Whole books, hundreds of studies have been written about the American automobile culture, our “love affair with the car”. But the United States is no longer the world’s largest auto market. China is.
Time Magazine cites a report from JD Power that in 2010 Chinese and Indian consumers together bought just under 20 million new passenger vehicles. That’s 70% more cars than Americans purchased that year.
It’s not just Asia’s booming economies that may explain why this is happening.
The Washington Post notes that Americans, especially young, fairly new drivers who once couldn’t wait to get behind the wheel and go anywhere and everywhere and fast do not regard the automobile as a part of the American dream quite so fervently anymore.
In the newspaper’s words, they are ditching the keys for the keyboard more entranced by texts and apps and such than sleek steel lines or horse power. As the post put it: “Younger people seem more interested in fiddling on the internet than under the hood”. Why?
For one, American roads are more congested than ever. One can often get to work faster and certainly cheaper on a bicycle or subway train than on the gas-guzzling automobile.
Dollar a litter gasoline prices can be prohibitively expensive for young people who are trying to pay off their college tuition loans.
Anti-auto pollution campaigns by environmentalists have struck a chord. And millions of young people have moved back in with Mum and Dad who likely have a big, free automobile handy right on the drive way.
And in more and more cities, when young people feel an urge to get behind the wheel and head out, a few click thumb on their mobile devices will find them a fuel-efficient car to rent for an hour or a day or a week and pay for it at the same time. They don’t have to worry about car payments or about insurance whose costs are built in the price.
Auto dealers are still finding lots of buyers for high horse power, sporty, muscle cars. But more and more of those buyers are older people reliving the good old days.
A classical car song from 1964 refers to Fords stylish powerful Thunder Bird motor: "Daddy took the T-bird away”. It goes. And it looks like he’s done it again to use for himself.