When I first started writing a book about capitalists’ insistence on cars-first transportation, I tried to figure out who coined the familiar jive-line “Americans are having a love affair with the car.” Striking out myself, I wrote to several leading American historians. It seems nobody knows the answer. There’s little doubt it was industry PR, but the thing seems to have become so natural-sounding that people forgot to keep track of where and when they first heard it.
The latest mutation of that century-old trope comes in a particularly humorous form — a claim on behalf of the Chevy Volt!
Precisely as it idles production of the Volt due to lack of sales, GM breaks out this “Happy Volt Owners” ad series:
There is a world of ridiculousness and overclass chutzpah in each line of this thing. “Adam” says he wakes up every morning thinking about the future, but is obviously either unaware of or untroubled by the fact that the electric motor in his new automobile is actually powered by coal, natural gas, and nuclear fission. He “loves” his Volt, he tells us — twice — but fails to mention its price, where and when (or if) he bought it, or how he uses it. Will it burn down his house at some point after being bumped in a parking lot? “Adam,” though he is supposedly somebody willing to spend $40,000 to “make a statement” about how thoughtful he is, doesn’t trouble himself with such things, apparently.
How nice for “Adam” and the ≈5,000 owners of Volts. GM assures us that, despite their beloved car’s status as about .002 percent (yes, 2/1,000ths of one percent) of all passenger cars now on the road in the United States, they are not just the nation’s but the planet’s happiest drivers. Who’d have guessed?
You heard it there first: Americans are having a love affairs with the Chevy Volt!
It takes amazing chutzpah to try, in the 21st century, to imprint the word “innovation” on anything having to do with the automobile. So it’s no surprise that the Nissan corporation is also aggressively preying on the public’s enforced energy ignorance. Here is the current form of that effort, an ad being run in heavy rotation during NFL football games:
The Nissan Leaf, of course, is barely selling, given its exorbitant price and pathetic performance. But the haloware effect is, given the otherwise inexplicable existence of this expensive TV ad, obviously of great value to car marketers.
The above ad shows people in various settings dealing with smoke and inconvenience from an imaginary world in which small appliances burn gasoline. “What if everything ran on gas?” intones Robert Downey, Jr., Nissan’s voice-over actor.
“Then again, what if everything didn’t?” Downey smugly concludes, suggesting that the “electric” car isn’t every bit as toxic and stupid as a petrol-powered dentist’s drill would be.
The private automobile is close to the perfect capitalist product. It is huge, fragile, highly amenable to styling, requires vast supporting and allied industries, and, once its infrastructure has been built, damned close to a mandatory possession. It is highly profitable overkill, calling forth far more business opportunities than would exist in any genuinely economical and sane transportation order.
As everybody knows, the United States, being thoroughly dominated by its corporate overclass, has utterly tied itself to cars-first transportation. As a result, as offshoring and Peak Oil have taken hold, the whole arrangement has been rotting away, creating increasing socio-economic devastation. More and much worse is sure to come, as the overclass continues to plan for perpetual reliance on cars-first living.
One huge indicator of the problems at hand is the fate of Detroit, Michigan, the famous Motor City. During the 2011 Super Bowl, Chrysler had the clever idea to turn Detroit’s misery into a new way of pitching its products. Eminem made this ad, which suggests that Chrysler doing well would somehow revive Detroit, despite the fact that Chrysler, like all car capitalists, uses automation and offshoring to constantly reduce its labor costs.
Now, in a very telling move, the new CEO of Chrysler is none other than the marketing genius that thought up this lovely zombie strategy. Not an engineer. An advertising man.
I have just learned that the voice-over, read by former cocaine dealer and c-list actor Timothy Allen Dick (stage name “Tim Allen”) on Chevrolet’s television ad for its vaporware/haloware/gas-electric hybrid model, the Chevy Volt, goes as follows:
“This is America, man. Home of the highway, last-minute detours and spontaneous acts of freedom.”
“Spontaneous,” as if anything about either the Chevy Volt or the General Motors corporation resides within a light year of easy, natural outcomes!
“Freedom,” as if ordinary Americans have (or have ever had, since the consolidation of corporate capitalism) serious transportation choices!