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Couple of Contemplations

January 8, 2010

But first, to all the folks who missed out this past Season, may their blessings this New Year make up. Some things (bloody awful I’m sad to say) have to be done. But as Tim and Bill said for the likes of them ‘there is no choice in the matter’. Or apology. Or explanation.

It has been some years now since I heard from a beltway Tim. The letter dropped out of a file box the other week and a quick scan revealed a very relevant passage in this coming decade’s terms. He said, so what will I do with another auto in my driveway.. I gotta move two just to get my own outta the garage and go to work!

Point: automobile market saturation has long been the case and USA-wide. Meaning..?

I’ll answer in Plan B update (Lester Brown) terms: In one year alone(2008) auto scrappage exceeded new auto sales by 4mn vehicles. [ 14mn out, 10mn in ]. And those outs are mainly old, clunky, inefficient fuel users though efficient atmosphere polluters.

Making two points out of the one salient: a) more OUT than IN is a mindfull and responsible trend* and b) old clunky is pre-processed hard stuff which, remelted, repressed, reutilized saves big bucks at today’s ore and energy prices. One might even venture new business, jobs and marketing edge to ventures arising.

And oh yes, when talking autos we cannot ignore Japan which hit market saturation back in 1990. A fact which likely explains how enzed’s imported used auto fleets have been looking ‘younger and younger’. Whilst dealers, doubtless privvying info to-and-for themselves and loans cohorts priced them more and more.

‘On the Go” … ‘On the Run’.. advertised expressions to example the decades of mobility. Autos did that for rural dwellers. But take them to the city — 80 percent of Americans now live and work in cities – and the opposite – immobility – results.

Placing impetus on expanding and improving most US city’s public transport. Adding – yes you can believe it as I did the other day in overhearing about bicycle-friendly streets along with pedestrian walks and footpaths. Plus tolls, taxes, whatever to discourage city auto use.

Auto-immob is why an increasing number of folks in Washington DC with its well-developed transit system can go without and commit to do-it-yourself. Yep, there auto ownership is down to a near 60 percent of households.

As youth we sported cruise sedans and socialized ‘on the road’ in that once bouncy culture. Not anymore. Why? Well, seems we were not the only ones growing up. Generations did, too. Today’s urbanites, likely networked and internetted, can and do go without those rites of passage. Back in the day, pre-80s, teenager licenses ran at around 12 mn annually. Today, despite more teenagers, the figure is lower than 10mn. Young auto-buyer market beware the trend!

Of course, unmentioned so far though undoubtedly an uncertain elephant in the space, is the price of gas. Up, like houses always used to be, the economic trend. Pinning an economy on it would be the next bum deal. Oil there will long be a need for—moving parts for instance—and other chemical byproducts, but mass growth from this singular energy source is the tenz decade no-no. Especially after the last noughties year we would all sooner forget.

Consider: If the U.S. shrinkage sustains itself for a year or so where’s the need for new roads and highways? Fewer cars on the road reduces highway and street maintenance costs and lessens demand for parking lots and garages.

To the clear-sighted I’d advise they moderate yesteryear horizons to hold a grip on better doings which will outlive bigger anythings. And it will help I know to realize how responsible mobility** is being born of the people by the people for the people.

* contra revealed
** see blog All the More Remarkable for first iteration here.

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