Major consumer auto purchases based on whimsical details, 2-week outlook on gas prices

SD tesla

No matter what you think of auto manufacturers, try to show them a little pity now and then. The average consumer’s car shopping habits must drive them straight up the wall.

The auto purchasing ritual consists of cruising showrooms, putting fingerprints all over shiny new cars that cost billions of dollars to develop – the average $30,000 car is better than what a billionaire African dictator would have driven 20 years ago – and then announcing they’d never buy it because of the shape of the headlights.

OK that’s at least partly the auto manufacturers fault, because they market cars as fashion statements. So don’t be surprised when last year’s fashion looks stupid like those long pointy shoes hipsters wore for a few minutes…and on the plus side it’s also fairly easy to rectify that for next year’s model, where the new headlight design looks like everyone else’s and Mr. Fickle T. Consumer will once again consider blowing all his hard earned money (and then some) on it.

A factor that is as confounding as a drunken undergrad’s logic is the public’s attitude towards fuel consumption. When fuel prices are high, those same consumers wander into showrooms yet again, looking to dump their turbo V8 fuel pig for a hybrid. Baby’s gotta eat. This phenomenon then makes the rounds of the news, where it’s formally established that high fuel prices have profoundly changed consumers’ behavior with the switch to small fuel-efficient cars.

Sounds good, except for the freakishly whimsical nature of that demand. It changes as fast as oil prices do. From the time the first dealership is attacked on a Saturday morning until the deal is clinched at the end of the day, a typical consumer might be driving home in something that gets 20 percent of the fuel mileage as he thought he’d have that morning. It really should involve a longer range view, given that buying an automobile typically involves what should be a fairly long term commitment for the average schmuck trying to get into something that will make him look far more successful than he really is. In the past year, we’ve seen oil prices fall in a sharp manner that few expected. Lo and behold, those hybrids are being dropped like bubonic rats as consumers head back into the showrooms and request 500 horsepower in a semi-tractor sized new family beast. And can you make those wheels black and as big as a house? Thanks.

It takes years to develop and bring new autos to market, even with today’s technology. What you see in the showroom had it’s basic design approved probably two years before, meaning the auto manufacturers had to guess what we’d all want. My guess is that what car makers really want is stable gasoline prices so that those #$%^& idiots stick to worrying about what’s really important in their lives, like whether they can get seat stitching in a different colour…

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