Tag Archives: driving

The End of Autos?

Many moons ago, I saw an article that asked whether the auto industry was losing Millennials, and wrote a post about it.

Today I saw this article pop up in my stream and thought it was worth posting as a follow-up.

“Older people are driving less as they retire, and younger people are driving less, too, which Richard Florida thinks is because having a car just isn’t cool anymore.” – Max Ehrenfreund | April 1 at 12:00 pm

While the article is dated April 1st, it references other pieces written previously, so I don’t think it’s meant as an April Fool’s joke.

So what will it signify if car culture in the US takes a steep downward turn in the next few years? Will we finally stop letting oil giants pollute our drinking water? Will efficiency standards continue to rise? And what will lower numbers of drivers mean for America’s national infrastructure, which is widely acknowledged to be in need of serious investment? And can we have some high-speed trains already?

Anyway, I thought it was an interesting article, and hope you do too.

 

Driving in Weather in a Ford Focus

This week, a friend and I rented a car and drove across the state of New York to visit my home town.  For the first time, I am consciously aware of having not enjoyed the car I was driving.

When renting a car, the most important factor I’ve considered in the past has been cost. This puts me solidly in the “economy” section of options, much to nobody’s surprise ever. In the past , I haven’t needed to give much thought to factors like a car’s weather-worthiness, and it’s only because of the few extremes we hit on this trip that I would absolutely not recommend driving the Ford Focus anywhere that doesn’t offer a consistently mild climate. Northern California, maybe.

Why? Because other places have weather, and this little car failed to prove its mettle in inclement conditions.

On the way up, after creeping through bumper-to-bumper traffic that stretched from Queens to the Tappen Zee Bridge, we were finally underway and almost to Albany when I noticed that the gray clouds overheard just a few moments before had grown more distinct and ominous. “You know, I think we’re going to get some rain,” I said, and no sooner had the words left my mouth than—

WOOSH.

The heavens opened. Cue panicked search for the windshield wipers. At first, I had to use the wash-the-wipers button just to get them to go; pretty soon, my co-pilot and companion was able to locate the proper buttons and we got the windshield wipers working. This was the first moment it became apparent that driving the Ford Focus in the rain was going to be distinctly not awesome. Rather than swinging pleasantly in sync from side to side, the wipers were at odds with one another, both swooping in and out at the same time.

The aesthetics of the issue moved to the back-seat as the downpour continued; trundling along at a pokey 40 mph (down from the NYS Thruway’s ubiquitous-in-practice 75), visibility became worse and worse. At one point, I think traffic had slowed to the mid-thirties, and despite this we still couldn’t see what was going on through the rain on the windshield.

We appeared to have hit the limits of the car’s engineering.

It became a bit of a joke as we hit scattered showers on our way home, but a nervous one – ultimately, we got off the thruway an exit early because torrential rain meant there was no way to drive at a safe speed on the highway.

At the end of the holiday, driving home, we ran into another environmental situation: once the outside temperature passed about 93, the amount of relief provided by the A/C (on full blast) became notably less than before. As my friend pointed out, it was possible that after a 2000-mile trip, the system needed to be topped off. But added to the earlier issues with the rain, it was enough to convince me that the Focus wasn’t the kind of car I’d want to use if I were driving in, shall we say, serious weather.

It gave me some insight into how tricky buying a car must be;  as my friend and I discussed, if we had been on a test drive and not encountered that kind of weather, we wouldn’t have known of the Focus’ apparent shortcomings.

Luckily, I’m not in the market for a car, and don’t plan to be for a while. But when and if I am, at least I’ll know two more things I have to be wary of when making my purchase.

 

 

More Blogs About Cars:

Family Wedding: The Maine Event

My cousin got married this weekend up in Maine. It was a  gorgeous wedding, the theme was a kind of country garden party and here’s a photo of the fairy lights they used in the barn.

Getting to their part of Maine from NYC is a bit of a trick. Most public transport only gets you as far as Bangor or Portland, which is still a significant drive. Or, it costs an arm, a leg and several airline transfers to get to a nearer-by airport. Which is a very, very tiny airport.

Instead, I drove up with a friend (she did most of the driving, at least till we got up there and there were fun country roads to zip around on. We ate lobster, stayed at a gorgeous lakeside house, went to the wedding on Saturday, and zipped back down to the city on Sunday.

The wedding was gorgeous. Sunny weather, a bit on the warm side but held at sundown; the bride was stunning and my cousin, the groom, looked fantastic in 20s-inspired gear. Instead of a wedding cake, my grandmother had baked tiny cupcakes for everyone, which my grandfather helped to decorate. As the night went on, the meal broke up into dancing and reminiscing.

Monday morning, now. Time to let reality back in.

 

Has the Auto Industry lost the Millennial generation?

A friend of mine (she’s free to call herself out in the comments) pointed out this really interesting article about the car industry and how it’s losing the next crop of drivers.

At the upper end of this generation, my car story is a little different. I haven’t owned one in years, and even when I “owned” (in quotes because it was still in my parents’ name) I was driving on my parents’ insurance.

When I got back to the US after living and working in Scotland, I chose one of the least car-friendly cities in the world as my new home base. And as I was saying during a conversation about this in mid-May: at this point in my life, I have no interest in owning a car.

I love public transportation. I love walking. I love not having to worry if my budget is suddenly going to shrink because gas prices have spiked, and I love not having to worry about waking up to find that my transmission has gone and I have to get it fixed and that’s $1500+ less that I’ve got in the bank. I have no car payment, and I know that my unlimited metro card and a handful of taxis will cover my transport needs throughout the month.

But apparently, auto makers are now offering to give free test drives and so on to non-auto bloggers. So I just want to be really clear: as a non-auto blogger of the Millennial generation, if any of those suits in Tokyo, Detroit or the other places the article writer cites are looking for a someone to test and talk about their product, I’m more than happy to make myself available.

So long as they’re picking up the tab.

NEW YORK MAGAZINE featured an article on car culture in New York in their June 4th, 2012 issue. WHY I DRIVE  by Justin Davidson was not available for linking at the time of this blog post as far as I can tell; if anyone finds a link please let me know.