Why Do We Regulate Supercars?

Illustration for article titled Why Do We Regulate Supercars?
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Today’s supercars are hybrid, carbon-fiber examples of how clean a car can be. Is there really a good reason why this has to be the case? I’m not so sure...

The actual total emissions produced by any of today’s top-rung McLarens, Porsches, Ferraris—any car with production numbers in the hundreds—is pointlessly small. It doesn’t matter how clean they are. They could be as pollutant as a field full of diesel VWs and it wouldn’t make a difference globally.


You could argue that these cars are leaders of technology. In a way, they act something like a prototype you can drive. Much as you could walk into a Cadillac showroom in 1959 and order (at great cost) a car that looked much like a showroom Cadillac for 1960 (this was called the Brougham), an enterprising Porsche buyer could walk into a showroom today and buy a 918 Spyder at great expense, only to get what will be commonplace tech in five or ten years. Except Porsche sold all 918 of their 918s, but that’s beside the point!


There’s another component to this all, too.

You could argue that these supercars are leaders of how we think and feel about the automobile, and how we feel about the environment. It means something, I imagine, for a kid growing up today to see a hybrid as the most desirable, forward-thinking poster car possible.

But you could very easily say to all of these manufacturers, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Porsche, McLaren—do whatever you want, and it won’t have a significant effect on climate change. You could just regulate the masses.


You could just as easily argue that that kind of argument could be extrapolated from supercars to all cars as a whole. Trying to cut down climate change by regulating tailpipe emissions on privately-owned cars may not be the most efficient way of getting things done. You could just focus all of your regulatory energy on replacing all of the coal plants in China and leave cars alone, just as you could leave Lambo to sooty carbureted V12s if they wanted.


The problem, then, is of these questions of where you do your climate change cleaning getting tied up in politics, and then they get tied up in emotions, and then you’re right back where you started.

So do you think it really makes a difference that cars like the Porsche 918 are hybrids? Or maybe the technology alone gets you geeked? Your most thoughtful responses are welcome below.


Photo Credit: Porsche

Contact the author at raphael@jalopnik.com.

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If you deregulate only supercars, everything will become a supercar.

If you deregulate only very limited production cars, suddenly you are going to find that GM has turned into 5000 separate corporations each producing a very limited number of cars.

You regulate supercars because you need to in order to regulate mass-production cars successfully.