Vol. 4, Issue 9, December 19, 2006
Ford Releases Water-Powered Car, But Nobody Notices
A Department of Energy (DOE) study touting the potential benefits of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles caused a stir upon release when it was revealed at the press conference that the technology had already been rendered obsolete.
"We thought this study would give us a good deal of momentum with our Saturn Vue Green Line hybrid project," said General Motors spokesman Harold Foster, shaking his head ruefully. "I really, really wish DOE had done its homework before we invested $160 million into the darn thing."
A reporter at the conference asked DOE representatives how the Ford AquaCar compared to the plug-in hybrids. DOE representatives had no idea what he was talking about, but soon convened in the parking lot to verify that, indeed, AP reporter Terry Marshall was driving a production-line vehicle powered entirely by water.
"I got a good deal," said Marshall. "I thought it was sort of strange that prices weren't higher, but on my salary I didn't complain."
The Ford AquaCar represents the most significant engineering advance in nearly a century. Powered essentially by tapwater, the car produces only modest amounts of carbon dioxide and is completely quiet. Yet despite being commercially available for nearly two years, hardly anyone has heard about it.
"Our marketing guys have been pulling their hair out," said Janice Fordunski, a Ford spokesperson. "We initially thought we'd have trouble keeping up with demand, but sales just have not taken off." In fact, sales have been virtually nonexistent, and Ford's financial performance this year was worse than GM's. "Basically, it boiled down to hyperbole saturation."
The problem, apparently, is that the public has become inured to hyperbolic statements and assertions of technological progress.
"It's an interesting sociological phenomenon," noted Stanford researcher Mark Klein. "The louder Ford tried to trumpet this historical achievement, the less people paid attention. But it's not surprising: we have reached a point where even seasonal flavors of Pop-Tarts are promoted as being astonishing and revolutionary. When everything is called revolutionary, nothing seems to be. The louder Ford shouted, the more people tuned them out."
Compounding Ford's marketing woes was the unfortunate timing of the AquaCar's release with that of the iPod Nano. Even the most gadget-oriented publications found little room to discuss the AquaCar, which is not particularly sporty - it resembles a scaled-down Taurus without the frills.
Clearly ruffled by the unexpected turn the press conference had taken, DOE officials said they would need more time to study the potential benefits of the AquaCar before they could begin to study the actual benefits of the AquaCars already sold.
"Plus, we need to figure out what the hell else is out there that we don't know about," said Secretary of Energy Samuel Bodman. "If you find Target selling home fusion generators or something analogous, do please be so kind as to let us know."