Quasi-official, occasionally sponsored dogma holds that “Americans are having a love affair with the automobile” is all anybody needs to know about the sociology of transportation in the United States. In this familiar view, cars are, in the words of Heritage Foundation house economist and CNN employee Stephen Moore, the spontaneously-chosen “exoskeleton” for the “rugged individualists” who constitute the great American majority.
Funny, then, that those who make and sell the “exoskeleton” we allegedly demand as an expression of our primordial freedom seem to have such trouble receiving our commands. According to yesterday’s edition of Automotive News, one of the things the Ford Motor Company does to keep selling the pickups that are “so important” to its profit stream is this:
To coax devotees into the greener future, the company won’t be stressing the benefits of cutting back on carbon-dioxide emissions or the costs of tanking up. Instead, the marketing will go something like this: The battery in the hybrid F-150 not only feeds the electric motor, it’s a mobile generator that can keep the beer cool at a tailgate party, charge your miter saw and run the coffee maker on a camping trip. “It still may be a hard sell,” said Michelle Krebs, an analyst at Autotrader, “but they’ve got to have this in their lineup.”
The company came up with it after researchers spent a year on an anthropological mission, embedding for thousands of hours with hundreds of F-150 owners. “We immersed ourselves in their lives,” said Nadia Preston, the research team’s project leader. “That meant going camping with them, tailgating, going to rodeos, even spending the night.” They were looking for what CEO Jim Hackett calls “bungee-cord solutions” — workarounds for tasks the F-150 couldn’t perform. They found owners often in need of portable power.
AutoNews, in a sideways acknowledgement that embedded anthropology designed to discover the basis for new marketing tricks is rather hard to square with the claim that cars are freedom machines, subtitles its piece “Key to selling truck no one asked for”.
Questioning the reign of the car is, if done with a modicum of skill, a direct assault on capitalism. Hence, such questioning is one of the most taboo and underdeveloped of all possible intellectual and political pursuits in today’s world. Little wonder, then, that the world scientists couldn’t, despite their science, bring themselves to mention the word “automobile” in their renewed warning to the world.
Where cars ought to have been, we get instead the usual pablum about green energy and fossil fuel “subsidies.”
Dear scientists everywhere: We aren’t going to hint and euphemize our way to progressive survival.
So, The New York Times devotes its Sunday magazine this week to the future of the automobile in the United States. The introductory editorial refers to the video below, with the comment “Disney couldn’t have foreseen, in 1958, the political realities of today that would make their imagined future impossible.”
This asks us to overlook the main point and content of the video, which was certainly not serious projection, but ham-handed promotion of the notion that cars are somehow about science and efficiency, rather than profit and behavioral compulsion. That the NYT misses the point that techno-hype has always helped sell capitalism’s cars-first dictatorship speaks volumes, and explains the thoroughgoing lameness of this pathetic edition of this always tame magazine.
Since they will likely reduce the number of households with automobiles parked in their driveways, why is the automotive industrial complex so happily tolerating the advance of autonomous (driverless) cars? The answer is explained by Stan Cox.
The key is boosting overall automotive vehicle miles traveled, above the existing wildly unsustainable level. Pretty much everybody who’s studied this topic is finding what car capitalists have obviously already figured out. Cox mentions the pertinent findings:
The overall point is that robotic cars are a move to perpetuate cars-first transportation by tricking individuals into thinking the problem — which has yet to be acknowledged as a political issue in the United States — goes away when one doesn’t personally own a car. In our society of sponsored solipsism and mis-perception, this is a major, clever, very evil trick.
“Americans are having a love affair with the automobile” has long been the quasi-official explanation for why, here in America, we never discuss our suicidal, waste-maximizing way of arranging everyday locomotive. Problem though: If this thesis were accurate, would the phrase itself not be quite old vis-a-vis the ascendance of the automobile itself? It isn’t:
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]
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.