Originally used as basic transportation for home and business the automobile has become much more since the days of the Model T Ford. Today it supports a major industry as well as a wonderful convenience and better standard of living for so many. But the negative aspects of this great invention are now becoming more apparent.
Consider the mess that cars are making of our beautiful natural world as they spread fumes and noise into a once serene environment. And in their production and usage, cars chew up Mother Nature’s resources at an increasing rate.
As in other industries the car companies’ drive towards achieving greater profits has changed the way cars are produced, marketed and sold to consumers. The product that manufacturers want to sell most is not your basic transportation needs, and the advertising departments work feverishly to influence your choices. They have done a good marketing job over past decades as new owners proudly park impressive, shiny newer styled cars in their driveways, much like the TV commercials.
Automobiles are marketed aggressively for maximum corporate sales and profits as in other areas of merchandising. As long as companies need to increase their bottom line their efforts to sell products, good and sometimes bad, will be strenuous in the presence of strong competition.
This bigger, pricier car sales strategy is not new. In a dealer showroom way back in the 50’s I had my mind set on a certain economy model but I was continually steered away from it. In fact the salesman refused to sell me the smaller model and I left. 35 years later and in a showroom helping my daughter with her concerns about choice and cost, the salesman turned to me and asked; “Who’s buying this car, you or her?” As we headed to another dealer I remarked that he must have some personal problems, perhaps at home, maybe with his sales manager.
The automobile industry is a prime example of how shrewd marketing can sell maximum corporate benefits. Consider the car commercials on TV; they are not seriously trying to sell small and plain autos that use up the least resources. Most are for bigger and flashier styles, and with extra features that your friends will envy. Hybrids or electric cars may take the lead in future years but they will be made expensively and sold to generate maximum profit. Most by far will not be modest in design.
Along with continually remodeled styles the newest products can include frivolous gadgets and features that apparently are good selling points if marketed just right. And there has been a strategy where a model’s size grows year-by-year until it’s time to buy again; then your favorite model has grown in size and features and cost, and you gotta ante up considerably more than expected. Because what will your neighbors think if the choice is downsizing to a more practical purchase as the one you want to trade in?
Car commercials are amongst the noisiest on TV and can interfere with the family conversation if they are not muted. But the invasive annoying clamor attracts attention and results; it’s how so much of advertising works. Rude and in-your-face works for them. In targeting the young and young at heart, commercials often sensationalize performance showing high speed maneuvers on city streets and highways. They are sending the wrong message considering the lives lost to excessive driving speeds. This is callous and harmful but it sells product. One has to wonder where the conscience of the corporate manager is hiding; perhaps ethic is a detriment in rising to top managerial positions with some businesses.
The general outcome of many years of this massive marketing effort is that cars are now commonly purchased for superficial status, even though they may be too costly when excessive to the owner’s budget or needs.
It’s unfortunate that in the richer areas of the world consumers are so infatuated with these environmentally unfriendly, sleek, roomy, gadget featured, ‘Look At Me’ cars. But that’s what they have been telling us to buy, most days of the year; and we are like sheep as we are herded towards industry showrooms.
We are being taken for a ride.
Marketing and branding are continually at work, and so the ongoing push to consume more steel, plastic, oil, and gas. But why would industry promote a basic product that represents modest, caring and friendly lifestyles when it would shrink business?
On TV during an earlier oil crisis a smiling spokesperson from the Automobile Association was defending why they aren’t marketing more smaller cars. “People couldn’t just sell their cars and buy smaller ones.” The TV commercial which immediately followed the newsbyte was for a flashy full size SUV. Funny and grim.
Friendlier vehicles are coming off the design board as public interest in the environment rises. Can consumers resist the persuasions towards pizazz and extra extras that they could drive into the workplace parking lot? Can we practically expect them to change to economy autos? Granted, there is a case for increased comfort for longer commutes, but where is the practical limit?
Let’s face it, this inefficient, costly and unnatural way to get around must be changed. It may be necessary to own a car to get to work, school and shopping; that’s the way planning has designed our urban layouts, but that has turned out to be one big mistake.
Even if we are inclined to use public transportation it probably isn’t there or not practical to use if the government has had other interests. And if it is available and convenient it probably still isn’t what most of would consider; every one else is driving and Peter has a new Super Spitter XYZ!!
The public’s desire for improving the way we live and treat the environment will change, but it will not be easy if we are continually confronted with massive persuasions to consume more. This necessary means of transportation needs a review of its design, marketing, and effects on society. The average person does not need luxury on wheels when spending only a few hours a week in the car. Nor does the car require fast speed and polluting power to drive within the speed limit. A description of the fuel efficient car should include: The smallest vehicle that will suit your transportation needs in reasonable comfort.
The automobile must take a less destructive and healthier place in our society, but can it happen? When the car industry hit a brick wall during the financial crisis the bailed out industry reorganized, redesigned and retooled for energy efficiency to some degree. Then came the familiar and glitzy, ‘Show Me Off’ ads. There is little advertising of small and simple transportation – so they can later proclaim that people didn’t want to buy them.
Why not review your automobile requirements to see if you can make some changes to more basic, downsized selection. And consider a reduction in usage. If public transit is available give it a try. I have been positively surprised at how convenient and relaxing transit riding can be. The ride is free time, and there are no expensive parking requirements when you arrive.
Businesses must continue to make money and so a drive into a brick wall may lie ahead unless politicians make a serious timed effort to tackle these problems for society and nature.
If the emerging economies follow the same pattern that we have, won’t this world be one big ugly mess?
Albert Einstein once noted, “We shall require a substantially new manner of thinking if mankind is to survive.” We had better start changing soon as we are running out of time.