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    Fumes: Talkin' About My Generation (and Cars)



    G. Noble

    Editor/Reporter

    CheersandGears.com

    28th February, 2012

    It’s now official; the majority of my generation — Generation Y — has a deep-rooted dislike for the automobile. Unlike our parents from the Baby Boomer and Generation X age brackets, we no longer associate cars with our own independence. Instead, smartphones and laptops have become symbols of autonomy in my generation.

    I’ll admit that it didn’t exactly make sense to me when I first caught wind of it.

    I’m a ripe 21 years-old, which almost puts me smack dab in the middle of Generation Y, and I personally love cars. It’s always been that way since I discovered the ability to talk and walk. As a boy, I grew up flipping through old issues of Car and Driver and admiring photos of all the sheetmetal; I grew up traveling 70 miles one way between home and relatives about once every month. I grew up hanging out before and after school in the Chrysler service department where my mother once worked before the dealer was shut down for warranty fraud; I also grew up looking forward to my sixteenth birthday and getting my driver’s permit I also love driving, especially when I have an open stretch of road mostly to myself.

    I know it sounds like I’m just another massive petrol head, and that may be so. I’ll certainly never deny it. What I couldn’t understand was how I suddenly became a generational oddity overnight, someone who still viewed the car as one of the few ultimate forms of personal liberation.

    Along with the initial confusion came worry as well. There are around 76 million people that make up my generation, about three times the size of the preceding Generation X and pretty much the same size as the Baby Boomer generation. We make up a fourth of the U.S. population. The thought of well over half of my generation in total discord with the automobile could effectively mean that my hopes of a career in auto journalism would all be for naught. After all, our time as the leading generation is rapidly approaching and when the majority of the leading generation doesn’t bother with cars, that means no one will want to read or hear about them. That means I might as well hang it up.

    This news bothered me so much that, for the first time in a little while, I had to really sit down and examine the bigger picture, think in a new context. How did we go from personal transportation all the way down to personal electronics?

    (Cont. page 2)


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    Apple's iPhone

    Sure, I own an iPhone and I can see how the level of peer-to-peer connectivity — contact anyone, anytime, anywhere either through a voice call, text message, or a social networking website — and information connectivity it offers on the fly would be hard to live without. I can also see how life without a computer would be hard to deal with. At the moment, having a personal laptop with internet access is essential to achieving my own career goals and its absence would make things difficult.

    On the other hand, talking over the phone or through Facebook wall comments are nothing like interacting with other people in the real world. On top of that, the increased and easily accessible connectivity those devices offer can sometimes lead to a decrease in privacy that ironically limits your freedom. When you have a device that anyone can reach you at all hours of the day in a billion different ways, there’s no denying you’re going to have days where people are constantly bombarding you and you’ll grow sick of it.

    At the end of the day, the only way you can really interact with friends and family is on a face-to-face basis in the real world, hopefully on your own terms. And what takes you into the real word from place to place on your own time and terms is none other than a car.

    Okay, yes I know only $60 will buy you an all-day city bus pass every day for a month in some places. Yes, that’s cheaper than paying for gas and insurance for a car that you don’t have a bank lien on. Yes, it can take you beyond your four walls and out into the real world the same way a car can. But taking the bus presents hassles in having to plan your entire day around a bus schedule and putting up with a big number of obnoxious morons who’d rather fight you than talk to you. And what if you live in a rural town? There typically isn’t any sort of mass transit to speak of and there’s a good chance it’ll probably never appear. Folks are usually too busy to let you hitch a ride somewhere, too.

    From there, I eventually reached an epiphany of sorts: it isn’t that anyone would rather stay at home and twiddle on Twitter constantly with their Droid. It isn’t that anyone would honestly rather take the bus. No, it’s really all about the concept of ownership as well as what you have to show for your money.

    I know the so-called analysts will tell you us Millennials (slang for Gen-Y) have what’s called a “fluid concept of ownership” — whatever the hell that means — and we care more about having access to something than owning it. Hmmm … you know, I don’t think that’s exactly right.

    (Cont. page 3)


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    Which is better? The Toyota Corolla or a smartphone?

    Okay, sure we bog down our hard drives, smartphones, and iPods with music that we have no physical copies of and access what songs we don’t already have through free, ad-based internet radio services like Pandora and Last.fm. Yeah, we’d rather chuck out $10 a month to have Netflix instead of having to pay big bucks to clog a bookshelf up with BluRays and only have a fraction of the content to show for it. So what? I don’t think any of us would disagree that actually owning physical copies of our favorite albums and movies would be much more rewarding, but who can afford it especially when there are cheaper alternatives that are instantaneous and almost as reliable? The interactive experience of CD packaging simply isn’t worth the additional cost.

    That’s just entertainment, though; it’s an extra expense. If you’re basing our concept of ownership solely on that, well, you’re just a clueless, old bastard aren’t you? We still care about having something to call our own; it’s just that we’re very value conscious and prefer stretching our money. I’m actually starting to think it’s understandable we’ve latched onto smartphones and laptops as a majority. I mean, what gives you more bang-for-your-buck? An umpteen-thousand dollar Toyota Yaris or Corolla that looks like rubbish, drives like rubbish, and does absolutely nothing right? Or a few-hundred dollar hi-tech smartphone that can reliably call your girlfriend, order you pizza, and play your favorite song in the background all at the same time while you sit on the john?

    As much as it shocks and pains me to say it, you can put the latter on my credit card anytime, thanks. The smartphone certainly has more substance than a Toyota. It’s also safe to say by now it’s the more involving device and obviously cooler. You can say to someone with pride that you own an iPhone or a Droid RZR. You can’t do that with some cheap Toyota, or any other cheap small car for that matter.

    So, we’ve fallen out of favor with the car not because we hate them, it’s because there isn’t one single affordable new car out that’s compelling enough for us to try and go into debt for one and pay for the extra costs that comes along with it. We’re a generation that cares about specifications and most if not all affordable cars are unwholesomely boring and offer nothing of interest, not a single redeeming quality. As evidenced by a recent Edmunds article, some of us still yearn for top-drawer sports cars like Porsche 911s because anyone can see plain as day what it has to put on the table: good styling, great performance and hardware, and lust-worthy recognition.

    A $10,000 dollar Nissan Versa, which looks like a piglet with elephantitis and has about the same fuel economy and performance characteristics, is an obvious burlap sack in comparison. Like I said, my generation doesn’t pay good money for stupid junk with dismal hardware. We’d rather do things right the first time and put mere pennies aside and walk until retirement age to buy the 911 rather than have to drive the dumb little Versa.

    What I think or rather know would get my generation looking at cars again are small cars that can be had for a few thousand below the average small car price of $18,000 (that includes tax and other fees), something that you can pay $200 a month on, tops. It also has to have evocative styling and a big-dog attitude. It has to consume fuel at a dismal pace and be dead reliable. It has to be reasonably quick and great to drive. It has to be cheap as dirt to insure. This really isn’t asking for too much.

    Which small car out there ticks off all those boxes? I can’t think of a single one. And here’s what’s really worrisome — automakers know what they’ve gotta build to get us into showrooms but they aren’t building it.

    (Cont. page 4)


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    Chevrolet Code130R concept

    At this year’s Detroit Auto Show, GM rolled out two small Chevrolet concept coupes with our generation set dead in their sights — the Code130R and Tru140S. The Code130R was designed as a modern day, American BMW 2002 for a buyer on a budget. It was also an awesome concept on paper spec-wise; low curb weight, rear-wheel drive, 40 mpg highway, six-speed auto or manual gearbox, and some decent utility.

    The Tru140S was designed to deliver the same visual experience as what you get from an Italian supercar and, arguably, it won more fans for its styling than the Code130R did. It too was very fuel efficient and had promised decent performance, never mind it was based on the Chevy Cruze. And because both concepts were powered by small four-cylinder engines, that would make them cheap to insure.

    These two concepts show that GM knows that our generation cares about hardware, about specs, and about good styling. More importantly, those two concepts are proof that the small car market is going to have to move beyond using the standard Civrolla template to attract buyers my age. With that said, the Chevys had a major shortfall — GM said that either car could come to market under $25,000 dollars. Never mind the cheap fuel costs and insurance premiums; the target price automatically makes them unobtainable.

    Let’s forget the Chevy fantasy-mobiles then. As cool as they might have been, they weren’t the first concept cars that targeted my age group. Instead, that distinction goes to Chrysler ten years ago and they managed to do things a little bit better.

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    Chevrolet Tru140S concept

    (Cont. page 5)


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    Dodge M80 concept pickup

    At the 2002 Detroit Auto Show, ChryCo rolled out two concepts cars, the Dodge M80 and Dodge Razor. The Dodge M80 was a small pickup truck. With its tough-looking exterior inspired by old Dodge Power Wagons, there’s no denying it looked seriously cool. It was also lightweight at just 2,500 pounds, which meant that, although it was equipped with a V6 engine good for 210 horsepower and sub-eight second zero to sixty times, it would prove to be economical. It was also designed to use off-the-shelf parts and cheap but durable materials to keep the price way, way down. It was also full of innovative storage and design features like side cargo box storage and a center console that doubled as a portable cooler.

    The same mentality was evident in the Dodge Razor, a small two-seater coupe. Again, the car used off-the-shelf parts and engines but that didn’t mean it was some hodge-podge of junk. The turbo-four engine came out of the old Neon SRT-4 and was good for 250 horsepower and sub-six second zero to sixty times. It was also a proper rear-drive car with a six-speed manual gearbox. Like the M80, it had a low curb weight of 2,500 pounds, which meant that along with the four-banger engine economy would prove to promising. The styling was sharp-edged and had more than its share of Viper DNA, seriously cool. The price for all of this economy and performance? Dodge had a target of $14,500 in mind if a production version were to appear two years later in 2004. Adjust that price for inflation and it still only checks in at around $16,000 bucks.

    Why Chrysler didn’t choose to build the both of them is something I can’t quite figure out. They both offered great styling, performance, and economy and the M80 had great utility. The fact they both used proven, off-the-shelf parts meant that they were reliable and cheap to maintain. Sure, the M80’s four-wheel drive and the Razor’s two seats would’ve made the insurance premiums a little bit silly, but it’s easy to fix that. You just offer the M80 with two-wheel drive and bill the Razor as a commuter car — like Pontiac did with the Fiero — and give the base model a naturally aspirated engine (that would also drop the base price well below $16 grand). Problem solved.

    However, if vehicles like the Dodge Razor and Chevy Code130R concepts are evidence the small car market has to move beyond building stuff around the bland, tiresome Civrolla template to get us into showrooms, putting the two on a production line would only be the beginning. I understand not all of us want coupes, so that’s why automakers must build a small SUV or wagon and a small sedan — which would all showcase the same thinking behind the four Gen Y concepts — to compliment their versions of the Tru140S and M80.

    So to Chrysler I say dust off, revise, and build the Razor and M80 and to GM I say build the Code130R and Tru140S, just as long as you take a note from Chrysler and keep the prices cheap. Don’t ask questions, just get to work on them. If you start building cool, excellent-looking cheap small cars with outstanding hardware and specifications, I can guarantee my generation will finally find it's itself on the path to falling in love with cars. Not to mention we'll buy the living hell out of each one you offer.

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    Dodge Razor concept

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    Very interesting points made, It is sad to see people think they have freedom being on a phone or computer and not getting out to see this amazing planet we live on. Sad commentary of the Y Generation.

    This tends to tell me that Big Brother has won in telling you where to live, what to do, what to see and generally how to live life when people are not willing to get out and see the world.

    The experiance of seeing the world in person cannot and never will be made up from being in front of a computer.

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    Hmmm .. a red mark, huh?

    I'd like to ask that the individual who handed that to me come forward and intelligently discuss with me why they disagreed with the article. You know who you are. Please, don't hide behind the ratings system.

    With that said, thanks Camino, dave, and dfelt for the nice comments. I poured quite a bit of effort into this editorial and it really means a lot.

    Very interesting points made, It is sad to see people think they have freedom being on a phone or computer and not getting out to see this amazing planet we live on. Sad commentary of the Y Generation.

    This tends to tell me that Big Brother has won in telling you where to live, what to do, what to see and generally how to live life when people are not willing to get out and see the world.

    The experiance of seeing the world in person cannot and never will be made up from being in front of a computer.

    Interesting commentary.

    However, I wouldn't say that we "think [we] have freedom being on a phone or computer." That really isn't the case.

    Edited by black-knight
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    Finally had time to read this...good write up, some good points. Things have definitely changed in the 20 years since I was 21...I couldn't imagine growing up w/o a car and the freedom to go out and explore..

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    I think dfelt is focusing too much on the generation itself, and not the issue at hand here. While he does have the right to his opinion (and I can respect that), I'm really digging the insight in the article.

    Besides, it's hard to hit one generation when it is a problem for society in general (put down the damn phone! lol)

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    Well said.

    I've advocated a 'MinimalistKar' on here before. Not that that is specifically what's targeted here, but the end result is pretty much the same; not EVERYTHING needs 10 airbags, 20 electronic nannies and 30 miles of wiring.

    IMO, the only real way around this is to UNBUNDLE equipment/ options/ packages, so many models start affordably (& lightweight), and allow those Gen Ys to get in affordably on the ground floor. Make as many of the options 'plug-in' as possible, or at least user-friendly to add on and you start reeling them in again.

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    A minimalist car for Gen Y. Hmmm. Not a bad idea, but they also might want to customize everything too. Also, it seems what our intrepid poster wants is a $10,000 car that anyone his age can afford. At this point, no automaker in the West can make an affordable $10,000 car. A long time ago, I had a 1980 Buick Regal with a 4.9L V8 and found and read the original receipt. It was bought December 1979 and the price was $9800. I still remember commercials for cheap pickup trucks that were around the same price in 1990. In 2012, how do you get to a $10,000 NEW car? You can't. Between safety features, extra weight and the demand for more features in a smaller package, our current landscape is biased up towards $30,000 rather than $10,000. If you want anything that is actually worth driving, $10,000 suddenly becomes $25,000 very fast.

    Now if the USA could reduce safety standards to 1980 levels, then $10,000 is no longer nearly impossible without the large sacrifices made from driving. I do not see anyone pining for a $10,000 Chevy Spark, but there are a lot more (desirable) Mini Coopers running around where I live. Those Coopers are seldom below $25,000.

    Balthazar's idea is sound, but that might bring a $25,000 car to $18,000. Ideally, an automaker would build a new $8000 stripper and then add features individually to bring it to $10,000. Now, who can make it profitable?

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    first hand, one main reason kids aren't into cars. can't afford em, can't get credit. parents can't afford em either. including insurance.

    there is nothing you can do with price or content on a car if the buyers have a snowball's chance in hell of producing the funds.

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    A very compelling read. It seems people have fallen out of love with the automobile. It's something we need, but no longer something to be desired.

    When people show off their new cars these days, it's not about how powerful it is or how fun it is to drive or customize, it's all about what you can do with the car, like heat/cool your hands on the steering wheel or hook up your phone to the sound system.

    I agree strongly on the idea of a minimalist car. If GM needs a template to follow, look no further than the 1955-57 fullsized Chevrolets. They had attention getting styling for the time. They were dirt cheap, but could be optioned up eleventybillion differernt ways. They were infinitely customizable.

    Heck, while I'm on the Bel Air kick, what about something along the lines of the Bel Air concept from a few years back? Not the exact car, but maybe take that idea and stretch it over the new Colorado frame.

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    Yes, and that's the point of the article...if you saved your whole life for your first new car and had 10K to spend, would you want it to be one of those two? Me neither.

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    I think dfelt is focusing too much on the generation itself, and not the issue at hand here. While he does have the right to his opinion (and I can respect that), I'm really digging the insight in the article.

    Besides, it's hard to hit one generation when it is a problem for society in general (put down the damn phone! lol)

    Yes I am focused on the generation itself, I read this once and went to lunch and instead of going with coworkers, I went by myself so that I could just sit and observe.

    I notice that the older you are, the less you are mesing with electronics and the more social you are with people around you. Being in a very Hi-Tech city of Seattle. I could not help but notice the large amount of 20 something people in groups, but all would have a few words to each other and most of the time on their smartphones.

    Due to myself being crazy about auto's and loving road trips which my parents did most weekends growing up so that we could see the state of washington and learn about the world we live in, I had not really paid much attention to other young adults as m own kids grew up and while my son and daughter do not care much about the over all auto, they both require 4x4 / awd cuv's so that they can go camping, up the mountain to snowboard and live for the most part a very active life style due to how my wife and I kept them busy.

    Friday to sunday my daughter is out with her friends doing things and my son 7 days a week is always out after work. He put more miles on the Dodge Dakota I gave him that I bought new. I turned it over at 76K miles and now it has 212K miles.

    My other observation of the Y generation is that the more plugged in they are, the more over weight they seem to be. Not everyone, but thee does seem to be a corrolation about out living life as an active life style and being sedetary on your computer or phone plugged in.

    I think it needs to come from the 30, 40's and 50's generation to get the 20's out of their comfort zone and see the world. Auto's are a freedom machine.

    The Auto Industry can benefit by doing as Balthazar said. Unbundle these fully loaded Auto's and get back to a basic simple auto for transportation.

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    Well said.

    I've advocated a 'MinimalistKar' on here before. Not that that is specifically what's targeted here, but the end result is pretty much the same; not EVERYTHING needs 10 airbags, 20 electronic nannies and 30 miles of wiring.

    IMO, the only real way around this is to UNBUNDLE equipment/ options/ packages, so many models start affordably (& lightweight), and allow those Gen Ys to get in affordably on the ground floor. Make as many of the options 'plug-in' as possible, or at least user-friendly to add on and you start reeling them in again.

    I totally agree, I have been working with my son for his first new car purchase and he finally got it down to the following 3 CUV's

    Ford Escape

    Jeep Compass

    Chevy Equinox

    Now all were right around 22K MSRP for your basic AWD, 4 banger motor, etc.

    We were looking last night on the web pages again and noticed all 3 had a considerable bump in price with the Chevy being the most expensive. They now only have 2 options on the base Equinox AWD LS and it now starts at 25. The variety of options is now gone and they seem to have gone to here is our 6 versions, 3 levels of FWD and 3 levels of AWD. Select which one you want and decide if you want the Protection package or towing package and the rest is standard equipment.

    Not truly having a base stripped down level for people to buy will keep people from buying.

    As much as I hate Toyota, I will give them credit that the Scion way of buying the base car stripped and adding what you want would be a very good thing for the US auto Makers to take to heart.

    My Son would love to buy a base high milage AWD CUV and add to the auto as he makes money. Purchase a NAV unit down the road, add other features.

    I think the First maker to take the base way of Cars but do it on more then just econo boxs will find a very willing and excited market of buyers.

    Think of this lineup:

    Base small size truck 2wd and 4x4

    Small AWD CUV

    Small 4 door car

    They all come in with the only difference being 2 or 3 engine choices. Then they have a consistent base interior and you can then purchase 3rd part items to customize the inerior.

    I do not believe it is law that you have to have all these air bags and nanny devices. So the cost of these auto's would be low and allow people to truly customize their ride as a first auto and as they made money, they could come back and purchase modules to install into their auto.

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    I'm not going to leave completely overwrought, massive comments in this thread because I prefer listening to what you guys have to say on the subject. It's very interesting, to say the least. That said, I will say this — you can't just stop at making cars a little more basic than they are now. Like I said in the article, you can build cheap, basic cars like the Nissan Versa all day long and we won't buy one because it's not terribly efficient, horrendous to look at, and is simply awful to drive.

    It's why Scion hasn't set a fire under the ass of every 21 year-old out there. Sure, the buying concept is bang on, but it doesn't amount to much when you build cars that look and behave like cardboard boxes with doughnuts for tires.

    Just because you charge $14,000 large for a car doesn't mean it has to be something stupid and disposable.

    While writing up my assessments of the Chevrolet Code130R, Chevy Tru140S, Dodge Razor, and Dodge M80 concept cars, I kept thinking back to the very first Mustang the entire time. That car had such a great formula. You could buy a good looking, decent driving, lightweight car for a small amount of money, and if you wanted more options that better suited your needs, you could buy them from the factory piece by piece for bargain prices. The fact it was based around the compact Falcon and a bunch of shared parts made it the right size, cheap to mend, and proven.

    Our generation absolutely needs a garden variety of cars like the Mustang and other pony cars were to the Baby Boomers.

    Edited by black-knight
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    I think Black-knight that if GM could come up with a smart looking 2door and 4 door model that appeals to the 20 something crowd with a Modular dash that allows ease of upgrading as you save money to buy new features for your auto that you could end up with a very promising auto.

    I could see something about the size of the Mini 4 door and 2 door with FWD and the performance version being AWD but with a modular interior that would allow you to upgrade and add to your auto so customize it with your personality.

    I agree that the very basic entry level auto out there are TURDS!

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    The $10K car gets farther and farther away with every new law. Airbags required. ABS required. Intelligent Airbags required. TC required. Now there was an article on Jalopnik that rear facing cameras will be required starting in 2014... http://jalopnik.com/5889007/the-government-will-soon-mandate-a-camera-on-every-cars-ass ...which requires a screen and other upgrades.

    Sweetmercifulcrap- why???

    I can heat Camino's 'voice' right now saying 'See how Gov't sucks the joy right out of a situation?' and he'd be dead right.

    And this is exactly why a 2015 M80 would never come close to 2500 lbs. A mini weighs over 2500 and it's almost 2-ft shorter & FWD.

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    I think it needs to come from the 30, 40's and 50's generation to get the 20's out of their comfort zone and see the world. Auto's are a freedom machine.

    The Auto Industry can benefit by doing as Balthazar said. Unbundle these fully loaded Auto's and get back to a basic simple auto for transportation.

    Loving this quote as well. And so very true, the way I see it.

    You're not the only one who likes simple. :thumbsup: If I consider a new car. (we'll see), I'm looking for a simple base Cruze (LS) or Avenger. I'll simply add the options myself if and when I need them.( Not a big fan the the Cruze's alloys expect the LTZ) Don't need a nav since I have a tom tom. I can always find better aftermarket wheels and tires. And so on. Besides, what's the fun if you can't make it personal? I'm also in debate over a cute ute for the family-I'm more than willing to do all the "updates" on a higher mileage Escape, Liberty, Nox, or CRV (yes, I said honda). I just can't see spending 25k+ for a new one....

    Even my current cars are on the basic side. My wife , even at near 9 years old, is still happy with her 2003 Cavalier. It takes her everywhere with no problems, and she would rather have that car payment for other things. I'm just going to run my Cobalt into the ground as the commuter car anyways....

    Heck, if/when I pick up that better job, there might even be some upgrades. Not too crazy, as we watch our money around here....

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    fullmoon97

    while some of his points are correct i think he looks at numbers not people

    fullmoon97

    i know absoloutly no one who says "oh i dont want a car"

    fullmoon97

    i got a car before i got a cellphone

    fullmoon97

    and most of my friends worked to get their car. some share a car with their brothers or parents because they cant yet afford it.

    fullmoon97

    but kids dont hate cars.

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    but kids dont hate cars.

    And I explictly said that I agreed with that statement where?

    Edited by black-knight
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    Your first paragraph?

    That was little more than hyperbole.

    Fourth paragraph, page three:

    So, we’ve fallen out of favor with the car not because we hate them [...]

    * * * *

    EDIT: More red marks I see? Again, voice your opinion and your criticism and, please, don't hide behind the ratings system. We're here to discuss this and other issues intelligently. There are no wrong opinions here, so there's no reason to be afraid to speak up. Hitting that button is the least intelligent thing that you can do.

    I'm not asking you to love it, I'm not asking for your approval. I'm not asking for constant kudos and I know my writing isn't perfect. It's just that I've put too much time and effort into this article just to see that.

    Edited by black-knight
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    Personally, I think perhaps one of the reasons behind owning a car has changed for some people. Alot of people(young) now have help from mom and dad and get whatever is flashy and group approved by 20 somethings. The performance, comfort and overall experience of whatever car they get is not the front line reason for getting the vehicle anymore. Their status symbol is more important than the mechanics of the car itself. (driving a Ferrari because of the name and not the performance aspect)

    And the last bit of talkty talk I can think of. For some of our generation they buy whatever they can get, and two things will happen. They will either hate the vehicle or they will learn to enjoy it for what it is worth. Truth is we all can't just go out and get what we desire. Great thing about life is learning to live with what you can get. I can't say the Vision was a top choice when I was first looking for vehicles but nearly 7 years later I still own it and enjoy it.

    Cars have also fallen out of favor cause of laziness.The work involved in acquiring a car that fulfills your wants and defines your character is too much work. To make a car your own through modifications and or personalization also requires work and taste. People just want a car to look flashy and work with minimal involvement. Beyond that the radio better work and gas prices always need to be lower.

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