By on October 22, 2009

Escape or Scapegoat?

Home game machines are no good. Playing something that realistic makes the need for cars disappear

So goes the Gawker hive-mind translation of a quote, attributed to an unnamed Toyota executive by Masahiro Kawaguchi, in an editorial published by the Mainichi Newspaper of Osaka (got that?). Best of all, Kawaguchi’s piece apparently goes on to attempt a further causal link to Japan’s falling population. “Guys used to work hard at their job so they could get a stylish, cool car for girl’s to ride in,” he argues. But isn’t the connection between falling car sales and a falling population easy enough to establish without blaming videogames? And what about the geographical arguments for an inevitable leveling-off of car sales in Japan? Or perhaps Mr Kawaguchi was subtly blaming some other, non-car-related “realistic video game” for a declining birth rate. Either way, the comment reflects a gnawing paranoia that is no longer unique to the auto executives of Japan: how do we sell cars to young people in mature markets? I always thought they used video games.

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34 Comments on “Wild Ass Rumor Of The Day: Video Games Are Killing Car Sales...”


  • avatar
    rockit

    Times have changed with technology. I know many guys that are in their mid 20′s that just recently got a drivers license and car. And I live in the Canadian mid-west.

    A large number of young guys would rather buy every video game console with every newly released game than ever think about a car.

    Personally I don’t get it.

  • avatar
    johnny ro

    In Montreal the smart young man saves up for his first expensive suit of clothes so he can wear it when going out at night. Cars are somewhat irrelevant there. I think Toronto is more like US, complete addition to cars.

  • avatar
    ajla

    -Nice vehicles are expensive.
    -Nice vehicles are expensive to insure.
    -Vehicles require maintenance.
    -Buying a vehicle generally sucks.
    ___________________________________

    Also, maybe Japanese auto companies should respond to this problem by making a “stylish, cool car” instead of bland Camcords and styling Gorgons like the current TL and Mazda3.

  • avatar
    John Horner

    The automobile’s mind-share is steadily declining as there are more and more activities and things for people to obsess over and tie up their personal identities with.

    The 15-25 year old males I know are all much more into video games than they are to cars, trucks or driving. Many more teens seem to be delaying getting a license, viewing it is a necessary evil they may someday need to deal with.

    Like it or not, auto are becoming more like washing machines and ovens. Something most people need, but few people get emotional about.

    As far as the appeal of styling goes, I think that we have gone past the point of diminishing returns. After 100 years of effort, just about everything really interesting and/or beautiful that can be plunked down on four wheels has pretty much been done. That history, combined with the realities of emissions and safety regulations, means that I do not expect to ever see a new vehicle which has that initial take-my-breath-away impact something like the original E-type, Citroen DS or Jaguar XJ6 did. There is a good reason so many auto designs in recent years dugnto the archives. Nearly everything interesting and/or beautiful has been done. “Fantastic Design” is not going to be able to turn around the mind share loss of automobiles in the developed world.

  • avatar
    PeteMoran

    Oh, boo-hoo. The traditional marketing isn’t working because many more people see car ownership as a financial rat hole.

    After the last round of debt shocks people are (and will) re-prioritise; food, roof, kids education …. (other things) … last; car.

  • avatar
    Matthew Danda

    Yep, do the math:

    A good gaming setup is $1-3K
    A good fast car is $30-100K + ongoing expenses

  • avatar
    Richard Chen

    How about casual games? There are a bunch for the iPhone/iPod touch, and VW just released Real Racing featuring the 2010 GTI for free.

  • avatar
    xyzzy

    My friends with teenage children were recently marvelling that none of their kids are really eager to get their license. And we live in suburban sprawlsville in the southeast. It boggles our minds, all of us have fond memories of going down to DMV and getting our licenses on our 16th birthdays. We used to pity our friends who turned 16 on nonbusiness days.

    One of our group cracked that maybe they see driving as interfering with their texting. He may be on to something there.

  • avatar
    meefer

    You used to be eager to get a license to hang out with friends, but thanks to social networking via the internet, who needs a car? Then you can haz internet pals.

  • avatar

    LOL DECLINING BIRTHRATE? ARE YOU SERIOUS?

    Lets blame the declining birthrate on the increased use of contraceptives and abortofacients.

    I don’t know about anyone else here, but all my college friends aren’t married yet probably because the girls I know want a nice wedding and the economy for them is a mess. Most of my cousins aren’t married yet.

    I refuse to believe that car sales are down because of video games. I believe (in theory) that video games allow young guys who can’t afford cars due to high prices and car notes and insurance to have a pass time OTHER THAN ATTEMPTING TO GET A CAR, TO GET WOMEN, TO GET SOME ASS.

    A PS3 is just $300
    An Xbox 360 is $300
    A Wii is $200

    A Car typically costs upwards of $5000 and insurance is $200 or more a month.

    This is a no brainer. If you don’t need it, you don’t buy it – and a car is a pretty steep depreciating asset.

    Video games satisfy the brain enough to compensate for the lack of sex.

    But there are still other things to do besides video games which could be the reason sales are down.

    Has the car industry considered that MAYBE the reason these young adults aren’t in a rush to get a car is because of the CRUSHING DEBT OF COLLEGE LOANS?

  • avatar
    tedward

    “how do we sell cars to young people in mature markets? I always thought they used video games.”

    Haha, this is still true. Anyone deffering a car purchase to go for video games is, at best, buying a $5k beater…and that’s generous. Maybe Toyota could make some more cars that the video game set could fall in love with virtually before being able to buy one of their own…DECADES later. Regardless, video games give car manufacturers a chance to build brand allegiance and product awareness amongst future buyers, and that simply can not be a bad thing. It’s not Polyphony’s fault that Nisaan’s done a better job capitalizing on this.

    Here we have an old man griping about a newer generation phenomenon he just dosen’t understand. It reminds me of a recent lecture I had to endure, at a wedding no less, and from a stranger, about the perils of “living in sin.” When old people feel left out, they lash out, often not realizing how out of date their expectations and predictions are. I’d bet this says a lot less about Toyota than it does this poor old goat.

  • avatar

    lol. I can’t play a video game to get to where I need to go. Yet.

  • avatar
    zerofoo

    Say it with me:

    AFFORDABILITY

    Cars these days are ridiculously priced.

    Anything in the realm of affordability for a young person is an eco-penalty box.

    I have a decent job, I can support my family, I own a house, and I can put away a bit every month in savings and retirement – I can afford a “nice car”, yet I view them as expensive.

    Anything with decent horsepower, handling, and build quality will run you 30k by the time you are done ticking option boxes on most of these cars it’s easy to end up in the mid 30s for a half-decent ride.

    Someone should tell the automakers that today’s 20 somethings have less purchasing power than 20 somethings from 20 or 30 years ago.

    It’s no wonder that this group checks out of the “nice car” market, and spends their money on cell phones and video game consoles.

    -ted

  • avatar
    no_slushbox

    This line of logic really depends on whether an area has useable mass-transit.

    In many areas of Japan a car is a toy. It’s not freedom; you get away from your parents on the train. In the areas where a car is a toy losers can get away with playing video games instead of getting a car, just like millions of worthless people play guitar hero failure instead of buying a real guitar.

    In the US, Canada, Australia and some other place a car isn’t a toy, it’s the only way to get anywhere. In those areas kids are getting/being given cars less because of the economy, oppressive insurance rates and graduated licensing, not video games.

    If only a painless suicide pill was legalized so that pathetic shut-ins living in their parents’ house, having their mom drive them around and playing video games could just take themselves out for good instead of just numbing themselves.

    I’m utterly convinced that there will be an apocalypse in my lifetime (no rapture, suckers), but I’m going out with a respectable collection of cars.

    To all those who have given up on life – your mom’s basement is not a fallout shelter, it won’t save you.

    PeteMoran:

    Kids are horrible to prioritize over cars, they’re much more expensive and much worse for the environment. And you can’t give them back to the bank if you hit hard times.

    Anyway, in many areas (where a car is not a toy) your hierarchy of needs is false because one needs a car to get the roof and food.

    Cars get a horrible environmental rap. Kids and meat are much worse. It’s just that a worthless cow taking her five kids to McDonald’s is not as easy for environmental groups to vilify as a hard working person with a car that has higher performance than “necessary.”

  • avatar
    CarPerson

    In the Pacific Northwest (Think Seattle) it’s the same: Many teens have little drive (pun), desire, interest, or enthusiasm to get a driver’s license.

    While we’re at it, what is the age of the driver of that hot rod or show car at the weekend events? Near retirement and up.

  • avatar
    NulloModo

    Did young people ever buy new cars in significant numbers? For someone fresh out of college (or high school or trade school if that is their path) a $30K car is ridiculous, even a $20K car is too much. Starting salaries are generally lower, many have student loans to pay off, learning to live and budget on one’s own away from parents takes some getting used to, and the freedom of being able to do anything anytime does offer a lot of ways to spend ones limited funds.

    However, aside from those living in major metropoli with good public transportation systems (in the US I’m thinking that would be NYC, Chicago, San Fran, Philly, and maybe Boston and LA? ) you need a car, or at least a friend with a car, to get around to do stuff. I don’t buy that today’s freshly 20 crowd is content to sit around the house and twitter as opposed to venture out into the world.

    Japan could easily be different though, where most cities of any respectable size have a very good rail system, and bike/motorcycle/scooter traffic is also very abundant. If I lived in NYC, Tokyo, London, or a handful of other cities around the globe where owning a car is more hassle than necessity, I wouldn’t own one.

    All that aside, is a declining population necessarily a bad thing? I can see it hurting from a smaller base from which to draw tax revenue point of view, but at the same time you also have less draw on public welfare services, so it might even out. The US would be in considerably better shape if the bottom 10% section 8, crackhead, welfare supported, prison overcrowding chunk of the population were to go away (not that I am advocating genocide or anything, just telling it how it is).

  • avatar
    TonyJZX

    i’m pretty sure people still need cars to get from A to B in areas or situations where public transport does not suit… call me old fashioned

  • avatar
    carlisimo

    Cars were huge in high school, in the ’90s. It’s all anyone talked about.

    Then came the crackdown on street racing, the ridiculing of young car enthusiasts, the police harassment, the stories about insurance dropping customers, the shift towards safety (cameras) and practicality (no more coupes)… and then you’re just left with sedans and SUVs. Throw in gas prices and a high level of education (*cough*externalities*cough*) and it’s hard to get all worked up about cars.

    Except the old-school domestic enthusiast scene never disappeared. Street racers from the ’60s are still well respected, and it seems you can’t be a Big 3 car czar or a major car magazine editor unless you were one of those. Major “do as I say, not as I did” attitude in the industry.

    When all of the old people’s cars are considered cool, and the stuff the young people like (like the Evo and STI, cars that video games made popular here) gets mocked endlessly, isn’t it logical that young enthusiasts are going to go find another hobby? Enthusiasts are basically nerds, they don’t have big egos. They don’t keep trying to join a club that doesn’t want them.

    But if the main reason was that fun cars disappeared due to SUVs and sedans taking over, then there’s hope in the near future because the coupes are coming back.

  • avatar
    Patapon

    @carlisimo

    “All that aside, is a declining population necessarily a bad thing? I can see it hurting from a smaller base from which to draw tax revenue point of view, but at the same time you also have less draw on public welfare services, so it might even out.”

    Actually, the problem Japan is facing is that they now have (and will for a while) a lot more seniors drawing on welfare services than they have a base to draw tax revenue from.

    Throw in a smaller labor pool and their population problem will remain for at least a couple of decades.

    “The US would be in considerably better shape if the bottom 10% section 8, crackhead, welfare supported, prison overcrowding chunk of the population were to go away (not that I am advocating genocide or anything, just telling it how it is).”

    I think the way it works is that the groups you listed actually outpace the top percentage groups in population growth. I have nothing but my own anecdotal data, so someone prove me wrong?

  • avatar
    DearS

    I have a little of everything. A decent phone, nice speakers, cool clothing, A 5 speed bimmer (too square for many apparently (e34)). Its a sedan also, proving to be important. Oh and of course a PS3 with GT5 and a laptop. I’m a blessed soul.

    I see a little bit of everything. Civics and hooked up cars are very popular with young ones here in Providence. So are used Bimmers (poor minority). Everyone and their mother has an e39, e38 or e46.

    Then many young people have phones with keyboards and cameras and such. My friend just showed me a couple of his personal pornos the other yesterday. Others are more into Sneakers and clothing. Others more into friends. What ever balance is easiest (most affordable) and works best (bang for the buck sorta).

  • avatar
    Via Nocturna

    As one of the young ‘uns Mr. Kawaguchi is so flummoxed by, I feel compelled to comment on this.

    I’m twenty-one, currently a student living out in the ‘burbs. My decidedly unsuited-to-hoonage car is a hand-me-down ’99 Lumina. Yeah. I love cars and the car industry (hence my presence on this site). But even with the (paltry) income from my part-time job, I can’t justify an outlay of more than 7-8K on a car. That immediately eliminates anything new. I can’t afford constant, costly maintenance bills, poor fuel economy, or astronomically high insurance rates, and I’m not much of a gearhead, so that eliminates just about any car most people here would deem sporty or sexy.

    The university I attend is one of the largest in the country, so I feel confident using it as a barometer of what the kids nowadays are up to. Most of my fellow students are utterly disinterested in automobiles. Which makes sense, considering that owning an automobile while living in a city that has a robust public transportation system and is bicycle-friendly makes zero practical or financial sense. Even I, someone who actually owns a car, use public transportation extensively–my particular ‘burb is blessed with a park-and-ride system that allows you to leave your car in a free car park and take an express bus into the city. As it is, I drive about ten minutes to the P&R, drop off my car, and take the bus, saving large amounts of time and money. I don’t know if all this diminishes my status as an enthusiast (probably), but the bottom line for me is…the bottom line. As a number of other posters have said, vehicle ownership is an expensive proposition that many of us simply can’t afford to take on.

    That said, I wonder how much of Mr. Kawaguchi’s hand-wringing has roots in broader demographic trends? I can’t speak for Japan, but here, at least, I see people staying in school (and thus, on/near campus) longer and racking up more debt, a minority of graduates finding gainful employment after finishing, and a trend towards urban living, whether inspired by our sudden environmental conscience as a nation, financial reasons, or just out of preference.

  • avatar
    russification

    expand your residential lawn service to the thawing north pole where sales are surely set to climb with fresh batches of suckers

  • avatar
    dougjp

    Yup, demographic shift identified.

    Maybe start a web site called “The Truth About Electronics”?

  • avatar
    Wizerud

    Ridiculous. Cars in video games can make people aspire to actually own one later on, especially if you’re a young kid. I remember having a Mazda Miata in the original Gran Turismo. I swore one day I’d own one of those cars. And I did, 6 years later.

    It’s good, free advertising.

  • avatar
    geeber

    In Japan, the economy has been stagnant for well over a decade, while housing prices remain sky-high by American standards.

    Plus, owning a car is difficult in the urban areas. If I recall correctly, before a car can be registered in Tokyo, the owner must provide certified proof that he or she has a place to park it.

    Also note that Japan has a very strict inspection regimen that takes many cars off the road before they are truly ready for the scrapyard (they are shipped overseas, if I recall correctly).

    Couple these factors with a declining population, and it’s no wonder that car ownership is declining among the young in Japan.

    Japan doesn’t prove that cars are intrinsically unattractive; it proves that certain demographic trends, coupled with stangant economic growth and excessively strict regulation, will lower car sales.

    As for the “U.S. is headed down the same path” – can’t see it. Our population is still growing, while housing prices remain low by the standards of many industrialized nations (and should be getting even lower, if the government doesn’t foolishly attempt to prop them up with misguided incentives).

    Yes, there are more activities and hobbies that can capture the interest of the young. But I note that sales of some of the most stylish and interesting cars – Miata, Mini, Audi A3 – are being made in urban areas to people who supposedly shouldn’t be interested in cars (young, educated, living in an urban area).

    Sorry, but people who aren’t interested in cars don’t buy a Mini.

    If anything, the decline of the SUV will make cars MORE interesting. The auto shows were getting awful as each car maker introduced a “unique, stylish (SUV, sport activity vehicle, crossover, etc.) for active, affluent families on the go” that looked pretty much like every other manufacturers’ unique vehicle aimed at sporty, active affluent families on the go.

    Give me the upcoming Fiat 500, Honda CR-Z or Ford Fiesta…THOSE are interesting cars.

    As for American kids who don’t get a driver’s license – I know some of them. Let’s just say that they strike me as the type who need swift kick in the butt to get them interested in SOMETHING. Playing video games while planted on the couch is hardly what I would want my teenaged children doing.

  • avatar
    frozenman

    Buying a motorbike to get the performance/fun factor you crave and a decent beater car for bad weather/shopping days is stating to make more sense. Getting the bike new and keeping it many years while driving used cars is going to give the manufacturers fits.

  • avatar
    texlovera

    I don’t belive Japanese males are forgoing Hondas for hentai. They just don’t need the Hondas.

  • avatar
    T2

    NulloModo comments -
    The US would be in considerably better shape if the bottom 10% section 8, crackhead, welfare supported, prison overcrowding chunk of the population were to go away (not that I am advocating genocide or anything, just telling it how it is).

    I am surprised that this thread has not produced a terser rebuttal to that outrageous statement. Good job I’m here.

    It’s a fact, the bottom 10% provides good business for a substantial portion of the middle class which gets well paid from the public purse for the copious legal and health services they provide that segment.

    Then there is the ongoing infrastructure costs of prisons and shelters at taxpayer expense, all nice work if you can get it. Don’t get me going on the non-profits either. I have to note that their altruism spreads even to their own salaries in which they are equally generous. Heck they just built a new homeless shelter in town, so high end that I wouldn’t mind going to it. My car parked outside would fit right in too. And you gotta know that when a Lex parked outside a homeless shelter doesn’t call to mind the word “incongruous”, then somethins’ wrong.

    In short, the poor and disadvantaged have enabled quite a bunch of people a lot of nice cars to ride around in that they wouldn’t have else had.

    Quoting me from a certain Dickensian novel may now begin.

  • avatar
    Airhen

    I can think of other things their killing, like getting a date! I would not buy a kid a video game player these days. I grew up when video games required quarters, and a car to get there. So we spent most of our time around cars and in the great outdoors. Poor kids these days…

  • avatar
    Cavendel

    T2 :
    October 23rd, 2009 at 11:06 am

    I am surprised that this thread has not produced a terser rebuttal to that outrageous statement. Good job I’m here.

    Your rebuttal to the idea that the “lower 10%” segment costing the other 90% of the population significant tax money is that they actually cost significantly more tax money?

    You two seem to be on the same side.

  • avatar
    86er

    wizerud

    Ridiculous. Cars in video games can make people aspire to actually own one later on, especially if you’re a young kid. I remember having a Mazda Miata in the original Gran Turismo. I swore one day I’d own one of those cars. And I did, 6 years later.

    It’s good, free advertising.

    Agreed; I would add that perhaps video games that allow you to run a car company from top to bottom, including design, might (might) spur some interest in young people to do it for real some day.

    If the article is true, then I don’t just wonder about the future viability of certain companies but the industry as a whole.

  • avatar
    T2

    cavendale,

    I am just observing that though the bottom 10% call for more tax dollars than most of the other segments, that money doesn’t stay with with that segment, most of it ends up with their support system providers. The poor are just a means to an end that benefits a certain class, in the same way as a good war provides financial benefits those of the military class.
    NulloModo, OTOH, suggests there could be merit in eliminating them altogether, presumably because they don’t seem to assist the economy. As I tried to indicate, indirectly they probably do.

    Declining car ownership among the younger population is interesting. Driving to a pub by car is one thing, getting the transit service to do it is an entirely different animal, particularly when off peak schedules run every half hour and every hour on national holidays. No wonder entering a transit system to the uninitiated is a daunting task. The transit system is a culture unto itself. Of course you will need intimate knowledge of the routes and timetables to get anywhere but if your arrival at a destination is to be at all deterministic, a knowledge of which intersecting routes are designed for passenger transfers is also essential. And Good luck with that !
    My belief is that the use of phones with the internet allows an easy access to this culture not previously available and alleviates the number one anxiety for newbie transit riders “will there be a bus to get me back later this evening”. And if there isn’t, don’t worry, a cab is only a cellphone call away.

    At least the cellphone can get you a cab

    Meanwhile the car driver is faced with increased anxiety from being stopped by the police due to the ever increasingly higher levels of sobriety demanded by the authorities at those “Ride” checks. In Canada people have gotten the message and the pickings have become so slim that police now want laws to enable them to stop drivers randomly without cause, rather than as some part of an advertised sting operation.

    Finally, the car owner ends up being the taxi-driver for their friends. Some of us have first hand on what one thankless task that will turn out to be.

  • avatar

    So, on that note, who’s buying Forza Motorsport 3 next week? I am!

  • avatar
    rpn453

    I agree with those who say the games actually help to create demand for cars. The driving games were pretty crude back when I was a kid, and the last system I owned was a Sega Genesis, but they still made me want to drive the real thing. The better they got, the more it worked. Road and Track’s Need for Speed on the Panasonic 3DO I once rented was great for that. Despite it being a relatively slow car, I wanted an NSX because of how well it handled!

    no_slushbox : If only a painless suicide pill was legalized so that pathetic shut-ins living in their parents’ house, having their mom drive them around and playing video games could just take themselves out for good instead of just numbing themselves.

    Yeah, because if they’re not living your life, their life is worthless, right? I’m sure they all aspire to be as arrogant as you. Is it really hard to get access to a gun where you are? I highly doubt there would be any pain involved in creating a cranial skylight.


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