“Somewhere between now and when the gasoline runs out, people who think BIG in cars need to change their thinking. I’m talkin’ ‘bout YOU, Mr. and Mrs. America, Canada, Britain, Germany, Norway, Mexico,…. The world is getting smaller, and so should cars.”
Courtesy General Motors, Fiat, Mazda respectively
Somehow I don’t think this will be the marketing pitch for car manufacturers. With a few exceptions, most auto makers are being led, kicking and screaming, down the path of righteously smaller, more fuel efficient, greener cars…and most of these cars will be smaller, much smaller, than what was manufactured before.
Car manufacturers aren’t wildly happy about making smaller cars; it’s harder to find ways to make a profit with them. (Many) consumers aren’t happy about smaller cars, especially those very small cars that elicit the response, “Where’s the rest of it?”
Tough. When the going gets rough (very expensive gasoline), the tough get small. Not a good sales slogan, but there you have it. Whatever the advances in engine technology, in fact, whatever the fuel source – including the alternatives, electricity, hydrogen, ethanol – smaller cars are the best way to get optimum mileage. Besides, how else will many hundred million Chinese, Indians, Indonesians, and Brazilians ever fit so many cars on their roads? Think small, baby.
I know, the people of the world dream of luxury cars just like they see in the movies. It used to be American ‘boats,’ the big Cadillacs, Chryslers, Fords. Now it’s the full-sized Mercedes or Peugeot, which aren’t all that big anymore, just expensive. Big cars, relatively big cars, will still be on the road probably forever. It doesn’t matter. Then, as now, only a handful of people will be able to afford them.
What will the world look like a generation from now (that’s about 30 years), when almost every car is tiny? Most of today’s parking houses will be history, literally. Big families and big shopping trips will become (more) problematic. Even in countries where owning a car is a big deal today, it won’t be such a big deal. It will be difficult to get too excited about ‘your car’ when it’s only two-meters long and looks like (no, is) just like a million other cars. The concept of ‘ants and autos’ will be obvious. Maybe the roads and city streets will become narrower, leaving more room for Paris-style sidewalk cafes? Or will more cars simply park on the sidewalk?
Or will taxis and busses prosper like never before? Will the world finally catch on the purity of pedal power, and adopt cyclical conveyances en masse, like the Dutch in Europe, or most of Asia?
The reality that cars will be smaller is not only inevitable; it will have impact – sometimes big, most times small. It might be fun to think about it, all the things that might be different when everyone drives very small cars. Or it might not be fun at all.