May 19, 2011

Confession #25: A Chevy and a Nissan are trendier than a Bentley

2011 Chevrolet Volt (General Motors photo)
While I've been gone – and in a state where the Chevrolet Volt has yet to go on sale – Santa Barbara has become the Volt capital of the world.

Considering it's a coastal town in California, the acceptance of one of the greenest things on wheels shouldn't be surprising. But remember, Santa Barbara has one of the most expensive zip codes in the country. Oprah lives around the corner from one of my high school friends' house. Rob Lowe is an accessory figure to the downfall of the local newspaper. (No, no, I'm not going there.)

That's why I'm surprised that in the first two weeks I've been back home, I've seen six Volts. Pretty much one for every color they're offered in. And only one had dealer plates. That means the few that are trickling out of the plant are going to real customers.

2011 Bentley Continental GT
(Bentley Motors photo)
This time last year, I would have seen as many Bentley Continental GTs rolling around Santa Barbara. Did these Bentley owners trade their $200,000-plus of British traditionalism for Chevy's $40,000-ish plug-in hatchback? Somehow I have a hard time believing that.

Nissan's all-electric Leaf is enjoying a similar level of commonality in these parts too. Weirdly, I only see the Nissans parked on the street, which makes me wonder how the owners charge them. I'm just waiting to see some outrageously long extension cords running down neighborhood sidewalks.

2011 Nissan Leaf (Nissan USA photo)
Could this be the sign of a shift from the gas-guzzling excess of the 2000s? I shouldn't be shocked to see some of the first Volts and Leafs (shouldn't it be Leaves, really?) in the American Riviera, which also claims to be the birthplace of Earth Day.

To be honest I'm fine with this trend shift. Frankly, the people driving Bentleys around Santa Barbara wouldn't care it had a twin-turbo W12 engine, because they never went faster than 45. Never mind six cows died to upholster the seats and cover the dashboard, because the Continental doesn't set the industry's standard for the best Starbucks latte holder. I'm going out on a limb, but I'd bet the Volt and Leaf are better in this regard.

And to top it all off, there's both a Chevy dealer and a Nissan dealer in town. I'm sure an ex-Bentley owner likes not having to drive 85 miles to get their oil changed.