US. I'm looking at you Peugeot/Citroën. Plus if done right, it will introduce more competition into the market and hopefully help to increase the quality, design, and direction of American manufacturers.
I know that there are other Millennials like me out there that will keep the passion alive and that makes me happy. I also didn't explain me reasoning behind some of my points as I would have gone off on some long tangential rants. I tried not to have this article be a rant. I also realize that I'm only 22 and I don't know how to solve every problem or come up with the best solution and that some of my thoughts or recommendations are economically out of the question at the moment (Cheers to a government that doesn't understand the word compromise) but I'll be damned if I can't try to continue promoting the Jalopnik/Oppo way of thinking.
Here's to you, the Millennial into cars and the car that pulled you into the abyss. I believe I'm quoting Jalopnik when I say: "Drive Free or Die."