If you ask the average American what the first word is that comes to their mind when they hear the term, “Automobile,” nine times out of ten their reply would be, “Freedom.” America’s ticket to ride is a love affair with the big car, despite the rising cost of gas.
Face it, America is a large country geographically. While certainly not the most enormous, traveling by railroad, subway, or tube from one end of the country to the other would take days if not weeks. Mass transit is by no means practical, neither financially or logistically.
When I was but a lad of sixteen and obtained my driver’s license, the first thought on my mind was, “freedom.” I could at last get from point A to point B of my own accord, traveling when and where I wished. There is something intrinsically American in this notion, this sense of freedom. Perhaps it hearkens back to the wild, wild, west and the land of opportunity; either way there is a vast untamed world just waiting to be explored and the car is our modern-day chariot.
The automobile is an extension of who we are, not just a tool for transportation. By following this idea alone there are numerous arguments for why Americans will continue to buy cars that suit their tastes. Those cars for good or ill are often not the most economically or environmentally friendly.
In the 1970’s, gas shortages and the rising cost of fuel prompted many to mend their ways and give up gas guzzling muscle cars and “Vista Cruiser” family station-wagons in favor of smaller Japanese cars that were cheaper to own and operate.
It’s interesting to note that the cost of fuel never even came close to the $3.50+ a gallon it is now. Many might argue that this fact should prompt Americans to choose smaller cars but the world is a different place now.
Sure we are in a recession just as we were in the 1970’s, but our dollar was stronger then, and the Yen much weaker. The smaller more efficient foreign cars were far cheaper than the bigger American ones. With the fall of the dollar, foreign cars are much higher priced than American ones and the price gap continues to widen on what seems like a daily basis.
Keep in mind that we are a capitalistic society. We strive for wealth and personal gain to purchase toys for us show off. We don’t just want to keep up with the Jones’s; we want to make them feel ashamed of being in that piece of crap car that was our jealous ire but a year ago.
Americans strive to be individuals and we do want to stand out. The vast majority of American’s don’t want to drive the same car. They want different. They want bigger, better, faster, and usually far more expensive.
If I were the “Lone Ranger” my car would be “Trigger,” the biggest, baddest, fastest horse with the most leg room and spinning rims. A man can dream… can’t he?