September 5, 2013: The Wall Street Journal, in a front page story, reports that automobile sales are surging to a pre-slump level of sales. If one were watching the tea leaves for the past 12 months one could have seen this coming. The CNBC reporter below must still be under the Geico rock.
Later, 7:30 pm: a much better story about America's love affair with the automobile is in the current issue of BloombergBusinessweek, Sept 2 - 8, 2013. I don't believe the articles are on the newsstand any more. In "The Boomer Car Boom," BBW reports that "people 55 and older have replaced younger folks as the top purchasers of new autos." For me, that 3-second sound bite is all about the economy and nothing about "the American love affair with automobiles." So let's look at some data points from the article:
- graying boomers have replaced the 35- to 44-year-old age group, the most likely to buy four years ago.
- There's a strong psychological motive driving boomers back to the the dealer's lot: the car defined the boomers growing up; a 20-year-old doesn't see the car the same way
- 2011: 79 percent of those 20 - 24 had a driver's license
- 1983: 92 percent between 20 - 24 had a driver's license
- numbers reversed for older folks
- in 2011, 93 percent of those 60 - 64 had a driver's license
- 1983, 84 percent between 60 - 64 had a driver's license
It's all bullsh*t. Or bullshit if anyone is having trouble with the missing vowel.
This is being reported:
So, how to explain the fact that even as the economy finally is showing real signs of recovery the number of miles driven continues to decline. That report from the Federal Highway Administration is just the latest indication that Americans may be falling out of love with their automobiles.
In its report released this week, the agency said the number of vehicle miles traveled-VMT in the lingo of the transportation world-continued dropping during the first half of 2013. If the past were prologue, the numbers would have rebounded at least slightly to reflect the national rise in employment and income.
In a study earlier this month, researchers from the John A. Volpe National Transportation Systems Center found that the number of miles individuals are driving has been declining sharply in recent years. That figure peaked at an average 900 miles per month in July 2004. By July 2012, it was down to 820 a month, a figure the researchers hadn't seen since the final years of the last millennium.For argument's sake, let's assume ... not yet.
First this: the writer makes the basic mistake that the economy is improving, more people are returning to work. He is obviously still under the Geico rock. Recent stories abound of the 30 million (or is it 60 million?) Americans that have dropped out of the labor force. The jobless numbers are unchanged for the past four years; if one can show improvement, one can show misreporting.
The author blew it: in bold above -- Americans may be falling out of love with their automobiles.
The government numbers did not say that all; the government numbers said folks were driving less, on average.
For argument's sake: let's assume the writer is correct. Americans are driving less miles. If that is accurate (and not simply due to being out of work), it simply means, that Americans are driving less. In fact, it doesn't even mean they are falling out of love of driving.
But for sure, there is nothing to suggest that they are falling out of love with their automobiles. Maybe they are falling out of love of driving (but I doubt it).
I don't drive very much. I hate driving in town. But I pay for four cars (one of which I never drive; two of which I seldom drive; and one of which I use to transport the granddaughters to swim lessons and back (four miles roundtrip).
I love cars. And I love road trips. But I digress. Where was I?
Oh, yes. For argument's sake: let's assume the writer is correct. Americans are driving less miles. If that is accurate (and not simply due to being out of work), it simply means, at most, Americans are driving less. I love hamburgers, and I love marbled steak. And I love French Fries. But I'm eating less of all of those for reasons other than lack of a change in taste. Likewise, just because Americans are driving less does not mean they love it less.
I am saving this article for the archives. It will come in useful when the new automobile sales records continue to be reported. We've already seen record sales over the past few months and this will continue, with or without O'BamaCare taxing the heck out of Americans.
Next week, we will probably read another story about the record number of Teslas being sold. To Americans. Who hate driving. Whose love affair with the automobile is waning.
Yeah. Right. Bullshit.
(Next time you drive down the interstate, see if you can see the old highway that the interstate replaced. Yes, the two-lane highway that curved to miss every little creek and gully, and then compare it to the straight interstate. My hunch is that in addition to absolutely everything else, routes between point A and point B have gotten shorter. People may have learned it makes more sense to live closer to where they work. They may have taken telecommuting. No, Americans may or may not be driving less, but they haven't fallen out of love of driving, and they certainly haven't fallen out of love of the automobile. If you doubt me, join me here at Starbucks and look at the number of late model SUVs in the parking lot and the luxury cars going through the drive-through.)
(My hunch is this story was also a televised CNBC story: one more reason I'm glad I don't have television. Smile.)
(It appears people are spending MORE time in their automobiles, just driving less miles, as this congestion-by-city table purports. Look how many hours folks in Atlanta, Georgia, sit in their automobiles, going nowhere. LOL.)
(I assume that the writer also feels that because fewer people are working than before -- as a percentage -- people are also getting tired of making money. LOL.)