Friday, February 29, 2008

Cars Uncool, say it isn't so. Youth Worldwide say it is!

The Wall Street Journal says in an article that youth in Japanese are shunning cars, and car makers there are trying to figure out why. Cars traditionally have been symbols of status and freedom, but in recent years have been associated with new values and ideas. A telling insight is the following:

Nissan designers interviewed 16-to-20-year-olds four years ago in Japan, the U.S., Europe and China to grasp how cars fit into their lives. They were surprised to find that many youths world-wide felt cars were unnecessary and even uncool because they pollute and cause congestion, Mr. Bancon says. The feeling was particularly strong in Tokyo, where computers and Internet access are widely available and where mass transit is inexpensive and reliable -- making the car makers' predicament worse here than in many other parts of the world.

In an earlier post I wrote about how technology is making mass transit an option, and here is data that confirms that. However, as much as the youth associate cars with new values, it may be the realities of the new world that move older drivers to change their driving habits, as the suburbs that cars enabled become uninhabitable due to increasing energy costs. The Atlantic in this month's issue askswhether the suburbs as the next slums. As mortgage defaults create ghost towns. The article asks "If gasoline and heating costs continue to rise, conventional suburban living may not be much of a bargain in the future." Starting off as a young adult is hard, and living in the suburbs with a car with the new costs make it that much more so.

The car as the base unit of existence is being challenged, it'll be interesting to see what the youth of the world choose for their world. We've already chosen ours.


At 10:24 AM , Blogger arduous said...

Well, and the suburbs are now uncool as well. Think about all the people who work at Apple's Cupertino campus, yet commute from the city.

It's fascinating but here in LA, the city is gentrifying rapidly. Areas of LA, that even 10 years ago you would never have stepped foot in past 10 pm are now bustling hives of restaurants, theatres, coffee houses etc. So the cost of living has gone up all through LA, and demographers are seeing a "reverse white flight" throughout the country. Meaning that poorer people (often disadvantaged minorities) are now the ones moving to the suburbs. This is really problematic because as you note, suburbs require cars, and car insurance etc etc.

I think that what we need to see are new cities being developed about an hour outside of other cities. Instead of having city surrounded by suburbs, we should move towards city being surrounded by satellite cities. Kind of like the Bay, where you could argue that Oakland and SJ are satellite cities of SF (I know SJ is more populous than SF, but come on.)

At 1:12 PM , Blogger Green Bean said...

This is great! It is so nice to see the younger generation holding tight to such values. Thanks for sharing.


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