Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Problem the Automakers Can't Solve

[car of my youthful dreams]

In a word, cars are too good now.

The Big Three bailout is so important that David Leonhardt’s column is page one news today in the NY Times (“$73 an Hour: Adding It Up”). Here’s the statement that grabbed my attention:
The real problem is that many people don’t want to buy the cars that Detroit makes.
It is true, and fascinating, that for some decades now, most of us have not acted in our own self-interest. Daily there is new evidence that our behavior, including spending and saving, is nudged by forces unseen. That fact does not surprise the ad agencies. They always sold cars on the basis of appeals to our fantasies of power and freedom and joy, of being someone by virtue of having the biggest, shiniest machine in the neighborhood.

Nevertheless, you couldn’t help but notice that your Honda or Toyota, decently maintained, would run reliably for a long, long time. That’s what a lot of people bought. And that’s what they’ll keep. This is going to add to the Detroit automakers’ problem. They won’t get me to buy a new car, even if they start making good cars, because I don’t need one. My Civic runs great. So does Tom’s Odyssey.

Need vs. want. We keep learning to distinguish. Those of us in the pre-Boomer generations can only be amused when columnists earnestly advise working people to pack lunch (that would be, those who still have work). This advice has been in the Times not once, but twice this week. It's a switch from their usual coverage of how to eat out cheap, that is, for less than $100. In a way, things are looking up.

No comments:

Post a Comment