Friday, June 24, 2005

The politics of car buying

It's time.

My household's fleet of vehicles consists of two 1998 automobiles both with 130,000 plus mileage. As I have mentioned before, cars are functional and do not represent a lifestyle for me. I have never been mechanically inclined and the only thing I know how to do is to check my oil level.

Even with that preface, there are many options for me to consider. I grew up in southern Indiana where people drove Chevrolets and Fords. Even a Chrysler was exotic change that would attract that wide-eyed stare from the locals. We didn't buy furrin' cars where I came from. I remember my stepsister had an Audi Fox (against my parent's advice) and we had to take it halfway to St. Louis just to be able to find a mechanic to work on it. Japanese cars? Forget about it. Those were "riceburners". You were either too poor to buy a Monte Carlo and/or just not a good American to buy those cars. Remember, we fought a war against them.

I realized how silly these prejudices were then and I certainly do so now. On the other hand, I have never owned a car that was not named Ford or Buick. I do not have any idea as to what my next purchase will be, but I am mindful of the union apprentices who make up the majority of my college course that I teach. They notice what car I drive and I am sure that I'll never be able to show up to class in a shiny, new Honda Accord. I am loyal to unions, but my anarcho-syndicalist worldview doesn't have much in common with the business unionism that is the UAW. I have little sympathy for the workers who looked the other way while management made tens and hundreds of millions of dollars. Why did they look away? The workers were making ridiculously high wages, too. The only losers were American consumers.

I won't buy GM or Ford or German-American Chrysler solely out of patriotic duty either. That's silly. These lines are blurred anyway through globalization, partnerships and transational corporations. If I were base my purchase on those terms, I have more reason to buy a Toyota than any traditionally American automotive company. Toyota has a major manufacturing plant near where I grew up that provides relatively highly paid jobs for thousands of people in my former community. The community desperately needs any type of boost and Toyota has made a tremendous difference in the standard of living for many southern Indiana workers. On the other hand, I am mindful that the same corporation that I praise here did choose to come to my community because they knew that the economic state would allow them to pay lower wages than almost anywhere else in the country.

So this is a lot of navel-gazing over a automobile purchase, but these concepts are foremost in my mind when I step into a dealership. These things I understand far better than meaningless (to me) designations such as 2.0 liter, hp, GT, SS, etc.

6 Comments:

Blogger lemming said...

Plenty of Toyotas are now built in the US of A.

I have yet to see a Toyota with a picture of Calvin on it performing an unmentionable act.

Call me biased...

June 24, 2005  
Blogger torporific said...

You make a great point. There is a different demographic group who buys Toyotas and Hondas. That's the way I feel as well. Plus, buying a Toyota means more to my community than it would to buy a Ford and GM.

June 25, 2005  
Blogger torporific said...

What's good for Toyota is good for America. This article dovetails this discussion nicely.

Alabama in Detroit's rearview mirror

June 26, 2005  
Blogger lemming said...

Wow - I am a union sympathizer, but they haven't managed to keep themselves relevant or competative to this generation. Were Wal-Mart unionized and if they purchased union made products, many economic variable would be different. Still, $25 making cars for Toyota is better than $6.50 (docked by $1/hour)

June 26, 2005  
Blogger torporific said...

I a huge union sympathizer too. I blame the big 3 for a lot of the problems, but the sleepy monopoly of business unionism sacrificed future jobs for present day comfort. I am excited by some of the other unions who are threatening to break away from the AFL-CIO. Andrew Stern, the leader of the SEIU is leading a proactive breakaway group who will try to unionize the Wal-Marts and other rogue businesses. It could get interesting.

June 26, 2005  
Blogger torporific said...

The challenge to the AFL-CIO grows.

Carpenters Join Unions Challenging AFL-CIO

June 27, 2005  

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