With gasoline prices remaining at near-historic lows, compact and subcompact cars sales have retreated to their lowest levels in over a decade. This trend has been a boon to truck and SUV sales, but smaller cars have felt the pain as their competitive advantages have been diminished.
Despite some hopes of an eventual turnaround, Republican lawmakers are pushing to add even further disincentives to buying small cars. Bowing to pressure from automakers, legislators are responding to a desire to bolster profits and meet consumer demand by helping to shift the market’s focus towards larger, more profitable vehicles like trucks, SUVs, and large crossovers.
The proposed Compact Car Permit (CCP), also known as a Compact Car Writ (CCW), would give the holder the right to drive a smaller-than-average vehicle freely on public roads. Democrats and environmentalists fear this additional layer of red tape would further hinder acceptance of smaller, more fuel-efficient cars. However, Republican lawmakers feel this is a necessary regulatory step to ensure that people know how to properly handle small vehicles – especially after years of driving full-size cars and SUVs. Their proposals vary slightly, but all involve a mental health evaluation, a criminal background check, and a five-day waiting period (seven days in California).
“We fully support the privilege for law-abiding citizens to drive,” says a spokesman for California’s right-leaning AutoPAC, “But these small cars are capable of creating additional congestion and gridlock, and they are small enough to be lost in blind spots of the giant pillars of most modern cars. This requires special awareness, so we believe background checks and proper training are a necessary and appropriate step here.”
Law enforcement agencies have overwhelmingly come out in favor of better regulations on small cars, citing the dangers of criminals being able to outmaneuver police and more easily hide. “The slippery slope,” explains one sheriff “Is that soon every bank robber and gangbanger is going to be driving around in a Yaris or Fit, or maybe even a SMART car. Our officers driving [Ford] Explorers and [Dodge] Chargers will be easily outmaneuvered.”
European nations have embraced subcompact cars for decades and cite far lower crime rates involving small cars when compared to cars as a whole. However, critics say that such a policy simply won’t work in the US due to our more diverse populace and geography.
The Sierra Club and the California Air Resources Board, or CARB, have both expressed dismay at the legislation. In a joint statement on Monday, they claimed that “The Founding Fathers traveled on horseback. Horses are far smaller than even the smallest modern cars, and they use no fossil fuels. Had something like this been forced on them, Boston Harbor would have been filled with drowning horses. That’s animal cruelty and we won’t stand for it – and neither should the American people.”
Pro-car advocacy and lobbyist group the American Automobile Association, or AAA, vehemently opposes any and all restrictions on car ownership and operation. AAA President Wayne LaGrande issued an official statement that “Any and all legislation against vehicle ownership and operation will be fought tooth and nail. If Republican legislators want to force their misguided will on the people, then we’ll see them in court.”
Mr. LaGrande closed by saying “If small cars are outlawed, only outlaws will have small cars.”
Ash78 carries a G-Wiz on his ankle and Morris Minor in his front pocket.