The Ford Transit Connect is a cool little van unlike anything else on the American market. In fact, I think it has the capability of becoming something of a cult car. But it's also a shining example of why the auto industry faces too much regulation.
Even though the Transit Connect is already sold in 55 countries around the world it had to undergo numerous modifications before it could be sold in the American market. And while it's not at all unusual to modifiy imported vehicles up to our standards, it's hard to see how some of these changes will help the health or safety of American citizens.
Some of these changes are so ridiculous and inconsequential that it's actually funny to see what they are. Funny, that is, until you realize all they're doing is driving up the price of the product.
John McElroy is host of the TV program "Autoline Detroit" and daily web video "Autoline Daily". Every week he brings his unique insights as an auto industry insider to Autoblog readers.
A good example is the center high mounted stop light (CHMSL). The Transit Connect was designed with the CHMSL built in to the top of the left-side, rear cargo door. But that wasn't acceptable to American regulators, no sir. They forced Ford to put a new CHMSL on top of the vehicle, a few inches away from where the original one was supposed to go. Whew, am I glad that didn't slip by the sharp eyes of the people who are out there to protect us!
The government also forced Ford to put reflectors on the sides of the front and rear bumpers. This, even though the Transit Connect has tail lamps that wrap around the side of the vehicle, and a "repeater" lamp on the front fenders. Believe me, this van is plenty visible even without those reflectors.
My favorite example has to do with the windshield wipers. No, they did not have to change the wipers. Ford had to change the path the wipers go through as they sweep back-and-forth across the windshield. Ford had to change the arms and the pivot points so that the sweep matched something that American regulators found acceptable.
And then we come to the engine. In almost every other country in the world the Transit Connect is powered by a diesel. But trying to get that diesel to meet US emissions standards would've added thousands of dollars of cost to the vehicle, yet it would've also added nearly ten more miles to the gallon to the Connect's fuel economy label, and cut CO2 emissions by 25%.
I fully understand the need to establish safety and emission regulations. I'm not against that. But I'm also pretty sure that if this vehicle had been brought in the same way it's sold in 55 other countries it would not have resulted in one more accident, one more fatality, or in one more health problem.
To me, these are perfect examples that we've reached the saturation point when it comes to automotive regulations. Isn't it time that we take the effort and money that goes into policing Picayune regulations like these, and put it into something that's more productive for society?
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