Small Cars: New Paradigm Shift?
Our country has long had an obsession with the automobile. The designs of the sixties and seventies remain fond memories that still dominate our garages and car shows today. Nobody can be anybody without owning a car in today’s culture. It is a status symbol. Our society equates bigger with better. The bigger and more expensive the car you own, the higher your status must be. Everywhere you go there are Escalades and Navigators. They are America, writ large and thirsty, 14-miles-per-gallon gas-guzzlers driven alike by cool dudes with sunglasses and suburban moms with mocha javas and screaming kids. Now, with the price of gas going through the roof, and with every expectation, given the global hunger for oil, that it will go even higher, consumers are responding by going smaller and smaller. With the oil tycoons enjoying ever higher per barrel revenues, consumers, the very same ones who are now tightening the belt on all spending, are walking past the trucks and SUVs that have for so long been profit staples of automakers (Prosser). This is the makings of a shift in America, the shift from large, gas-guzzling SUV’s (the current paradigm) to small, fuel-efficient compact cars (the new paradigm). This is not an anomaly, but a major shift in both perception and behavior, a paradigm shift.
The immense distances between major North American cities, gave rise to the substantial system of highways currently crisscrossing the continent from San Diego to New York. Over the span of eighty years, this widespread and complicated road network served as the foundation for a flourishing society. Whether expanding in really hot areas or shrinking in the freezing cold, expressways provided reliable access and transport. Gasoline was plentiful and driving was less a chore and more of a pleasant event, and smog was only a vague thought in the back of your mind. Driving became a pleasant family outing and lengthy commutes became an acceptable...
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