Ford is looking to expand into China to tap in their market and compensate for slow domestic growth. I think the focus on the Chinese and Indian markets could create some interesting shifts in the auto industry. For example, car makers may start designing new models to suit the Eastern consumer rather than the Western consumer. It may also mean that Chinese auto makers will grow to challenge American and Japanese companies, so that in the future all of our cars will be made in China (along with everything else).
However, those notions are challenged by the article “Creating a Car Culture in China,” which is listed on the syllabus. From reading that article, it seems that Chinese drivers and American drivers have very similar tastes in cars. They are both interested in freedom and status. They both even love SUVs. Chinese consumers also seem very fond of foreign made cars, as attested to by their love of Audis and Ford’s ability to expand so rapidly. I think these trends come up a lot in China, where foreign companies try to create a more Western consumer culture in China so that they can sell the same products there that they sell here. I think I’ve heard of it happening with diamond wedding rings and sports equipment as well. It seems to me that some of the status that comes with goods such as cars comes directly from their association with the West and with modernity. Or maybe it’s just novelty. Or maybe the similarities in car culture just comes from the first wave of Chinese consumers. It makes sense that the first people to buy cars in China will be those who are most easily sold by the current sales pitches, which are aimed at Western consumers. Maybe once more and more people buy cars they will start to impose their own preferences as a consumer group.
Man has always wanted wings to fly and we have achieved that with our modern airplanes, but it seems as though man wants the experience of “wings” to be a little more personalized then possibly sharing it with a fellow passenger.
I was reading some articles on Slate, and I stumbled on this interesting article about how car racing spurs automotive innovation. We haven’t really talked much about car racing (i.e. like NASCAR), so here’s an interesting way of linking that with consumer car culture and its development.
There are always those quite awkward, black sheep pumps at the gasoline station that seem to be placed all of the way at the end. The pumps are typically smaller than the normal gasoline pump and they are relatively run-down. I know that when I go to my local gas station there is never anyone using the diesel pumps.
But that sad situation may be subject to change in the immediate future. Recently there has been a trend back toward passenger cars that use diesel engines especially due to the “proliferation of so-called clean diesel or ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel” (Zeller Jr.). This new, cleaner diesel is redefining the diesel of the past that has frustrated and disgusted so many people, “Mr. Brauer said ‘Gone are the issues with cold starting. There’s no cloud of smoke when you start it up in the morning, and no rattling sounds when it’s idling’” (as cited by Zeller Jr.). No one wants to deal with an inconvenient, noisy and bad smelling car. For those reasons, as well as others, diesel cars disappeared from America’s roadways except for the occasional diesel pick-up truck or heavy equipment. Automobiles that did not run on gasoline became taboo in to the general population. But recently, with the sharp spikes in the prices of gasoline (to almost diesel prices), consumers began to actually consider passenger diesel vehicles as a viable option. The most prevalent examples of this are the Audi Green Police commercials and the Volkswagen TDI fleet. Today’s diesel powered cars are advertised as being incredibly fuel efficient as well as “clean” for the environment. The New York Times article written by Tom Zeller Jr., that I have also referenced above, explains that diesel cars are more efficient (20-40% more) than comparable gasoline powered vehicles. He also concludes that because diesel is less refined than gasoline, it is less harmful to the environment in terms of the entire “well to wheels” process.
Diesel is not only for trucks and heavy machinery. Diesel automobiles are slowly proliferating throughout Europe and their numbers are rising here in America as well. Compared to gasoline, diesel may be a more expensive product to fill up with, but in the long run it could help to save the environment. Diesel’s are not what they used to be so let us get that notion out of our heads! The refining of oil into gasoline is a large source of pollution that many people overlook. Diesel requires less refining and thus pollutes the environment less. Yes, many hybrids may slightly outperform diesels, but what will be done with the batteries from the hybrids when they all begin to break down? To me, diesel seems like an up-and-coming alternative that could provide a wonderful stepping stone away from our wicked gasoline addiction.
We have not discussed much about alternative fuels (especially diesel) in class or in any readings but hopefully this article will get you all thinking about the prospects of diesel cars or even alternative fuels in general.
Since it looks like we’re going to be talking about art cars today I wanted to share my friend’s car and story.
My friend, Jared Whitham, is an amazing performance artist and painter. As part of an ongoing project where he documents yard sales he built this amazing rocket ship out of a Mirage.
In 2006 he went to Art Basel in Miami with the rocket ship. Here’s part of his project but most importantly at 0:55 you can see the inside of the rocket which was my favorite part.
On his way home from Miami a drunk driver crossed over the highway median and hit the rocket head on. All four people in the car that hit him died instantly. Jared survived with a broken rib and pelvis. His awesome rocket car saved his life. Here’s a picture after the crash.
It was pretty amazing that he survived. So art cars, they save lives.