My Mother the Car


My Mother the Car

Yes, it was a silly sitcom that lasted on season in the 60s. But this article in the Washington Post says that not only are kids today not in love with cars, but the culture is changing to a point that the lure of rumbling pipes and ice blue paint is being replaced with smart phones and texting.

Whereas in our youth we looked at a car as an extension of our personality, and customized it accordingly, today, so says the Post, kids customize their smart phones with covers and apps. I got my license the day I was eligible (well maybe a couple of weeks after, since I failed the first test). The youth of today may wait until they are in their mid 20s if ever.  Wow!

The Post article is slightly contradictory, in one place saying that there was a drop off in auto sales due to the recession, and that sales are up now as money isn’t so tight. But in the next graph it says that the drop off is cultural, not economic. Which is it?

I wonder if this is becoming a self fulfilling prophesy.  If I am writing a story, I can find people to quote (half a dozen or so in this article), that will make my point. If I wanted, could I find just as many in love with horsepower and chrome.

If what the Post posits was true, why is it that traffic seems to be getting worse and worse? Would it not be the case that the opposite would be happening?

That is not to say that we shouldn’t be prepared for change. It will happen. Because the only constant is change. But the form it will take, or the culture shock that will arise, who can say. Einstein predicted that there would be no nuclear power, Ford’s lawyer was told that the automobile was a passing fancy, at one time IBM thought the total market for computers was 5, the head of DEC computers couldn’t imagine why anyone would want a computer in their home, Darryl F. Zanuck said no one would want to spending their evenings watching a plywood box.  It goes on and on.

If there are enough predictions, some will be right, most will be wrong. I predict there will be a subset of people who will continue to love cars and embrace them. That number will be a percentage of the total population, and that percentage will fluctuate as generation come and go. As our population grows, even a relatively small percentage of car lovers will keep Detroit in business AND keep parking in business.

I don’t believe the suburbia is going away. Many people still want to own a piece of dirt. They want to be able to drive a nail into their personal wall. They want to mow their own lawn. They want their kids to be able to breathe fresh air. They want piece and quiet. And if you live in the burbs, you need a car. Hell if you live in LA you need a car —

I know this isn’t the European ideal where you live in 500 square feet and ride a bicycle to work but we are a different country, and a different culture –  hopefully will stay that way.


Picture of John Van Horn

John Van Horn

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