Originally used as basic transportation for home and business, the automobile has become so much more since the days of Ford’s Model T. Today it supports important industry, as well as wonderful comfort and a better standard of living for many. But the negative aspects of this great invention now become more evident.
Consider the mess cars are making of our beautiful natural world as they spread smoke and noise into a once serene environment. And in their production and use, cars consume Mother Nature’s resources at an ever-increasing rate.
As in other industries, the car companies’ drive for higher profits has changed the way cars are produced, marketed, and sold to consumers. The product manufacturers most want to sell is not your basic transportation needs, and advertising departments are working feverishly to influence your choices. They’ve done a good job of marketing over the last few decades, with new owners proudly parking impressive, shiny new cars in their driveways, just like TV commercials.
Cars are aggressively marketed for maximum sales and corporate profits, as in other areas of marketing. As long as companies need to increase their results, their efforts to sell products, good and sometimes bad, will be exhausting in the presence of strong competition.
This larger, more expensive car sales strategy is not new. In a dealer showroom back in the 1950s, I had my mind set on a certain economic model, but was continually pushed away from it. In fact, the seller refused to sell me the smaller model and I left. 35 years later and in a showroom helping my daughter with her concerns about options and costs, the salesperson turned to me and asked; “Who is going to buy this car, you or her?” While on our way to another dealer, I mentioned that he must be having some personal problems, maybe at home, maybe with his sales manager.
The automobile industry is a prime example of how astute marketing can sell maximum corporate profits. Consider car commercials on television; they are not seriously trying to sell small, simple cars that consume the least amount of resources. Most are for bigger, flashier styles, and with added features your friends will envy. Hybrid or electric cars may take the lead in the coming years, but they will be manufactured at a high price and sold for maximum profit. Most by far will not be modest in design.
Along with continually remodeled styles, newer products can include frivolous gadgets and features that seem like good selling points if marketed correctly. And there has been a strategy where the size of a model grows year after year until it is time to buy again; then your favorite model has grown in size, features and cost, and you have to gamble much higher than expected. Because what will your neighbors think if the option is to downsize to a more practical purchase like the one you want to trade?
Because commercials are among the loudest on television and can interfere with family conversation if not muted. But the annoying invasive clamor draws attention and results; that’s how much advertising works. Rude and direct works for them. Targeting the young and the young at heart, commercials often sensationalize performance that showcases high-speed maneuvers on city streets and highways. They are sending the wrong message considering the lives lost from driving at excessive speeds. This is insensitive and hurtful, but it sells products. One has to wonder where the conscience of the corporate manager hides; Perhaps ethics is a detriment to advancement to senior management positions in some companies.
The overall result of many years of this massive marketing effort is that cars are now commonly bought for their superficial condition, although they can be too expensive when they are excessive for the owner’s budget or needs.
It’s unfortunate that in the wealthier areas of the world consumers are so enamored with these sleek, roomy, environmentally unfriendly ‘Look at Me’ cars. But that’s what we’ve been told to buy, most days of the year; and we are like sheep when we are herded into industry showrooms.
We are being taken for a ride.
Marketing and branding are at work continuously, as is the ongoing drive to consume more steel, plastic, oil and gas. But why would the industry promote a staple product that represents modest, supportive and friendly lifestyles when it would shrink business?
On television during an earlier oil shock, a smiling Automobile Association spokesman defended why they aren’t marketing smaller cars. “People couldn’t just sell their cars and buy smaller ones.” The TV commercial that immediately followed the news bulletin was for a flashy full-size SUV. Fun and funny.
More friendly vehicles are coming off the drawing board as public interest in the environment increases. Can consumers resist the persuasions toward pizzazz and added extras that might lead to workplace parking? Can we practically expect them to switch to economy cars? Of course, there is a case for greater comfort for longer trips, but where is the practical limit?
Let’s face it, this inefficient, expensive and unnatural way of getting around needs to be changed. It may be necessary to have a car to get to work, school, and shopping; This is how planning has designed our urban layouts, but that has turned out to be a big mistake.
Even if we’re inclined to use public transportation, it’s probably not there or impractical to use if the government has had other interests. And if it’s available and convenient, it’s still probably not what most would consider; everyone else is driving and Peter has a new Super Spitter XYZ!
The public’s desire to improve the way we live and treat the environment will change, but it won’t be easy if we continually face massive persuasions to consume more. This necessary means of transport needs a review of its design, marketing and effects on society. The average person doesn’t need luxury on wheels when they spend only a few hours a week in the car. The car also does not require high speed and polluting power to drive within the speed limit. A fuel-efficient car description should include: The smallest vehicle that meets your transportation needs in reasonable comfort.
The car should take a less destructive and healthier place in our society, but can it happen? When the auto industry hit a brick wall during the financial crisis, the rescued industry reorganized, redesigned, and modified to some degree for energy efficiency. Then came the familiar dazzling ‘Show Me Off’ commercials. There is little advertising of small and simple transport, so they can then proclaim that people did not want to buy them.
Why not check out your car’s requirements to see if you can make a few changes to a more basic, stripped-down selection? And consider a reduction in usage. If public transportation is available, give it a try. I have been positively surprised by how comfortable and relaxing traveling by public transport can be. The ride is free time and there are no expensive parking requirements when you arrive.
Businesses must continue to make money and thus may face a brick wall unless politicians make a serious and timely effort to address these issues for society and nature.
If emerging economies follow the same pattern as we do, won’t this world be a big mess?
Albert Einstein once noted, “We will need a substantially new way of thinking if humanity is to survive.” We better start changing soon as we’re running out of time.