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Aaron Turpen

The Great Wyoming Debate: Wipers Up or Down in the Storm?

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By Aaron Turpen, automotive writer

We just had our first snow and for a place with a lot of local plates, I was amazed at how many drivers seem to have forgotten their lifetime of snow driving after a summer off.

When the snow came, my wife and I were on our way to a parent-teacher meeting at the grade school. It was really coming down as we headed over and continued while we were in that meeting. It was an opportunity to notice something: the number of people put their wipers up was about half. A pretty even 50/50 split.

Wyoming is well known for its high winds. I’m in agreement that it’s one of the things that keeps the riff-raff out. Hail storms being the other one. I’m also often surprised at how many people don’t know to just park and wait it out when the winds come. Semi-truck drivers I can understand, maybe, not knowing how bad it can get. But people who live here? Seriously, that boat can go to the storage lot later, when the winds are down.

I bring up the wind because for me, that’s why wipers should stay down in the bad weather here. If you live in Illinois or New York or some other snowy place that gets winds of a mere 20-30 mph on the regular, leaving them up is probably no big deal. But if you live here, where we measure wind speed with a three pound chain.. Not such a great idea.

I know this will be controversial and there will be pushback. But hear me out. This will be way better than the forehead-slap fest that is political debate nowadays.

Your wiper arms are connected by a hinge with a spring to hold it to the windscreen. It’s that spring that you’re stretching when you stand the wiper up. So the wipers, when up, are already tensioned to come back down. That’s the first problem.

The second problem is that, while up, they are like little tree trunks bucking, swaying, and being pushed by the wind. That means they’re moving in ways they aren’t meant to move.

The third problem is that just behind the hinge where those wiper arms connect to your vehicle is a gear. Often it’s made of plastic. It isn’t made for that kind of stress.

So those three things combine when wipers are in the upright position in the Wyoming wind on a cold winter’s day. So we have wiper arms tensioned to be down that are pushed up but being blown in the wind. If the wind is right, it will knock them down. That can be a hard, fast drop. A windshield cracking drop.

If that doesn’t happen, we still have a spring meant to keep the wiper to the windshield being tensioned in the opposite direction. Which could mean it won’t be as tight over time. Causing windshield wiper chatter. On top of that, we still have the arms being pushed around in the wind, twisting on relatively fragile hinges and gearing. Those gears can wear and break. Also not good.

For those reasons, the better option in bad weather is to cover the windshield itself. There are great windshield covers made for that and they’re readily available online and in stores. Even better, these covers mean you don’t have to scrape the ice off the windshield. Bonus: you can use the cover to help protect the windscreen during a hail storm.

So there’s my heavily controversial advice. I realize now that this means I can never run for office as this will definitely be brought up in attack ads. But I proudly state that I am pro-wipers-down. Damn the consequences.

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Aaron Turpen: Musings On School Zones and Cheyenne’s Illiterate Drivers

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By Aaron Turpen, columnnist

I spend a lot of time at school. Or at least, in school zones. I have three kids and that means two different school drop offs in the morning and three different pickups in the afternoons. I always arrive early for both. Because I’ve learned, after three kids through elementary, that’s a lot easier than trying to skin-of-your-teeth the timing.

While sitting in those school zones, I often listen to the radio and observe the other parents. People watching is a favorite pastime and I indulge as often as possible. What I notice in school zones is both frightening and amusing at the same time. In the same way that watching videos on Yellowstone National Park: Invasion of the Idiots is. You know bad things might happen, but you’re unable to stop them and can only take solace in the dark humor that they present.

The general menagerie is always the same. There’s the Speedster flying through the school zone or parking lot like they’re late for their own wedding and the new parents-in-law are definitely shotgun wielders. Then there’s the Lost and the Clueless, searching for parking in all the wrong spaces. And then there’s the Space-Claimers who create their own traffic rules and parking spaces, right-of-way and public street thoroughfares be damned.

Speedsters

The Speedsters are the least humorous and most baffling. They NASCAR their way through the parking lot, pickup zone, and even sometimes the bus loading zone with little apparent remorse.

Amazingly, though, they’re often doing this either well before the bell is going to ring–when they’ve still got a good 10 minutes to spare.

Or they’re doing it right after the bell has rung and kids are already pouring out of the school’s doors with that joyful exuberance and carefree attitude that adults only get to feel when they quit their jobs.

In the latter case, one can only have the phone at the ready, 911 pre-dialed, and await the inevitable. In the former, though, we can just look at them puzzlingly and turn to the parent in the parking space next to us, point, and shrug.

That mutual “Get a load of that moron” moment is a pretty fulfilling connection.

Lost And Clueless

The Lost and the Clueless are always amusing. They generally tool through the area trying to make up their mind about what the best parking position might be, where it might be located, and how easy it will be to access once found.

These are the people who spend hours going through the clothing racks at Dillards only to walk away with one pair of clearance rack underwear and a few choice comments about how disappointing everything is.

Their final choice in parking space is often only vaguely identifiable as a possible place for a car to be. Usually it has stripes on it. But those are probably just markers so the Lost and Clueless driver can identify it again later.

At which point, that Lost and Clueless driver may (if they recall that spot again) become part of the Space-Claimers group.

Space-Claimers

The Space-Claimers are those who creatively interpret what a parking space is and then engineer that creativity into some kind of self-absorbed bubble of righteousness.

They park in school roundabouts, in bus lanes, in fire lanes, in the stripey spaces between handicapped zones.. Generally anywhere that is convenient to only them and either hazardous or extremely inconvenient for the rest of us.

Then, when given dirty looks or a talking to by the person they’re most inconveniencing, their name magically changes to Karen.

They often have a pointed, and sometimes lengthy, story to tell about why they’re parked where they are and how they’re entitled to do that.

Threats to involve Cheyenne PD will often ensue from one party or the other. I’ve personally received dirty looks and snide comments for laughing out loud at these quasi-explanations when walking by.

So if you’re a parent who routinely or even just occasionally must pick up your children from one of Cheyenne’s schools, show up early. The show is always worth the extra time spent in the parking lot. If you see me, park nearby so we can share knowing looks and point-and-smirk commentary.


Aaron Turpen is an automotive journalist living in Cheyenne, Wyoming. His background includes commercial transportation, computer science, and a lot of adventures that begin with the phrase “the law is a pretty good suggestion, I guess.” His automotive focus is on consumer interest and both electronic and engineering technology. Turpen is a longtime writer for Car Talk and New Atlas.

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Aaron Turpen: Know Why New Cars Are Expensive? It’s Not Just Greed

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By Aaron Turpen
Cowboy State Daily automotive writer

Statistically, most people in the U.S. buy a new car about every six years. So if you’re looking for a new car now, be ready for some sticker shock. The good news is that used car values are pretty high, so some of that shock might be of lower voltage if you’re trading something in.

So why are new cars so expensive? The short answer is inflation plus shortages plus the “base model effect.” The long answer? Well, keep reading.

The greatest culprit is inflation. And that won’t be fixed by any of the political or central banking schemes being used to try to slow it down. Why? Well, mostly because we run everything on credit. From our own households to the federal government, our economics are based entirely around promises to pay.

This means inflation and it has meant that for most of the lifetimes of every American alive today, we’ve had currency inflation. Lately it’s gotten worse, but that’s hardly the reason new car prices are so high all by its lonesome and it doesn’t mean they’ll go down if the Fed “corrects” well enough.

Starting from 2016, the U.S. Dollar has seen 23.40 percent cumulative inflation, or loss in value. So anything you bought in 2010 would now cost 1.234 times as much.

Thus if you bought your current vehicle six years ago for $35,000 and are planning to buy a new one now, you can expect to pay at least $43,190 for it. Entirely because of inflation. Blame Washington, but remember who votes and who has voted for the last 100 years. It doesn’t matter who is in office, inflation happens.

On top of that because of vehicle inventory shortages due to electronic sensors, chips, and other things being harder to get for various reasons (including COVID, the war in Ukraine, and supply logistics problems), you can expect to pay even more.

Yes, even beyond the inflation as your dollars lose value by the day, you can also expect to pay more at the dealership because there are more people looking to buy cars than there are selling them. The upside to this, as mentioned before, is that your trade-in will also likely have a much higher value.

The window sticker on the car, which lists the manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) for the vehicle (among other things) is only a starting point for purchase.

As most people know, negotiations generally start with that as a baseline and then things move up or down from there. Currently, they mostly move up. Thanks to shortages. But many remember the heyday of a few years ago when it was the opposite: the number usually went down.

There were cash incentives, dealer markdowns, special package deal offers, and more. Not to mention discounts for first responders, military members, “friends and family” of the dealership or automaker, and so forth. Those markdowns are, by and large, no longer available. At least, not in the way they used to be.

They no longer subtract from that MSRP. Instead, they might subtract from the dealership’s own “market value” add-on price over and above MSRP. If they’re offered at all. There are plenty of stories to be found in online forums of buyers who, despite the markups, decided to buy the vehicle anyway and were to have a markdown based on their status. Only to find out that their new car had been sold out from under them. To someone who wasn’t getting a markdown.

Welcome to capitalism. If you aren’t willing to accept its downsides, you shouldn’t tout its upsides. Kinda like free speech, the second amendment, and all the rest of our freedoms. Not everything is roses.

So here we are with new car prices being much higher than they were the last time you were in a dealership. But wait, there’s more.

This one’s been around since time immemorial. Marketers often call it the “Base Price Effect.” This is the totally legal practice of advertising the base model’s price but never actually having a base model available on the lot. Every dealership does this. And manufacturers often monkey with the numbers to propel this trend.

The “base price” that’s often advertised for a vehicle is for the model that has absolutely no added features, whizzbangs, or content. It’s the absolute cheapest option possible for the vehicle. Do you want to guess how many base models of any given vehicle are actually sold in a given year? If you guessed “almost none,” you’re right. Even rental car agencies don’t buy purely base model vehicles.

But that base model price of $29,999 sure does look great if your new vehicle six years ago cost you $35,000, eh? Because our eyes don’t see the small print that says “starting price” or “starting at” or “base model not shown.”

Even if we’re aware that it’s just the base model’s price and ours would cost more, we will still have dreamy thoughts about how if we apply a couple of discounts.. Perhaps pull off some good haggling.. Maybe throw in that we’re pre-approved for credit on the buy.. And do a really good job cleaning up the trade-in.. And really show that salesman who’s boss.. We’ll get it for close to that price, but it’ll be a way better than base model car. Totally doable.

Good luck, Chuck, cause that’s not gonna happen. Instead, you’re going to be told that the base model is hard to get because Russia screwed over the supply chain, the manufacturer has all those base models tied up in rental fleet sales for a while, and that stupid politician makes importing that car to Wyoming too unrealistic at the moment.

Whatever the reason, it won’t be the dealership’s fault for sure. It’ll be why they don’t have any and probably can’t get you one. Not soon, anyway. Maybe a couple of months if you’re OK waiting. But hey, there’s this other one on the lot that’s only got a few options added. Let’s go look it over while you think about it.

And that model they show you? Yep, $43,000 and change without any dealer markups. But there is a $1,200 delivery fee that they can’t drop and a $400 service charge for the processing. Oh and that $80 to fill its tank for you.

Right and don’t forget the $1,800 in “sorry, already added and we can’t remove it now” dealership gear thrown on. You know, the plastic do-dads and upgraded this-thats and whatnot. But hey, we can work a deal here. You say you’re pre-approved?

So long story short is that right now, new vehicles (and used ones for that matter) are a seller’s market. Buyers will have to pay. But think of it this way: six years ago when you purchased that car at 0% interest and with a $5,000 cash-on-the-hood incentive to purchase, you didn’t complain.

Well, now it’s the dealer’s turn. Those heady days of cash incentives and markdowns were great while they lasted. It’s anyone’s guess if they’ll ever be back.


Aaron Turpen is an automotive journalist living in Cheyenne, Wyoming. His background includes commercial transportation, computer science, and a lot of adventures that begin with the phrase “the law is a pretty good suggestion, I guess.” His automotive focus is on consumer interest and both electronic and engineering technology. Turpen is a longtime writer for Car Talk and New Atlas.

Aaron Turpen: Before You Ask, Let Me Explain What I Do for a Living

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By Aaron Turpen, automotive writer
Cowboy State Daily

“Hi. My name is Aaron and I like to drive.” This is how I imagine my introduction would be were there some kind of group therapy for driver’s anonymous. And even then, I’d probably only be there under court order. Driving doesn’t interfere with my life. It is something I love doing and I get to do it (more or less) for a living. Well, technically, I get paid to write, but I do a lot of driving to lead up to said writing. And the driving is the fun bit.

The question I get asked most often is a variation of “what exactly is your job?” People see me driving new cars all the time and wonder what I do, where I get the cars, and whether I sell them. I’ve been asked if I’m a drug dealer, a spy, or some kind of car dealer. One fourth grader once told me she assumed I had a giant garage and was just really rich. Sadly, no, I am not Jay Leno or even his cousin. I don’t work for a dealership; or, frankly, know anyone locally who does. And I don’t sell drugs. I can neither acknowledge or deny the accusation of being a spy: need to know and all that.

The reality is that I’m what is called an automotive journalist. Specifically a freelance one, which means I don’t “work” for a given company, I just have several that accept some of the stuff I write. “Automotive journalism” is kind of a catch-all term for writers, photographers, and personalities that work within the automotive realm. It’s everything from covering news items related to automotive to writing opinions to making YouTube videos. Some write for well-known publications like Car & Driver and Motortrend, others have large Instagram followings, and still others write for various dot coms and online outlets. My work is almost exclusively online and my audience is global. I mostly write opinions to include reviews of vehicles and commentary. And now, a few times a month, I write something locally-oriented for Cowboy State Daily. Often to you, the reader’s, chagrin, I bet.

The gist of the job is this: manufacturers bring me cars to drive. I drive them for a few days (usually about a week). I test some things as appropriate. Those might be things like fuel economy, off-road prowess, towing capability, or family hauling. I use the vehicle as a daily driver to haul my family around or I act my age and cruise around as the middle-aged white guy with a two-seat sports car. I also attend driving events and presentations from manufacturers and membership groups to familiarize with new technologies, new vehicles, and so on. Then I write about all of it. Often with Oxford commas. Editors love those.

One of the events that I attend is an annual driving get-together put on by the Rocky Mountain Automotive Press. RMAP is a group based in Denver for automotive journalists and influencers in the Rocky Mountain region. Membership is exclusive to those of us who are established automotive journalists with a few up-and-comers being sponsored as well. At the event, manufacturers bring vehicles and we, the journalists, talk with representatives from the makes and drive the vehicles in Colorado’s mountains. Called the Rocky Mountain Driving Experience, this year’s RMDE was held in Golden, Colorado with drives into the mountains just west of Denver. Previous events have been held in the Estes Park area and at the High Plains Raceway east of Denver.

At this year’s RMDE, I drove the new Toyota Tundra pickup truck, the new Kia EV6 electric crossover-SUV, the all-new Nissan Z, the totally remodelled Honda HR-V, and other vehicles from automakers of every description. These events help introduce me to the new vehicles being introduced for the current and next model year and give me a chance to talk with representatives from each manufacturer to learn what’s new and how they’re positioning the vehicle in terms of technology, buyer market, and so forth. That baseline information and first-time drive gives me a starting impression of the vehicle. Then, eventually, the vehicle will come to me as a loan and I will drive it over several days to gain a full feeling for what it is, who it’s intended for, and how well it’s positioned in its market compared to the competition.

My goal is to be as unbiased as possible. When I can’t be completely neutral, I try to point out my own bias wherever possible. For example, I get a serious off-road beast and get to go nuts with it in the wilderness? I’m probably going to like it a lot more than I would, say, that A-to-B commuter car with the weak engine and soul-sucking transmission. For me, though, the most interesting and fun vehicles are the ones that take me by surprise. A good example there is the Ford Mustang Mach-E GT. I was ready to be disappointed that the Mustang name was being stuck onto a small SUV and paraded as “new.” Then I found out what 0-60 miles per hour in 4 seconds feels like as a daily driving option that won’t have the police in hot pursuit because your engine announced to the entire world that you are definitely hot dogging.

The experience of doing what I do for a living (I’m now on year 10) has been great. The manufacturers supply the vehicles, but I’m free to editorialize as I wish. My opinions are my own. And amongst the automakers, the respect level for that is higher than you’d think. I’ve never faced repercussions for negative reviews.

My opinions do, however, often cause much consternation amongst enthusiasts for a particular brand or vehicle when it doesn’t jive with their love affair. I get a lot of comments along the lines of “Ya, but it’s still a Dodge” or “You clearly didn’t actually drive that or you’d have realized that the bed length is 52.73841 inches, not just 52.” I’ve even been told that I’m a shill for the “other company” when I have negatives to say. (This is especially true if the vehicle in question happens to be a product of Elon Musk’s corporation.)

But that’s OK. I’m writing opinions and not everyone will agree with them. Most of my work is actually just my love affair with driving manifested as words on a screen. Because, when it’s all boiled down, I really just like to drive. I’ve driven 18-wheelers (aka “big trucks”), tiny three-wheelers, muscle cars, rock crawling beasts, small cars, big SUVs, and everything else I could get my hands on. My greatest fear, in fact, is that autonomous vehicles will become mandatory within my lifetime. Luckily that’s not very likely. We’re still pretty far away from that horrible dystopia. I won’t likely have to portray Rush’s Red Barchetta lyrics in real life.

So I drive and I write. That’s basically my job. It might be confusing to some when it gets to the details, but in the end, that’s the gist.

Aaron Turpen is an automotive journalist living in Cheyenne, Wyoming. His background includes commercial transportation, computer science, and a lot of adventures that begin with the phrase “the law is a pretty good suggestion, I guess.” His automotive focus is on consumer interest and both electronic and engineering technology. Turpen is a longtime writer for Car Talk and New Atlas.

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Aaron Turpen: Used Car Prices Are Nuts! When Is This Going To Change?

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By Aaron Turpen
Cowboy State Daily automotive writer

Probably the most-asked question right now, as gas prices finally begin to drop, is why used cars cost almost as much as new ones. “Used care prices are insane right now!” a friend told me as we discussed good options for his teenager’s first car. “My first car cost me $300 and was good all the way through college.”

Ya, well, this isn’t the 1990s anymore. My first mortgage was barely $500 a month and that was a decade later. Things are definitely not the way they were. My dad’s stories about buying his first car, cash money, for $3,800 and a first house for $9,000 were, well, unbelievable to me during my 20s in the 1990s when my rent was over $300 a month.

Now? Well, we’re looking at a generation that considers a new car priced at under $40,000 to be amazingly cheap. We could go into the economics of why this is, but that’d quickly become political. Everyone wants to blame someone when the reality is that everyone is in on it. So let’s talk about used cars.

Yes, used car prices are pretty insane right now. But “..the primary driver for the used vehicle market is, not surprisingly, demand,” said Steven Lang, a colleague and expert in used car markets. “Dealerships and sellers have a hand in creating the market,” he said, “but don’t necessarily control it. If it costs more to get the used car in order to resell it, the resale price will be higher.” Simple economics.

And that demand is high right now because new car prices are also pretty insane. The average new car is selling for about $40,000 today. That’s without any dealership markups or other costs added on. And that price is about to go up again, thanks to high inflation and the pass-through costs that will add on. Most automakers have already announced price increases for 2023 and 2024 models.

We currently have a market situation that is hitting consumers from several directions. New car prices are high, regardless of inflation, because that’s what the going rate is.

All of the safety equipment, added technologies, and higher costs of doing business have been piling into the cost of a vehicle for years now. The relatively simple (if battleship-sized) machines of the 1960s were lightweight deathtraps compared to today’s average crossover-SUV or truck and their heavyweight safety items.

To go with the added price of a vehicle just because of technology and inflation, we also have a shortage. Manufacturers still cannot get the parts they need, especially the control chips, and probably will face shortages for at least two more years. So the new car market will remain very seller-friendly and prices will reflect that. There are more buyers than cars to be sold.

The economic Reagan Effect for that is affecting used car markets. As more buyers are priced out or unable to find new cars, they trickle down to the used market. More buyers mean fewer cars per potential buyer, which raises prices.

As the demand for used cars has increased, demand to get more used cars to meet that demand has increased wholesale prices for those used cars. “The market follows the money,” Lang said. “With buyers cross-shopping new and used cars and often getting quicker to buy before it’s gone for fear of missing a deal, the market just keeps going up.”

The added effect here is that new car dealerships, with few new cars to sell, are generally making more with used car sales. Most new car dealerships have historically made a steady, but not necessarily high income from their new car sales.

Relatively speaking. For years now, most dealerships make much of their income from resale of trade-ins, from their maintenance and repair shops, and from after-sale dealer add-on products like accessories. And, of course, from the financial side of things via kickbacks from lenders and the like.

“We have at least two more years in this chip shortage,” Lang said. “That’s how long it will take for new chip makers to come online and for logistics to catch up.” That means two more years of high vehicle prices across the board.

That’s not good news for those hoping to see some reprieve in their used vehicle needs. We’ve got a ways to go yet.

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Aaron Turpen: New Car Dealerships Are Going to Die Kicking and Screaming

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By Aaron Turpen, automotive writer
Cowboy State Daily

Last month, I wrote about how car dealerships, in particular dealerships selling new cars, are going to find peace with the dodo bird as the world changes around them. My opinion returned a lot of commentary. Unlike most of the things I write here, the commentary was largely non-political.

To summarize, the dealership model I foresee coming in the near future will be more about service and a lot less about sales. Dealers will have small inventories of various vehicle models from their respective brands. These will be “demo” models meant only for test driving and tire-kicking purposes.

Customers will then order their vehicle and have it delivered when it’s ready. Which, for about a third or so of customers right now, is how their new car purchase works: custom order, wait for the factory to build it, then take delivery.

That big change in dealerships will come thanks to the earlier restrictions of the pandemic, our current supply chain woes, and the length of time it’s going to take to recover from both.

Not surprisingly, I’m not the only one who thinks this new dealership model is what’s to come. Jim Farley, CEO of Ford Motor Company, held an investor’s earning’s call and explained the company’s plans moving forward.

Farley’s vision is to see dealerships acting almost exactly as I outlined: small inventories, online ordering, delivery or pickup by the customer after the build. Ford is restricting that model to its electric vehicle division, for now, but that division is expected to make up about a third of Ford’s overall manufacturing inside the next five years.

And to make sure that’s possible, Ford has already met its goal of securing battery and other technology components ahead of time, so it won’t face dearths of availability later.

Dealerships, for their part, aren’t helping themselves by taking advantage of current inventory lows and high demand for the few vehicles that are available.

Price gouging is a more common practice than most manufacturers will admit to and recent surveys have shown that consumers are not pleased at all.

Those who do buy, because they have no choice and need the car, are paying the added fees, but are overwhelmingly saying that they won’t be going back to that dealership.

Worse yet, those “flipping” vehicles by selling them to customers (often straw purchasers who are in on the deal) and then reselling them for big profits are about to see deep punishment from automakers like Ford and GM for doing so.

Ford has threatened to limit dealership stock if they’re caught flipping or gouging while GM has said they’ll drop warranties for high-demand vehicles sold and resold within 12 months.

Whatever is being done, though, the damage is already there. Dealerships were already on shaky ground with many consumers who despise the high-pressure sales tactics and the funneling system of negotiations during the purchase process.

Customers are now given more reason to see car dealers as on par with Washington politicians with these new shenanigans.

Dealerships in today’s connected, social markets should be depending on solid reputations and trustworthiness as top marketing strategies. Instead, they are going for the quick buck and destroying those attributes in the process.

So we’ll see the traditional dealership model crumble. And quickly.

Consumer demand, manufacturers seeing competitive advantage in more consolidated purchasing processes, and dealership consolidation through buyouts will all lead to a sales model that is nothing like what we have now.

We may also see the worst of the franchised dealerships begin fading out as franchise agreements fail to renew.

That will just leave us with used car sales. Which, frankly, probably are overdue for a similar overhaul, but which will likely remain intact. Letting consumers still have a favorite kicking post and cliche to make jokes about.

Aaron Turpen is an automotive journalist living in Cheyenne, Wyoming. His background includes commercial transportation, computer science, and a lot of adventures that begin with the phrase “the law is a pretty good suggestion, I guess.” His automotive focus is on consumer interest and both electronic and engineering technology. Turpen is a longtime writer for Car Talk and New Atlas.


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Aaron Turpen: Traditional Car Dealership Is Dead; Consumers Now Have Advantage

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By Aaron Turpen
Cowboy State Daily automotive writer

For years now, we’ve seen the car dealership change as trends and technology came and went. But the traditional “walk in, kick the tires, sit down for the sales pitch, haggle, and sign the paperwork” model hasn’t changed that much from the consumer’s side.

Yes, electronic titling, easier access to loans, and other changes on the back end have come to speed up the process, but the basic here-to-there for most consumers isn’t much different now than it was in the 1960s.

But that’s about to change. It’s not a question of if, but a question of when.

Tesla

The first indication that all was not right in the dealership model was when Tesla began attempting to sell cars directly to consumers and met up with state-enforced roadblocks.

These dealership franchising and territory laws, mostly set up as protectionist schemes for existing new car dealers, showed that the status quo was so entrenched it’d become the law.

Trying to buck that trend, Tesla worked around the laws by going to states that didn’t have them or those that had loopholes it could exploit in selling direct to consumers via delivery.

This has worked, to a point, but is on shaky ground as dealer groups (often with the backing of car manufacturers) push to close those loopholes.

Yet Tesla’s efforts did have a payoff that even Elon Musk probably didn’t expect: consumers now know why they can’t buy a car on Amazon or get their cars directly from the manufacturer. Many had been under the assumption that manufacturers “owned” the dealerships they sell from. That ignorance was shattered for many.

Pandemic

Then came the pandemic. With COVID lockdowns and the resulting manufacturing slow-downs and logistical gluts, dealership lots have become nearly vacant of new vehicles to sell. Nationally in 2021, almost a third of new car buyers purchased their vehicle on order via a dealership and waited for it to be delivered.

Previously, that number had been in the single digit percentages. Usually for special order only options or models. Now even common vehicles like family crossovers and small pickup trucks are “backorder” items that must be build-to-order purchased instead of after kicking the tires and taking the traditional test drive.

Logistical slowdowns are likely to continue for some time as manufacturers scramble to fill backorders and suppliers run overtime to attempt to get parts and components to them.

Most in the industry assume we have at least another year or more of low dealership inventory. Which means even more consumers will be buying sight unseen via the ordering process. Probably well over half again this year.

Tea Leaves

What does that mean for the industry?

It means the dealership model is dying. Consumers are getting used to maybe not test driving the exact model they want or getting to kick tires and fiddle with knobs and buttons while mulling over options packages.

Dealerships are adapting to this new model by streamlining their “online ordering” systems for both consumers and salespeople.

Seeing these changes happening, it’s easy to imagine a near-future where dealerships no longer keep large parking lots of inventory to cover every model and various trim levels for them.

Perhaps the dealer will only keep the mainstream “middle-ground” trim and the highest trim on hand for consumers to touch and feel, but then fill most purchases via order instead.

Salesperson

The salesperson, who has become less and less important to the process as the Internet more heavily informs consumers of what’s available, may become more of an order manager and fulfiller in the future.

We already know that the majority of new car buyers who come onto a sales lot already know what vehicle they want and don’t need to be convinced.

Salespeople have largely been trained to guide potential buyers towards an option that is physically available for purchase rather than whatever the buyer had in mind.

With the pandemic, that has become even more important to dealerships for immediate sales, but consumers are clearly happy to buck that attempt and wait for an order instead.

It’s unlikely that laws will change to push dealerships out of their current  semi-monopolistic role in selling vehicles.

Unless a concerted push by consumers and manufacturers to remove the middle man from the sales (and its liabilities) process were to happen, dealerships can expect to keep enjoying their current status as the only avenue for new vehicle purchases. Which means the shady practices some are associated with will also continue. But, again, in comes the power of the internet.

Watchdogs

Watching new vehicle sales for the past several months, a clear trend has been happening. Enthusiast and consumer groups for the more must-have models are all over the web and social media.

These groups now often have “watchdog” threads where consumers (and some insiders) post how much markup and what kind of questionable fees some dealerships are adding to those most-wanted models.

One Ford Maverick forum, for example, has several participants photographing the ridiculous markups some dealerships have been putting on the window stickers of that truck. On another, enthusiasts for the Mazda CX-50 have been doing the same for dealership “fees” that are added.

Even the generally bread and butter Chevrolet Equinox has a user group that tracks how long orders are taking to arrive after purchase at various dealerships in a few states.

Consumers Fight Back

Consumers are following this information and acting accordingly. In one example, a person cancelled an order for one vehicle at a dealership with high markups and went 100 miles to another dealership without markups instead.

In another example, a potential buyer walked out of a dealership that refused to remove the added fees and went 30 miles to another that had no fees or markups added. This use of technology is giving consumers an edge and, as it gains popularity, will begin cutting into the bottom line of the less scrupulous dealers in business.

Meanwhile, consumers who did a build-to-order for their vehicle found that they could personalize it in ways they hadn’t considered: like having unusual options and color packages combined. These consumers are touting that personalization on social media. Others are taking note.

We will, eventually, begin to see the role of the dealership lessen in terms of the sales process and increase in terms of the fulfilment side. As more and more consumers become comfortable with the idea of ordering and waiting for their vehicle, dealerships will have to adapt.

Manufacturers have already made it clear that the days of 60 or more days worth of inventory being on car lots are not likely to return. Dealerships will have to adapt to online sales or face the certainty that manufacturers will begin selling online themselves to follow consumer trends.

For consumers, all of these changes will be a good thing, I think. They may take a while to happen, but they’re happening all the same.

Aaron Turpen is an automotive journalist living in Cheyenne, Wyoming. His background includes commercial transportation, computer science, and a lot of adventures that begin with the phrase “the law is a pretty good suggestion, I guess.” His automotive focus is on consumer interest and both electronic and engineering technology. Turpen is a longtime writer for Car Talk and New Atlas.


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Aaron Turpen: No, Buying an Electric Car Does Not Make You a Democrat

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21740

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By Aaron Turpen, columnist
Cowboy State Daily automotive writer

This is going to burst some bubbles. I know. You’ve probably already come up with a response based purely on the title of this article, but bear with me a little before you type off in all caps at me. It’ll be worth it. I promise good information and bad dad jokes.

I recently was at a family reunion for family I’m married into. I met a bunch of people I didn’t know before and can still only vaguely understand how everyone’s related. For me, that’s hard to wrap my head around as I spent a fair amount of time in Utah as a teenager and learned how everyone there, at some point or another, had a Kevin Bacon with everyone else. No matter how diverse the crowd.

At any rate, during this family reunion, I met with a now-we’re-related guy named Tim. We had a long conversation. Because Tim owns a 1969 Plymouth Road Runner that started life as a drag car and continues its life, under his care and restoration, as a street-legal drag machine. If there’s anything I can carry a conversation at length with, it’s talking about cars.

At some point in that conversation, Tim asked me what is my favorite car that I’ve driven so far this year. A not unusual question for me to be asked, given that what I do for a living means that I daily drive around 100 vehicles every year.

I promptly answered that it was the Ford Mustang Mach-E. He was surprised. After showing some knowledge of what his classic muscle car would have been like stock and asking details about his engine boring and tuning techniques, he was amazed that an electric car would be my favorite. So I explained myself to him. Starting with my corniest vegetable joke.

But back to cars, I chose the Mach-E because it doesn’t just run from zero to sixty in 3.5 seconds, but it’s also a joy to drive. And that, to me, is what matters. I have very few biases when it comes to vehicles. I like trucks, sport utilities, muscle cars, tiny little sports cars, oddly-shaped foreign jobs, school buses, monster trucks, rally racing, off-road beasts, etc. I just like to drive.

Each vehicle has a different appeal and each kind of vehicle and powertrain for that vehicle also has an attraction. I like electrics because they give smooth power delivery. And most have the batteries down the middle of the car, so they tend to have excellent balance and dynamics. I also like the throaty, refined sound of a British V8 and the grunting growl of well-done American muscle.

In short, I like to drive vehicles. This is why I do what I do.

If I’ve learned anything as an American, it’s that politics get into everything in our country. I remember a time when that was not the so much the case, but that time was long ago.

Today, everything becomes political. We worship our divides and the tribal feelings of “we’re better than them” that result. Most of the memes on Facebook and commentary on Twitter are just that: Me vs You.

Being unaffiliated and libertarian in my political view, I’ve often found myself shoved into one group or another based on a comment or a question I pose. Usually by those who don’t see anything beyond elephants and donkeys.

So it is with electric vehicles. We collectively see an EV as either good or evil based purely on how we believe it fits in politics. Which is stupid. Yes, politics get into everything because government eventually gets into everything, but hating the object does nothing to change things.

Just as we don’t hate the soldier for participating in a politically-motivated war we shouldn’t hate the electric car just because some political figure says they are the future. Things change and we can’t always control that change.

Currently, polls are showing that about 60-70 percent of Americans would consider an electric car as their next new car purchase (depending on the poll).

For political affiliation and thoughts, one poll–created by an EV advocacy group but verified independently–asked questions of a cross-section of Americans who are both active voters and in the market for a new car in the next 3 years.

The Zero Emissions Transportation Association (ZETA) polled people nationally back in February with interesting results.

They found that the divide between the two major political parties is wide, with about half of Republicans (49%) saying they support incentives to buy an EV and about 79 percent of Democrats saying that they do.

But 72 percent of unaffiliated independents, which make up the bulk of the voters in the U.S., say that they think incentivizing EVs in some way is a good idea. This means that nearly two thirds of Americans overall are willing to give an EV a chance if the circumstances are right for them.

And unless half of the Republican party is made up of RINOs [insert Cheney joke here], which seems ludicrous, that means that a lot of GOP voters are not only interested in electric cars, but are willing to subsidize them in one way or another.

Then we consider the merits of electric vehicles: they’re simpler, easier to own and maintain, and generally cheaper in the long run. They may or may not be more environmentally upstanding when compared to gasoline- or diesel-powered vehicles and they may or may not be “better” in some specific circumstance or other, but for the majority of people the majority of the time, they’re great. Or at least will be soon enough.

An electric car reduces a vehicle with about 30,000 or so parts down to a couple of thousand. Less complexity means less things to break. Fewer moving parts mean fewer things to have to take apart to figure out what went wrong. And cheaper fuel means cheaper operation.

If I know anything about consumers who buy vehicles, it’s that convenience sells. Every time. The more convenient (aka “easier”) the vehicle is to them, the more likely they are to buy it and keep it.

With a large chunk of the maintenance required of a combustion vehicle going away with electrics, that’s a convenience most will be happy with. As for the convenience of fueling, well, most of us can just plug an electric car into our house.

Eventually that will be the norm at apartment complexes as well. And while road trips and other things are a hassle with an EV now, they won’t be for much longer. Infrastructure is rolling out quickly.

So on practical terms, while you may or may not be ready for an electric vehicle right now, you will likely see them as commonplace in your lifetime. And considering one won’t change your political affiliation. I promise.

(Looking back, I didn’t really include much in the way of dad jokes. So what’s black on white on black on white on black on white? A penguin rolling downhill.)


Aaron Turpen is an automotive journalist living in Cheyenne, Wyoming. His background includes commercial transportation, computer science, and a lot of adventures that begin with the phrase “the law is a pretty good suggestion, I guess.” His automotive focus is on consumer interest and both electronic and engineering technology. Turpen is a longtime writer for Car Talk and New Atlas.


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Aaron Turpen: Don’t Take Those Gas-Saving Tips Too Seriously, Although Some Have Some Merit

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20983

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By Aaron Turpen, automotive columnist for Cowboy State Daily

Memes, clickbait, and other information fodder on the internet are full of “tips” for saving at the pump.

With gas prices being so high, it’s no wonder these are a hot topic and prime targets for getting your attention. But most of those tips are wrong. Some are so far gone, they’re not even fertilizer anymore.

But rather than just debunk the clickbait manure, we should also look at the ones that do have some merit. So here’s a little bit of both.

“Fill up in the early morning when the ground temperature is cold.” This one is hilarious. It plays on the idea that a “gallon” is less than it is when it’s cold. Pumps dispense fuel by volume, so obviously that volume is bigger when the liquid being pumped is cold.

That could be true, if you want to do the physics to figure that out, but it doesn’t apply to fuel. Fuel is stored underground. Where it’s basically always at the same temperature. That’s why your grandparents kept potatoes in the root cellar and your basement is cooler than the rest of your house.

“You should refill the tank when you are down to half.” This one has some merit. Not for the reasons often touted, which include something about gasoline vapors “wasting” fuel by occupying the top area of your tank instead of staying liquid so they can pump into the engine.

Vapors evaporate and eventually return to the liquid state. And the amount we’d be talking about is miniscule compared to the amount of fuel anyway. But, keeping your vehicle’s fuel tank fuller rather than emptier most of the time has other upsides. Namely it keeps your fuel pump from working too hard.

Most fuel pumps are cooled by the fuel around them and if there is no fuel to cool them, they can overheat and wear out early. Plus your fuel lines and injectors will stay cleaner because the junk that gathers in your fuel settles to the bottom of the tank where the pump will start sending it if the tank gets towards empty.

“Don’t fill up at a service station being refilled by a fuel tanker.” This one is an old one and it sticks around because it’s largely true. While most places to fill your tank have particulate filters to keep junk from ending up in your fuel tank, you have no way of knowing how clean or up-to-date those filters are.

The tanker filling the fuel tank below ground is likely stirring up sediment from the bottom as it does so. If the filters aren’t up to the task, that sediment will end up in your car’s fuel tank.

“Fill up on Wednesday. It’s the cheapest day of the week for gas.” Not actually true, though it likely was a few years ago. Before the advent of digital signage that allowed the station to change prices at the press of a few buttons, signs were changed manually.

To avoid looking bad, fuel stations often only changed those signs on Sunday night or early Monday morning when the “new week” would be perceived as a logical time when people would expect price changes.

Often, around Thursday afternoon or night, service stations would then change again to a “weekend rate” when most travel happened, hoping to capitalize on higher traffic. With the advent of more competition on the market and digital signage that can change in seconds, though, that’s no longer the case.

Stations can and often do change prices daily, with fluctuations of a few cents according to various market trends as reasoning. Some gas station chains don’t have immediate control over the price settings, they are updated via satellite or internet at a central location instead.

“Grocery store savings deals can save money at the pump.” This one is true. There are exceptions to every rule, but for the most part, those places that offer savings via membership programs are often the lowest-priced place to get fuel.

Assuming you have the membership points or whatever other requirements are needed. And as with all things, buyer beware. The simple math may say “Oh, I’m saving a lot!” while the longer math may show that the prices paid in the store to get those savings at the pump aren’t actually worth it.

“Fuel system cleaners can improve your fuel economy.” This one is a half-and-half. It’s true if your vehicle is older, as time does cause some buildup in the engine and injection systems that can reduce economy.

In a vehicle that is fairly new and which doesn’t have many miles on it, however, these cleaners won’t be doing much good. As with all things, consider what the manufacturer recommends and what your trusted mechanic says is best for your vehicle. Go with experts. Not some random article on the internet. Even if it was written by me.

“Premium fuel is a rip-off.” This is another grain of salt truism. For most vehicles most of the time, premium fuel is not going to improve fuel economy enough to pay for itself or keep your system “cleaner” than will a lower grade fuel.

There are exceptions. To start with, ethanol fuel, even in a mix like E10 or E15, provides lower fuel economy because of the lower energy density of ethanol versus standard gasoline of the same grade. Ethanol, however, is usually a bit cheaper than is straight gasoline, so the tradeoff is likely worth it.

Next, some vehicles require that premium-grade (91 octane or higher) be used in their engines. This is especially true of performance vehicles, high-pressure engines (such as some Ford Ecoboost and Mazda Skyactiv designs), and many turbo/supercharged luxury models. Most vehicles requiring premium fuel will say so right on their filler port.

There are other fuel saving tips floating around as well. Let us know if you’ve seen any you aren’t sure of. Most of them are probably bunk or half-truths, but there are always a few gems.


Aaron Turpen is an automotive journalist living in Cheyenne, Wyoming. His background includes commercial transportation, computer science, and a lot of adventures that begin with the phrase “the law is a pretty good suggestion, I guess.” His automotive focus is on consumer interest and both electronic and engineering technology. Turpen is a longtime writer for Car Talk and New Atlas.

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Aaron Turpen: Would An Electric Car Fit Your Wyoming Lifestyle?

in Aaron Turpen/Column
Photo by Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images
20566

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By Aaron Turpen, Cowboy State Daily automotive columnist

The question posed in the title is a fun one because most people have a knee-jerk answer for it. Usually not a nice one. But considered on their merits, there are use cases for electric vehicles in Wyoming beyond the golf course and rental scooters downtown.

For whatever reason, many Americans seem to equate electric vehicles with politics. Sure, like everything else, there are some politics involved, but for the most part, an electric vehicle (EV) is just a thing. It’s a tool just like tin foil and a hat are tools. Having either or both may or may not make a statement about you, but in the end, an EV is a tool of transportation.

Even if we derive that EVs are somehow “anti-Wyoming” because Wyoming produces energy, that’s still a short-sighted assumption. Wyoming produces energy and electric cars use energy. In fact, we as a state would stand to make more money because more electrics would mean more energy is required and we are a net producer of that energy.

So lets consider what lifestyles can and could be utilizing an EV soon.

The clearest use case is for commuters. Whether driving 20, 50, or 100 miles on a commute (one way or round trip), an EV means that drive is a whole lot cheaper. Most of the electric vehicles currently on the roads with Wyoming plates are a second or third car for a household and are used primarily to commute either to work or through daily driving needs. The cost difference to drive an electric vehicle daily versus putting gasoline in the average four- or six-cylinder vehicle for the same job can be substantial.

On a commute of 50 miles per day (which is about double the national average), an EV would save someone paying $4 per gallon at the pump a whopping $986 per year. That’s assuming the gasoline car is achieving 35 mpg, which is about 8 mpg higher than the national average right now.

At 250 miles per week, that’s 13,000 miles per year. Those miles divided by 35 equals 371.5 gallons of fuel for $1,486. If gasoline prices somehow drop to the now-dreamy $2.85 per gallon of pre-pandemic days, that’s still $1,059 in fuel.

The average electric vehicle uses about 0.35kWh per mile and the current electricity price in Wyoming is about 11 cents per kWh. Meaning an EV uses about $500 in electricity for that same year. Those savings don’t account for the additional cost savings coming with less maintenance and lower brake wear also associated with electric vehicles.

Given that most electric vehicles now have a range of at least 150 miles per charge and most are well over 200 miles per charge, the “range anxiety” thing is a little overblown.

And the winter “stuck in a snowstorm” scenario making the rounds on the internet has been debunked thoroughly as an EV would actually keep the passengers warm longer than would an idling gasoline vehicle of any size, assuming all other things are equal (amount of fuel/charge and attempted temperature level in the vehicle).

And with no tailpipe emissions, there’s no danger of the tailpipe being clogged as snow piles up, becoming dangerous for the vehicle’s occupants.

The next use-case scenario that makes sense for an electric vehicle in Wyoming are vehicles with fixed mileage requirements. Delivery vehicles and the like, which work on more or less set routes with set parameters for expected mileage each day.

These vehicles are not only predictable for electricity usage and mileage needs, but would also see less maintenance and costs associated with them over time thanks to no requirement for routine oil and filter changes, lower brake wear, and so forth.

Those who routinely use a truck to haul trailers, heavy loads, and so forth are not yet going to find an EV that matches that workload.

Long distance drivers (meaning more than 100 miles each way) are also not likely to be served well with an EV as they are now. But for those who only do those things occasionally or who routinely drive shorter distances, there is a solid argument for going to an electric option.

As more and more of them enter the market (like it or not, that’s what’s happening), the choices for an EV will also grow quickly.

Your politics may dictate that you cannot fathom an EV for any reason. That’s fine, but don’t pretend it’s for any reason other than those politics.

Logically, an EV makes sense for a lot of people. And the infrastructure to support them is coming thanks to tourists who are beginning to appear in Wyoming driving their EVs from their home states.


Aaron Turpen is an automotive journalist living in Cheyenne, Wyoming. His background includes commercial transportation, computer science, and a lot of adventures that begin with the phrase “the law is a pretty good suggestion, I guess.” His automotive focus is on consumer interest and both electronic and engineering technology. Turpen is a longtime writer for Car Talk and New Atlas.


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Window Sticker Lies: Why Your Fuel Economy In Wyoming Isn’t As Advertised

in Aaron Turpen/Column
20115

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By Aaron Turpen, Cowboy State Daily columnnist

The advertised fuel economy for your vehicle is probably not the MPG returns you’re going to get while driving around Wyoming. There are several reasons for that. Some of which you may not know.

Federal law requires that every new passenger vehicle sold have a standard window sticker (called a “Monroney” in the business) that displays specific information about the vehicle. The information includes fuel economy estimates from the Environmental Protection Agency. Those EPA fuel economy estimates are sometimes correct, but are usually wrong.

As a part of what I do for a living, I drive a lot of cars. Big ones, little ones, pickups, hybrids, you name it. Most of the time, the EPA estimates for MPG returns are wrong — especially in Wyoming. It’s a well-known automotive industry expectation that those numbers on the sticker won’t happen for most people who buy that car.

As part of the process of testing a vehicle, I do a highway loop that runs from North College in Cheyenne, across Interstate 80 to the TA truck stop and back. That loop is about 42 miles, with varied elevation, starting from and ending at the gas station on 12th. I top off the vehicle before going out and then do it again when I return and use the numbers from the pump to calculate fuel economy. For most vehicles, it’s 1-3 mpg lower than what the sticker said it should be for highway MPG.

The short version of this is that being where we are, we are at high altitude. Our altitude at 6,400 feet in the air means we have less oxygen in our atmosphere than does, say, San Diego, California with an average altitude of about 60 feet.

Less air means the engine doesn’t get as much O2 mixed with the fuel for burning, which means lower fuel economy. Crosswinds are another hazard we deal with regularly here. We also drive at higher speeds than does much of the country, with posted speed limits of 70 to 80 miles per hour being a norm on our highways. One of the benefits of all this wide open space is we don’t have to putter through it most of the time.

The EPA, however, doesn’t test vehicles at 6,400 feet. Most vehicles are tested within a couple of hundred feet of sea level. Those MPG tests posted at fueleconomy.gov are actually done by manufacturers, who test early production prototypes or models and submit the results to the EPA.

The EPA then spot checks (retests) about 15-20 percent of those submissions to make sure automakers are on the up and up. But because altitude isn’t specified in the EPA’s requirements, manufacturers game it by doing the test at low altitude.

The tests also aren’t conducted in the real world. They are done in a laboratory: an enclosed space where the car or truck sits on a dynamo (essentially giant rollers) and drives at given speeds for a given amount of time. The vehicle is controlled by remote (using a computer) without a human on board. Then fuel usage is measured and an MPG number results. Pressure from the dynamo’s rollers simulates light crosswinds and elevation changes, in a pre-determined and required setup. Speeds for the highway (about 55-60 mph) and for around town (about 25 mph) are tested. A combined fuel economy number is calculated using 45 percent of the highway result and 55 percent of the city result for an “average.”

If that sounds a little contrived, well, most in the industry agree that it is. But for lack of a better, more controlled option simulating the real world, that’s what we’ve got.

But there are ways that we can improve our fuel efficiency while on the road. Eliminating short trips and combining them into one bigger trip is one. On short trips, a vehicle won’t reach optimum operating temperature and thus uses more fuel. A longer trip–even one with several short stops inside of it–will reduce this and improve MPG. Same with cold weather travel, where idling for long periods to warm up the car (not recommended) and driving short distances before stopping is terrible for fuel economy.

Driving like everything is a race is another way to tank your MPG returns. Aggressive acceleration, hard braking, and tailgating are all habits that are best left to the big city rat race folk. This kind of driving is the biggest contributor to low fuel economy returns. Leave the aggressive driving and cutoff bird flipping to Coloradans. We’re better than that.

The last issue is maintenance. A well-maintained vehicle is more efficient in every way. Keeping your car clean inside and out might seem inconsequential, but less clutter and junk means less weight and that means better mileage. Good maintenance with tire rotations, lubrication, and having all bodywork actually attached makes a difference in how well your vehicle operates. There’s a reason we equate badly maintained vehicles with manure storage.

To summarize, while your vehicle’s MPG may not be equal to that on its window sticker, it can be close if you want it to be.


Aaron Turpen is an automotive journalist living in Cheyenne, Wyoming. His background includes commercial transportation, computer science, and a lot of adventures that begin with the phrase “the law is a pretty good suggestion, I guess.” His automotive focus is on consumer interest and both electronic and engineering technology. Turpen is a longtime writer for Car Talk and New Atlas.


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Aaron Turpen: Is Wyoming Ready For Electric Cars? It Needs To Be.

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19044

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By Aaron Turpen, transportation columnist

The debate over electric vehicle (EV) adoption is ongoing and very politicized. The how, when, and (inevitably) the who are hot topics. Yet the question isn’t just about us. Wyoming has a $4 billion per year tourism industry. An industry that’s growing as more and more travelers come here to vacation. Electric vehicle adoption will most certainly affect us through them.

This makes the question of whether an electric vehicle is right for Wyoming a bit moot. Whether or not people here adopt them en masse, it’s feasible that a large number of those who visit us will have one. Especially as adoption in places like Colorado, California, Oregon, and Washington begin adopting them in earnest. Places whose residents often come here to visit Yellowstone, Frontier Days, Devils Tower, and more.

According to the Wyoming Office of Tourism, 2021 had the best year yet for tourists visiting our state. We bested pre-pandemic numbers and it’s projected that 2022 will be even better. With a growing number of tourists comes a growing number of jobs related to tourism and the impacts those tourists will have on our state. About $4B was spent by tourists coming to Wyoming in 2021, with over 8 million tourists visiting.

The number of electric vehicles sold in the U.S. has been growing very quickly. In 2011, there were about 16,000 battery-electric and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles sold in the U.S. In 2021, there were 2.32 million.

With state and federal mandates and incentives likely to push the industry further and with automakers rolling out electric models by the literal truckload over the next couple of years, those numbers will continue their upward trend. Whether we agree it should happen or not, that’s where the industry is going.

How Prepared Is Wyoming?

So how prepared is Wyoming for this coming influx of EV drivers as tourists? Well, better than we could be, but not as good as we might hope.

There are currently about 56 publicly-available electric vehicle chargers in all of Wyoming. 39 of those are in Cheyenne. Of those 39, most are “slow” chargers, meaning they will take at least a day to charge most EV batteries to full.

Of the 11 fast chargers available, four are Tesla-only (located at Frontier Mall), four more are at car dealerships, and exactly none of them are downtown where tourists are most likely to park for food, socializing, and so forth.

The good news? Wyoming is a net power exporter, meaning we produce far more electricity than we actually use. Much of that gets sold to other states. So in terms of production and, for the most part, infrastructure to add more charging stations, we’re in good shape. That puts us a big step ahead of many of our nearby competitors who have some work to do before their infrastructure can handle too many visiting EVs.

Finally, we come to the question of how much time do we have before this becomes an issue. That’s a good question and one that isn’t as easy to answer.

Electric Vehicle Adoption In Wyo

When asked the question of how fast electric vehicle adoption is going to happen, there are political answers and there are realistic answers. Ask any industry insider and they’ll give you a political answer to be quoted and a realistic number off the record.

The realistic number is roughly 10 years to ten percent, 20 years to no turning back. Which means we have about a decade before electric vehicles are sold in such numbers throughout the U.S. that they’ll be a double-digit portion of the vehicles on the road.

And about two decades before they are a big enough portion of new car sales that they’ll impact everything else in the peripheral automotive industry (repair, fueling, resale markets) enough that there’s no turning back. Most of us in the industry then add another 20 years to full market penetration–the point where electric vehicles are the majority of the passenger vehicles on the road. New or used.

That gives the Cowboy State about a decade to get ready to be on the trendsetting side and about two decades to be on par. 

Plan Ahead

Major tourist spots should have plans for electric vehicles and be implementing those plans over the next few years. Businesses, emergency responders, tourist destinations, etc. should definitely be gearing up to cater to the EV crowd.

Those that do not will be behind those who have and will be playing catchup instead of being ahead. We have the base infrastructure and the incentive. It’s just a matter of doing it. It’s not a question of whether electric vehicles will “catch on.”

They are most certainly where we are headed. It’s a question of where in the timeline Wyoming wants to be: cutting edge, middle of the road, or late. Given what tourism does for the Wyoming economy, being ahead of the curve seems smart.

Aaron Turpen is an automotive journalist living in Cheyenne, Wyoming. His background includes commercial transportation, computer science, and a lot of adventures that begin with the phrase “the law is a pretty good suggestion, I guess.” His automotive focus is on consumer interest and both electronic and engineering technology. Turpen is a longtime writer for Car Talk and New Atlas.

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