In 2008 it’s bad enough that consumers are punishing carmakers by holding off on new purchases – not the fault of automakers, per se, as oil companies and mortgage bankers carry a good chunk of the blame.
Nonetheless automakers are taking substantial and prolonged hits, perhaps equaling damages sustained by the homebuilding industry.
And when you’re down, look out for antagonists ready to pounce.
Auto Industry is taking A Beating
Environmentalists, no-growth advocates and bicycle riders alike seem to be relishing the opportunity to kick a dying dog. Everyone who ever hated cars is chipping in.
Take, for example, excerpts from “50 Reasons Why Cars Suck” on Bike Reader.
Too many cars - The site says that the number of cars grew faster than the population. So? So did cell phones and personal computers.
Danger - With too many cars out there, accidents are bound to increase. Every day in America, an average of 121 people are killed in car accidents.
Danger Part II - With no cars there would be no drive-by shootings. We’re not making this up, Bike Reader actually published it.
Traffic - It is estimated that Americans spend 8 billion hours per year stuck in traffic.
Additional topics on the list include: global warming, oil addiction, waste, and plenty more.
The list must be taken with a grain of salt, as it was compiled by a website for bicycle enthusiasts.
Anyone can come up with a quick list of why bikes suck, such as: you have to physically make them move; bicycling in the rain or snow is no fun; those crotch-rash-causing little seats; and riding a bike also is dangerous regardless whether any cars are around.
Positives for Car Enthusiasts
It’s easy to criticize the automobile, but there are positives emerging. Emissions keep improving, and the popularity of hybrid engine-motored vehicles such as the Toyota Prius bodes well for the future.
Airbag placement and technology have improved greatly and airbags have actually become a marketing tool to sell new cars.
American car buyers have more choices than ever, with new models arriving from Europe, Japan and even South Korea. American automakers are borrowing ideas from overseas and delivering neat packages such as the Mini Cooper.
Then there is the social aspect.
A blog on Edmunds.com noted, “One of the great things about cars is that it can bring people with common (and not so common) interests together. And surprisingly often, those people don’t fit the stereotype of the typical car enthusiast. One such example is the Mini Skirts, a mostly girls Mini rally group based in Southern California.”
No Hope for a Compromise When Buying Cars Won’t Subside
Maybe there’s a middle ground. During the 2008 Olympics, China Car Times published an article about a Mini club promoting itself with a new invention.
A half-car, half-bike. Basically the vehicles are the back end of a Mini Cooper, welded to the front two-thirds of a bicycle so it’s motorized by a single bike pedal-pusher, with covered seating in back for two passengers.
Don’t hold your breath to see many of these things on American roads, but the concept is interesting.
The anti-car underground most likely will have none of it. With a proliferation of websites dedicated to their cause, including unabashedly one-sided missives such as Carectomy.com, there won’t be much reasoning in the debate.
Attacks on the car will never end, because Americans will always tap the automobile as the main mode of transportation. That’s because riding a bike to work sucks when you have to wipe off sweat, change clothes and fix your hair before clocking in.
Plus, it’s not reliable every single day, because the weather can scare even the most expert bicycle rider. Those days, you better have a car or a car-pool buddy lined up.
And let’s not even talk about getting to work in a metropolis like Los Angeles, where 40-mile commutes are the norm. Talk all you want about riding a bike to a train station, but that means a transfer of modes and time lost.
Americans demand convenience, and that fact is not going to change any time soon. Time is too valuable today.
Ultimately the car will always be around because Americans want everything as easy as possible. And who can blame them?