Wednesday, April 23, 2008

China has that new car smell

This story from the NY Times notes that most cars in China are sold to first time car buyers. Not only that, but the buyers are interested in cars as social status. The anecdote at the beginning of the story about the father thinking the car was good luck sounds like it was pulled straight from the history of the car in the US. In his new book, Tom McCarthy recounts stories about Detroit's response to the car as a social icon and how the Model T couldn't survive once cars were no longer simply utilitarian.

But more importantly, no one should be surprised that China is reorganizing socially around the mobility afforded by autos. It happened everywhere else cars are dominant, and there is no other available technology that offers so much utility as the auto. It's too bad China is making the same environmental mistakes that the West made, because the rapid urbanization in China is going to be hard to fix once built and the population density will suffer from polluted air and lunatic streets. But at least the sons of proud patriarchs will be able to take the family car and find a bride.

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