Friday, December 12, 2008

The safest cars are French?

Last night I was hanging out after work sipping a few Sessions at Vecchios and the subject of conversation was cars. Specifically, the Big 3 debacle that's playing itself out in the halls of Washington. We were discussing the merits of each company, as well as an assortment of European cars that don't exist in America. Seats, Skodas, Fiats, Alfas, Renaults, Citroens, and Peugeots, as well as the Euro branches of GM (Vauxhaul, Opel) and Ford. Would some of these other brands make a return to the states should the Big 3 dissapear?

It seems, if people's impressions last night were anything to go by, that most have a mountain to climb before repairing their reputations stateside. Fiat's, and Italian cars in general, don't exactly stand for reliability as far as most Americans are concerned. Chances are you know someone who has a fond remembrance of an Italian car. However, most of the stories are probably filled with smoke and skinned knuckles, but when an old Alfa or Fiat spider was running, people loved them. Not for an everyday car though.

The French have it worse off. When I mentioned that Renault was an equal partner with Nissan and one of the most respected car companies in the world, not to mention a dominant force in Formula 1 for two and half decades, people were shocked. They immediately thought less of the Nissan Versa when I told them it was based on the Renault Megane. Huh?!

Citroen are known for that one car, with the crazy body, and not much else, while old Peugoets actually have a bizarre cult following among retro grouch cyclists. The common theme was that everyone expected French cars to be one step above Communist Cars, which isn't good.

Because of my obsessive reading of Car and Evo magazines, I have different impressions of all these brands.

Seats are just VWs with a sense of style and flair. Fiats are fun reliable city cars, with the 500 being the pick of the litter. Alfas are now as reliable and modern as they are beautiful and desirable. And Renaults, which had everyone laughing out loud remembering Le Car, is known for safety and making the best hot hatches in the business. If you don't believe me, check out these five cars that I'd drive home tomorrow but aren't available stateside.

Renaultsport Megane R26.R

Citroen C6

Fiat 500 Abarth

Seat Leon Cupra K

and, even though you can't buy this anymore, its one of my favorites, the Renault Avantime, which Top Gear recently souped up...

Anyways, along the lines of automobile stereotypes, this Renault ad makes me laugh. See, they really are known for safety.

Renault Gold Effie from Yildiray Atas on Vimeo.

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