Why Bother Driving?

I’m hoping to go to the DC Auto Show again, mostly to test drive a Prius c. My car is getting long in the tooth, and I’ll probably need to get something eventually. You can test certain cars at the auto show without getting the full court sales pitch afterwards. According to, Detroit motor show: how the US youth fell out of love with car culture, even though sales are better here than in Europe, manufacturers are worried about the future:

New car purchases by those aged 18-34 dropped by 30% in the US between 2007 and 2012, …

Meanwhile the number of miles driven by Americans each year has also started to drop –they now drive fewer miles per capita than at the end of Bill Clinton’s first term … And the age group showing the biggest decline? Those aged 16 to 34, who drove 23% fewer miles on average in 2009 than in 2001.

There are two main, and not necessarily mutually exclusive theories, for why America’s millennials are eschewing cars, …. “One theory is that millennials have lost interest in cars in general. They live more of their lives online and just don’t have the same innate interest in car ownership,” he said. “Secondly, the economy has held them back and they’ll return once it picks up enough.”

I would have added that driving has become a giant pain in the ass. There’s always someone right in front of you dawdling along, another one right behind you wanting you to go faster, and the government helps out with speed traps, aggressive parking enforcement, speed cameras and red light cameras with shortened yellow lights. In an era when no job is all that safe, car payments can continue for 60 months, used cars are very hard to find and insurance rates aren’t as low as Flo promises.

And on the heels of the NSA revelations, The Next Data Privacy Battle May Be Waged Inside Your Car:

Cars are becoming smarter than ever, with global positioning systems, Internet connections, data recorders and high-definition cameras. Drivers can barely make a left turn, put on their seatbelts or push 80 miles an hour without their actions somehow, somewhere being tracked or recorded.

Automakers say they are only responding to consumer demand, and besides, they and regulators say, the new technologies help them better understand consumers and make the cars safer. But privacy advocates increasingly see something more unsettling for drivers: that someone is always watching.

In the minimum wage debates, we were reminded that Henry Ford raised wages to an unheard of level so that his employees could afford to buy the cars they built. With more and more employees making less and less, how can manufacturers expect to keep selling anything but luxury models? And if they’re going to spy on the ones that can afford cars, even the well-to-do will find some other way to get around.

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