Self propelled road vehicles have now been with us for over a century, and by the 1920s had evolved to the point of being useful and even entertaining devices.  That evolution continued through the prosperity filled 1920s as vehicles got faster and more reliable, always a winning combination. But by the 1930s a worldwide depression was the end of many great builders, thought they fought the economic and literal headwinds valiantly with 4 cyclinder motorcycles and V12 and even V16 powered cars. In the 40s the second world war brought production to a standstill and after that manufactures struggled to rebuild or took advantage of the lack of competition. The 50s were the beginning of an automotive awakening but the return to prosperity drove many motorcyclists into the market for cars. The 60s were probably the best decade yet for gearheads, as motorcycling enjoyed a rebirth and even staid Ford went racing off to Europe and beat their best on their own tracks under their rules.

Then came the 70s as Nader inspired bureaucrats supervised designers and engineers and enforced a uniformly low standard of design and performance. Motorcycle sales tanked and 55 MPH speed limits made falling asleep at the wheel a serious threat. Engines wheezed under EPA restrictions while 5 MPH bumpers played hell with polar moments of inertia and trashed some of the greatest sports cars. The 80s weren’t much better as even rays of hope like the mid engined Pontiac Fiero had to be sold to top GM management as an “economy car” to gain their approval.

With the 90s came glimmers of hope- The 55 limit ended and MPG improved as horsepower rose. The 2000s were even better, as improving computer technology made antilock brakes and stability control practical aids to safety AND performance. Turbochargers meant you didn’t need a bulky and thirsty V8 for serious performance. And while the 2010s recession felled a few more automakers, the technology development continued apace.

So here we are in 2020 with hot hatches like the GTI, Civic R, etc. that can turn 14 second quarters that rival the performance of all but the fastest 60s supercars, corner way faster, and brake without fade when requested. And unlike the 60s supercars, they get 20-30 MPG and can haul as much as a small pickup. Move up a notch to a Golf R or Focus RS and you’ll have a car that can match and beat the 60s best on the track yet excel as a daily driver. Same with bikes- The 250/300s offer as much performance as most of us will ever need and for under $10k you can buy some versatile middleweight bikes that will do anything the most expensive bikes will do, except put you on a first name basis with the local BMW or Harley service department.

But the 2020s may be another lost decade- Ford’s already discontinued the Focus, RS and otherwise, in America and VW still hasn’t US emissions certified the Golf R for 2020 and they’re hinting that we’ll be lucky to see any Golfs at all soon. Ford thinks we’ll all trade our hot hatches, wagons, and sedans too on their growing line of SUVs, but 80% of Focus owners are trading their Foci for Hondas, Hyundais, Kias, and everything but a Ford SUV. What Ford is doing is blowing $10,000,000,000 on a tall 4 door electric car they’re calling a Mustang and trying to pass off as an SUV even though it has slightly less ground clearance than a real Mustang. It gets worse… VW has pulled out of all racing involving internal combustion engines while earmarking $50,000,000,000 to design and tool up to build electric cars. That bet is about twice what VW lost on the TDI emissions debacle and several multiples of VW Group’s annual profits.

This major bet on electrics is being made as after a decade on the market, electric cars have taken an all of 2% market share, which may be fortunate as almost every one was sold at a loss. So what happens when these “bet the company” electrification strategies fail… Will VW buy a bankrupt Ford or vice versa? Or will an automaker like Toyota who has wisely avoided betting everything on electrification buy up both for pennies on the dollar? Meanwhile, outside of developing countries,  motorcycling is not aging well as sales to the dwindling pool of riders that can still hold a bike up slow.

Hang on, it’s going to be a boring electric powered ride to bankruptcy…