At 100,000 miles, a car is just getting started. Therefore, it makes no sense for the government to pay folks to turn in cars that are not even broken, much less broken in. In fact, a car improves with age. It acquires a depth of personality and character that only time confers. Like a pet, a car becomes a member of the family.
Who can forget his father lovingly tending a 1957 Chevy that was 15 years old? He polishes it regularly and drives it carefully. Go to any of the car shows that are held this time of year and behold the crowds. There are even clubs and fan sites for cars with a mere ten years of life. For example, I’m a big fan of the Toyota Tercel. Had I been smarter, I would have collected them when they were commonplace back in the 90s. It was an absurdly wonderful car–the epitome of basic transportation. The coupe was extraordinarily roomy.
Yet today, the government urges us to replace a distinguished workhorse with something that is merely new, but not necessarily good, better or even particularly innovative. Also, it seems crazy to use taxpayer money in order to stimulate the taxpayer to buy a car from a taxpayer-owned company. I’m not an economist, but I think this makes little sense.
Nor am I convinced that a 10-15 year old car that has been well cared for is especially less fuel-efficient or spews substantially greater carbon than a brand new car. Depending on the driver’s habits, such as aggressive accelerating, a new car can be just as bad for the environment as an old one that is more gently pushed. Also, it is well known that new cars, indeed, have a lengthy break-in period. Perhaps 100,000 miles is a bit of an exaggeration, but 25,000 is not.
For instance, an elderly couple may use a car for shopping, going to church and visiting their grandson at the state college once or twice a year. It will often become a 10-15 year old car that has 50,000 to 75,000 miles–just reaching its prime. Why should a pair of senior citizens be lured, in effect, to waste not only good money but also a perfectly fine automobile on an effort to aggrandize the image of a bankrupt domestic automobile manufacturer or two?
Consider grandma and grandpa’s car: it gets good, “modern” mileage; it’s extremely comfortable for four people; and, being of recent vintage, it releases little more carbon or other pollutants into the atmosphere than a brand new one. On the other hand, the new car will be usually lighter (partly contributing to the better mileage). Also, it will have less insulating material. In addition, most new interior designs have reduced head and legroom to achieve sleeker body styles to cut down wind resistance and boost mileage. Therefore, it might be less comfortable too. With the $4,500 in their hands, the grandparents probably won’t mind.
The siren call of novelty is machined into our collective psyche. Perhaps it is hard wired into our emotions by the change of seasons, along with the many festivals that we celebrated during the long pagan era. The season of spring remains a great surprise, even after thousands of years of evolution and custom.
All three of our companies–Heronswood, The Cooks Garden and Burpee–feature new plants every spring on the cover and the front section of our catalogues and websites. These exciting new plants, seeds and bulbs comprise over 30% of our annual revenue. It runs like a clock every year–first thing our customers ask is, “What’s new?” I know this to be a fact. So who am I to talk?
I suppose I am driven, so to speak, by the pathetic image of a soundly functioning automobile being destroyed. Of course, the misnomer, “clunker”, is not even meaningful. The government does not want a defective automobile–it just wants an old one. Most of all, they want us to buy new ones, thereby stimulating our economy, according to their odd calculus.
Maybe it’s the gut-wrenching feeling I get when I know that a perfectly fine example of the most sophisticated industrial consumer product in world history is being squashed like a bug. A car that is “A-OK”–thumbs up, ready to roll.
Setting aside both economic and psychological values for the moment, what does this say about the “ecosystem” of the car maintenance and repair business? Anyone think about those guys? Sort of throws a wrench into the works, as I see it. How many skilled jobs are going to be lost as a result of repair shops closing down, since there suddenly will be thousands of “old” cars taken out of their market? What about their dignity after the government says that their work is of no value? They have families too.
Finally, it is a bad lesson to our youth to focus obsessively on the shiny and new. “All that glitters is not chrome”, to paraphrase the old saying. Let’s keep cars around for a while. Either kids learn the virtues of care, patience and commitment or they suffer an adulthood of persistent restlessness and a vague but endless yearning for the next hot thing.
Age is “cool”.