By on April 10, 2008

cupholder.jpgFor some people-– maybe not TTAC readers, but some people-– the cup holder is one of the most important parts of the car. Sure, torque between 4,000 and 6,000 rpms and brake fade are important. But when you’re crawling along at 15 mph with two antsy kids, your suspension’s settings simply don’t matter. The cup holder does.

Henry Petroski, Professor of Engineering and History at Duke University, North Carolina, wrote a piece (Drink Me – How Americans came to have cup holders in their cars) for Slate a few years ago. Petroski reported that he “repeatedly heard articulate people say that their family’s latest automobile purchase hinged on which cup holders worked best for them.” He traces the history of the device from indents in glove-box lids, through those hanging baskets in the JC Whitney catalogue, to the wells dug in almost every flat surface a modern interior offers. My Honda minivan as 49 cup holders. 

Petroski failed to address why cupholders are so important. For that, we need a cultural anthropologist like G. Clotaire Rapaille. Rapaille specializes in Jungian archetype analysis and its effect on the reptilian brain (not the brain of lizards, per se, but the oldest part of our human brains). By tuning into the unspoken needs at our core, Rapaille has helped huge conglomerates sell more cars, coffee, toilet paper and cheese.

Rapaille states “…what was the key element of safety when you were a child? It was that your mother fed you, and there was warm liquid. That’s why cup holders are absolutely crucial for safety. If there is a car that has no cup holder, it is not safe. If I can put my coffee there, if I can have my food, if everything is round, if it’s soft, and if I’m high, then I feel safe. It’s amazing that intelligent, educated women will look at a car and the first thing they will look at is how many cup holders it has.”

Cup holders hold the place of mother’s milk in our roving steel and glass wombs. It’s an utterly ridiculous idea… unless you consider the corroborating evidence.

University of California psychology professor Richard Coss is the father of evolutionary aesthetics, a concept he birthed in the late 70s. The idea is: part of your temporal lobes understands art emotionally and analytically. Deeper parts of your brain respond to art instinctively. To illustrate the point, Coss points to The Snake Goddess and Her Enemy by Paul Klee. People usually feel discomfort upon seeing the unblinking eyes and snake shapes. In our history, unblinking eyes and snakes have never been good things for our species. Death and death, really.

Around the same time Gordon Orians, at the University of Washington, studied how blackbirds choose where to live. He noticed humans also seem attracted to similar, specific features: presence of water, large trees, open space, distant views. Humans tend to like the savanna, where we did a good portion of our evolving. He did a study with paintings. The images that had the right mix of water, protection, vegetation and view were ranked highest again and again, across cultures. In the 30 years to follow, Coss and Orians’s work has been examined, analyzed, re-tested and (let’s go for it) substantiated.

Understanding the relative benefits of the environment is a skill with obvious evolutionary benefits. A skill that may have found it’s way into our hardwiring, and functions still, even as our concern shifts from safely navigating open plains to the contemplating the interior of the Land Rover trudging over it.

Accepting that we respond to automotive interiors on a subconscious level is even easier than explaining why chimps might like "A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte.” The feeling of a car is all important, whether you’re looking for a little risk or avoiding it altogether.

The new Infiniti EX is an intriguing example. By most standards of logic, this is not a great vehicle. It’s a less stable G35 for more money or, alternatively, an FX with less room. Get inside the thing and it doesn’t seem like a bad idea at all. Sitting in the EX is like retiring to your study. It offers everything the savanna does.

The EX’ round, undulating design is womb-like. Layers of leather are not vegetation, but certainly natural. The car gives you an extended view from a safe position. There is an organic flow that feels orderly and cozy. There is no trickling stream in the car-– the rational brain would kick your lizard brain and shake its head within a head – but there’s a cup holder for everyone. Front and back. 

Cup holders complete an interior, sometimes taking the whole car along for the ride.

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67 Comments on “The Psychology of Cupholders...”


  • avatar
    inept123

    Or, as Freud might have said, “Sometimes a cupholder is just a cupholder.”

  • avatar
    troonbop

    I drink coffee in my kitchen. I do not long for a cup holder. Yes, I am a wild eyed radical, forsaking security and living on the edge.

  • avatar
    MX5bob

    Or it could just be that the confluence of the American driving vacation and our addiction to convenience are what drives our desire for places to put down our beverages.

  • avatar
    windswords

    “Rapaille states “…If I can put my coffee there, if I can have my food, if everything is round, if it’s soft, and if I’m high,…”.

    That may explain a lot about his conclusions.

  • avatar
    thalter

    Sorry, but no beverages are allowed in my car.

    However, for the few rare occasions I do need to transport a beverage, I use the the God given cup holder located at the end of my forearm (i.e. my hand).

  • avatar
    steronz

    thalter:

    So you either steer with your knees, shift with your foot, or have a third arm.

  • avatar
    Kevin

    That’s a lot of psychobabble to say that sometimes people drink stuff in the car, and for that you need a cupholder if you don’t want to stain your seats and carpet.

    My old man didn’t need a cupholder though. He had this uncanny gift for just setting a mugful of coffee nakedly on the dashboard and never spilling anything. And he’d leave them in there too — he’d pay me once a week to crawl around the car and collect all the mugs. I don’t even own enough coffee mugs to get through a week like that.

    Don’t know how he did it — I try to handle a modern to-go cup with a secure plastic lid and somehow I still manage to get streams of coffee erupting out of the lid’s slit. But of course my dad was a better driver than your dad.

  • avatar
    steronz

    Also, looking forward to the editorial analysis of how glove boxes are Freudian vaginas instead of just places to put your owners manual and registration.

  • avatar
    Joe O

    I’m going to go out on a limb and agree with the author, in sentiment.

    Why are cupholders so important (I’ll use modern times instead of 15-20 years ago)? Because they are functional and versatile cubbies. They are storage that is “at hand” for beverages. Or cell phones. Blackberries. iPods. Chapstick. Lipstick. Lint collection. Bluetooth earbuds. Sunglasses. Half a sandwich wrapped in aluminum foil.

    They keep things nearby. They are always within reach. They prevent items for rolling around. Center cupholders are a shared common ground for spouses (unless your spouse is territorial, in which case you have to pee on the cupholder).

    And they are a sign of good design. My 06 Civic SI has 2 ginormous cupholders between the front seats, with 4 spring-loaded “tabs” in each cup-area to grab any item you insert and hold it steady. No coffee spillage, no rattling of bottles on plastic.

    And it’s centrally located, damn near impossible to break, has a slide-back lid to hide things in there, and is generally well thought out.

    Compare that to the cupholders on the BMW e90 (2006+)….popouts from the dash, unusable for any objects that would fall out it’s side, unstable, easily breakable, not “at hand” (you have to reach for it), not large, items rattle and could easily fall out.

    And all of those individuals buying the ultimate driving machine complain about it. Why? Because it detracts from the experience. It’s sub-par.

    Good cupholders are a sign of thoughtful, well executed design. A lack of cupholders signifies an unwillingness to adapt to modern desires. Poor cupholders show that the designer doesn’t think your said cupholders hold any special place in your heart.

    Boy are they wrong.

    Joe

  • avatar
    detroit1701

    If cupholders are so “essential,” then why did/do so many cars sold in the European market lack them for so long? (or include Saab/VW “pop-outs” that puts you in a constant state of pre-heart attack that your coffee will spill all over your stereo).

    Cupholders have alot to do with three things: (1) drive-thrus; (2) hot beverages to go; and (3) automatic transmissions. Very North American.

  • avatar

    You can shake your head as much as you want over this. Mr. Rapaille is comfortable in his 19th Century mansion in France, and is ready for business.
    His process of syndicated discoveries has been very influential – worth looking into.
    http://www.archetypediscoveriesworldwide.com/discoveries.html

    http://www.nytimes.com/2004/11/07/fashion/07CAR.html?pagewanted=1&n=Top/News/Health/Diseases,%20Conditions,%20and%20Health%20Topics/Psychiatry%20and%20Psychiatrists

  • avatar
    menno

    Europeans don’t see any sense in cup holders because they actually understand that while moving about behind the steering wheel in a car, one should actually be concentrating on DRIVING.

    I know, to we Americans not used to living elsewhere, “what a novel idea!”

  • avatar
    William C Montgomery

    Why stop with cup holders. If automakers really want to move product, perhaps they should dangle synthetic lactating teats from the headliner above each seat. And I guess RF was wrong about the Subaru B9 Tribeca’s grille. It wasn’t an eyesore. It was PC (psychologically correct) car design.

  • avatar

    It worries me that there are people driving around whose #1 priority is their hot drink.
    If people want to drink and drive maybe they should have to pass their driving tests whilst drinking a coffee at the same time…

  • avatar
    William C Montgomery

    NOTICE: I apologize for my latest comment. I was an immature psych undergrad student in college. Apparently I still have some growing up to do.

  • avatar
    Ingvar

    What I wonder is, what is it about all those vagina-faced cars:

    http://www.realisticrestorations.com/graphics/start%20at%20the%20bottom/6.jpg

    The front of a XK120 really looks like the bottom end of a woman laying down, with her legs spread. And a giant vulva and vagina in the middle. That’s not just my imagination, folks…

  • avatar
    friedclams

    I had to check and make sure this wasn’t posted on April Fool’s, because Rapaille’s quote is such a perfect recap of the stereotypical reasons why women want SUVs, I thought TTAC might be having us on.

    Why are the comments so snarky? I agree with the Editorial and Rapaille, and the connection between cupholders and feeling safe in the womb is illuminating. detroit1701, maybe the Euro cars lacked cupholders because Europeans place rational thought above reptilian instinct. (Another much-loved stereotype).

  • avatar
    windswords

    detroit1701:

    “…Cupholders have alot to do with three things: (1) drive-thrus; (2) hot beverages to go; and (3) automatic transmissions. Very North American.”

    Well Japanese like their pampers for their babies to be as thin as possible. Austrailians prefer them thick and pillowy. Everyone has their preferences and lifestyle. Viva la differance.

  • avatar
    steronz

    Wow, I’m amazed at some of the hostility towards “American drivers” and our desire to drink beverages on the road. Perhaps in Europe and elsewhere, drivers are furrowing their brows in concetration every second they’re behind the wheel, but commuting in America is a pretty brain-dead activity. I’m not saying drivers don’t need to be vigilant, but cripes, how much brain power does it take to sip a beverage every once in a while?

    Frankly, I’m shocked these brow-furrowing Europeans can drive with radios in the car! And passengers! Think of all the distractions! Don’t they know that you’re supposed to be DRIVING when you’re in the car?!?

  • avatar
    Sanman111

    While I rarely drink while driving, I do require at least one cup holder for transporting my coffee from the Dunkin Donuts/Starbucks to work/class/etc. I do think that 49 cup holders is more than a bit excessive. One for each person during those midnight taco bell runs in college would have been helpful though.

  • avatar
    NickR

    I like cupholders because I find having searing hot liquid on my genitalia to be very uncomfortable.

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    steronz, you hit the nail on the head.

    Paul this is easily one of the best editorials I have read at TTAC. I didn’t know about any of this before you brought it to light. Hmmm… maybe if I ever build a “Grandpa’s Pissed” Custom Roadmaster Wagon for the 2009 LeMons, I’ll have a tennis ball machine fling cupholders in the back of it instead of those spherical green tennis balls. I decided to keep with the green balls instead of the easier to see red ones since dark red is an evil color and light green is a Kermit color.

    On a slight tangent, Americans spend far more time in their vehicles these days than a couple generations back. You also have a steep increase in take-out fast food and drinks over the past 20 years.

    Cupholders and nice flat surfaces in between driver and passenger have become the norm due to those lifestyle changes. It’s not a bad thing because the automakers have wisely chosen to change with the times rather than fight the trend with blathering self-righteousness.

    Again, great article. Looking forward to the next…

  • avatar
    jaydez

    My car has 6 cupholders for 5 passengers. I use them quite often.. but not for beverages I’m drinking. One on the door hold my waterbottle for the gym so I dont lose it. The 2 center ones are used for my cell/wallet and pennies/odd recipts.

    I don’t understand why cup holders are such a big deal now. They have only been standard in most cars for the past 15 years. I didnt own a car with a cupholder until 5 years ago… and that looked like an afterthough because no matteer what I put in it the damn thing would fall on the floor around a right hand turn (floor mounted cupholder in a Ranger… useless).

  • avatar
    philipwitak

    thoroughly enjoyed your post – but, for what its worth, i must disagree with the following statement:

    Rapaille [a jungian archetype analysist] states “If there is a car that has no cup holder, it is not safe.”

    philip witak [the completely satisfied owner/driver of a \'97 porsche boxster for eleven years now] states ‘bullshit!’

  • avatar
    DrBrian

    I’m quite glad my car has no cup holders, nor any pockets or cubby holes that are wide enough for a cup. It means that whichever frenchman designed my car spent his time making it work(and be fun) the best it could in any environment my car could find itself in whether its towing race cars , commuting or on track days. somehow ,without safety inducing cup holders, the french have turned a 90 hp diesel hatchback into a riot, a continental cruiser or a workhorse.

  • avatar
    GS650G

    Cupholders count, as do places for the french fries.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    It’s a fun editorial, but really, it’s a lot simpler than this.

    Americans surround themselves with food, much more so than other people. You do not find Europeans carting around beverages and drinking them while on the go, whether it be walking, driving, etc.. The cultural approach toward food is different, with the consumption of food reserved for its own place and time.

    The cars reflect us. We want to eat constantly, so our cars match our needs. If we had a European approach to drinking coffee, we would have no desire whatsoever for cupholders, because the thought of drinking coffee while moving about is alien to them.

  • avatar
    frizzlefry

    One design evolution leads to another, the cup holder that will hold a Big Gulp coke leads to the need for wider seats.

  • avatar
    sitting@home

    Rapaille [a jungian archetype analysist] states “If there is a car that has no cup holder, it is not safe.”

    philip witak [the completely satisfied owner/driver of a ‘97 porsche boxster for eleven years now] states ‘bullshit!’

    You could probably do some rather suspect statistics and show there’s a correlation between the number of people killed and cupholder count by comparing a Porsche Boxster (zero cupholders) to a Dodge Caravan (2^14 cupholders). It wouldn’t prove a thing though.

  • avatar
    N85523

    I simply refuse to believe that a Honda minivan has 49 cupholders. It is myth. I may be wrong, but I don’t want to be right.

  • avatar
    Strippo

    the thought of drinking coffee while moving about is alien to them.

    If Americans only worked 20 hours a week we’d probably feel the same way.

  • avatar

    My ’07 Accord has eight holders (two nice big ones in the middle, with the springy holders mentioned by the poster above; two in the fold-down rear seat divider; and one bottle holder in each of the four doors). Overkill? Maybe. Convenient? Yes.

    I may be one of these rare North Americans that does not constantly have a cup of coffee at my side (taking the time to make a beverage to take on a commute is time I don’t have, and I don’t have the patience to wait at the Tim Hortons drive-through), but on a highway trip, it is a great convenience. I also have this bad habit of lunching on fast food and listening to satellite radio in the car, and the holders are convenient then, too.

    I actually didn’t care much about the cup holders when I bought my car, but I’m glad they are there. I also may not be a very typical automobile buyer. (I have a 5-speed manual for one.)

  • avatar
    TexasAg03

    I simply refuse to believe that a Honda minivan has 49 cupholders. It is myth. I may be wrong, but I don’t want to be right.

    You are right. The 2008 Honda Odyssey has a maximum of 15 beverage holders according to the web site. I know my 2007 Odyssey doesn’t have any more than that.

  • avatar
    peteinsonj

    A new data tracking point…

    What is the correlation between sales and number of cupholders?

    Do Camrys and Accords have more cupholders than Malibus and Auras?

    Did Chrylser include enough cupholders in their new minivans (more than Honda) to see a slaes increase?

    I suppose # of cupholders could be a surrogate — for a good interior design…

    Hmmm

  • avatar
    willbodine

    From the Malcolm Gladwell article in The New Yorker a few years back:

    “And what Rapaille concluded from countless, intensive sessions with car buyers was that when S.U.V. buyers thought about safety they were thinking about something that reached into their deepest unconscious. “The No. 1 feeling is that everything surrounding you should be round and soft, and should give,” Rapaille told me. “There should be air bags everywhere. Then there’s this notion that you need to be up high. That’s a contradiction, because the people who buy these S.U.V.s know at the cortex level that if you are high there is more chance of a rollover. But at the reptilian level they think that if I am bigger and taller I’m safer. You feel secure because you are higher and dominate and look down. That you can look down is psychologically a very powerful notion. And what was the key element of safety when you were a child? It was that your mother fed you, and there was warm liquid. That’s why cupholders are absolutely crucial for safety. If there is a car that has no cupholder, it is not safe. If I can put my coffee there, if I can have my food, if everything is round, if it’s soft, and if I’m high, then I feel safe. It’s amazing that intelligent, educated women will look at a car and the first thing they will look at is how many cupholders it has.”

  • avatar

    I have 0 cupholders in my 88 944 Turbo.

    Its awesome.

  • avatar
    yankinwaoz

    He noticed humans also seem attracted to similar, specific features: presence of water, large trees, open space, distant views. Humans tend to like the savanna, where we did a good portion of our evolving.

    Baloney… most people in the world now live in cities.

    Regarding the American versus European debate about cup holder. The answer is actually very simple. We (the US), have cup holders BECAUSE WE CAN. Most of our cars have automatic transmissions. Most Europeans cars have standards. Hence, we are free to put things in the center, and are free to grab a cup for a sip while driving. The average European driver has his hands busy, and needs to leave room for the gear shift.

    One last point. Not all cup holders are used to to hold scalding hot cups of coffee. I use mine to hold my water bottle. I appreciate not having my bottle roll around the cab. I like that it doesn’t end up on it’s site leaking the contents on the floor or seat. And I appreciate not having to hold it between my legs as in the old days, risking an embarrassing wetting of the crotch.

  • avatar
    JuniperBug

    Now I know why sport motorcycles are considered so dangerous: no cupholders.

  • avatar
    Gottleib

    “You do not find Europeans carting around beverages and drinking them while on the go, whether it be walking, driving, etc.. The cultural approach toward food is different, with the consumption of food reserved for its own place and time.”

    I beg to differ, in Europe there are street venders and cafe’s selling food everywhere. The major difference between the US and Europe is the congestion, we use our cars to travel greater distance and have less mass transportation options.

  • avatar
    BabyM

    I already knew this. My wife selects cars for purchase based on the number and location of the cupholders.

  • avatar
    Martin Albright

    Hmmmm….I think cupholders tend to garner more attention on automotive websites because it is a way that “serious” autophiles distinguish themselves from the automotive plebs who are presumably so fixated on stuffing their gobs that they can’t pay attention to the road (a few good examples of that right here in the comment thread, BTW.)

    In reality, though, I think the reason for cupholders is simple, and was explained very well in a book that, as far as I know, doesn’t even mention cup holders at all. The book in question is called “Highways to Heaven” (now, apparently out of print) by Christopher Finch. The subtitle of the book is that it’s the “auto-biography of America” (cute, huh?) It came out in 92, before the era of cup holders (at least I know my first cupholder-equipped vehicle was a 1999.)

    Finch points out that if you compare a typical vehicle of the 1950’s with one from the 1990’s, the differences are striking. The 1950’s vehicle tends to be very ornate on the outside: Fins, hood ornamants, fake vents and even little devices that remind you of wings or missiles. There’s lots of chrome and white sidewalls. But then, you go to the inside, and the interior is pretty spartan: Just a couple of unadorned bench seats. No arm rests, no fancy upholstery, maybe an AM radio but that’s about it. Air conditioning is primarily on luxury cars. Bare metal dashboard and bare metal on the window frames. The steering wheel is covered with thin, hard plastic like the handle of a screwdriver.

    Now look at a vehicle from the 90s. The exterior is pretty much streamlined, hood ornaments are just about gone and fins and other aviation-inspired adornments are long gone. The vehicle is pretty simple on the outside. Not a whole lot of chrome on most vehicles, either. But the inside now features carefully scultped bucket seats, swooping plastic and covered in soft velvet- like material. AM/FM (and now CD and MP3) stereos come standard in almost everything. There is not a speck of bare metal to be seen – every piece of metal in the car is now covered by either cloth or plastic. The steering wheel is thick and padded. Air conditioning is standard and often dual zone climate control. Multiple cup holders and other storage spaces hold our stuff.

    So what changed? Among other things, American driving habits. In the 50’s people who commuted rarely spent more than 15-20 minutes in their vehicles at a time. Drives to work or to the supermarket were short. The 1950’s car was all about the exterior, about showing off to the neighbors and saying “look at me!” But by the 1990’s, people were spending hours in their car every day, and so they demanded a more comfortable, luxurious interior that catered to their needs.

    It’s not hard to see where cup holders fit into this. They are reflective of the amount of time we spend in our cars.

    As an aside, there’s another factor at work, and that is oral gratification/fixation. Back in the 50’s, virtually everybody smoked. Nowadays, smokers are a much smaller number but often it seems as if the cigarette has been replaced by a coffee cup or a water bottle as the oral token of choice.

    In that sense, the lack of cup holders in European cars makes perfect sense, since, at least last time I was there, Europeans of the 1990’s pretty much smoked as much as Americans of the 50’s.

    Which is another way of saying that an ashtray is to a European driver as a cup holder is to an American driver.

  • avatar
    50merc

    To adapt an old joke about the Rorschach inkblot test:
    Psychologist tells a guy he’s going to show him some pictures, and the guy is supposed to say what the picture says to him.
    First picture is the front of a Tribeca grill, and the guy says “vagina.”
    Second picture is the front of a Jag XK120, and the guy says “vulva.”
    Third picture is the bumper of a 1956 Cadillac, and the guy says “breasts.”
    Psychologist observes, “Gosh, you must have a sexual obsession.”
    Guy exclaims, “How can you say I have a problem? You’re the one who keeps showing me dirty pictures!”

    Personally, I agree with inept123 and detroit1701. Of course, there’s the Oscar Meyer Wienermobile…

  • avatar

    steronz: Frankly, I’m shocked these brow-furrowing Europeans can drive with radios in the car! And passengers! Think of all the distractions! Don’t they know that you’re supposed to be DRIVING when you’re in the car?!?

    Try driving on the Autobahn sometime. It’s a harrowing experience. Those not paying attention are pushing in all their chips… and taking out others with them.

  • avatar
    NeonCat93

    It always amuses me how many people want to deny that they are, basically, animals that talk, so sure of their rationality that they just don’t believe that millions of years of evolution hasn’t left it’s mark on muscles, nerves and mind.

  • avatar
    Bozoer Rebbe

    So you either steer with your knees, shift with your foot, or have a third arm.

    Steering a Lotus Elan with my knees at 70mph while rolling a joint. The Elan leaked so much water that seeds I dropped sprouted and started to grow up through the sisal mats.

  • avatar
    HEATHROI

    ingvar

    on your XK120 theory just glad we cant see the sump plug then…..

  • avatar
    Bozoer Rebbe

    My Litespeed has no cupholders per se but it does have two water bottle racks (and two computers so I can display pedal cadence, road speed and heart rate at the same time). With an MP3 player I have just about everything I need.

  • avatar
    gsp

    Germans may find it hard to comprehend the idea of drinking the car, but they have no problem with smoking. The find lots of places to put small fire pits in their cars. They light little sicks on fire and puff on them whilst doing 130mph on the highway. Their kids of course love the hot box effect and can’t wait to buy a hot box, er, car for themselves when their lungs hopefully mature. Safe??? Who knows.

  • avatar
    Martin Schwoerer

    I used to enjoy driving with a bottle between my knees, a cigarette between my lips, while talking on the mobile and shouting at my plant. But one gets older and wiser.

    Was it Martin Amis who said?: “The point of driving in Europe is to acquire ownership of the road. The point of driving in America, in contrast, is to get somewhere while you’re stuffing your face”.

  • avatar
    BerettaGTZ

    Schwoerer: “The point of driving in Europe is to acquire ownership of the road. The point of driving in America, in contrast, is to get somewhere while you’re stuffing your face”

    …and talking on the mobile, picking out a new song on the MP3, staring at the nav screen…

  • avatar
    iNeon

    The ashtray is WAY more important than the cupholder.

    The first domestic company to offer me a purple compact coupe in the 150-175hp range with a 5-speed manual transaxle and a built-in ashtray will earn $15,000.00 of my dollars.

    The Mazda 3, astonishing in this day and time, offers one.

  • avatar
    Wheatridger

    We’ve discussed this from almost every angle except one. Some of us have a biological need to drink liquids while we drive.

    Remember that tiresome advice about drinking eight glasses of water a day? I may believe that’s excessive, and my beverage of choice is rarely plain water, but I rarely leave home without a drink. Between my daddy duties of school dropoff and pickup and my roaming profession as a real estate photographer covering a territory of several hundred square miles, I’m in the car several hours each day. This is in Denver, where our semi-arid climate means there are adverse physical consequences when you neglect the daily duty of hydration. It is different in the American West. When I do visit more humid climes, I’m surprised at how little I have to drink, compared to home.

    Yes, I could stop several times a day at Starbucks or McDonald’s and sip a drink, but time is money and the time spent sitting there would cost me as much as the drink itself. So I’m glad there’s a few cupholders in my car, but that’s as far as it goes. Nobody picks a New Beetle for the quality and quality of cupholders! Actually that’s one of the most common complaints about the car. I have some difficulty finding fountain drink cups that fit in the limited space provided, so please don’t super-size me.

  • avatar
    AKM

    It always amuses me how many people want to deny that they are, basically, animals that talk, so sure of their rationality that they just don’t believe that millions of years of evolution hasn’t left it’s mark on muscles, nerves and mind.

    Seconded. That’s why I love to talk about cars: it combines utilitarianism with our love for sensations (speed) and the reptilian impulse to be seen as a worthy mate, i.e. display of power and money.
    And decyphering people’s reactions to cars is so fascinating.

    Now, excuse me, I’m going to go daydream of doing doughnuts in an Aston Martin….and go change the oil of my Golf.

  • avatar
    Axel

    The Saturn Astra is totally screwed, isn’t it?

  • avatar
    jrlombard

    Wow, that was waaaaay more than I was ready to bite off on a Friday afternoon. Does somebody have the Cliff Note version?

  • avatar

    jrlombard:

    Wow, that was waaaaay more than I was ready to bite off on a Friday afternoon. Does somebody have the Cliff Note version?

    Cupholders rule.

  • avatar
    rpn453

    Nothing that complex with me. I just like to drink some water (if I’m thirsty) or coffee (to boost alertness) when I’m on the highway for more than a couple of hours. I don’t use them in the city unless I’m transporting a beverage, like if I pick up a coffee on the way to a friend’s house. I wouldn’t buy a car without decent cupholders. They really don’t add much cost to a vehicle.

    And no, I don’t have an automatic transmission.

  • avatar
    Busbodger

    Who could drink while driving in Naples, Italy?

    Had to look for every chance to pass the vehicle ahead, looking for one-way streets to storm down the wrong way, had to stay out of the way for the Polizia escorting those bullet-proof Mercedes sedans, glance at the topless chic on the billboards, oh look at the cool castle across the piazza, wow – did you see that Lanica Delta, cobblestone streets exercising the shocks for a block or two, cut right hard to miss the slow street car, beautiful girl in the sweater skirt revealing almost curve, whoa! where did that damn Piaggio Ape come from – get out of my way you slow piece of **** – Carabineri arresting some dude and carrying a pair of submachine guns, dumpster on fire – TUNNEL, traffic ALL STOP (60-0 IMMEDIATELY! Repeat 3 times and my 30 year old Beetle with drum brakes is no longer eager to stop – smell the brakes? Back up to 40 mph with 12 inches on the right side and none on the left. BAM! Left side mirror slapped a passing car’s left mirror – with those big Beetle fenders hanging out we must have been an inch apart. Keep going. Smoooth riding on the street car tracks for 10 seconds. bump bump bump back on the cobblestones… Whoa swerve hard left, almost missed the turn, can never see the street signs until I’ve missed the street. STOP! Old lady steps out from between two cars right in front of me! Starts cussing me I think, all sorts of gesturing, going to take 5 minutes to walk in front of me, slaps the hood and tells me something in Italian. I resist the urge to honk the horn at her.

    On and on and on she goes. GO! Use all 40HP to get moving again. More cobblestones. Now the road narrows to one lane. Dude on an all-sport motorcycle (on/off road) barrels past me with NO space to move over.

    And on and on and on we drive to get the world’s best pizza pie int he city where pizza was invented.

    Yeah, I want a cup holder in my European car in Europe. By the time I got to my destination there would not be anything left in the container.

    Gonna sell a European car in America? Well I doubt they “get” why Americans feel the need to drink something everytime we get into the car. Makes a mess really. Never saw a drive-thru anywhere in the whole country. That was back in the early 90’s. Maybe things have changed.

    Everywhere a person looks there are small shops that sell cool drinks (never cold), coffees, and sweets. Nice to drive like Hell for an hour (100+ mph) and then pull over for 20 mins and drink a little something – be it coffee, alcohol, soda or water. Yeah it eats up most of the time you gained driving hard but it’s fun.

  • avatar

    My Mercury Mystique has three cupholders. I use them to drink water. It gets really hot in New Mexico, and driving here is pretty easy, there’s usually not much traffic where I live and I use the car to get water bottles from a local water seller (because our well-water is extremely hard). The cupholders on it suck, it being a European design (I think they might have been an afterthought). They rest underneath the center stack, so that a water bottle of anything larger than standard size won’t fit. There’s only one for the backseat.

    I long for better cupholders. Then again, I also long for either a midsize pickup truck or a large muscle car, so I think I’m pretty much a typical American on the “car purchase” issue anyway.

  • avatar
    skor

    The 1989 Probe GT turbo was low to the ground. The interior plastics were hard and nasty. Under WOT the the steering was so twitchy it was like riding in an unguided missile. Girls hated the name “Probe”. Not a cup holder in site. Man, I loved that car.

    I guess I must be all reptile.

  • avatar
    Andy D

    An E150 is my mobile office for 10hrs a day. It has 4 cupholders. My 528e has none. But, I can wedge my travel mug securely between the E brake and the passenger’s seat cushion.

  • avatar
    shaker

    This article and comments were a fun read…

    My new 2008 Hyundai Elantra has curious hard plastic map pockets on both front doors — a long, fairly spacious slot that gets larger towards the front of the car, ending in an inviting, forward-tilted, rounded orifice that looks to be the perfect fit for…
    A plastic soda bottle.
    Yet, upon closer inspection, a cryptic, molded in warning near the bunghole encourages chastity: A circle-slash with the outline of a soda bottle in the beginnings of prematurely losing its contents (and thus staining the “virgin” interior).

    Curiously, this “SE” trim was equipped with a cigarette lighter and ashtray, yet no molded in cryptograph of a human face scrinched-up and holding its nose.

  • avatar
    LenS

    In America, more people live in the suburbs than the cities. And growth is fastest in the exburbs — the outer suburbs or former rural areas. Humans in much of the world live in cities because the economics are stronger in cities than rural areas. But give them a choice, as Americans with our great wealth and vast continent of space do have, and they’ll spread out.

  • avatar
    qfrog

    I have removed the cup holders from both of my cars to make room for the original equipment cubby indent. I use the cubby for my phone or work keys or wallet etc. My car’s interior is no place to be storing a beverage of any sort, If the beverage can not be consumed immediately or contained securely it does not belong in my car in an open state. A red bull must be downed hero style (chugged) during extended road trip stints. 20oz bottles may be stored in the door pockets with cap torqued to spec. My passengers know why there are no cup holders and have come to accept the situation and shockingly they are surviving without cup holders.

  • avatar
    Wheely

    Forget cupholders, bring on the minibar.

  • avatar
    jerseydevil

    I’ve read a few things about this, its facinating. I often wonder why I a drawn to certian cars that dissapoint when you get into them, and vice versa.

    Hmmmmm. Oh ya – if the EX is a good example of this, the escalade is a bad example, its scary, not comforting at all. The DTS however is very comforting.

    go figure

  • avatar
    dhanson865

    @steronz

    or horror of horrors he drives a vehicle with an automatic transmission!

    “While they’re not as popular as they used to be, traditional manual transmissions still account for 8 percent to 10 percent of annual passenger car sales, according to Mike Omotoso, an analyst at J.D. Power and Associates.”

    “There’s a common perception about the fuel economy of traditional manual-shift vehicles that’s a bit misleading. “It used to be that a manual transmission had significantly better fuel economy than an automatic, but now the difference is negligible,” Omotoso says. “In fact, many vehicles today with a five- or six-speed automatic have better fuel economy in the city than [vehicles] with a five-speed manual. The highway mileages are also similar.”

    from anther source:
    “The world over, cars with Automatic Transmission (AT) are the best sellers. In developed nations like the US, 90 per cent of the total cars feature automatic transmission and in Europe it is 60 per cent”

    Whatever will you do now that you know millions upon millions of drivers have the luxury of not having to shift gears manually. How will you live with that knowledge? Will it ruin driving for you?


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