World's Love Affair with the Automobile: A Century Old and at Full Throttle

By David Holmstrom, writer of The Christian Science Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, December 31, 1996 | Go to article overview

World's Love Affair with the Automobile: A Century Old and at Full Throttle


David Holmstrom, writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


This much is clear: One hundred years after the invention of the automobile, the vast majority of people on earth do not own one.

We can be grateful for this.

If even a quarter of the world's estimated 5.7 billion people piled into a car every day bound for work, or elsewhere, most cities on Earth would very likely resemble Bangkok - where cars are semi-frozen in an exhaust-belching traffic jam day and night. The ozone layer might look like Swiss cheese. This Armageddon gridlock would confirm a car critic's observation from a few years back: "The wheel was man's greatest invention until he got behind it." An estimated 630 million motorized vehicles are currently operating on the planet, according to the American Automobile Manufacturers Association (AAMA). In the United States, where Henry Ford first mass-produced cars like Energizer bunnies, the enshrined irony is that most Americans continue to absolutely love/idolize/revere their cars. Last year Americans bought 14,325,000 new cars and small trucks. And developing countries are importing more and more American-made cars and trucks. After the United States, Thailand sells the most American-made pickup trucks But in the years since Henry Ford built his first successful gasoline-powered car in 1896, a global challenge has arisen: how to keep the car as a concept of quick and personal transportation, but buckle down to eliminate the way it befouls our air, swallows resources, and clogs our streets and highways. Car as a security blanket For better and worse the automobile, and the internal combustion engine, is us. Many owners bestow names and personalties on their cars. They escape inside them, or escape with them as if they are driving four-wheeled security blankets. Some of the rich and famous, like comedian Jay Leno and retired baseball superstar Reggie Jackson, collect cars by the dozens. Oscar-winning actor Anthony Hopkins confesses in the latest Vanity Fair magazine that he drives his car around aimlessly, covering thousands of miles. "I play tapes and I think, 'I've got a wonderful life,' " he told the magazine. For 100 years, carmakers have promoted the concept that "your" car bestows personal freedom and mobility, enhanced sexuality, luxury, status, and of course, speed calculated from 0 to 60 m.p.h. in five rubber-laying seconds. Until recently, safety had not been a driving force in selling cars. Car owners spend huge amounts of money to buy or lease cars, and in turn the car systematically pulls money from their pockets for gas, insurance, upkeep, tape decks, security devices, and countless accessories. And how to dispose of millions and millions of used tires is another whole story. Yet, for all this, cars are loved like nothing else simply because they take individuals where they want to go. Privately. Rain or shine. With favorite music on the tape deck. With the seat adjusted just the way you want it. Car reviewer Al Marsocci echoed much of what consumers have been told to believe about cars when he recently reviewed a Mercedes-Benz SL320 for a weekly newspaper, the Boston Tab. "The Mercedes-Benz has the distinction of producing an automobile with what has to be the most magnetic personality of any vehicle available today," he writes. "The SL320 is definitely drop-dead gorgeous." He says several women shouted requests for a ride when he drove by. The price of an SL320? Around $80,000. And more high-tech dazzlement is in store to make cars safer. In the near future, automobiles may have such features as forward radar sensors, to determine whether objects in front of the car are moving, stationary, approaching, or returning; intelligent cruise systems that automatically adjust a car's speed or apply the brakes if one car is too close to the vehicle in front; and night vision systems, in which an infrared camera detects objects far beyond headlights and displays images on the windshield. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

World's Love Affair with the Automobile: A Century Old and at Full Throttle
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.