Changing attitudes…

I found this story interesting, as it indicates the way that change in thinking sometimes takes place over generations…

It’s from “Car-free? In Japan, that’s how a generation rolls” by Yuri Kageyama, running in today’s Oregonian.

To get around the city, Yutaka Makino hops on his skateboard or rides commuter trains. Does he dream of the day when he has his own car? Not a chance.

Like many Japanese of his generation, the 28-year-old musician and part-time maintenance worker says owning a car is more trouble than it’s worth, especially in a congested city where monthly parking runs as much as 30,000 yen ($330), and gas costs 100 yen a liter (about $3.50 a gallon).

That kind of thinking — which automakers in Japan have dubbed “kuruma banare,” or “demotorization” — is a U-turn from earlier generations of Japanese who viewed car ownership as a status symbol. The trend is worrying Japan’s auto executives, who fear the nation’s love affair with the auto may be coming to an end.

Now the U.S. is a different place – much bigger and more spread-out; but similar changes in attitudes would not surprise me.¬† Certainly few young people would look to GM or Ford as a ‘shining beacon’ for the future – Apple would be a much more likely aspiration.

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  • johnk5555  On January 10, 2009 at 11:32 pm

    I don’t think americans will ever lose their “love affair” with their cars! Being a motorcycle rider I have noticed a lot more people riding these days. I know motorcycles and scooters are popular in Asia and Europe. Maybe Americans will move that way? Baby steps!

  • Curt  On January 11, 2009 at 12:14 pm

    I guess I have to wonder how many people actually “have fun” driving a car (not counting reckless teenagers!). So much of the driving people do is simply the daily commute or the ‘soccer mom’ errand run. Traffic is often a problem. These days with all the chips and things, it’s less possible for people to do their own tinkering and maintenance. I think the ‘love affair’ is getting a bit tired.

    With a motorcycle or scooter there’s a more immediate adrenalin rush of feeling the movement. People go out for a ride just for pleasure. This makes a lot more sense to me as an ongoing passion.

  • Jim  On January 12, 2009 at 10:34 am

    I believe the love of the automobile in the U.S. is related not just to the size of the country and the distributed population centers and lack of infrastructure, but also to our general love of freedom, much stronger than in most countries.

    A car allows us to go anywhere we want, when we want, with very little interference.

    It will be a long time before we will lose interest in cars!

  • Curt  On January 12, 2009 at 12:15 pm

    Yes, that’s true – the car is a great instrument of individual mobility and freedom (and of course the car ads play up that angle greatly!). In practical terms most people need a car to get to work, but having the car gives you that easy ability to ‘hit the road’.

    But still, it’s not true that you have to have a car to enjoy freedom…

  • Jim  On January 12, 2009 at 3:31 pm

    Agreed, but don’t make the mistake of believing that anecdotal examples – you can enjoy freedom without a car – outweigh the very clear stereotype of car loving Americans!

    Try to control the driving of Americans (any more than it is controlled today) and you will see what I mean! We still may lose our interest in cars, but it will be many, many decades before usage will wane.

    Oil, of course, or the potential lack thereof, could expedite this.

    And new technologies, which might allow a better sort of public transportation than the financial fiascos that our current politicians promote – isn’t Portland in the middle of one of those? – could also expedite the process. We will see. But I don’t think the car companies need to worry yet!

  • Curt  On January 12, 2009 at 4:50 pm

    The car companies don’t need to worry? I think the U.S. car companies at least had better be doing a lot of worrying! But certainly in a world-wide sense, cars are not going away as long as gas is relatively affordable. (I think it will be highly volatile in price over the next 10-20 years).

    Now anything could happen with the recent auto bailout moves… but I would guess that in lieu of the bailout, the U.S. companies would slowly decline – holding a niche on the really big vehicles where they can make a profit, and ceding most of the rest of the market to competitors. We shall see…

  • Jim  On January 13, 2009 at 8:32 am

    My “no need to worry comment” was only regarding your subject of waning demand for cars. You are correct: they better do a lot of worrying about how to run a business, how to negotiate their companies back from the unions and retired executives, basically how to succeed after giving away the company during good times. Short sightedness is the bane of American industry!

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