First World Problems

The automobile dominates the United States because it is the best possible platform for advancing the cause of sellable waste, which is itself a systemic requirement for the perpetuation of corporate capitalism.

The SUV/pickup breakthrough of the 1990s was a huge advance in the history of car-marketing, as we all know, but never properly discuss.

A socio-economic system addicted to unending expansion of sellable waste also implies the radical, unending commodification and commercialization of host societies.

Tracking and elucidating all this is, of course, one purpose of Death by Car.

Having been reminded of this, contemplate one of the latest logical manifestations of the whole shebang: the “Will it Fit?” feature of edmunds.com’s mobile device app:

Does that speak volumes, or what?

Cars Versus Kids

As current host of the nation’s biggest single advertising platform (the Super Bowl), NBC Sports Group has, according to today’s Advertising Age, done some extra research:

NBC analyzed the ads in the last four Super Bowls (2014-2017) based on 575 variables like creative messaging and structural elements. It then looked at the effectiveness of each ad based on five performance metrics: creative appeal, ad cut through, creative engagement, brand social and brand search. NBC will use these results to help guide advertisers on their Super Bowl creative.

Turns out that this research shows that:

If you want your Super Bowl ad to be a success, less is sometimes more. Don’t, for example, include both a puppy and a cute kid. For automakers, featuring children works best, while animals perform especially well for food and beverage brands.

So, let’s ompare and contrast, shall we, dear DbC reader?:

Item 1 — “For automakers, featuring children [in TV ads] works best.”

versus

Item 2

fatality table

This ranking, which is produced and published (but never actively emphasized) only very occasionally by the (Satanically mis-named) National Highway Traffic Safety Commission, has certainly not changed since 2002. As the NHTSA explains, the long-standing fact is this:

Motor vehicle traffic crashes are the leading cause of death in every age from 3 through 33 for both sexes combined. [emphasis added]

So: In America, associating children with the machine that is the clear #1 death threat to children is the #1 way to sell said machines.

Those Who Love Hurricanes

Corporate capitalism, by design, commodifies everything and mal-distributes income. As a result, it paints its own primary beneficiaries into a corner, even as it sustains their obscene wealth and increasingly decrepit power. As silly products proliferate and the bottom 2/3 of the population goes without discretionary income, it gets harder and harder for corporate marketers to sell new rounds of goods and services. The only possible answer, from the perspective of the investing class, is selling more and more waste to people who still have money to spend.

The ultimate corporate capitalist waste platform is the private automobile. Within a publicly-provided cars-first infrastructure, such machines are not only themselves spectacularly and optimally wasteful, but also enable and stimulate the second great vector for profitable squander, the suburban house-and-yard.

For cars themselves, the ultimate dream for capitalists would be the one described in The Waste Makers, Vance Packard’s 1960 non-fiction best-seller:

The motorcars of Cornucopia will be made of a lightweight plastic that develops fatigue and begins to melt if driven for more than four thousand miles.

That, of course, was an illustrative exaggeration. Individual car owners will not tolerate such directly obvious capitalist tactics. They demand some longevity with their waste.

But consider what we will tolerate collectively: For car-sellers, Hurricane Harvey is very good news, for exactly Packard’s reason. Per today’s edition of Automotive News:

With the storm potentially having damaged 1 million vehicles in Houston, the rush is on in states near and far to acquire and ship new ones into the city.

“We see multi-faceted benefits to new vehicle sales, new vehicle inventories, and used vehicle prices,” Ryan Brinkman, an auto analyst with JPMorgan Chase & Co., wrote in a report Tuesday. Prior to Harvey, weak used-car values had been one of investors’ “chief concerns” with the auto industry, he said.

Such is the stuff of 2017. Our grandchildren will never stop vomiting.

Political Quiz

Q: When does the entire political establishment — both wings of the Business Party — ever achieve Congressional unanimity?

[Hint: Despite the disgusting near-misses on imperialism and illegal wars, it only happens on one topic.]

A: When public subsidies to cars-first transportation arise.

Consider the interesting exception represented by the 2005 passage, amid oil war and the onset of global warming, of SAFETEA-LU. The final Congressional vote there was 502 yea to 13 nay. The 13 nays were Republicans grandstanding their supposed opposition to public spending.

The point? There is zero coherent opposition to cars-first transportation in the United States, even at this extremely late date.

Chutzpah, Unchallenged

Prideful delusion is an interesting and important human phenomenon, with obvious Freudian origins and still-huge ability to pass without serious criticism in a supposedly ultra-informed, seriously democratic society. Foaming, torch-carrying neo-confederates say they aren’t racist. The Ford Motor Company, one the major purveyors of the machine that obviously and aggressively undermines its own feigned concerns (cities and the human future) dares to pontificate (and fudge) about “The City of Tomorrow.” Witness:

Notice the tagline there on the Youtube page: “For the first time in our planet’s history, half of the world’s population lives in cities.” Are suburbs cities? Yes, according to Ford, but no according to actual logic. Yet those are the massively unsustainable, fastest-growing places in which the majority of the U.S. population now lives, thanks to Ford and the rest of our car-addicted corporate overclass.

Bad Ideas All the Way Down

turtle-pile Seems robocars are already producing negative effects in existing drivers’ behavior. Per Automotive News:

“Without question, technology is making drivers lazier and less attentive,” said Mike Harley, group managing editor at Kelley Blue Book. “Most of today’s digital ‘driver assistance’ features are designed to overlay basic driving skills, which relaxes the driver’s sense of responsibility.”

A University of Michigan study showed that may already be the case. The school recently conducted research for an automaker concerned with how people are using blind-spot detection systems that alert drivers with chimes and warning lights when another car is in a difficult-to-see area. The study found a significant increase in drivers failing to look over their shoulder to check for themselves when changing lanes.

A future of robocars — itself far from a proven outcome, thanks to the very skills it would have replace — would mean the loss of the amazingly complex body of lifelong learning and knowledge that now goes into live, person-controlled motor-vehicle operation. Automation, you see, erodes human capabilities.

The question of what forces are most deeply behind the apparent madness for “self-driving” automobiles is complicated and interesting. Certainly, the good old desire to pile more mark-uppable parts into cars, which have always been one of corporate capitalism’s two great platforms for maximum commodification of life (the other being the single-family surburban house, itself mostly an offshoot of the rise of the private automobile), is one major factor. And, given corporate capitalism/market totalitarianism’s inherent problem of advancing commercial saturation of life spheres, the overclass is also certainly eager to gain heightened access to people’s drive-time attentional processes.

poll-result

Another force is the PR need to paint the hugely outdated automotive-industrial complex look like it’s somehow “cutting edge,” rather than the patently obvious (albeit unmentionably so) planet-endangering dinosaur that it is.

In any event, you know you’re in a decrepit empire when the only discussable answers to problems are further redoublings of past pipedreams/disastrous wrong turns. “Self-driving cars” is absolutely just such a phenomenon.

More Evidence of Public Concern

It has long been asserted, across the political spectrum, that the great American majority want cars, cars, and nothing but cars.

Among our social classes, that inflexible attitude is, in actuality, held only by the overclass, those “primary beneficiaries” (quoting business historian Alfred D. Chandler) of corporate capitalism, who are certainly very far from a majority of the U.S. population.

Despite a century of indoctrination by these vested interests, and notwithstanding the near total neglect of proper analysis and leadership from the would-be left, and notwithstanding the big swath of automotive insanity that admittedly exists within it, benighted car-lust is not held by the actual majority, meanwhile.

Evidence of this lack of ascribed unconcern abounds, if ones bothers to look for it. Here is one recent and imortant piece of actual thoughtfulness among the masses:

safety survey results

EV ROFL from NYT

snake eating own tail The New York Times editorial board today blithely states the two foundational axioms of the quasi-official “liberal” view of sustainable transportation: 1. That it is an important topic, so long as the alternatives are cars, cars, or cars. 2. “Electric” cars, if somehow fully implemented, will somehow be sustainable.

ROFL times a million.

Meanwhile, the million-and-first laugh is that one of the NYT’s main complaints about existing trends is that the GHG emissions of the US transportation sector have now surpassed those of the electricity-making sector! In response to this event, the paper of records calls for us to continue using 95-percent-idle, 4,000-pound piles of complex materials for our everyday locomotion, but to do so by making them run on electricity!

Orwell didn’t get the half of it. In market totalitarianism, Doublethink is not only beyond rife, but spouted by the elite without the smallest hint of second thought.

The Age of the EV

Our grandchildren, should they somehow retain print literacy, will undoubtedly be disgusted with our stupidity in the face of the preposterous wishful thinking about “electric” automobiles that was used as such obvious haloware in our time.

Meanwhile, per Automotive News, there’s this, the real driving plan behind the “electric” trickery:

In the first half of 2017, light trucks accounted for 63.1 percent of U.S. [auto] sales.

GM’s Brand-New Haloware/Vaporware

Chevy-Bolt-roof-rack General Motors, it says, is the “First Company to Use Mass-Production Methods for Autonomous Vehicles.”

In a society that had either the rudiments of a sane attitude toward transportation or actual journalism, this shameless howler would be getting rightly trashed. Instead, of course, GM’s ridiculous PR claim is generating the usual straight reprints of its press release, under the desired, predictable headlines:

General Motors: We can mass-produce self-driving cars now

Notice the slip from GM’s “mass-production methods” to the corporate news outlet’s “mass produce.” (Need we again mention the nature of the “electric vehicle” deception?)

Meanwhile, the vehicles in question — all 130 of them — are certainly not “self-driving,” as is demonstrated by this picture from GM’s own press release packet:bolt-pr

And, say, what do you imagine would happen to this contraption’s “self-driving” capacities upon the slightest ding to that rather extravangant roof rack? And how much would it cost to fix such problems? Nobody is mentioning such matters, of course. There’s much more loss-leading business to be done here, after all.