As many of you know, part of my job involves traveling around the country to participate in industry events. One of the by-products of that travel is the columns I write about the unique shops and vehicles I find along the way.
This time, for once, I found myself outside of our native soil. I was traveling through Europe and ran across some interesting sights. On the car front, it was quite an eye opener. Frankly, I only recognized about 25 percent of the vehicles on the road.
Interestingly, there were many brands I was familiar with, but at one point in time or another they disappeared from our roads – Citroen, Peugeot, Opel, Alfa Romeo and Renault, just to name a few. Of course, there were Fiats everywhere along with Mercedes-Benz, BMW and the like. Then, there were the ones I had never seen here – Skoda, Lancia, Rover and Seat. Most were fairly unremarkable, but some of them caught my eye.
Then, of course, there were the offerings from our domestic manufacturers. The surprising thing was that most carried different nameplates than their stateside counterparts. Some were models that aren’t even available here. I’ve included a couple of photos of these from Ford and Toyota. Some were very stylish but also seemed practical. Most day-to-day vehicles seemed to be diesels and sticks.
The last category is the fun one. Of course, it’s the high performance group. Frankly, I’ve never seen so many top, high-performance vehicles on the road for everyday driving. There were many Ferraris and Lamborghinis sporting around in everyday situations. I stopped counting Audi R8 Cabriolets. Likewise, Aston Martin Vantage and DB-7s in convertible form were pretty common. Matte finish seemed to be the new great thing. I’m a big gloss guy, but I will say that a red Ferrari is still pretty breathtaking even in matte.
Check out the black Ferrari in the photo. I found it parked in the dropoff lane at baggage. I don’t know about you, but in the unlikely event that I find myself as a Ferrari owner, I highly doubt you’ll find me parallel parked at baggage claim.
Bringing all this home to us, I looked around for repair facilities. Some were certainly better than others. Dealers had fairly up-to-date facilities, but when you got into the older cities, working conditions deteriorated rapidly. I saw many a tech under a car on the ground with a floor jack supporting the vehicle. And there were lots of vehicles being worked on in the streets on the ground, of course.
What struck me was the stark contrast of outstanding vehicles with the rather crude or ill-equipped repair facilities. Not to say they were all lacking, but the majority would classify as a C or D shop over here. Again, one more reason to be thankful we’re part of our great country and our economy.
While the elaborate train system in Europe is a marvel, I wouldn’t trade it for the flexibility provided by our individual-based transportation.
I hope to see you at SEMA!