Friday, August 23, 2019

Spittoons and Cigars

It’s all part of a sweeping shift into SUVs and crossovers, which offer more space, a higher stance and fuel economy that’s vastly better than a decade ago. About 1 in 2 vehicles sold in 2019 will be SUVs or crossovers, according to projections by car-buying advice site Edmunds. “Primarily it’s a shift away from passenger cars – compacts, hatchbacks, those types of vehicles,” said Matt DeLorenzo, senior managing editor of Kelley Blue Book.

At 70 years of age I have begun to feel rejected by and isolated from the unfolding universe.  The immediate manifestation of my sensitivity is reactionary curmudgeonly behaviour. In particular I have very little sympathy for the expressions of so-called "millenials" - whom I conveniently (and dismissively) equate with digital technology and social media sans social manners and literary skills. I could bear the deprivation of youth and their ambitions if limited to the improvement through science of scholarly and bookish elaboration.  But when the attack is upon the private motor vehicle my hackles heighten instantly!

As a teenager I recall having been capable of identifying almost every passenger vehicle on the road. Granted in that era the charismatic diversity was limited to Buick Wildcat, Cadillac, Chrysler Imperial, Lincoln Continental, Ford Mustang and Thunderbird.  BMW, Mercedes and Audi were about as common as Rolls Royce - which is to say, not at all.  The Jaguar still suffered the blight of being a fussy and unreliable British production. The Austin "Mini" was just cheap and entertaining. The likes of Lexus and Toyota or any other Japanese or Chinese model were beyond imagination.  The theme which captured my interest was always the passenger vehicle especially those which fell within the scope of "luxury" by North American standards.  My father - who harboured a similar persuasion - regularly spoke of the 16-cylinder Packard limousines owned by his own dad.

Picture therefore my dismay today upon being told - almost apologetically - by the elderly salesman at a local car dealership that both GM and Ford will no longer make passenger automobiles!  While the advent certainly hasn't for me the spiritual allure of the Second Coming, I found myself feeling unscrupulously corralled and prepared for a fate in an abattoir. This was singularly so when the salesman added, "Don't blame me, it's what the consumers want!"  To this I unhesitatingly replied that I am a consumer and it is not what I want.  I needn't add the contradictory and marginalizing retort which followed!  My opinions are about as archaic and out-of-sink as my affection for a Buick Park Avenue!

One knows we've mostly recovered from the original indignity of being told years ago that cigarettes are bad for our health and generally make us smell foul. If I am to be truthful I confess to having adopted the drama and arrogance of a convert when encountering those who continue to smoke - even from afar. I've exceeded my superiority (and self-righteousness) to embrace a burgeoning (though manifestly hidden) dislike of being around people who drink alcohol. This however has done nothing to enlarge my opinion or tolerance of those who subscribe to religious beliefs of any but the most natural order and inclination.  Instead my swelling irritability has merely triumphed. I mention these apparent irrelevancies only to strengthen my continued descent upon discovery today of the doom which awaits the private passenger vehicle.

Nor does it help to project that livery vehicles will remain in production. Indeed it is a considerable part of my fervour in this matter that I distinctly do not want to possess a 7-passenger vehicle for the transportation of others. What I want is a "driver's car" not a truck or Sport Utility Vehicle. Gawd knows my sporting days are long gone!

There are obviously other important transitions on the horizon - among them electric powered and autonomous vehicles - not to mention the frightening prospect that China will overtake the retail world yet again.  The thought of having to relent to box stores for everything from groceries to underwear does nothing to stimulate me! Already Country Life is bemoaning the predictable loss of shopkeepers in Britain's villages.  When I visited a local Cadillac dealership two days ago the salesperson had the cheek to tell me there were no passenger vehicles on the lot, that GM no longer publishes brochures to illustrate what passenger vehicles may be available; and that if I want to see what there is to buy, I must go on the internet!  Ordinarily this intelligence would not have disturbed me - if I had been told so over the telephone - but it was for me an incomprehensible disgrace when speaking face-to-face with a salesperson in the showroom of a dealership! More upsetting is that I have become the problem.  It is I who is getting in the way of business - unless of course I want a truck or SUV.

There is palpably no reason to try to hang onto the past.  Last week when I was getting the oil changed in my Lincoln Continental, the owner of the dealership wasted no time advertising to me the new Lincoln Aviator - the latest SUV to compete with the Goliath Navigator (which I know for a fact from a former Ford "insider" was essentially a truck designed to be souped up to add cost). The Aviator is for me just another truck - tarted up naturally - dangerously reminiscent of something like a Jeep.  It is most certainly not something I wish to drive any distance for the pure pleasure of driving - a foible which the dealership owner skilfully recognized.  His whims are no more cogent than my own.  We are both caught in the web of corporate change and it is useless to resist.  After all Venice is sinking too!


  1. Bill, I could not agree more with your comments. Love reading your blog. I was born in 1953. My father bought a 1953 black Buick Roadmaster (Straight 8 under the hood) fully optioned right down to the tear drop headlights, wheel skirts and lots and lots of chrome. Great car as I remember it given that he drove it until 1958.

  2. Bill,
    It was really interesting reading your thoughts about automobiles today.
    I have a 15 year old BMW sedan which I love and I faithfully take good care of it. It meets all my personal needs and even my real estate needs (now that everyone shops for homes online!).
    Rocci and I are busy getting organized for our annual sojourn to Provincetown.
    We are heading up right after Labor Day this year (we usually wait until the 1st Saturday after) because we have found that over the past few years virtually all entertainment shuts down for the last week we are there. I am really big on the festival of shows that a husband and wife team puts together called "Afterglow". Many amazing performers spread out over a week. Needless to say, the beach is always wonderful at this time of year and a few good friends often come to visit. I remember our times together all those years ago!