gizmo In The News

   


November 17, 2001

Pedal to the fiberglass:
Comic News car has karmic appeal

By LEWIS TAYLOR
The Register-Guard


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Kahle's 3-year old Gizmo was the first production model electric car made by the Neighborhood Electric Vehicle Co. of Eugene, a fact that still makes him smile when he reads its 000001 vehicle identification number out loud.

Kahle was drawn to the Gizmo because it was locally made and, secondly, because it was "a hoot" to drive. He explained to NEVCO how perfectly symbolic it would be to have the publisher of a cartoon newspaper driving a cartoon car.

"That's how I got No. 1," Kahle said, "I said, `Look, you have got to see that we are to newspapers what the Gizmo is to automobiles.' "

Carl Watkins, president of NEVCO, apparently didn't take much convincing. Along with "easy," and "good for the Earth," Watkins said, "fun" was always one of the operative words in marketing the vehicle.

"Everybody who's driving a Gizmo is essentially doing some advertising for us," Watkins said. "Don has been a great supporter all along because he really likes it. It's a lot of fun, and he's all about having fun."

Kahle is not the only one in town to drive a Gizmo. The Eugene Water & Electric Board owns two of the vehicles. Cosmic Pizza uses a Gizmo for deliveries. And Patrick Hughes, a local attorney, does his daily commute in one of the electric cars. Of the 30 Gizmos on the road, 12 are in Eugene, Watkins said.

Kahle's Gizmo has a custom horn that makes the "ooga" sound of an old Model-T buggy. The Comic News logo is emblazoned on its side.

The way Kahle sees it, the $6,500 he spent on the car ran him about as much as a one-year advertisement on the side of a Lane Transit District bus.

"And, at the end of the year, I get to keep the bus," Kahle said.

Not exactly bus-sized, Kahle's one-seater is smaller than the city's three-wheeled parking enforcement carts, which look like distant cousins to the Gizmo, but run on gas. Most days, Kahle climbs into his pint-sized company car and drives three miles from his South Eugene home to the Comic News headquarters. Along the way, he braves a sea of SUVs and endures wave after wave of funny looks, cheers and occasional snide remarks.

"I think it's a babe magnet," Kahle joked, aware of the fact that his car carries more cachet in this town than it might in, say, Detroit. Although he does endure his share of ridicule, Kahle doesn't seem to care whether some motorists fail to see the appeal of a fiberglass car with a 500-pound payload.

"I kind of work from the premise that you're only allowed so much romance in life, and, you know, everybody gets the same amount. It's just a matter of how you portion it, and so I portion zero for my car," said Kahle, whose other car is a Toyota with 230,000 miles on it.

Kahle may not be the only Gizmo driver, but he is, perhaps, the perfect test pilot for this egg-shaped automobile. Call him the Chuck Yeager of electric cars. Kahle and his Gizmo have become virtually inseparable.

"Last year I saw the NEVCO stand at the Country Fair," Kahle said. "They saw me coming and they said, `I hope you're satisfied.' I asked why, and they said because everyone who's come by has said, `Look, it's the Comic News mobile.' "

Entertainment reporter Lewis Taylor can be reached by phone at 338-2512 and by e-mail at ltaylor@guardnet.com.




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Copyright © 2001 The Register-Guard