Posted by: Rob | March 4, 2009

Too Many Cars

First, let me say that I do have empathy for the thousands of auto workers facing a very uncertain future and potentially grim job prospects.  In many ways, their predicament is not of their own making.  It is, however, partly due to misplaced faith.  Faith in what our leaders – government leaders and the so-called captains of industry – have been telling them over the years.  Faith in the flawed ideal of continuous growth.

I don’t have easy answers for the displaced auto workers, the auto industry and, likely, the many of us who, in some perhaps unseen way, may also fall victim to the reduction or demise of this facet of our modern day economy.

I recall being a little bit surprised – and amazed – when I heard a statistic recently on one of the cable news networks that I listen to on XM radio during my daily commute to and from my job.  The statistic?  One in seven jobs is dependent upon the auto industry.  One in seven.  I have no idea of the basis for that figure but I found it mind boggling.

I came of age – as it relates to driving – in the mid ’70’s.  I started paying attention to cars around about the time of the first Arab Oil Embargo, the time when the first CAFE standards for mileage were coming into effect, and the American automakers were starting to make engine design changes that make the cars of the mid- to late-70’s some of the least desireable autos ever manufactured.

But we weren’t that far past the muscle cars.  And I coveted them.

I also had an interest in “fixing up” “old cars (and trucks)”, although that desire never came to fruition.

As I got older, I was drawn more to more “upscale” vehicles.  After having put in the requisite time (and paying the dues) driving a mini-van, it was high time to reward myself with a ride with more creature comforts.  The trouble was they were so expensive.  How could that be?

It seems that like for the last decade or so, it’s become more and more hairy for the auto dealers to “clear out” the previous year’s models to “make way” for the new model year.  It occurred to me that this was both a strange and unsustainable model.  To my logical way of thinking, it seemed that there should – some time – be a saturation point.  I mean, there were only so many vehicles being totalled off any given year and there were only so many new drivers coming on to the scene (and at a higher rate than old drivers were kicking off), so who was going to be buying all these new (and expensive) autos?

Turns out, especially recently, that once we all had 1.5 vehicles per person in the driveway, the answer is no one.


  1. That “one in seven” figure was probably calculated by the auto industry. I’m extremely skeptical of all claims of that nature.

    I was never bitten by the auto bug. I’m not an old lefty anti-driving crusader, but I find cars to be a bit of a nuisance. One of the reasons I stayed in New York City for almost 20 years is that I didn’t have to own a car. It’s liberating.

  2. i question the statistic, too… but then again, the US has become not much more than a service economy. we don’t actually “MAKE” much of anything anymore. so if that is for “non-service” jobs? probably true…

  3. I drive a 15 year old ugly shitmobile. Who knew I’d be ahead of the curve?

  4. Hey, I gave up my car about seven years ago, and now I wouldn’t dream of having one tying me down and being a money pit. Of course, I also live in an area that has decent public transit. I feel that is the way the it’s going to go from now on, though. I am apparently ahead of the curve, too.

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