With a massively growing population, and no Chinese-style national one-child policy in place, sterilization campaigns in India’s provinces and municipalities are far from uncommon. But now, in the Rajasthani district of Jhunjhunu, officials in charge of sterilization campigns have found a new incentive to encourage Indians to undergo the procedure: the subcontinents growing obsession with automobiles. Britain’s The Independent was the first Western news outlet to report on the scheme, which offers those undergoing sterilization
a coupon for a forthcoming raffle, with prizes including a Tata Nano car, motorbikes and electric food blenders.
One of the most challenging aspects of running a blog like TTAC is managing diversity. As a global site, TTAC and its readers are exposed to the full range of diverse global perspectives, but our largest market, the United States, is also home to incredibly divergent views and lifestyles. Much is made of our national polarization these days, and when the topic turns political, TTAC often finds itself on the front lines of America’s cultural and ideological battlefield. Luckily we’re all of us bound together by something that transcends much of what divides us: our shared fascination with cars gives us the opportunity to interact with and relate to people with whom we may have little else in common.
Take this photo: depending on your perspective, this scene, photographed near my home in Portland, OR, might be a symbol of the ultimate automotive aspiration or a dread vision of a dystopian anti-automotive future. But regardless of how the image relates to your personal views and circumstances, nobody can deny that the people who live in that house think very seriously about their automobiles. And even the most unabashed, gas-huffing EV skeptic has to respect that. Vive le difference!
As a product of the Golden State, there’s a lot that I appreciate about California: the weather, the immigrant diversity, the entrepreneurial spirit, and the fact that people drive fast just to name a few examples. But, having lived for years among fellow California refugees here in Oregon, there’s a lot of things I don’t look forward to when I find myself headed South, and chief among these is the traffic. But there’s traffic and then there’s traffic, and Southern California is currently gearing up for what promises to be the worst weekend of traffic in memory. A crucial portion LA’s infamous 405 freeway is shutting down for repairs on Friday and it will be closed all weekend. To someone who has never been to, or driven in Los Angeles, the reconstruction of a major intra-urban bridge and the addition of a new commuter lane in a single weekend might seem like impressively brisk work and cause for huzzahs. But in Los Angeles, where they don’t know Detroit claimed the tagline years ago, locals are hunkering down for “Carmageddon”… and their reactions form a fascinating comment on our national ambivalence towards driving. (Read More…)
If there’s one potent symbol of the less-than-entirely-glamorous aspect of automobiles, it’s traffic. Our insistence on private transportation, though ultimately liberating, disconnects us from our fellow citizens, and pits us against each other as we madly pursue our individual lives. And once we’re in traffic, nothing, nothing can break us out of the every-man-for-himself dynamic that actually keeps traffic moving. Well, unless you happen to live in Israel.
Monday was the Israeli holiday of Yom Hashoah, a day of remembrance for those who died in the Holocaust, and to mark the occasion the entire nation halted its business at noon for a moment of reflection and prayer. At that moment, Israel roads ceased to be a battleground and became a place of community. The people who share each others traffic every day stopped everything and joined their fellow motorists in profound moment of unity. For such a relatively simple gesture, this video [via Hooniverse] proves that the sight of traffic coming to a halt creates an incredibly powerful message. Just try to watch without getting a few goosebumps.
America’s Baby Boom generation turns 65 next year, which means it’s only a matter of time before America’s roads are clogged with self-satisfied drivers in total denial about their rapidly deteriorating vision, reaction time and decision making abilities (Gosh, is there anything as satisfying as generational bashing?). Everyone knows that old drivers are bad drivers, but they’re also more likely to be injured due to their physical frailty. Drivers over 70 are three times as likely as those aged 35-54 to sustain a fatal injury in a crash, and the National Transportation Safety Board is worried enough about the prospect of an aging demographic bulge to hold a conference on the topic in DC. According to the DetN, conversation there centers on a number of potential measures for curbing the impacts of aging drivers, including “Michigan lefts,” which move left-hand turns out of major intersections, traffic circles, and improved safety equipment like inflatable seatbelts. But the real elephant in the room is restrictions on licensing, including mandatory eye testing, restrictions on license renewal by mail, shorter renewal periods, and even additional testing for drivers over a certain age.
Needless to say, Americans tend to think of driving as a right rather than a privilege, but if states restrict license rights for new drivers, there’s no question that senior drivers should face some kind of oversight. Especially in the context of tragedies like the Santa Monica Farmers Market incident. But how much? And what kind? And at what age?
Via Hemmings News comes this delightful find from Chevymall.com: an officially licensed poster comparing women to cupholders. So, did Susan Docherty sign off on that when she was GM’s marketing boss, or is this just more evidence that GM really is a “testosterone saturated, white, American male culture”? Either way, it cements the impression that Chevrolet’s values and image stopped making progress around the same time its market share did… which, incidentally, was about the same time the poodle skirt went out of fashion.
It’s just too bad that, between the ’59 Impala, the poodle skirt, GM’s US market dominance and casual sexism, only the casual sexism seems to have survived.
The de-Ramification of the Dodge brand took another important step today, as Dodge previewed its new Ram-free logo. Similarly, the new 2011 Durango (on which the updated logo appears) has also had the Ram taken out of its Rama-lama-dingdong… er, technical underpinnings. Once a big BOF bruiser, the Durango has had a unibody makeover along the lines of Ford’s Explorer, making 2010 the year of the Cross-retro-ver. But will the old SUV brands remain relevant after becoming poster boys for automotive and cultural excess back when gas prices spiked? More importantly, does anyone actually like the new Dodge badge?
Car & Driver’s endearingly awkward Editor-in-Chief Eddie Alterman took to the interwebs today, with a “viral-style” video imploring enthusiasts to “save the manuals.” And though Alterman can’t help but sell the faux-sincerity, the message is brain-hurtingly mangled by his attempt to be the Old Spice Guy of the car world. (Read More…)
A lot has changed since 1978… and not all of it for the better. One undeniable trend: young folks just aren’t that into the cars anymore. Automotive News [sub] takes on this, the greatest challenge facing automotive marketers in a lengthy piece that asks
Is digital revolution driving decline in U.S. car culture?
The implicit answer: yes. As a member of the generation that will doubtless be blamed for the decline of the auto industry for decades to come, I think the root causes of Millennial carlessness are a bit more complicated than mere progress in digital technology. And though the causes may be complex, the reality couldn’t be more clear. Want to know how this dynamic plays out? Take a look at Japan. If the car industry doesn’t find a way to re-associate its products with more positive connotations than debt, traffic, commuting and pollution, it’s going to face an increasingly tough slog as the Millennial generation comes into its own.
According to the Detroit News, the United Auto Workers lost nearly 76,000 members in 2009, dropping membership to 355,191, the lowest level since the end of the second world war. UAW membership has fallen nearly in half since 2001, when the union boasted 701,818 members, and has been in steady decline since peaking at 1.53m in 1979. Ironically, the drop in membership comes as the UAW is seeking to expand outside of the contracting auto industry, but gains from organizing teaching assistants, auto dealership employees, health care workers and casino dealers have not been able to stem the tide of losses from the auto industry. And though the union scored something of a coup by securing representation at the new Fisker plant in Delaware, another 4,600 members will be lost when NUMMI closes on April 1. These losses, combined with the loss of 50 local offices, and the union’s inability to organize workers at transplant auto plants all seem to indicate continued decline for the union, which is widely seen as a key contributor to the decades-long collapse of of America’s automakers. But don’t write off the UAW just yet. (Read More…)