The Associated Press recently had a story on how America has appeared to have lost its love affair with the automobile. The article by Joan Lowry entitled "Less driving as car culture wanes" (http://kdhnews.com/business/less-driving-as-car-culture-wanes/article_ae9e58d6-11b5-11e3-bb5e-001a4bcf6878.html?mode=jqm) notes that the collective miles driven by Americans peaked in 2007 and has declined each year since. Also most notably the percent of teens and young adults with drivers licenses has dropped. What are the reasons why? Lowry mentions the obvious ones: the bad economy, terrible commutes from the suburbs and headaches of car ownership in the cities. Lowry also mentions modern reasons such as shopping online and an uptick in walking and biking to work. Now I doubt whether walking and biking to work have made a serious impact on the statistics. However, she does not give the reasons that are obvious to me. Cars have been neutered and are just no fun anymore. I recently drove 4 hours and did not see a single vehicle that I wanted to own. It used to be different with mainstream America and its Mustangs, GTOs, Corvettes, MGBs, TR3s, and other wonderful cars. Now most what you see are minivans (and pickups here in Tennessee). I was also struck by the volume of wimpy cars that looked like cars with the backend chopped off with lawnmower engines. Isn't it apparent that high gas prices, high insurance rates, fleet milage regulations and the emasculation of the American male have all worked to eliminate the fun from driving? As I wrote in this space back in 2009, that the love affair has been lost is evident from the music (http://haroldblack.blogspot.com/2009/06/im-kickin-in-my-red-prius.html) Gone are the songs rhapsodizing the automobile. Who would profess (other than a nerd) love for the vast majority of today's automobile?
Harold A. Black is professor emeritus in the Department of Finance, University of Tennessee, Knoxville having retired after 24 years of service. He has served on the faculties of American University, Howard University, the University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill and the University of Florida. His government service includes the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and as a Board Member of the National Credit Union Administration. He also has served on the boards of directors Home Savings of America and its parent company, H. F. Ahmanson & Co., Irwindale, California prior to its merger with Washington Mutual Savings Bank, on the board of New Century Financial Corporation, Irvine, California, then the nation’s largest real estate investment trust and as director and later chairman of the Nashville Branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta. He writes an occasional article for the Knoxville News-Sentinel at http://www.knoxnews.com/staff/dr-harold-black/. His web page is haroldablackphd.com