Less Can Be More


Overheard while shopping recently: “I don’t know where Farmington Hills is. I just plug it into my GPS.”

And we wonder why we seem to have lost our way.

That lack of geographical awareness is being passed on to the next generation, who are, at this moment, sitting passively in the back seat watching The Little Mermaid on the built-in DVD player when they could be observing the passing scene.

Though convenient, neither the DVD nor the GPS has much to do with the great American road trip — or igniting the imagination, for that matter. Imagine the results if Travels with Charley or On the Road had followed pre-programmed routes.

There’s a lot to be said for charting your own course, which seems to be the collective hope for Detroit Mayor Dave Bing. His political predecessor was a lemon (in car-speak) whose tenure included plenty of costly detours. So it’s appropriate that Detroit gave Bing an extended test drive — courtesy of the four elections he had to win — before allowing him to take the wheel.

As he maps out a plan, Bing says he wants to steer the city toward more efficient density (page 13). Detroit’s need to right-size
its neighborhoods and resources echoes the task confronting the Big Three, as well as the too-many obese Americans. (See page 56 for some tips on getting the lead out.)

On so many fronts, the pre-scription for 2010 calls for portion control. On that note, we begin our car coverage with a review of several new small vehicles. Our annual Auto Section also includes a look at right-sizing our inventory of auto plants.

Small is big, as our cover says. Along with the “re” words we use as a theme for our automotive features, we might add “revisit,” as in looking back to the future.

Consider the venerable Ford Building and its enduring success as it enters its second century (page 16). The downtown skyscraper reflects the “Chicago School” of architecture, one element of which is limited (or restrained) ornamentation. That style is especially appealing now, as we nurse the hangover left by the recent era of more is better.

The neo practicality by no means calls for stark austerity, however. Traveling light makes us nimble.

If you bite off more than you can chew, you risk — as the old adage warns about getting fat — digging your grave with your teeth.