Dear Bob Lutz,
Now that Congress has put you on hold and the White House is trying to decide whether to just take a message for the next administration, it's a good time to take a deep breath, relax, and consider your next move.
Here's the good news: Americans will need to buy 150 to 250 million new cars over the next ten years alone, and in terms of dollars per pound they will be willing to pay more for them than ever before. Developing these cars will be relatively straightforward. No new technologies are required, simply refinements of stuff that lots of small companies like mine are doing every week. And any new technology breakthroughs that you encounter during that time period are pure bottom-line gravy.
Here's the bad news: Those cars are going to weigh, on average, about 800 lbs each for a 2+2 runabout and 1200 lbs for a four-door family sedan. That is what it is going to take to achieve the fuel efficiency that America, as a country and as a way of life, must demand of you.
In order to achieve those weight targets with reasonable comfort, enough power for freeway driving, and some margin of crashworthiness, something unusual is going to have to happen: You are going to have to think. Your engineers and stylists are going to have to think. Your factory managers and even your factory line workers are going to have to think. And, most importantly, your cars are going to have to think. You no longer have the luxury of phoning it in, of simply painting a shiny layer of Next Big Thing on whatever steaming pile your design committees send your way.
Gone are the days when crashworthiness was a matter of pure mass. Heck, even Gothenberg-style crumple zones and an airbag or two won't save you now. In order to achieve the safety levels that our modern risk-averse society demands, the cars themselves will have to take an active part in the driving process, and will be required to assist drivers in making good choices and mitigating bad ones.
It will be your job, should you decline to punch out and leave it for your chosen fall guy, to educate the driving public about the necessity of lightening and smartening up. More than that, you will have to build attractive cars, sporty cars, utilitarian cars, and cars that combine those elements and more, that guide American drivers towards a future of prosperity, sustainability, and energy independence.
Fortunately, you will be able to sell these new cars with substantial margins. As soon as you abandon the antiquated idea that small means cheap, you will uncover all sorts of wonderful gems. We're talking about entire carbon fiber chassis, titanium hardpoints, carbon and forged aluminum suspensions, polycarbonate transparencies, all sorts of good stuff that until now has been exclusively the milieu of Formula racing. You are going to streamline the tools and processes for working with the best stuff on earth, and you are going to put it on the street for John Q. Public at double-digit profit margins. Everybody will be happy, and you are going to be a rock star.
Here's some pointers to get from here to there:
Homebuilt aviation is not for folks who don't try things at home.
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page updated 15 December 2008 all text and graphics copyright (c) 2008 HP Aircraft,
page updated 15 December 2008 all text and graphics copyright (c) 2008 HP Aircraft, LLC