HomeCar CultureCommentaryEurope vs. U.S. - Pros, cons and the coming of the ISL

Europe vs. U.S. – Pros, cons and the coming of the ISL


As some of you know, in a former life I wrote not much about cars, except for those that were involved in auto racing. But I wrote a lot about sports, which included covering three Olympics, two sessions of the Summer Games sandwiched around the Lake Placid Winter Games (and, yes, I covered the U.S. ice hockey team’s victory over the USSR — and also the later victory over Finland that actually brought the gold medal).

One of the things I observed during my time as a sportswriter involved some of the differences between the United States and Europe; well, actually, between the United States and pretty much the rest of the world.

Here are a few examples: 

•  The U.S. sees football as a sport played in shoulder pads and helmets and with all players — except place kickers — using their hands. Europe and the rest of the world think football is played with feet (to the point that only the goalie can actually touch the ball with hands — or even arms). Oh, and with a ball that is round, not oblong and pointed at each end.

• In the U.S., schools and universities field sports teams. In Europe and the rest of the world, schools are for academics. Community-based clubs organize sports programs for children, teens and adults.

•  In the U.S., with the possible exception of Olympic years, interest in sports revolves almost exclusively around football, basketball, baseball and, in some locations, ice hockey. But in Europe and the rest of the world, the focus is much more diverse. 

Here’s just one case in point: Olympic speedskating champion Sheila Young could walk through pretty much any city in America without anyone taking notice. But she drew an admiring crowd everywhere she went whenever she was competing in Europe. 

So where am I going with this commentary? Don’t I realize this website is about classic cars, not about sports? 

Well, yes I do, and now I’ll get to the point: Just as things are different here and there in sports, so, too, are they with cars and those who produce them.

•  In Europe, automakers embrace their history. Just three recent cases: Citroen’s stunning museum-style display at Retromobile in Paris, and the Volkswagen, Mercedes-Benz and even Volvo stands this week at the Techno Classica vintage vehicle show in Essen, Germany. 

•  Increasingly, the European automakers have opened their own restoration shops, which not only restore and maintain their corporate collections but provide vintage parts and service and sales to customers. Some, such as Mercedes-Benz and Porsche, even provide such services here in the United States.

•  The European automakers also have company-owned and open-to-the-public museums devoted to their corporate histories and to showcase their collections of historic vehicles. 

ISL, Europe vs. U.S. – Pros, cons and the coming of the ISL, ClassicCars.com Journal
The GM Heritage Center has an amazing car collection, but it is not open as a public museum | Larry Edsall photo

In the U.S., General Motors has a car collection, but you need special permission to visit. Ford has a long relationship with The Henry Ford, the history museum that bears the name of the auto company’s founder, and while there is a marvelous display of cars, only a few of them are Ford, Lincoln or Mercury products. 

Chrysler alone had a wonderful and open-to-the-public museum, only to close it a few years ago; it recently re-opened a museum-style but much-more-limited car gallery in the former Viper assembly plant.

Perhaps it’s the pressure of their positions, but it seems to me that, with few exceptions, the American auto executives are primarily concerned about 30-day sales figures and the size of their golden-parachute packages. European and Japanese auto executives appear to take a much longer-term view — both toward the future and the past. 

To wit, consider this: Volvo, a European automaker (and one with a terrific museum) has announced that, beginning with the 2021 model year, it will limit all of its new vehicles to a top speed of 112 mph.

“While a speed limitation is not a cure-all, it’s worth doing if we can even save one life,” explained Hakan Samuelsson, Volvo Car Group president.

In its announcement about the speed limiters, Volvo also said it is studying the potential for “smart” speed control and “geofencing” technology to further reduce speeds around schools.

Volvo also said it thinks factory-installed cameras might be a solution to intoxicated and distracted driving, by such means as alerting the driver, perhaps slowing the vehicle or even automatically maneuvering the car into a safe parking place.

“We want to start a conversation about whether car makers have the right or maybe even an obligation to install technology in cars that changes their driver’s behavior, to tackle things like speeding, intoxication or distraction,” Samuelsson said. 

“We don’t have a firm answer to this question, but believe we should take leadership in the discussion and be a pioneer.”

You may not think such limiters are a great idea, but various European councils and commissions do and have passed to the European Union legislation requiring all new cars sold within its geographic footprint starting in 2022 are equipped with an ISL (Intelligent Speed Limiter) that assures, among other things, that none of those vehicles exceeds posted speed limits.

If the European Commission goes along, the legislation becomes law.

However, Zurich Insurance told the ThisIsMoney.co.uk website that the legislation could have adverse impacts with drivers “assuming it is safe just to drive at the given road limit irrespective of the immediate environment — for instance outside schools — and in adverse weather conditions, such standing water caused by rain, fog and snow or ice.”

Commented Britain’s Automobile Association president Edmund King, “the best speed limiter is the driver’s right foot” when used “to do the right speed in the right situation.”

Larry Edsall
Larry Edsall
A former daily newspaper sports editor, Larry Edsall spent a dozen years as an editor at AutoWeek magazine before making the transition to writing for the web and becoming the author of more than 15 automotive books. In addition to being founding editor at ClassicCars.com, Larry has written for The New York Times and The Detroit News and was an adjunct honors professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.


    • I hate nanny states
      I hate speed limits
      There are too many people on this planet anyway 😉🍻

      If safety is so important , why don’t all cars have their lights on during the daytime ?

      It’s proven safety feature
      What happened to that policy ?

      Motorcycles are required to have lights on 24/7

      Why not cars ?

      I had a Volvo 544 sport great car
      I will never buy a Volvo because of their stupid misguided safety policy
      Sad day Volvo

  1. Um, not to put too fine a point on it, but why not make the drivers better and smarter, rather than make the already too complex and spendy cars even more so?
    Buddy of mine just found out his "more advanced than a nuclear submarine" Lexus couldn’t just have the from day one glitchy, finally inoperable touchscreen replaced- and it’s a 2015- but the entire dash unit had to be removed and replaced. Can you $ay "$urpri$e"?
    Can you imagine what all this provided by the lowest bidder high tech folderol is going to be like in 20 year old used cars? Oh, and yon Lexus had no buttons, dials, nor switches for the audio/infotainment system and climate control, among other things. So doing without the "geewhiz oh so hipster" touchscreen really wasn’t viable.
    Now cars are going to override the driver in the interest of "safety"? Line me up to be hit by one, lawyers are standing by.
    For automakers who go the Nazinanny route in ‘Merica, in the immortal words of Clubber Lang: "I predict pain." Really, a NEW! IMPROVED! Mid-engined Corvette limited to 112, with all the potential digitized out? And how many of these will be sold?
    Comprehensive driver training starting at 14, cell signal suppression built in and activated by placing the vehicle in gear, German level draconian DUI/DWI laws THAT ARE ACTUALLY ENFORCED (no plea deals, no spendy lawyer preference, just a hammer drop and years in prison for a first offense as a mandatory minimum with a permanent 50 state revocation ‘d be ’bout right; DWI is attempted murder, is it not?), and while we’re at it, draconian penalties for uninsured and distracted other than phone driving as well. And mandatory proof of insurance to obtain or renew registration. And yearly renewal testing for those of us, like myself, either over 55 or with health issues. I can pass, but I personally know of individuals who have such age degraded reflexes & eyesight that they shouldn’t be allowed on a Rascal scooter- yet they somehow get insurance, plates, and renewed licenses year after year.
    Exactly how is the VolvoNanny gonna handle that?


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