Why Cars?

A little bit of personal philosophy to start the week…..

I’ve been in a position recently to think about why some of us obsess about cars so much. I remember a time back in 2011, a year or so after the sale of Saab to Spyker was completed, but when Saab were beginning to show the first signs of trouble. I was still writing Saabs United at the time and there was much debate going on about how things were going under Victor Muller’s leadership. I was a stout defender of Victor but there were a number of people who were critical. Some of them were extremely strong in their opinions.

There was one guy in particular, a guy so vehement in his criticism that he became one of the half-dozen or so people that I banned during my 7 years as a website administrator, after which he continued the tirade via email.

Most of the bullets he fired were a complete waste of time but one theme rang true – why are you doing this? Why do you spend so much time writing about this situation at Saab? Why do you write about cars so much? Is it really a productive use of your time? Does it benefit the world at all? Are you making the world a better place when there are people dying of preventable causes in various parts of the world and you’re sitting there writing obsessively about Saab cars?

It was a fair question then, and it remains so today.

Why cars? Why so much time spent on learning about them? Discussing them?

Are cars worthy?

Yes. I think they are.

The liberation of mass transport

From Karl Benz through to Armand Peugeot, Giovanni Agnelli, Henry Ford, and Ferdinand Porsche, cars progressed from being indulgences for the elite to true instruments of mass liberation, bringing a modern world to a society hungry for progress.

Cars expand our collective horizon. They take us to meet new people and experience new places with greater efficiency than we ever had before.

Cars mean that we’re no longer bound to villages or even regions like our ancestors. Trips a century ago may have been greatly affected by weather and could have taken days to complete, but now they could be completed in hours– with the help of air-conditioned comfort, car curtains, a sturdy engine, and a satellite navigation system with Bluetooth audio.

They say travel broadens the mind. It used to refer to inter-territorial travel but the car has made that accessible to nearly everyone. Today such a saying refers to international travel only. Anyone can explore the land they’re connected to, primarily because of the car.

Social mobility

That old village mentality is a thing of the past. Distance is not the barrier it used to be. Cars now carry families and friends to meet together every day. They carry them across town, or across the country.

Cars carry boyfriends and girlfriends to their first dates and a few years later they might just carry the same kids to their wedding.

Cars bring babies home from hospital for their first night under the family roof, just as they also carry the departed to their final resting place.

Cars also come with added security measures to ensure the safety on road. For instance, for babies and kids, one can look for products like a booster seat with recline, Nuna – everyday free shipping, or available in other brands so that kids are safe and protected while on road.

As you can see, cars have become an essential part of everyone’s life, which is why the increased demand. However, a rise in demand does not mean that you have to pay more. You can buy them for cheaper rates as well. So, instead of purchasing new vehicles, why not opt for used ones that can prove to be more economical (partly because they can be bought with no deposit car finance)?

Yes, you heard it right! They are as good as new cars. They are usually well-maintained and properly-functioning vehicles that you can use for a long period. That said, if you are on the lookout for one, then you can find many dealers; for example, we have Hilton Garage, a company that is known to offer used cars leicester.

They seem to be people’s first choice near the said location, as they have a wide range of options in terms of budget, lifestyle, or any other specific requirements. You could try visiting their website to check out the automobiles they have, or can pay a visit physically to them and test-drive the car before you make a decision. Additionally, they can help you with financing the car with different funding options and give you the best solution (you don’t have to do anything).

The best part is that if you are planning to sell it in the future, you can sell it at almost the same price you bought it. This is because the depreciation for used cars is slower compared to new cars.

Economic Mobility

Cars carry pimply 15-year-olds to their first jobs. A few years later they carry them to university.

They carry mobile locksmiths, gardeners, plumbers, pet groomers, bankers, builders and baristas. A vehicle can be a workhorse, a mobile office or even a mobile showroom.

And then there’s the car industry itself, which employs millions around the world. These people work with cars their whole lives – driving them, designing them, building them, fixing them, financing and selling them. Cars have driven advancements in technology, whether it be in safety systems, cutting edge materials, engine efficiency or manufacturing processes – the automotive sector is a hub for innovation in all sorts of fields.

Cars are also the lifeblood of a number of critical industries. They generate huge dollars in manufacturing and in all forms of advertising. There’s a dedicated aftermarket industry serving a vast number of custom vehicle tastes. If you can dream it, someone out there can take your money and build it.

I don’t think we’ll see another too-big-to-fail decision like we saw with GM at the beginning of the global financial crisis. But don’t let that lull you into thinking that the automotive industry has become a lesser player in terms of driving research and development. Car companies remain at the cutting edge of consumer-oriented industry and the dollars they spend on contractors and suppliers generate dollars elsewhere in the economy.

Cars Bring Joy

There’s the joy of the first date, the first baby’s homecoming, and the joy of occasions with family and friends. But there are other times when the car is an intrinsic part of the joyful experience.

The thrill of your first drive.

The joy you have on the right road trip in the right car with the right song on the stereo and the right people in the car with you.

The joy of a winding road shared with you friends in their cars, travelling together for a lunch somewhere. Or just travelling.

The joy people get from artistic automotive design. Yes, cars can be art, just like your favourite chair, desk lamp or wrist watch. Good industrial design is an art form all of its own.

There’s joy in preserving an old car and joy in driving it. The joy of gathering around an old car with friends and fixing it together. Eric Bana said in his film “Love The Beast” that his Ford Falcon coupe was like a campfire that he and his mates would gather around, telling stories while they worked on the car together.

For some people, these moments lose their lustre fairly quickly but for many, they endure for a lifetime.

Social Good

Those of us who spend a lot of time in the automotive sphere aren’t curing cancer. We’re not running a food bank or getting people off drugs. But don’t discount the enormous social good provided by the automobile over the last century or so.

Cars carry medicines to people in need. Their derivatives carry sick people to hospitals. They carry police and even soldiers to defend the places we live. Cars carry food to the hungry.

Cars changed the world. And while they’re not always used for good, the net effect of their invention has been overwhelmingly positive.

So are cars worthy?

I like to think they are. Cars are often the second most expensive investment that people make in their lifetime. We design cities around the need to move from place to place. Our world has become dependent on mobility.

But more than that, cars are intrinsically interesting. The engineering. The potential for man and machine to form an experience.

Put simply, cars bring happiness to a lot of people. It’s not curing cancer – I’ll leave that to the doctors – but sharing some of that happiness and trying to inspire it in other isn’t a bad thing, is it?

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  1. I think this is a very well done article, and I agree with you completely. And, your article caused me to pause and reflect upon my own family. My paternal grandfater was born in 1902, and grew up on a corn farm in rural Iowa. Travel was much different then- in fact, he was actually born at home, and travel was largely horse-dependent. Ironically, my grandfather eventually moved east to work for Goodyear, and never looked back.

    Yesterday, the weather finally cooperated and I was able to clean my SAAB convertible, inside and out. After a brutal winter, my car was desperately in need of the works, and I even had time to apply a coat of wax before the rain came. The finishing touch? I shined up my new Goodyear tires with some Armor All!

    Automobiles bring us so much- they close distances, allow for greater social mobility, and have created an entire industry that provides for thousands and thousands (hundreds of thousands, even) of working families who work in the auto industry, and in countless auxilliary industries (for me, that’s car insurance). Most of all, our cars give us something indescribable- but I’m pretty sure “joy” and “peace” are part of it. That’s not a bad thing at all.

    Keep blogging!

    1. Your grandfather brings up a good case in point, Jen.

      How many women and children might have died during childbirth at home – possibly unassisted – that could have survived if they got to a hospital? I know many of those would have depended on medicine or medical techniques that may not have existed at the time, but I’m still sure increased mobility and the ability to get help quickly has saved countless lives.

      We’re all living longer because of advances in science, knowledge and understanding. I’m sure increased mobility has a part to play in that, too.

  2. Certainly cars and the auto industry, and their importance to transportation and culture, are part of social sciences, but I think that person you had to ban could ask himself the same questions about why he spent so much time berating you both on SU and in e-mails if there are so many other important issues in the world. He obviously spent his own valuable time reading what you wrote and badgering you about it so he was not following his own advice.

    Most people have hobbies or subjects they enjoy. Some just read or write about them, some participate in them, some do both. Nothing wrong with that. It is true there are many people in need in this world and many things we as individuals can do to help those in need. Helping others and enjoying a hobby are not mutually exclusive.

  3. You’ve already said as much, but for me, it comes down to just two points:

    One – cars are our pinnacle of scientific understanding, engineering prowess and technological ability. At least in a form most of us can touch, own and appreciate. Internal combustion, chemistry, metallurgy, physics – cars represent hundreds if not thousands of years of human scientific evolution, Where that science and engineering takes us into the future – as the petroleum furled engine reaches its swan song – matters an awful lot too.

    Two – personal freedom. Those who live in cities and can access decent mass transit systems mightn’t appreciate it quite as much as Taswegians like you and I, but having a car and being able to say “I want to be here instead” and being able to do so on your own schedule at your own pace is quite a thing. Being able to do it in a nice car is usually a pleasure unto itself too. I think this is the main reason people are more passionate about cars and other ‘freedom enablers” (computers come to mind) than they are about toasters, vacuum cleaners and the like.