By JOAN SATHER Special to the Palisadian-Post This being Los Angeles, we are defined by what we drive. In the real estate profession, it’s BMW, Lexus, Mercedes and the occasional Range Rover, in alphabetical order. Why not bring the newly designed Maserati Quattroporte into the mix? Seemed like a fine idea at the time. In fact, the timing was perfect: like a truly romantic Italian, the car arrived on my birthday, 2005. What a dream. The engine was amazing, the leather & wood interior luxurious, the driving precision superb, especially on the open road. Yes, this driving machine was the height of success, even the color that was called ‘Grigio Nuvolari’–a wonderful gray with a marvelous beige-y undertone. The upholstery was the color everyone knows as Italian racing tan. It felt wonderful to sit in, wonderful to drive. Often people’s eyes would widen as I pulled up in the car. And the valets always parked it near the front of the restaurant. Then came 2006. It was now apparent that ridiculous gas prices were not going to go down. In fact, they would probably keep going up. The war on Iraq was on everyone’s mind. Al Gore’s documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth,” was released. And the March issue of ‘Vanity Fair’ featured the burgeoning ‘green’ movement. Suddenly the small amount of recycling I do every day was no longer enough. I really felt compelled to do more. I felt motivated to make a statement to myself and to others. Since so much of my life involves driving, my fabulous Maserati took the hit. I did have a few pangs as I said goodbye to precision and luxury, but I have never looked back. Honestly. How would I describe my new Prius, which I purchased in October? Easy to drive, turns are tight and extra power is there when I need it. The vehicle has leather seats and there’s lots of passenger room in the rear. Even the color is a perky, silvery shade of beige (in fact, vaguely Maserati-like). The bottom line here is this: while the smooth feeling of amazing luxury and the purring precision of the Italian car are unique features that are nearly impossible to duplicate, my new vehicle offers comfort and efficiency that work just fine for me now on a daily basis. The other bottom line is this: my gas bill has been reduced from $45 per week to $9 (that really got my husband Kent’s attention). And the best part? The reactions of clients and friends. When our next-door neighbors saw us pull into the driveway, they all came running to see the newest features (they have been owners for a couple of years) and to show us details. While we were at it, several other neighbors drove by in their Prius cars, waving and waving. We had joined a new club. And this is Pacific Palisades! The ‘green’ movement has definitely expanded from its early ‘earth’ shoes image. Friends, many of them having checked out the Web sites about gas mileage and exhaust emissions, are now calling with questions about how to get a Prius. We tell them it was not easy at the time we were buying. They listen to our tale of being put on waiting lists with several car dealerships from Long Beach to Calabasas–then running over to Culver City at a moment’s notice to beat out the other five potential buyers who also showed up to purchase the car. And my real estate clients? They are impressed with my decision, curious about the car, and comfortable riding with me. They especially enjoy seeing how the engine switches from gas to electric by watching the monitor screen. And many of them have gas-saving stories of their own to share. I have found that owning a Prius is truly an entry into a new way of thinking and living my life. Driving it every day reminds me that living with respect for our environment is essential’and can be easy and efficient besides. Even my fellow realtors, who have seen me in a few other high-end cars over the years, make a point to ask about this choice. Some have made the same choice. Others see me driving around and are perhaps reminded that maybe it’s time to go ‘green’ in this or some other area of their lives. How do I know this? Because they now feel the need to share their stories when they see me coming! PS: I applaud all the car manufacturers who offer consumer choices in low-emission, high gas mileage cars. I celebrate their courage in taking a stand that may not always be the best business decision. (Joan Sather is an estates director at Sotheby’s International on Sunset. She lives in the Huntington Palisades with her husband Kent.)
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