The notion that automobiles — and particularly “luxury” automobiles — are toys speaks volumes about our form of civilization and culture. The fact that this multiply appalling suggestion can be used to sell these infernal things is one of the many points of interest.
So Trump is getting ready to relax federal rules on automotive fuel efficiency, as the second great SUV-selling bonanza continues apace, with the crucial help of the loss-leading “EV” haloware schtick. In the automotive industry and press, this astounding stupidity is known as “modernizing CAFE standards.”
Here is GM CEO Mary Barra’s totally shameless statement on the topic, per Automotive Age:
“A single, national standard would allow us to focus our resources on innovations that benefit our customers and society as we pursue our vision of a world with zero crashes, zero emissions and zero congestion, instead of diffusing resources to meet different rules within the United States,” Barra told GM’s workforce.
Benefit society? Zero crashes? Zero emissions? Here’s major proof that you don’t need cojones to have world-class chutzpah.
It’s something of an insult to children, but it’s hard not to be struck by the profound childishness of American culture. That outcome is largely a result of the social primacy of corporate marketing, which has long been the main engine of off-the-job ideations and activities in this society. Big business marketing places a premium on encouraging juvenile mindsets, which optimize the brain for absorbing and acting on implanted sales stimuli.
Selling corporate capitalism’s most important product, which promotes and embodies childish fantasies about pure independence and unlimited resources, is squarely part of the infantilizing wave. To wit, this shameless TV ad:
Speaking of kids, you have to wonder what our grandchildren will make of such amazing narcissistic idiocy, should they somehow get lucky and inherit the capacity for remembering and studying human history. And this stuff is very carefully planned, not a mere accident.
Decrepit ruling classes only know how to intensify the tactics that enriched them. In that vein, get a load of this contraption, which enables the “self-driving” of experimental Apple cars:
What do you think the repair bill would be on that in the case of a collision with a bus, dump truck, or lamppost?
To update you on the wonders of a good natural disaster:
Steven Wolf, chairman of the Houston Automobile Dealers Association, said there has been a big spike in customers streaming into dealerships after quick settlements with their insurance companies.
They are mostly looking for pickups and utility vehicles, since that’s about 70 percent of the market in Houston, said Wolf, dealer principal at two stores in the Helfman Motor Sales group. “In our stores, there’s a lot of push for Jeeps, pickup trucks, F-150s, Explorers, Expeditions, Escapes,” he said. Some of the most popular Jeep and Ram trims are in short supply, but dealers in other parts of the country are forgoing inventory so that it can go straight to Houston.
Cooperation between lenders and insurance companies has sped up the process, with flood-damaged cars quickly being declared total losses so that titles are cleared and customers qualify for new loans.
“I’m surprised at how well the insurance companies and banks are working together,” Wolf said. “But remember, in Houston, Texas, we don’t have a tremendous amount of mass transportation, so people need to get a car so they get back to work and get their lives back to normal.” [Automotive News, 28 Sept 2017, emphasis added]
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.
“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.
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.
— Bob Lutz