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SOCIAL MEDIA are big on “trendings,” identification of how many of us are thinking about one thing and another. Being the Luddite that I am in some matters (driverless cars, for example), I suspect I’m hardly an important data point in this. However, I do study Automotive News each week, and I can share three trendings, one long-standing, one recently updated, and one for the future reported in recent issues.
Pickup Love Affair. Here’s a slam-dunk in the trending department: America’s most popular vehicle isn’t a car, it’s a Ford F-Series pickup. Introduced in 1948, the F-Series has been the best-selling truck since 1977; for 35 years, it’s been the best-selling vehicle of any kind in the country.
Speaking of country (as in C&W) and living here in coastal southern California, I always thought that this pickup romance was a phenomenon of solely mid-America. Sure, there are pickups on the streets of my Orange County, California, but also scads of SUVs, crossovers, and even Honda, Toyota and Hyundai cars, for goodness sake, not to say plentiful Porsches.
My Orange County driving is that tiny green sliver of southern California, though I’m surprised to see that vans apparently predominate here. I mean, there are some shuttle services, but….
$$$$. The January 15, 2018, issue of Automotive News discussed other trendings in an article titled, “Streak is Still Alive! No, Not That Streak.”
The “Streak Still Alive” part is the trending of transaction price, money changing hands in new-car purchases. There was a brief dip in 2009’s Great Recession, but otherwise it’s a steady straight-line increase. Automotive News notes, “Last year, the average price climbed above $35,000 for the first time—to $35,126, up from $34,262.”
To assess the effect of inflation, I plugged the graph’s 2005 average transaction price into the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics CPI Inflation Calculator. In CPI terms, that estimated $27,000 in 2005 is equivalent to $34,903.77 in December 2017. Thus, today’s cars aren’t much more expensive than those in 2005; it’s the dollar that’s changed.
In any event, this trending is not to be confused, Automotive News notes, with vehicle sales, which slumped last year. On the other hand, 2010 through 2016 were boom times. Automotive News identifies that this trend had not been equaled since “the dawn of the industry, from 1909 through 1917.” (Fully half the cars back then, amazingly enough, were Model T Fords).
Automotive Subscriptions. Rather than buying or leasing a particular vehicle, why not just “buy into the marque”? That is, pay a monthly fee to the auto dealership, and switch among its marque’s vehicle range dependent upon your needs—or whims.
Automotive News, January 15, 2018, reported that “Mercedes, BMW Wade into Subscriptions.” These luxury rivals are planning to launch pilot programs of vehicle subscriptions this year in some U.S. markets.
With regard to these subscriptions and other nontraditional ownership schemes, Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche suggests that it “remains to be seen if any of them will have a really profitable business in the long run.”
Automaker futurists have proposed buying into the marque for years. I recall Honda specialists describing such a concept to me when I researched “Whither the Automobile?” appearing in R&T, September 2001: “You’d have an Accord as your usual car, an Odyssey for family vacations, and an NSX for the Monterey Weekend.”
As a last point, the increasingly automated automobile would seem to favor nontraditional ownership: There might be times, for instance, when a driverless car (evidently at considerably higher cost) would make sense; other times, less so.
I trust that trending specialists haven’t overlooked that all this added computer power in the automobile comes at significant cost. ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2018