By on October 25, 2009

(courtesy:themeparks.about.com)

We’ve seen the signs coming for some time: rumors from Japan, declining car sales at home, advertisments selling cars as “the ultimate mobile device.” And the picture that’s beginning to reveal itself is a challenging one for fans of four-wheeled transport. Young people, once a deep well of enthusiasm and sales growth for the car industry, are no longer as auto-obsessed as they once were. And their vibrant presence in the automotive world does not seem likely to return any time soon, either. How do I know? Because, like an increasing number of people in their twenties, I don’t own a car.

I can hear the comment-section howls as I write these words. The publisher of a car website doesn’t even own his own car? Sacrilege, right? As with so many of the issues we discuss here at TTAC, this one demands that we tame our emotional reactions and look deeper for the underlying causes of this phenomenon.

So how is it that a certified (certifiable?) car nut, someone who discusses automobiles seven days a week, could not own a car of their own? This is not a case of an auto journalist who is so flooded with hot press cars that purchasing one makes no sense. Arthur St. Antoine I am not. Nor, as I’m sure some will impugn, am I a CLINO (Car Lover In Name Only). I drive my live-in girlfriend’s Impreza every chance I get, and bemoan its flabby handling on a near-daily basis. I beg, borrow and rent cars at every available chance, and as soon as I live somewhere with a garage, a used MR2 Spyder is at the top of my list (with a supercharger kit to follow).

But enough of my excuses; none of my peers ever seem in the least bit surprised to find out that I don’t own a car. After all, most of them don’t. I live in a city that is easily navigable by bicycle and public transportation, and I work from home. I’m not kidding when I quip that the future of transportation is telecommuting.

But I’m also hardly representative of America’s young people, for the simple reason that America’s young people are just as fragmented as everyone else. And certain segments of America’s youth are just as car-obsessed as any past generation. The kids who have been working real jobs since high school all have cars. I know people my age who have owned more (and more interesting) cars than most 40-year-olds. But these young enthusiasts are barely replacing the previous generation. More important than pure numbers though, is the fact that automobiles are failing to capture the enthusiasm of young college graduates.

We all know the statistics about college graduates, specifically the ones about how much more money college graduates earn. This single factor alone makes well-educated youngsters the future of the car market. Unfortunately, college also directly exposes young people to the factors that are destroying their desire to buy new cars.

None of these factors are as dangerous to vehicular desire as debt. Rising tuition, increased use of debt to cover tuition, and limitless access to credit cards for all of those “other” college expenses mean most graduates carry a good new car’s worth of debt. And when they leave their collegiate Xanadus, they’re hardly anxious to take on more. The education and consumer-credit industries are profiting off of young people, to the expense of the automakers.

While students pile on the debt, they’re also being exposed to a number of influences which make them less likely to focus on automobiles as an object of desire. Most campuses are decidedly car-unfriendly, and for many students, living on and around college campuses is their first exposure to an alternative to suburban car-dependency. Green ideology may cause a certain amount of anti-car peer pressure among certain groups of college-age Americans, but it’s usually more of an after-the-fact justification than a first principle. Though many recent graduates will talk endlessly about alternative energy, new urbanism and other anti-car values, the underlying reality is that carlessness is a state of blissful irresponsibility. Principle is only the window dressing.

But don’t underestimate the power of irresponsibility. In fact, the association of carlessness with the carefree world of college is the defining shift in the symbolism of the automobile to young people. Historically, America’s youth have flocked to Automobiles as a tool of personal freedom, an escape pod from the world of adult responsibilities and a way to connect with other young people. Today, these crucial marketing values have been stood on their heads.

If a young person does buy a car, it’s almost always because they need it for their job. Though debt, insurance, maintenance and speeding tickets are the real-life downsides of auto ownership, the crucial issue in the uncooling of cars is the image of car ownership as a a complex of obligations all of which add up to less freedom. The automobile has become a tool for connecting people to their responsibilities, a symbol of debt and an icon of that youth anti-icon, the beaten-down, middle-aged commuter. And what’s less cool than that?

The rise of the internet clearly plays a role in this dynamic as well. Thanks to computers, internet and cell phones, kids are more connected to each other and the world around them than ever before. The technology is cheap, readily available, and crucially, not well understood by previous generations. Computer and information technology separates young people from adults, inherently making it cooler. All of these factors make it easier for young people to see cars as “old person’s technology.” Moreover, they strip cars of their socially connective appeal. The girlfriend and I bought her Impreza as a way to escape from omnipresent social connection as much as a way for her to commute to her job. Both of these roles serve to remind us on a daily basis that our lives no longer revolve around socializing and other “cool” pursuits. We’re practically grown-ups, and the Impreza’s dull competence never lets us forget it.

Economic uncertainty surely factors in to the mix as well. If graduates knew there were plenty of opportunity after college, more of their educational years would likely be spent obsessing about the latest, coolest cars. Changing gender roles are a at work too. Cars have largely lost their masculine mystique, making cars which rely on an appeal to manliness seem outdated, desperate and, well, old-fashioned.

None of this is to say that cars are dead to young Americans. As I’ve noted, the younger generations boast gearheads who can go toe-to-toe with any of the last 50 years. But they’re an increasingly marginalized crowd, especially among the well-educated youth who are statistically most likely to make up the future of the new-car market. They’re also more likely to be attracted to the kind of cool, unique used cars that the industry no longer seems to build.

Which leads nicely to the most optimistic conclusion I can muster. America will not stop being the giant, spread-out country in which cars are the major mode of transportation. But the fact that there are nearly as many cars as people in this great land means that the auto industry is ultimately a victim of its own success. Still, if the industry is able to connect with the values that are leading young people away from automobiles, there’s a chance to check this trend.

But it won’t be easy, because young peoples’ expectations of automobiles are actually rising. If automakers are able to offer vehicles which can embody fun, freedom, practicality, efficiency and timeless design, there’s a chance to refocus the youth market’s desire onto automobiles. The problem is that attracting future car buyers from the ranks of capricious youth tends to trade off with sales in the present from practical adults. Recapturing the cool is a major task for the automotive industry, and fighting this perfect storm of cultural changes won’t be easy. This is a marketing, development, design, and technology challenge that makes getting consumers to consider GM look like, well, child’s play.

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76 Comments on “Editorial: The Carless Kids...”


  • avatar
    Daniel J. Stern

    It’s completely possible to have Mad Car Disease without title, plates, insurance or keys, so it doesn’t matter that you don’t own a car. I have five of them, and parts to assemble roughly two more, so we’ll call it two gearheads with a respectable average of three-and-a-half cars each.

  • avatar
    PG

    I’m 24. I’m into cars. Most of my friends think I’m nuts and just don’t get it. Sometimes, I think I’d feel less geeky if I was into Dungeons and Dragons instead.

  • avatar
    Oregon Sage

    Not to worry. You may recover someday. However, I expect that the aesthetic value of vehicles will become more and more important as the ‘transportation’ function becomes less necessary. As a young U of Oregon student circa 1982 I was also carless and happily so. Mind you I am a native of eastern Oregon, one of those wide open spaces places. My family grew up on cars, trucks and motorcycles and I dabbled in all of the above. I sold a Firebird and a Mustang to finance my bachelor’s degree. I had also already owned several motorcycles as a motocross racer, a late model Ford van, a 65 Mercury Caliente and a Datsun pickup before becoming a full-time U of O student in my mid 20s. It was a serious shift of lifestyle, but one made possible by the university environment in Eugene.

    Funny thing is that I have returned to Eugene but now live away from campus … and the garage now holds a classic Oldsmobile, 21 foot motorhome, 5 door Focus, F150 Supercrew, and BMW and Husqvarna motorcycles (all subject to change).

    If I lived in Portland I would probably replace all of the above with one motorcycle and a Tri-Met pass, and maybe a Maserati Quattroporte for fun and beauty. I actually take Amtrak to Portland and use the streetcars and Max there just for the fun of it, even though it is quicker and cheaper to drive. None of this makes a bit of sense when I head over the Cascades to central and eastern Oregon where I grew up and much of my family remains. There, motor vehicles remain normal and necessary to daily life and making that necessity a bit of fun drives people to express themselves through their vehicles in varied ways including social groupings.

    My son in his mid 20s tolerates a Jetta as a necessary part of life and finds my interest in motor vehicles an oddity in an otherwise sane and intelligent human being.

  • avatar
    ZoomZoom

    All through college I did not own a car. I only own a car now because I like living in suburbia. It’s a bit quieter, crime is somewhat lower, and I can grow a vegetable garden.

    Colleges are a lot like little cities; you can mostly walk wherever you need to go. Having a car was usually a hassle. So I drove one of my dad’s two or three beaters to and from my jobs when I was home on break, but there was certainly no need for me to have a car on campus so I didn’t own one until about a year after graduation; when I was about 22 or 23.

    At school I walked or skateboarded to class, I walked to work, I walked to my sports practices or games, the library, the bars, nightclubs, and local restaurants, just like all of my friends did.

    It was always good to know somebody on campus who had a car; for road-trips and such. But it was rarely good to “be” that person. They always got roped into chauffeur duty to drive places that they didn’t necessarily want to go.

    I remember my friends with cars were forever getting parking tickets on campus. The insurance premium for unmarried drivers in their teens and 20’s was always high. And everybody drove beaters. And beaters need to be fixed; ESPECIALLY those early-to-mid 70’s models that college kids were driving when I was working on my undergrad degree. Repairing cars is something that young college people may be better off not having to worry about; it’s just another expense and another distraction.

  • avatar
    Martin Schwoerer

    OK already – it’s not an either / or situation.

    Young people will continue to buy cars; after all, they’ll need them just as much as everybody else. They just won’t be conned into paying big bucks for the stuff that appeals to the cranky old men™ demographic. You know, the kind of stuff that gets highest ratings here: macho styling, high cornering speeds, 0-60 in under 8 seconds, soft plastics, leather seats.

  • avatar
    ajla

    This is all Toyota’s fault.

  • avatar
    eggsalad

    I know several people in their late teens and early twenties who see no point in even learning to drive, much less owning a car.

  • avatar
    Mike S.

    P.J. O’Rourke’s latest book of essays suggests that a young auto journalist not owning a car is nothing new.

    Re broader trends, I’d be interested in numbers, if they’re available. Car sales are one thing, but it’s hard to map directly to ownership given the increased longevity of vehicles versus decades past. (And of course the recent economic unpleasantness would tend to push people to keep cars longer, further depressing sales.) Has anyone collected data on what percentage of 20-29-year-olds in the US own cars in 2009 vs 1999, 1989, 1979, etc.?

    I’d actually guess that numbers would tend to increase, both because it matches the trend for most consumer goods regardless of perceived coolness and because of the population shift from cities to suburbs. (I know plenty of people who don’t own cars even in their 40s and 50s, but that’s because I know plenty of people who live in a large urban area with good public transit; they’re not a representative sample of overall trends. I don’t know anyone who lives further out than an inner-ring suburb who doesn’t have a car, and there are a lot more people in those suburbs than there were twenty years ago.)

    But either way, I’d be interested in seeing the numbers.

  • avatar
    mpresley

    I remember not owning a car, many years ago. I was lucky, I had a neighbor who would lend me his in a pinch–just had to throw in twenty for a tank of gas. If you can get by w/o a car it’s certainly a financial opportunity. As far as being a big fan of cars but not owning one? It’s not unlike women, I suppose. If you can get by w/o one it’s certainly a financial opportunity. Especially if you can borrow your neighbor’s whenever the need arises, for only a twenty…

  • avatar
    cwmoo740

    You like cars? Why? They’re dirty and expensive. Why don’t you just play Halo instead, it’s safer and cheaper. This just about sums up everything I’ve heard from my friends, even the ones in mechanical engineering.

  • avatar
    Loser

    With all the want-to-be “Fast and the Furious” cars in my local area I don’t see a lack of enthusiasm for cars. What I do see is lack of taste but I’m sure the same was said about my generations cars and the loud music coming from them.

  • avatar
    CommanderFish

    They’re also more likely to be attracted to the kind of cool, unique used cars that the industry no longer seems to build.

    As a college student in Milwaukee, this is definitely a true statement. There’s no intercity bus route to my home town and MCTS is crappy to say the least, so I’m looking to get some wheels up here in the cream city. My vehicle of choice? A used Saab 9-5 wagon.

    The industry still builds them, yes, but not at my price point. Even so, it’s still a unique automobile.

  • avatar
    mpresley

    CommanderFish :As a college student in Milwaukee, this is definitely a true statement. There’s no intercity bus route to my home town and MCTS is crappy to say the least…

    In some inner city areas, to ride public transportation is a big personal risk, too.

  • avatar
    highrpm

    So you’re a fresh out of college person, ready to take on the world. You have college loans and you need to save for a house. You spend a lot of money on your phone, Xbox, and computer which leaves less on the table for a car.

    With the few thousand dollars you have left, you’re pretty much going to buy a Civic/Corolla if you need to get to work every day on time. Used German cars are risky. Anything nicer will be much older and have a quarter million miles.

    So if you’re 25 years old and your real option is to basically drive an economy car, how excited can you be about the car?

    In summary, any interesting cars are too expensive for the typical 20-something with real-world debt and costs. That is why they are not as interested in the cars.

  • avatar
    Jeff Waingrow

    When I first learned about Zipcar, it struck me that it signaled (or at least suggested) a major change in the way people view private vehicles. Now, everytime I see my $500/mo. lease payment sitting in our garage, sometimes unused for several days at a time, I’m honestly irritated by the waste. And it is a waste. In a sense, this country has shifted the cost of basic transportation from the broader public to the individual, with its attendant inefficiencies. Logic suggests that this cannot continue much longer, no?

  • avatar
    DearS

    My grand father is over 70, and he does not know how to drive. Never learned. A lot of the youth in the Dominican cannot drive, cause they can’t afford a car. Its pretty sad I feel. I lot of the kids there are kinder and have more fun then I see here in Providence imo. Not sure cars have much to do with it. I’m sure humility does though.

  • avatar
    criminalenterprise

    A good car is a car with soul. There’s not a lot of them left on the market these days.

    I rode in a Honda Fit the other week; it was dreadful.

  • avatar

    You are indeed a car guy Ed..even your girlfriend’s car shows that you have that same affliction as old guys from my generation.We need time behind the wheel-even in a traffic jam.

  • avatar
    campocaceres

    I agree with everything said in this article. I am in my late 20’s myself, and increasingly find myself viewing my own car ownership as a guilty vice, rather than a symbol of “making it”. Steeply rising gas prices and the steady failure of domestic manufacturers are contributing to the decline of America’s romance with the automobile.

    It used to be the bicycle was the first real ticket to freedom for an American child. But with today’s crowded streets and congested roads, forget it. Then it was the driver’s license and the car. Again, with today’s congested roads, along with overbearing traffic laws and fines, it’s just not the same.

    The internet I grew up with during my formulative teenage years had a lot of avenues for communication and social interaction that is there today, but the crucial difference is that I had to be tethered to a desk at the time. Laptops, cell phones (i.e. PC’s that fit in your hand), internet access, and instant communication are ubiquitous today, and there is no doubt in my mind that this radically shifts perspectives.

    With that said, this may very well be cyclical thing. You mention the viewpoint of things being “cool”, and by the time I have teenagers of my own, it may very well be a reverse situation. Text or even video messaging may be old hat, and Junior can’t wait to get his own hydrogen-powered automated plastic coffin. Guess we will just have to wait and see how it all plays out.

  • avatar
    campocaceres

    Also, I wanted to say, kudos to you, sir, for recognizing the greatness that is the MR2 Spyder. A highly underrated driver’s car, IMHO. I refused to buy another one after a Caddy smashed mine to bits, on the principle that I would not drive the same car twice. But every time I see one on the road, I really, really miss mine.

  • avatar

    Another thing is, public transit is a dehumanizing, soul-sucking experience at its core. Young people get brainwashed by the school to think that it’s the norm and they have to put up with whatever charming cranks it offers, from being sneezed on to pickpocketry. But as they grow up and become more independent, they start questioning the authority from the position of financial security. That’s when they buy cars. I thumbed my nose on hassles of car ownership, but after riding trains and buses for 32 years I decided that enough is enough. But I never was into cars as such.

    The front of the fight for the better future may not be at making companies to build sexy cars, but at forcing politicians to ease the laws and regulations that impede car ownership: insurance burden, policing regime, etc. Make them build freeways instead of dumping gazillions on light rail bongholes. I wish gearheads left the garage and visited the polling booth once in a while.

  • avatar
    JuniorMint

    Why on earth would you not drive the same car twice? Is that one of those principles-for-the-sake-of-having-principles?

  • avatar
    gusplus

    I’ll take your editorial, Ed, at face value because I’m not in my 20s. One factor you didn’t mention was room and board. Ever since real estate prices went bonkers over the last generation, rental prices have escalated accordingly. So there’s another factor eating into a young person’s car budget.

    But…

    Cars will never die. Period. American cities were designed with the auto in mind. Even if we all got off our fat asses and rode our bikes everywhere and took the bus, the sheer amount of time it would take to get anything done would devour our days.

    I admire the twenty-somethings’ idealism, but reality will sink in eventually. Cheap rent in the “ecclectic” part of town will give way to security in the suburbs when the kids start coming. You’ll need a car. Make it two.

    You could choose to be an iconoclast and take the bus. But buses are for losers. Even Jeff Lebowski owned a car (and the bus won’t play Creedence).

    In the end, depending on your city (and that’s most of them), the house always wins. You’ll buy a car out of sheer frustration. It will take cataclysmic events to make change this fact of life.

  • avatar
    saponetta

    I do not see any sort of trend in america where young kids, especially 20 somethings are choosing not to purchase cars. The only people I see going without cars in any demographic are the people who cannot afford them. This in itself blows my mind because there are literally hundreds of decent, running cars on craigslist in any given area that can be had for a couple grand or less. I regularly sell cars I take in that neither of my wholesalers want for under 5k sometime less than 1000. Thats leaving me room for a healthy profit! A car like that may cost 500 a year to insure and another 20-30 in personal property taxes if their state had them. The only real expense I can see is paying for a parking spot in certain cities. Obviously, you’re not going to pay $200 a month to keep your $1000 car in a parking garage. But resourceful people should be able to keep a boot of their beater.

    Even the author admits he plans on buying a car as soon as it becomes a possibility. With that in mind, why did he even write the article? I couldn’t find a fact, statistic, or study quoted in the entire thing. This editorial would fare better in the onion.

    Headline:

    Nations under and unemployed youth not buying cars!

  • avatar
    B-Rad

    +1 ajla

    That was the funniest comment I’ve seen in a while. Too bad it would take me ten minutes to explain the humor to most people I know (the whole younger people aren’t as in to cars thing strikes again).

  • avatar
    manny

    My six year old is a gearhead, he wants me to buy a yellow Camaro so he can turn it into Bumblebee, go figure.

  • avatar

    I think electronic connectivity and competence with electronics has replaced geographic connectivity to a large extent in the search for status among peers. Additionally, cars don’t look romantic anymore. They look like appliances, with a few exceptions. And I suspect that even in the old days, only a limited percentage of the population particularly enjoyed driving. My brother–born in Truman–could have cared less. My sister, born during Kennedy, enjoyed driving, probably in no small part because her other older brother–me, born in Eisenhower–was such a car nut. But she still likes driving all these years later. And of my six first cousins, I don’t think anyone was particularly interested in driving. So that’s two enthusiastic drivers out of nine people mostly from the Eisenhower era. Still, there were all those popular songs having to do with cars–hey little cobra, little GTO, LIttle Old Lady (from Pasadena), etc. And now I bet tehre are none, although I’m not much in touch with current popular music.

  • avatar
    Dynamic88

    I wonder if this means that cars might be marketed to people like me – dual income empty nesters with paid off mortgages and paid off college loans.

    But no, I suppose it’s better to chase the declining youth market than acknowledge the existence of someone over 50.

    I suspect that the declining interest among younger people will only translate into more sales for Toyonda. Appliances – that’s the future of the automobile.

  • avatar
    Newyokie

    I agree with highrpm. I was in school in all of my 20s and all i could afford was an occasional offer to pay gas to whomever gave me rides. My dad gave me an abandoned 1979 Lincoln town car which was p.o.s. but I was still excited to have something that got me to places. I loved cars, but I could only look, not touch like one of those Megan Foxes in my school. Then I purchased my first car Civic and then I upgraded to Accord, and then Acura TL. (God bless hondas for never breaking down on me. EVER)
    I graduated with $350K student loan and now in my 30s my education is paying appropriate dividends. So I purchased Audi and BMW. I waiting for next M5 when my current lease expires. So hang in there 20 something car junkies, your time will come.

  • avatar

    I just returned from Rally New York. Most of the Course workers are young college guys. No matter what car they took to get there, they knew all about the Rally cars, drivers and car set ups.

    At least among these youth, no problems there.

    I had crappy cars for quite some time. Interspersed was a 1967 fury II with SuperCommando V8, but many of the others were forgettable. I was still a hard core car nut…that Porsche Turbo was just unattainable for a young man who was not generational wealth.

    The reality car, though, was key for someone growing up in the suburbs. I once knew someone who grew up on Manhattan’s upper east side. He had a private plane license but no driver’s license. For the rest of us, though, we were on line at DMV on the birthday. This has not changed.

    Your first car is whatever you can afford (or your parents). The “real” car-comes later. My first car was a 400 Firebird Convertible-back when was a beat used car, not a classic. Of Course, wish I still had it.

  • avatar
    darkwing

    Dynamic88, I think they’ve had your demographic firmly in their sights for years now, actually. (Scion may market to kids, but it sells to their parents.)

  • avatar
    tpandw

    A couple of points. First, +1 B-Rad to his +1 ajla. That was indeed one of the funniest comments I’ve seen in some time. Second, I’m a certified geezer, love cars, always have and probably always will. Living in a small city with ok but not terrific public transportation, it’s difficult but not impossible to get along without a car. My ex-wife for example: When we were divorced, she got one car, I got the other. After a few years, when her car gave up the ghost she decided to forego the expense and hassle of another vehicle. She rides the bus, she lives close enough to a university and shopping area that she can walk to lots of things, and she rents a car every month or so to do the stuff that she needs a car for. It makes a lot of sense, and she’s a genuine car person. She’s a fast and safe driver and rents stuff that she enjoys driving. It’s actually not a bad compromise. My niece, who lives in Chicago, hasn’t had a car since she moved there, and gets along very well. But cities like Milwaukee and Indianapolis with mediocre public transportation systems really do present a challenge, and I’m sympathetic to CommanderFish.

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    Why are we always dancing around this one central ideal of being in your 20’s. The ideal of…

    university life.

    You study. You drink. You hang out. You have no responsibility. No costs other than the debt in the back closet. Everything is accessible. Nothing is unobtainable… at least in the short term.

    Car ownership is declining for people in their 20’s because an amazing majority of them are now long-term unemployed. Another healthy portion of them have jobs as tenuous as Obama’s approval rating.

    There is no point in buying something if you don’t have the means to pay for it.

  • avatar
    BDB

    So hang in there 20 something car junkies, your time will come.

    I’ll think of that when driving my bought used Miata and bought used Escort ZX2 (the latter is a highly underrated car, btw).

    Car ownership is declining for people in their 20’s because an amazing majority of them are now long-term unemployed.

    This. Like my younger brother. College graduate, got a 3.5 GPA, went to a more than decent state school, graduated in May 2009. Has not found ANY work. Nothing. Nada. Zip. He had to move back in with my parents, something only complete losers (dropouts and WoW addicts) did before the economy went belly up. It’s really f***ing sad, especially since people his age had NOTHING to do with causing the economic meltdown.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    Cast you mind back a while and replace “car” with “horse”.

    On a serious note, part of it is that cars just aren’t as important as they used to be to the young: private communication is easier, and thusly the way people move and interact is handled somewhat differently.

    Another part is, yes, debt and earning power. You cannot get a good paying job out of high-school as easily**, and when you can buy, your earning power is dramatically weaker. My father’s first house was twice his salary; mine was four times. A base Toyota Corolla was a third his net; it’s half mine at the same time in my life. He finished school with no debt; I finished with twenty-five grand and I know many people who leave with more. Even with the consequence-processing retardation inherent in the teenage brain, those realities sink in.

    The other problem is that old car guys tend to paint a picture of the old days that isn’t quite accurate. A lot of people had one car, or had unsexy cars, or didn’t give a shit, just as they do now: we’ve just forgotten about it, looking as we have through the rose-coloured lens of nostalgia.

    ** bitch about unions as you might, they’re fighting to keep the middle class life alive for the relatively uneducated

  • avatar
    guyincognito

    Oh Ed. I’m going to have to re-read typhoon’s comment from the other editorial on this subject just to cheer me back up. I respect your car knowlege and passion in any case, but damn man, get a car!

  • avatar
    jkross22

    I think there’s as much love for cars now as there has been in the past. Sure, it’s changed, but it’s still there. People LOVE their Prii as much as others love Vettes, M5’s, 911’s, etc. albeit for different reasons.

    However, there is strong appeal for the soulless appliances Toyota, Honda, GM, Ford and Hyundai are hocking. That’s just how it is.

    Maybe there’s just fewer people as passionate about cars as all of us are. As a percentage of the population, I think that’s definitely the case.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    The other problem is that old car guys tend to paint a picture of the old days that isn’t quite accurate.

    There’s probably a lot of truth to that. I doubt that car fever was quite as rampant as some here are making it out to be, and there’s probably more of it today than some realize.

    Then again, the technologies of today create a lot of competition for the car. Computers seem to stoke the sort of passion in kids today that cars allegedly did in the past. Perhaps cars are like everything else, losing market share in the entertainment space to other technologies because the new products satisfy needs that the old ones did not.

  • avatar
    imag

    I am surprised no one has mentioned traffic.

    In California, it seems pretty clear that traffic was a primary driver (no pun intended, really) in the SUV craze. With no way to drive fast or enjoy the open road, the living room SUV became the new sports car.

    And traffic and congestion have no doubt caused the waning of automobilic exuberance. Even as someone who loves cars, I have to say that driving them on today`s crowded roads is less than fun. The open road is still great if you can find it, but sitting in traffic takes the glamour out of cars…

  • avatar
    The Walking Eye

    I can’t imagine not having a car in any city I’ve ever lived in. If I lived inside Chicago, NYC, or a similar metropolis, maybe. Sure, I’m paying ~$400/month in car costs, but I’m always able to go outside and drive somewhere whenever I want.

    I’m a college student again at the moment and can get back and forth to campus easy enough with our excellent public transportation. But if I want to be on campus late to study, I have to take a car (either mine or pay for a taxi) due to the bus schedules. There are students from overseas in my classes who don’t have cars and are frustrated that they can’t go out to several restaurants w/o the use of a friend to take them there. This, however, works to my advantage as I can offer to take these lovely co-eds to the places they’d like to visit before going home, which is one of the best damned reasons to own a car.

    I truly enjoy the freedom my car gives me. If I want to just say “fuck it, I’m going to CA!” I can go outside and get in my car and do so right now. If I didn’t have that, I’d have to figure out how to get down to Indy or up to Chicago for a flight, or how to grab a bus or train and spend God knows how long (and how much) actually getting there.

  • avatar
    tedward

    I think it depends where you are. Every neighborhood I’ve lived in that had actual houses had an obvious as hell youth car culture, even inside NYC where insurance is hell. It only disappears when you see apartment buildings take over the landscape. I basically think it’s the parking problem that keeps people out of cars. College students also have parking restrictions, most freshman aren’t allowed cars at all, and some schools just have full lots. So there you go.

    I was just in a house this afternoon that had 7 interesting cars in the driveway, all owned by late 20’s regular people (only 2 car geeks). The most expensive car there was a brand new MK VI tdi Golf (stunning interior), and the most intersting car there only cost $4k (911 beater). Nobody in the house spent much more than $20k on their car, and not a single one was an appliance. People in their 20’s, with a little exposure, seem to gravitate towards the good stuff. I’m not that worried about it.

    The “kids” or otherwise that sneer at cars, are just people without cars trying to rationalize around their envy. I seriosly mean that.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    Computers seem to stoke the sort of passion in kids today that cars allegedly did in the past.

    I’m not seeing this. I think people want to think it, but the computer or cellphone is—and the car is/was this as well—a means to an end for most, rather than the end-goal itself.

    We’re overselling both; the people who are “into” either are far, far from the majority. For every Danny Zuko or Thomas A. Anderson, there’s a lot of people with Ford Falcons or Samsung A930s who are just trying to get laid.

  • avatar
    law stud

    “we’ve just forgotten about it, looking as we have through the rose-coloured lens of nostalgia”

    True that.

    “Car ownership is declining for people in their 20’s because an amazing majority of them are now long-term unemployed.”

    YEP, economy hasn’t really grown in the real sense since 1983, every since then this country has been selling debt, corporate debt, government debt, junk bonds, mortgage debt, etc to fuel expansion. Nothing else is driving this economy since it peaked in the 1970’s, just one bubble after another. No light at the end of the tunnel.

    I laughed when a book “the coming collapse of China” was talked about in the news, it theorized in 2005 Chinese Banks would bring down China in 2009 because of underperforming loans, I had just ask, shouldn’t the author write this about USA?

    ————-

    About college and being young, I got a used car in college after winning a bet. I got laid almost overnight in that thing. Didn’t matter what it was, it was wheels and I had them. Sure college was cool, but with a car, its a whole new world.

    I wasn’t really into cars until I bought a new one after college for nearly 30k. X-Wife still has it, it was paid for before divorce. :-(

    Now I drive a used car. Paid for in cash and I love not having a car payment. I’ve been using the same old used car for 10 years now and it has 240K miles on it. Insurance is dirt cheap on it and fuel economy is actually better than any replacements I’ve looked at.

  • avatar
    law stud

    [quote]”In California, it seems pretty clear that traffic was a primary driver (no pun intended, really) in the SUV craze. With no way to drive fast or enjoy the open road, the living room SUV became the new sports car.” /[quote]

    I’m in Los Angeles and I do want an SUV because its a living room on wheels. In our lifetime we will spend some 40,000 hours driving a car. Might as well be like home. I guess now a CUV like an Acadia I had an eye on for awhile, then again I see it as a trimmed minivan and too pricey.

    About Los Angeles, and California in general, I read an article, we have the worst roads in the nation and half of the worst traffic spots. Budget crisis means that we’ve cut back a lot on it for quite some time. Bad roads also contribute to driving SUVs in LA, we might actually need them for all the pot holes.

  • avatar
    Via Nocturna

    I’ve already thrown my hat in with the 20-somethings in an earlier thread, so I won’t go over that again.

    What I will rant about, however, is this false dichotomy that a car can be reliable and affordable but dull or fast and exciting but expensive to buy and own. It is, in fact, possible to have the best of both worlds. Honda’s been doing it for years with the Civic Si and the Prelude before that. Then there’s the Mazda 3 and Miata, Acura RSX/TSX/Integra Type-R…hell, even Toyota with the dearly departed Celica GT-S and MR2. Or, taken to the extreme of this school of thought, the S2000 or NSX. I know sport compacts have an eyeroll-inducing reputation among older car guys on account of the t00neR kIdZ defacing these cars with fart cans and giant spoilers. Believe or it, this particular subculture of enthusiasts drives me up the wall too. But that doesn’t diminish the wonderful promise of these cars–cheap to buy, cheap to maintain, great fuel economy considering the performance, and still practical enough to drive daily. Anyone who thinks you can’t have fun driving anything that isn’t German or equipped with a huge V8 isn’t being honest with themselves. All you really need for some great driving is a high-revving four-banger, a lightweight chassis, a manual gearbox, and your favorite stretch of road. Everything else is just excess. Ask any Lotus owner.

  • avatar
    reclusive_in_nature

    Can’t say I blame them. $10K-$15K (about what a young twenty something could afford) won’t buy a whole lot of car, especially brand new. Kids didn’t leave automobiles, the automobiles makers left them. I’ve been saying for a long time that Ford, GM, or Chrysler needs to just shove a powerful engine in a small car and sell it dirt cheap. Handling and interior be damned. When you can get Corvette 0-60 times for about $10K (motorcycles don’t count so don’t bother) you’ll forgive the fact that some critics bitch about what kind of plastic the buttons are made of. Speed sells, especially to youth, but nowadays it needs to be cheap enough to offset the cost of gas, insurance, etc.

  • avatar
    sutski

    @mrpresley “Especially if you can borrow your neighbor’s whenever the need arises, for only a twenty”

    My last car share from mobility.ch was 26 swiss francs, about $26 too then ;)

    An hour rental of a new Ford S-Max seven seater, 28 kms driven to relocate a big wardrobe and I filled it up with their credit card and code and their money before I dropped it back off!

    There is a choice of 20 different mobility cars parked at Luzern train station now…

    And my 2005 Nissan 350Z was costing me $2000 a month in total costs. $1000 for the lease and a thousand to run and shod and park. Most of it was just to get to work as well!! Bonkers! Train and bus for free (with year pass!) for me from now on!

    I hope to maybe get an electric car sometime in the future, maybe in 18 months time when quite a few new ones will apparently hit the market and after I have SAVED enough to do it!!!…I certainly would no way consider any other car except a cheap hybrid (or perhaps save an old timer) in the mean time, but after 6 years of paying 2 different leases (MGTF160 and 350Z) it is now such a relief to not have to fork out that much dosh every month. I can even start paying off credit cards!!

    A new gas guzzler ball and chain with oil price hikes surely imminent and global warming and LA smog etc. directly attributed to the burning of PETROL and OIL ….no thanks.

    My demographic is that I left Uni 15 years ago and have been a car owner before and ever since Escort MkIV, Maxi, Volvo440T, Impreza GT, MGTF, 350Z…not since 6 months though. Out of choice, I sold the 350Z after pleas for action from all over the globe about cutting your own emissions to help the world stay below 350PPM!!

    Ebike, train and mobility will do fine for a while though. Sorry GM et al.

    Not till you stop the noise, the pollution and the use of fossil fuels.

  • avatar
    BuzzDog

    People here carp about small, inexpensive cars being “sh!tboxes” and the like, but when I started driving (in 1980) there were basic, affordable new car options out there that didn’t have standard power windows, air conditioning, keyless entry…or even fully carpeted trunks, for that matter.

    Today people cringe at the thought of driving – or worse, letting their son or daughter drive – a car that is not an absolute fortress, with every electronic safety assist known to mankind, on top of the features mentioned above (which were once considered luxuries). That’s not necessarily a bad thing, and part of the reason why vehicle fatalities are far lower per million miles driven.

    The difference back then is likely that small, inexpensive cars were seen as a safer alternative than the bikes and motorcycles we’d otherwise be riding. And my observation is that many of these “carless kids” do end up owning 50cc scooters and such as their first motorized vehicles. It will be interesting to see what happens in this vein over the next 20 years, as attempts at paring down transportation to its bare minimum have resulted in vehicles such as the smart, which actually cost more than a base Japanese sedan and require premium fuel.

  • avatar
    200k-min

    I bought a car as I was graduating college because I needed a commuter. Ten years later I was still driving that car and quite bitter about vehicle ownership.

    Here’s how I see it – An average college graduate probably starts at somewhere about $40-50k and in debt at least $20k. A decently equipped Camcord costs more than half their annual salary – before taxes. A decent used Camcord still is a major portion of one years wage.

    So, said graduate gets a 60 month note on a new or used vehicle to commute for work. Before that loan is paid up they’ve sunk costs for everything car related – maintenance, insurance, license fees, and feels as if they aren’t getting ahead in this world.

    Early grads saving up and building a nest egg for the future? Ha ha. It’s hard to save a dime just starting out, especially when a vehicle is a huge suck on your income. Buying a house? Well, no savings mean not easy to get a home, especially now that 0 down is a thing of the past. Enjoying the good life of vacations, dining out, etc.? Again, hard to do anything when you are broke thanks to a vehicle.

    No wonder the kids aren’t getting infatuated with vehicle ownership, and quite frankly I’m not surprised. It’s a necessity in most parts of this country, but the people are saying loud and clear – cheap and reliable – nothing more, nothing less.

  • avatar
    Mark MacInnis

    It’s all George Bush’s fault.

  • avatar
    Autosavant

    “Daniel J. Stern :
    October 25th, 2009 at 5:45 pm

    It’s completely possible to have Mad Car Disease without title, plates, insurance or keys, so it doesn’t matter that you don’t own a car. I have five of them, and parts to assemble roughly two more, so we’ll call it two gearheads with a respectable average of three-and-a-half cars each.”

    Nice. I have little room for more than two cars where I live (a condo) and management is making it really difficult, with rules such as “you got to move it every few days” if you park it in the spots on the other side of the road and not your driveway.

    I did think of pulling a jay leno later in life, and buy a large warehouse and fill it with classics – but mostly Euro ones, unlike Leno. And probably many fewer than he has.

  • avatar
    chaparral

    A responsible budget for a graduate who’s paid off the debt would be 3-4 months of pay for a car. That’s somewhere between $8000 and $15000.

    Would you want an Aveo or a 7-year-old Corvette if you were a car nut? A Fit or a 3-year-old Civic Si?

    John DeLorean was right when he said “you can’t sell an old man’s car to a young man but you can sell a young man’s car to an old man”. Despite not selling many of them to the intended young buyers, the cars marketed to the youth are almost all successful in the market.

  • avatar
    colin42

    mpresley :
    It’s not unlike women, I suppose. If you can get by w/o one it’s certainly a financial opportunity. Especially if you can borrow your neighbor’s whenever the need arises, for only a twenty…

    You should be given the funniest reply of the day award – I’m still chuckling to myself!

  • avatar
    Slare

    I’m in my early thirties having gone to college and lived all my life in areas of the midwest where cars are an absolute requirement.

    I understand very clearly folks living in Chicago or the like without cars. It’s a bit of a no brainer for regular working level folks.

    But I have noticed a very significant shift in the younger generation (under or early 20’s) not just in terms of cars, but more so in the fact of not wanting to get their hands dirty.

    Working on cars, and learning to enjoy them, for me was a requirement that developed into an interest. I just couldn’t afford / justify paying a mechanic for something I could (mostly) learn to handle myself. Over time it became a hobby, one that I can both appreciate and also understand why it is so unattractive to lots of people.

    For anecdotal evidence, I suggest the hammer test. Next time you meet a guy under the age of 20, ask him if he owns a hammer. Asking this of kids dating my various nieces and such, the answer is “nope” a lot more than I am comfortable with. Cellphone? Of course. Laptop? You betcha. Screwdrivers & basic tools? Huh?

  • avatar
    Da Coyote

    “…Unfortunately, college also directly exposes young people to the factors that are destroying their desire to buy new cars….”

    Perhaps for marshmallow majors. For those who actually got a real education on something substantial (like math, physics, engineering, chemistry, etc….) methinks not so much. We actually had professors capable of doing something outside of the classroom besides pontificate about things that they have no capability of understanding.

  • avatar
    Mike66Chryslers

    @reclusive_in_nature: Big engine in a smaller, low-optioned car and sell it cheap was the formula for the success of the muscle cars. Unfortunately the insurance companies hiked rates on those cars, making it prohibitively expensive for young people to own them. That is a big factor in what ended the muscle car era. The same thing would happen again.

    I’m raising my son (2 years old now) to be a 4th generation gearhead. I worry that he may be in for a big disappointment when he gets older though.

  • avatar
    stars9texashockey

    There is a stong and growing “anti-green” trend beginning to take shape. Mainly because people are realizing that the “global warming” bs that they have been fed is based on hysteria not factual science. This should solve your problem Edward.

  • avatar
    TEXN3

    Interesting editorial. I think it depends largely on where you grew up and where you currently live. My wife and I are in our upper-20s, with a 2 year old boy (who loves Matchbox trucks!). We have 2 vehicles, but hardly use but 1, Boise is not very suburban and is relatively compact. I grew up a car nut, as my dad was…however he was more frugal and we didn’t have a great variety of cars, much less any fun ones. Myself, I am always looking or wanting something different, but I don’t ever change what I have unless out of neccessity (our 84 Volvo turbo just died).

    Living in a place like Idaho, you want a vehicle that will cruise the interstate and climb hills just fine, with enough room and clearance for camping weekends (or to get through a pass). It’s why so many have SUVs, I don’t…but I’m considering smaller ones that are still somewhat enjoyable to drive. I’d like to replace my Mazda3 wagon someday with a commuter: Mazda2 or Fiesta. Not to save gas so much, just something that looks like fun to drive.

    But, I grew up in Houston…so a big RWD sedan or truck, or American V8 coupe appeals to me as well, but the wife says no, not practical at this point. Well, I’ll just steal glances at my neighbors 66 GTO. She laughed when I put a couple car posters up in the garage, we don’t own a Mustang GT, Cobra R, or Raptor…but I can dream while I sweep the garage or vacuum cheerios out of the old E-class my parents gave me (which I hate to maintain, but love to drive).

  • avatar
    VanillaDude

    You assume. Then you assume some more. The you finished off with more assumptions. For a journalist, you seem more like an opinion writer.

    I’ve had live in girlfriends. I didn’t own a car until I was 30. That doesn’t mean I didn’t go places. I’ve been everywhere, mostly by car. What it does mean is that I refused to grow up until I was into my deep 40s. I refused to make any commitments. I refused to be honest and make decisions and then take responsibilities for them, until I finally got married and had children. That is what forced me to grow up.

    I’ve had some of the best cars and stayed in some of the most glamourous places in the world. I’ve eaten in some of the world’s best restaurants. It wasn’t taking on responsibilities that allowed me to do this – it was the desire to resist them.

    Growing up means sacrifice. We live in a time when Americans don’t sacrifice. We are told repeatedly that when we find ourselves making sacrifices, we are not getting a good thing out of the deals we are sacrificing for. We are told to be getters – not givers. Our society rewards those of us who take and put off giving.

    Happily, most Americans figure out that living off others without taking meaningful responsibilities is selfish and empty. Forever pretending to be a young man, even when you are no longer young is something we see in every Cialis commercial, in every Jack Black movie, and across the US. But reality dictates otherwise, and if your lady demands that you become a man, you have to become a man.

    As to speaking for college students – I held off on that for decades too, finally getting my degree when I was 36. I finished up in Europe, spinning around world famous places, pretending to care about the environment, and hooking up with young blondes who didn’t shave their legs. Totally fun, and completely meaningless in the real world.

    Now I am a daddy. I own a station wagon and a van. I own a house. My wife owns all of us and forces me to live in reality. There is more than enough happiness in a single week in the real world to make up for months living in the Virgin Islands and driving new red Corvettes. It is nice to be a man, instead of a perpetual gray haired idiot child.

    So, your declaration of independance is a declaration from what?

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    Mainly because people are realizing that the “global warming” bs that they have been fed is based on hysteria not factual science.

    Actually, no, it is based off of actual science. The denial and skepticism of it is based on innuendo, hearsay and bad logic.

    No one has managed to discredit AGCC. All they’ve managed to do is what Creationists and anti-Vaccination proponents have done: create baseless doubt based on dubious material sufficient to sway people who can’t or won’t read the details.

    Most of the “science” on the skeptic side comes down to “Since you completely sure of the detailed effects and mechanics, the whole theory must be wrong.” We don’t know the details and mechanics of how gravity works, either, but it still hurts to fall down.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    Perhaps for marshmallow majors. For those who actually got a real education on something substantial (like math, physics, engineering, chemistry, etc….) methinks not so much. We actually had professors capable of doing something outside of the classroom besides pontificate about things that they have no capability of understanding.

    God, the arrogance…

    As if a) You’d never heard a math or engineering major go off on a tangent about world peace or popular culture or plumbing or what-have-you despite being ever so qualified or b) like there aren’t many, many “Real Men” in the hard sciences who didn’t own or give a shit about a car.

    From what I can tell, the only disciplines that were full of people with gasoline in their veins were Law, post-grad Business and Medicine. For the reason, I might add, that they were the only ones who could afford to.

  • avatar
    shiney2

    “The automobile has become a tool for connecting people to their responsibilities, a symbol of debt and an icon of that youth anti-icon, the beaten-down, middle-aged commuter. And what’s less cool than that?”

    Nice observation. I am well past my 20s, but have seen inklings of this attitude from younger friends – although this is the first time I have seen the concept so clearly expressed.

  • avatar
    SoCalCaliente

    It just isn’t often fun to drive anymore. Allow me a few old fart memories. When I was a kid in the 60’s we could put $2.00 in the big block MoPar and enjoy an evening cruising and street racing on mostly deserted streets. As a college kid I learned to keep clapped out British sports cars alive and could run through the countryside with a wide open exhuast on mostly empty country roads. Today, due to having what would be a dream job for most TTR readers, I often get to drive the world’s best cars. It’s cool except trying to cross the LA basin, at rush hour, in a Aston DBS with a heavy clutch is just a pain. Driving Pacific Coast Highway in a Lamborghini stuck behind a minivan for mile after mile is an exercise in frustration. When I want to wring out my personal zippy car I have to travel hours just to get out of traffic. I just think you younger guys never got to have fun with cars and those days are mostly gone for anybody who doesn’t live in the boonies.

  • avatar
    godflesh

    A lot of projecting one’s experiences onto the rest of the world going on here. At any rate, here’s mine:

    I love cars, a lot. I love all things mechanical, engines especially. I like to work on my own cars, and have done so on some level since I’ve owned them. As I age it gets more difficult for the following reasons:

    Decreased Free Time–I have kids
    Increased Responsibility–car as appliance versus hobby (with benefits)
    Tool Obsolescence–My sockets still work, code readers are expensive
    Increased difficulty troubleshooting/Electronics–harder to find issues/which parts to replace
    Safety Standards–add weight and remove fun, hard to be frugal with airbags and ABS along for the ride

  • avatar
    RADEN

    People without cars have always bugged me a bit. I have some friends like yourself, and the thing is, they’re always dependent on someone else in the long run. In your case, you depend on your girlfriend to drive places. People without cars make excuses (legitimate or not) all day long about why they don’t need a car but then they’re quick to ask for rides when they need to get somewhere. Unless you live in the city, and I mean in the heart of a major city with easy access to public transport or a Zipcar, at least, then you need a car. Sorry if that means you take on more responsibilities. That’s life. In the end, despite the financial strain, you will enjoy more freedom with a car than without one.

  • avatar
    geeber

    The “financial drain” reason amuses me. At the end of the day, virtually EVERYTHING – a house or apartment, clothes, food, indoor plumbing, television, a computer – is a financial drain. But we pay for them – along with the expenses of maintaining them – because they make our lives nicer. Just like owning a car does for my life.

    People really concerned about saving money can also live in a cardboard box, eat oatmeal three times a day and wear clothes from the Salvation Army thrift shop.

  • avatar

    A lot of projecting one’s experiences onto the rest of the world going on here

    Yes and no. More projecting the experiences of people I know than my own specific outlook. Most of my peers aren’t house shopping, which is the real reason I’m not currently car shopping. I like to think that I’m a little more comfortable with responsibility (like, say, keeping this site humming) than many of my peers. But now I’m stroking my own ego…

    In your case, you depend on your girlfriend to drive places.

    Nope. Zipcar, bicycle and a ’72 Honda 350 Scrambler take care of most of my transportation needs (which are pretty limited considering I’m chained to this computer all week). Weekend trips are the only time the Impreza does more than commute.

    This phenomenon is so complex that any attempt to explain it will inevitably come across as oversimplification. Sorry, but that doesn’t seem like a reason not to discuss it.

  • avatar
    carlisimo

    Another thing is, public transit is a dehumanizing, soul-sucking experience at its core.

    I was worried about that before taking my current job in downtown San Francisco, but I actually like it! Sure, sometimes the person sitting next to you smells like a disgusting blend of spices, or they’re really fat (not as common in SF), so it’s not perfect. But on the train you have the option of sleeping or reading… I’ve never done so much reading in my life!

    If you have a short, traffic free commute then you have nothing to be jealous about. My previous commute, however, was 60 minutes of soul-sucking sitting in traffic. In a stickshift Miata. It was miserable, and it made me hate my car. Now that I only drive it during nights and weekends, I love it again!

    My friends in Europe, despite the tiny engines they all get stuck with, love their cars. Why? Because they don’t have to commute in them. They buy cars for the freedom to go places. Here they’re a tool for a rather unpleasant task. No wonder mileage and reliability is all we care about.

    I also think the public ridiculing of young car enthusiasts (yes, the ricers and the street racers) has helped make cars uncool. If you street raced in the ’60s, you’re cool and people want you to run car companies or magazines. If you street raced in the ’90s, you’re the scum of the earth. If even the car enthusiasts don’t accept new members, what do you think is going to happen?

  • avatar
    geeber

    Edward Niedermeyer: This phenomenon is so complex that any attempt to explain it will inevitably come across as oversimplification.

    Complex? I believe that it is quite simple – you have reasonably regular access to a car through a significant other; but you also have other options that trade comfort/convenience for lower overhead cost.

    Not a bad choice, and one that makes sense for you, given your life situation and place of residence. But that is far from being “carless.”

    I think the real change from 35-40 years ago is that you and your girlfriend would be married (given your age and the social mores of the time), and thus the Impreza (or its 1970s equivalent) would be “her” vehicle and the Honda 350 Scrambler would be “your” vehicle, but the paperwork for both vehicles would have both of you as owners.

  • avatar
    jacksonbart

    I sales of match box cars and hot wheels must also be down. Its where I began.

  • avatar
    Kristjan Ambroz

    I like the editorial – very nicely written, perceptive and all. On the other hand I also agree that the perception of the past are heavily rose tinted and often much of it is simply forgotten. I would also like to see the car ownership stats for 20 year olds from now, 10, 20, 30 etc. years ago and I’d be surprised if they actually dipped compared to the past. The stock of vehicles in the US certainly hasn’t – nor has it anywhere in Europe that I am aware off.

    And the majority of cars from 20 or 30 or 40 years ago weren ot particularly interesting either – the freedom they brought might have been perceived mre acutely but econoboxes were econoboxes for most part and rare was the exception, back then as right now.

    One thing that might have happened is that our expectation of reliability have increased exponentially, where today people perceive it a major affront if anything on their cherished car breaks, whereas 20 or 30 years ago it was potentially taken morei n stride, being a more normal, common and frequently experienced phenomenon. But then again I have no hard data on that either ;)

  • avatar

    You betray your alleged “car guy street cred” with the statement that you’d like to supercharge a used MR-2 Spyder.

    Everyone knows that supercharging the 1zz is a waste of time and money (not to mention lack of availability of aftermarket setups).

    Everybody knows the best option is to swap in a 2zz or build and turbocharge the 1zz.

    Or swap in a 2zz and turbocharge that.

  • avatar

    cretinx: I wondered if that would come up. I think a 2zz swap would be plenty of power… but there’s nobody in my area (that I know of) who has a rep for doing them right. Ideally I’d look for the right pre-loved 2zz-equipped Spyder, but then there aren’t a ton of those on the market either.

    Still, power isn’t everything. And the only thing better than driving a slow car fast is driving an old, slow motorcycle fast. My life is blessedly not short on speed-derived adrenalin thrills. Which probably helps explain why I haven’t been in a rush to buy any car.

  • avatar
    jamesliudotcoffeespoonsdotorg

    I’m 27 and I live in Chicago. I ride my bike everywhere I go, and you know what I find more soulsucking and energy depriving than sitting on public transportation? Sitting in a car in congestion. You know what’s only slightly better than sitting in a car in congestion? Trying to find a parking space the sort of places I want to go.

    I like cars, and I like driving. When I was a teenager, I drove around my parents’s ‘97.5 Nissan Altima, which the previous owner had rechipped so it would rev above redline if you pushed it hard enough (which I did) but would also stall in the winter sometimes in the middle of an intersection. There was nothing better than driving around lost for hours on windy country streets with girls and stopping to make out on the roof.

  • avatar
    Areitu

    I had a big ol’ response written up, but then I realized something.

    Isn’t Scion an attempt to this target audience?


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