My brother-in-law recently sent me a spreadsheet he’d built that compares a Prius and two similar-sized cars. He just wanted to know if “doing the right thing was going to cost me.” The numbers said to buy a Prius. Ideally, going green should always be a win-win situation. Then, however, he found that the waiting list is “baaaack!” So he’ll have to put down a deposit just to get in line. He was quite disappointed and may now buy a different car.

My car is also on the ropes. A few months ago, I asked for car advice and got some valuable feedback. I’ve been procrastinating, but a week ago, my door handle broke off, so in addition to having a jury-rigged ignition switch, I now have to roll the window down and open the door using the outside handle. It’s getting embarrassing. At least I don’t have to crawl out the window … yet. I’ll eventually get a part from a junkyard, but that was the final straw. Our 17-year relationship is over.

My choices boiled down to a Honda Fit or a Toyota Yaris. I (naïvely) walked into a Honda dealership to buy a Fit and found a waiting list for those also, much to my chagrin. This dealer wanted over $16,000 for the one basic Fit they said they had (but couldn’t find on the lot); another dealer wanted $17,000. This is supposed to be an economy car. I refuse to pay that much on principal alone! This did not bode well, so I called a local Toyota dealer and was told it would be three weeks before they would get a Yaris on the lot. I didn’t even ask about the price.

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Reviews and ratings for the Honda Fit are excellent in general, but the Yaris tends to rank pretty low. This surprised me. Then again, I don’t really care what reviewers think about “instrument cluster placement.” The car consistently received high marks for reliability, and when I searched the EPA’s clean vehicle guide website for 2008 cars with green rating of nine or higher (basically high gas mileage), the Yaris was one of thirteen cars that made the cut. That was enough for me, and apparently I’m not alone — the Yaris is very popular in Europe. My sister-in-law recently returned from France where she had rented a Prius, and she said it was one of the largest cars on the road. Where would I be without my in-laws?

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My story may have a happy ending yet. I called the personal cell phone of the salesman who sold us our Prius, who is now a sales manager at the dealership, and begged asked him to find me a Yaris this time. He found one within striking distance, and I may have it in my possession by next week.

I briefly considered getting an American-made Chevy Aveo, which I like the look of, but was hard pressed to find a good review. Here are some of the comments that scared me off:

Supposedly it gets 33 mpg highway. I drive the express lanes at 60 mph every day with 2 to 3 miles of my commute on surface streets. I am getting between 22 to 24 mpg consistently …

The Aveo also scored too low in testing to be recommended …

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… the Aveo is a rebranded Daewoo Kalos, produced by General Motors’ Korean subsidiary.

I should hope that most Aveo drivers are getting better mileage than this. Quality has price in the denominator. The Aveo may still be a pretty good deal overall when taking price into account. I have always owned American-made cars, but now it’s time for a change.

I see that GM is finally giving up the beloved Hummer line. This is just the kind of creativity and innovation we need to see more of in Detroit! Can’t wait to see how the Chevy engineers, having been given their marching orders by management, will overcome the thermal bottleneck (laws of entropy) between the generator and electric motor in the Volt design.

On the other hand, Detroit rose to the challenge after the OPEC oil embargo in the late ’70s and early ’80s by greatly improving quality and switching to front-wheel drive. Maybe it can do it again. Just don’t hold your breath. It is entirely possible that the industry will die a slow death at the hands of the yes men and obscenely overpaid CEO dilettantes that have golfed and schmoozed their way into every nook and cranny of the managerial organization charts.