A New Car?

Thinking about a new car?  Even the monumentally uninformed can’t help but notice that there are many choices these days.  Ideally, only one consideration in choosing a vehicle should hold sway, that of transportation.  But modern marketing responds to and creates needs that alter the choices we make when it comes to picking a set of wheels.

People tend to fit the vehicles they drive.  The standard view of the red sports car or convertible usually includes a young woman, maybe blonde, who is paying high insurance premiums and who likes to drive fast.  What these drivers don’t realize is that red is a magnet . . .  for a lot of things. “Look at me. Look at me,” ends up being, “You bet I’ll look at you if you’re going fast! Pull over ma’am.”

Then there’s the Buick . . . not a chick magnet, just practical, comfortable . . . and boring.

The traditional family vehicle years ago was the nine passenger station wagon.  These cruisers were great on the interstate, eating up mile after mile in relative comfort. Unfortunately they made frequent fuel stops, used space inefficiently, and were hardly nimble in traffic jams.  Along came the minivan. So now instead of fake wood-sided rear wheel drive behemoths piloted by moms containing their active offspring, we now have slab-sided “Iacocca” mobiles disgorging hordes of little persons bent on soccer stardom .

The latest craze is “Crossovers.”  They come in all price ranges from the cute little four passenger Suzukis to the macho luxury of the Toyota Land Cruiser.   In this country where snow stays on the ground for six and a half months of the year, four wheel drive ends up being a safety issue rather than a luxury.  On the other hand, most urban outbackers usually have their snow removed within five hours of the last snow flake.  Leather interior and power windows in my Grandpas’ old Ford 4 by 4?  I don’t think so!!!

Muscle cars of the 60s have been replaced by more high tech variants.  Corvettes still have a lot of punch, but are pushed to the edge now by the Viper with its massive V 10 engine. That same engine even bullied its way into pickups a few years ago.   

Then there’s the turbocharged this or supercharged that. .  a lot more efficient, but do ya really need 500 horsepower? 

For those of us who can’t ever imagine being able to afford a car payment on a new vehicle, there is the “Wannabee Club.”  So we purchase and drive two or three year-old cars with 35,000 miles or more on them.  The new car smell is gone, they maybe need a little work here and there, but we can still get the moonroof or V 6 engine and think or make others think that we really did have the big bucks to buy it when it was new.

The argument over domestic or foreign is a thing of the past.  Parts for most cars come from everywhere.  It used to be you were a little weird if you bought a foreign made vehicle. Remember the two cycle engines in the old Saabs?  It was the only car you had to treat like an outboard motor.  These days foreign cars generally stand for better quality and longevity, something domestic manufacturers have been trying to emulate for twenty years.

Choosing a car is most probably a response to a need created by advertising and the practical requirements of life.  Having a vehicle that fits your image is a conditioned response to advertising alone.  The last time I counted, all the cars I saw still had four wheels.

Author: Doug Lewandowski

I have walked a varied path. I was a Christian Brother, an English teacher/counselor and Licensed Psychologist. I have a twice monthly column in the Duluth News Tribune and have had a story published in the Nemadji Review and placed third in this year’s Jade Ring contest of the Wisconsin Writer’s Association. I was a commentator for KCRB, Minnesota Public Radio in the 90s. I transplanted to Duluth to be closer to grandchildren.

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