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Why Not A 40-MPG SUV?

After overcoming my initial shock from reading Mark Fischetti’s “Why Not a 40-mpg SUV?” (TR November 2002), I realized that this article reaffirmed my beliefs about the motivations and roles of new technology, business, and government. I applaud Fischetti for rightly pointing out that the auto industry has little motivation to change without a mandate from Washington or an outcry from the public. Only then will new technologies serving noneconomic needs be implemented. The answer to the question “Why Not a 40-mpg SUV?” will be found with the politicians and, ultimately, the voters.

D. Fred Ackerman
Richmond, CA

We’re not going to see 40-mpg SUVs anytime soon, and that’s not because Detroit is incompetent. Bigger and heavier SUVs outsell smaller and lighter vehicles for a simple reason: U.S. drivers want them. Actually, so do drivers elsewhere. Mercedes doesn’t make its largest cars for the U.S. market alone; plenty of Germans love big and fast vehicles, too. America’s crime is not to love excess-it’s to afford it.

Rick Blake
Biddeford, ME

Ford is coming out with its Escape model, a hybrid gasoline-electric SUV, in 2003; some of us have been waiting two years for it. Toyota and Volkswagen say they will be selling hybrid SUVs within five years. The technology is now being brought to production. Your article didn’t mention the possibility that car manufacturers might finally be listening now that we are worried about our oil consumption. I don’t work for a car company. I’m just a consumer patiently waiting for a car that does its part for the environment, as well as for my pocketbook.

Tracy Greeley-Adams
Cincinnati, OH

Almost every purported solution reported in your article is so far from existing technology that it makes the development of flying cars seem easy by comparison. Continuously variable transmissions, for instance, haven’t proved they can stand up to the high torque requirements of a heavy-duty fleet truck. Direct injection still has serious noise problems that stem from low-idle detonation. In the future, it would be nice to read articles that discuss the ways technology is helping overcome these obstacles, rather than an attack on the automotive industry.

Ed Twiss
Fort Worth, TX

Post-Napster: Movies

In response to your report, “Digital Entertainment Post-Napster: Movies,” (TR November 2002): Even though some people download movies, I never fail to see queues at cinemas during weekends. Nothing can beat the experience of seeing an action hero on the big screen. When the VCR was invented, Hollywood prophesied that the so-called piracies made possible by these machines would bring about the demise of cinema. That didn’t happen. Hollywood should stop wasting resources and find new means to derive revenues from its creative output.

Lim Yung Hui
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Post-Napster: Music

David Kushner’s article on copy-protected audio CDs did a great job of explaining the technical and legal issues surrounding this important consumer issue. If the music industry goes through with its plans to sell only copy-protected CDs, my family will have to stop buying new CDs. The problem is that copy-protected CDs won’t play on our home theater system, DVD player, or two MP3 players. To protect substantial investments in home entertainment systems, I expect to see legal challenges by consumers to the switchover to copy-protected CDs.

Richard M. Smith
Brookline, MA

Cybercrime

Simson Garfinkel’s article “The FBI’s Cybercrime Crackdown” (TR November 2002) was very interesting, but I was shocked at the laxity of sentences imposed on convicted hackers. The individuals listed in the “Hall of Cyberinfamy” are some of the most malicious and destructive hackers in history, but none served more than a few years in prison. It’s bad enough that so few hackers are ever caught and convicted, but these sentences are a joke. If law enforcement is to serve as a deterrent, criminals must believe that there is a chance of being caught and that severe punishment will follow. In the case of cybercrime, we appear to be failing on both counts.

Bill Jonsson
Charleston, SC

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