Friday, May 12, 2006

My French Automobile


Yes, you read that correctly - I drive a French car.

I'm proud of it.

The first image that goes through everyone's mind when they think of the words "French Automobile" is that horrible little piece of shit that Renault foisted on the American public back in the late '70's - "Le Car (aka Renault 5)". Some older readers might be reminded of the venerable Citroen 2CV series "The Duck" - basically France's answer to the VW Bug. In general, words such as "reliable", "well-built", and "attractive" were never associated with "French Automobile". This was not without good reason - French cars in the '80's were unreliable, ugly little rust buckets that didn't last more than a couple of years and were purchased mostly by hard-up college students who needed a ride and had $50 in their pockets.

Fortunately, this is no longer the case.

In the late '80's, all the major French automobile manufacurers came to the conclusion that they had better do something quick to assure their continued survival in the 21st century. French automobile companies have had a long a distinguished history of bringing significant technological advancement to the public. Citroen designed and marketed the first automobiles with front-wheel drive, front wheel independent supension, and unibody design - and this in the mid 1930's! Peugeot was responsible for thdevelopmentnt of the Dual Overhead Cam (DOHC) and 4-cylinder inline engines for racing purposes back at the turn of the century and Renault is credited with designing the worlds first hatchback, patenting the first turbocharger, and numerous other advancements.

But they never sold well in the U.S. after the energy crisis of the '70's was over.

When it was time for me to select a company car, I knew that I wanted a station wagon* - comfortable like a sedan with lots of room for schlepping stuff. I looked at all the available authorized brands ad was only really interested in Opel, as they had the new Astra model coming out and it had been completely redesigned. The Opel dealership did not want to play ball and spent a great deal of time jerking me around about fleet packages and prices. My boss told me to go see the Renault guy, as he had given her a fabulous deal and she was delighted with her Scenic.

But that would mean owning a French car. I was sure there was some law against this for American citizens.

I went anyway - the worst that could happen is that I would walk away and have to deal with the prick at Opel. Fortunately, I was pleasantly surprised. I now own a Megane GT with the 1.9l diesel. Comfortable like you cannot believe, packed with cool goodies like a keyless entry/drive system, pushbutton starter, xenon headlamps, navigation, etc. All this for the same money as I would have dropped at Opel for less car.

Is my Megane ugly? Yes and no - I see it more like that gap in Madonna's two front teeth. It takes a while to get used to but eventually you figure out that it' sexy. Beautiful in a decidedly unconventional manner.

Dare to be different!



*There is no stigma in owning and driving a station wagon here in Europe because there is no market for small pickup trucks.

What Happened?


Has it been over a month? Annoyingly enough, I have been bogged down with "work" and it has made my already permanent cynical mood even more intense and I really had nothing to write about other than various gripes and complaints about my life in general.

Well, on with the show....