By on October 3, 2010

The ad shown above seems to cement a sad reality for automotive enthusiasts: the objects of our passion are no longer considered the cutting edge of material culture. And this reality is reflected is reflected in more than just ads for mobile phones, the object that appears to have replaced cars as the touchstone of youthful cool. For a broad array of reasons, young people (the traditional arbiters of cool) are less obsessed with cars and car ownership than they once were. Even automakers themselves are rushing the automobile to the scrapheap of history by seeking to load ever more phone-like capabilities to cars, a trend that both fuels phone mania and disinterest in driving as an intrinsically rewarding experience. But, it seems, that cars can still be cool after all…

Marketingweek reports that a survey in coordination with Britain’s Centre for Brand Analysis ranked Aston Martin as the “coolest” brand of all, beating such phone-age luminaries as the iPhone (#2), iPod (#3), Blackberry (#4) and Nintendo Wii (#7). Still, Ferrari (#9) and MINI (#16) were the only automotive brands to make the British public’s top 20 list… and both were beaten by Harley Davidson (#6). There’s some fight in the car yet… but only if the industry realizes that cars can be (at least) as intrinsically cool as cell phones.

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37 Comments on “Are Cars Still Cooler Than Phones?...”

  • avatar

    I remember when my dad was looking to put a corded phone in his car, which was pretty cool cause it was in a car. By then (1991) I was already in love with the Countach, Supra, and Pathfinder.  I’ve had 9 cars and I’m still using my first phone. Which has not music, camera, speaker, or practical internet. Phones to me are cooler when I pair them up with things, like bluetooth or TTACs. That is why I’ll upgrade. For the time being, I much rather become a better driver then a text faster. Its not for everyone, but then it never has been. Cars are pretty complicated, like cooking, not everyone can cook. Are phones better then cooking? Are car better then cooking? What about TV, or the internet? I wonder if cars are responsible for obesity?

    btw. That is a cool commercial.

  • avatar

    They need to offer a car that is stylish, fun to drive, and inexpensive to own and insure. None of the current offerings are nearly as fun as they could be. At a minimum they could offer a true “sport package” on a mainstream car that dials everything up a few notches–exhaust note, throttle, steering, shifter, seats. The problem is that if you design a car that appeals mostly to young people and make it fun to drive, it ends up expensive to insure.
    On second thought, maybe fun cars are something people should get into after 5+ years behind the wheel.

    • 0 avatar

      How about a Hyundai Sonata?

      Looks good, not very expensive to own or insure.  “Fun to Drive” aspect is subject to criticism though.

      Maybe a Mazda 3 or 7?

      Ford Fusion?

    • 0 avatar

      They need to offer a car that is stylish, fun to drive, and inexpensive to own and insure
      The phrase you’re looking for is “mutually exclusive”.  The former two attributes describe a lot of cars, as does the latter.  The problem is that the two don’t intersect and, realistically, never will.

  • avatar
    M 1

    Cars can’t connect you to the inane-chatterspheres of the Internet — Facebook, Twitter, etc.
    Thank god.

  • avatar

    I’m not sure the British public is a good bellwether for the coolness of cars.  Even though there is definitely a car culture in England, high car prices, high gas prices and good public transportation seem to make cars more of a luxury item than a necessity.  To own some relatively nice car in Britain requires a whole lot more wealth than in the USA.  I would imagine electronic goods are much more familiar and accessible.  It’s cute how they love their “home” Aston Martin brand so much, though.  It’s almost British again, too.

  • avatar
    Mr. Gray

    My sentiments exactly, Michael, but you know, there are many of us (myself included) who aren’t young and cool, but don’t have the money to buy a Porsche. Why does the auto market assume that the only people interested in affordable sporty cars are under 25?

    Cars that fit your discription are being cancelled from production one after another, while mediocre mundane-mobiles are being sold by the millions because they have Bluetooth, or voice recognition software, or other flashy electronic gadgetry that helps you not think about the fact that you’re driving.

    As I have said before, this is a sad, sad time for motoring enthusiasts.

  • avatar
    Robert Schwartz

    Cool? My kids tell me that it is the opposite of whatever i think it is. But, I do know that the most expensive phone is $600 w/o a contract. Cars, OTOH, are an order of magnitude more expensive, and kids don’t have money these days.

  • avatar

    After four decades of indoctrination, young people are as likely to regard cars as the source of environmental damage as they are to see them as a tool for freedom of movement. Add the virtual ending of auto shop courses in most public high schools (the districts that do offer vocational ed usually do it in regional vo-ed schools, not general high schools), plus the elimination of driver’s ed courses in the same publish high schools, and it shouldn’t surprise us that Gen Y’ers don’t see cars as either fun or aspirational.

    • 0 avatar

      Or maybe, y’know, it’s because a cellphone costs something like a tenth or less of what a car does, obviates the need to “cruise” until you figure out what’s going on and, let’s be honest, jobs for the young are incredibly thin on the ground.

    • 0 avatar

      I dunno, hook that phone up with a data plan (as all the “cool” kids seem to have), and the monthly bill is a good fraction of a car payment. Not to mention that the need to always have the latest, coolest phone gets pretty expensive too, but there always seems to be money for that.

  • avatar

    Abstinence-only education has lead to a regrettable decline in back seat sex-having.  Cramped conditions due to side airbags may also be at fault.

    • 0 avatar

      Abstinence-only education has lead to a regrettable decline in back seat sex-having
      Are you kidding?  Ab-only sex-ed has done to sexual tension what shaking does to a can of soda: cause it to explode all over the place when it finally cracks due to pressure.

    • 0 avatar

      Are you kidding? I graduated high school 30 years ago and back-set sex was out then. It’s not worth romanticizing about, either.
      With single-parent or dual-income households, it’s a lot easier for teens o roam wild. Mores about sex are, in most cases, more realistic. I’m sure more parents look the other way.
      Please don’t romanticize back-seat sex. Even in those Sixties full-sized beasts, it wasn’t the best experience.

    • 0 avatar

      Still more comfortable than having it in an iPhone.  But not as cool, even if they can go to prison for “sexting.”

  • avatar

    What’s cool?

    If you believe it’s the opposite of what un-cool people do, then you better make sure you keep track of what un-cool people do so that you don’t do what they do.

    If you believe it’s rebellion, then you have to find out what’s worth rebelling against.

    If cool is early adoption of trends and technology, then you better keep up.

    If cool is individuality, self-expression and doing your own thing, just make sure that when you do your own thing, you’re not one of those nut-cases.

    If cool is about popularity, you better find out what’s pleases other people.

    If cool is about r-select vs k-select reproductive strategies, you better get in the fast lane.

    If cool is about youth differentiation from adult activities, you better act young.

    Or maybe cool is about adventure and taking chances. Then you better live life on the edge of disaster to win.

  • avatar

    you can’t drive a phone to pick up your girlfriend or drop off your kids
    even though motoring is under assault by environmentalists and police and expensive repairs, the reality is people need cars to go somewhere and for some people a cheap Korean hatchback doesn’t have enough style…
    phones are nice and all and a modern necessity but you can buy a phone for $50 from the closeouts and people here at least don’t care if you have an iphone or a chinese knockoff

  • avatar

    I think my iPhone is pretty cool. But I think my manual transmission GTI is even cooler. You can’t do heel-and-toe downshifting with an iPhone. I notice that a lot of my peers seem to perceive cars as a necessary evil, and not as something you aspire to or something you take the long route home in just so you can get extra time with it. Yup, as a 24-year-old, I’m definitely in the minority. That saddens me.

  • avatar
    Sam P

    I recently turned 29 and I would give up my iPhone 4 for the cheapest feature phone that AT&T offers long before I’d give up my manual trans BMW 3-series for a boring Korean sedan with an automatic.
    Plus, mass transit can’t take one everywhere, and I personally believe that life is too short to drive boring cars. Among my Gen Y peers, there seems to be a decent amount of automobile enthusiasm. A lot of my peers drive Subarus of various types (from the Outback to the WRX STi), most with 3 pedals. A few others have smaller Bimmers. Others have Hondas and Mazdas, many with clutches.

  • avatar

    I think to a lot of kids phones are cooler than cars because
    1. they are more useful (in the kids’ minds at least) in promoting social interaction than cars
    2. they are so much cheaper that a kid has a much greater expectation of being able to have a phone with high status features.
    Of course, now that most kids have phones, maybe the car will become the anti-phone, and find it’s cool again.

  • avatar

    Cars are still cool.
    The problem is that for most people negotiating a price on them, paying for them, insuring them, fueling them, cleaning them, licensing them, maintaining them, repairing them, dealing with jerks on car forums, and dealing with jerks at part/repair shops is not very cool at all.

  • avatar

    You don’t have to fuel a phone; that wall plug is “free.”

    You don’t have to insure and register a phone.

    You don’t have to wash, clean, and detail a phone.

    You don’t have to fix, maintain, or perform upkeep on a phone.

    You don’t have to get greasy/dirty/perform physical labor to upgrade a phone.

    Your parents can’t take your ‘phone keys’ away from you.

    Your phone doesn’t kill/rape/pillage the environment.

    You spend $10-20 for an app, not $100-500 for a spoiler, wheels, CAI, etc.

    Then again, I DID bought my ’76 LeSabre for half of one iPhone…

    • 0 avatar

      Flybrian, being mostly tongue-in-cheek:

      Item #1: The wall plug was not free; the electricity that comes out of it is not free.
      Item #2: You might want to for what one pays for some of them.
      Item #3: Face & ear grease gets nasty after awhile!
      Item #6: Yes they can!
      Item #7: The factories that mine the materials, make the plastic and other components do! Anything mankind manufactures uses the environment to some extent, and that’s not all bad.
      Last item: Congratulations! You did the right thing!

  • avatar

    the only place where cars are getting desperately unpopular are places where its become impossible to own them… eg. Hong Kong, Japan and the more congested Asian countries
    until then the more affluent nations where young men want to do things young men do, the car will still reign

  • avatar
    Tricky Dicky

    “Cool” only makes sense in a community. A car used to be the best way to get yourself into a social circle, the place where your pals hang out. Now my kids can be connected with loads of their friends in seconds, which represents a much greater bang for ‘socialising buck’.
    As long as human beings become content with virtual contact, the car is on a downwards trajectory.

  • avatar

    The fact that I had a car and a secluded place to park it got me to 3rd base for the first time.  Pretty sure there’s no app on your Droid for that. 

  • avatar

    Articles like this are both fun and not a little disturbing.  Fun because they’re an interesting airing of opinion, but disturbing because a lot of people can’t really get beyond the ways things were when they were kids.
    For most people, you absolutely don’t need a car.  For most people, even “back in the day”, the car was as much a tool as a cellphone is today; the difference is that you didn’t hang out with the people who drove their parent’s Toyota Corolla/Plymouth Valiant/Nash Rambler and really didn’t care about the car.  They’re also not the people arguing on the fine points of Davlik JVM development on Android, or how to work around Symbian’s idiocy.
    For those people—and they’re the majority, remember—the phone enables them to make better use of the car, if they have one, or work around it if they don’t.  The phone isn’t “cool” in an of itself any more than mom’s Grand Caravan is cool.  It’s a tool that facilitates social interaction.
    It’s not an either/or phone/car thing.  Kids these days are doing what kids these days always did, except that they’re doing it in an era where phones are omnipresent and cheap, instead of when cars, gas and insurance were.

    Or, put it this way: it’s really easy, with a modern phone, to schedule matters such that you are somewhere that your parents are not—possibly much easier than it would be if you had a car and no phone. No cruising around for an hour, no big series of phonecalls and drive-bys.

    • 0 avatar

      You’re correct, for the most part. When one is young, especially through the “college years”, or, in my case, the air force years, when you’re 18 – 22 years old, that’s when things make the greatest impression on you, the memories you carry forever. That being said, although the soft-focus of memory can cloud one’s perspective, reality eventually rears its head and brings one down to earth.

      You live and function in the world you’re in and you adapt and hopefully thrive in it. I have a cell phone, but don’t live on it and regard it and cars simply as a tool. I do take pride in ownership of my car because it is an expression of individuality and of necessity if one needs to commute to/from work. Plus, it’s very expensive and you’d better take care of it!

  • avatar

    My car provides me with a means of transport that allows me to live more than 1 mile from my work – That’s cool. My car allows me to the restaurant to physically socialise – the opposite is very uncool so by default that’s cool. My car allows me to stay dry when wanting to go places when the weather is less than desirable – That’s also cool.

    Simple – An expensive phone with Data connection is a luxury where as a car is a necessity for me anyway, hence i have a car but not an i-phone.

  • avatar

    Why should I be interested in driving? Driving either means having some one attach themselves to my ass sir-mix-a-lot style as they attempt to get me to break the speed limit as vigorously as they do, or taking a half hour to travel three whole miles getting 2 MPG being stuck in traffic that moves slightly faster than I could walk.
    What value to me is a 600HP v8 corner carver in either of those situations? Driving as an activity would still be a miserable one either way. If driving itself isn’t interesting anymore, why should I be interested in the car, the thing that allows me to do the driving?

  • avatar
    martin schwoerer

    To young people, most cars are not cool because most cars are phony. Ask Holden Caulfield (or any of his grandchildren) and he’ll tell you that a phony thing is by definition not cool.
    Cars are full of phony materials: soft plastics that belong on a barcalounger, phony leather that is actually made of ground up leather and then enveloped in sheets of plastic, fake chrome, fake wood.
    Contemporary cars are full of phony styling elements: the 20-inch wheels that have no function, the exaggerated curves, the swoopiness in absence of aerodynamism, useless spoilers, and oddly agressive fronts that allude to a fighting spirit which in the suburban context is a joke.
    Cars are phony because they promise something they can’t keep. Young people feel they are just an expression of corporate bull shit. They promise speed but the reality is traffic jams. They promise freedom but ask for a monthly payment. They promise loyalty but they cost you in repairs.
    An iPhone doesn’t have any cheezy styling elements. It has its faults but it does most of what it’s supposed to do remarkably well. There’s no soft plastic to be found on a bicycle — which is another un-phony thing that young people can get enthusiastic about.

    • 0 avatar

      Post-modernism, the dominant architectural and decorative movement of the last 3 decades, exists as a rebellion against modernism, which despises the same thing that you cite.
      Modernist design of the 1950’s-1970’s removed all superfluous design elements. It was an interesting look, but people grew tired of minimalism as an end-goal.

    • 0 avatar
      martin schwoerer

      I accept the contribution that post-modernism has made to architecture, art, and whatnot. Decoration is once again OK: I’m OK with that. In particular, architects and car designer can no longer opt-out of the aesthetic realm with the lazy argument that beauty doesn’t matter.
      However. To imply that post-modernism made phony materials and phony marketing arguments once again acceptable is a bit too simple for me.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m not sure that youth rejects phoniness altogether. From my recollection of youth, especially those socially formative high school and college years, young people* are perfectly alright acting phony. Perhaps they just don’t want anything else to be phony?
      * This behavior isn’t particular to young people, but they’re the ones allegedly rejecting phoniness.

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